Weekly Wrap Up
8 September 2023
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- Latest Newspoll data was released, indicating Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, however, with a two-point decrease in support, 53-47.
- At Philip Lowe’s final board meeting as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Board decided to keep the cash rate unchanged at 4.1 per cent.
- GDP rose 0.4 per cent in the June quarter, according to National Accounts data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced the appointment of Danielle Wood as the next Chair of the Productivity Commission.
- Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton pledged to hold a second referendum for Indigenous recognition if the Voice to Parliament referendum fails to succeed.
- Liberal Senator Marise Payne announced her retirement from the Senate from 30 September.
- The NSW Government released its response[PDF] to the Electricity Supply and Reliability Check Up and confirmed it will consider a proposed extension for the Eraring power station.
Parliamentary sitting week
In Federal Parliament this week, the Government introduced its new industrial relations legislation, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023, which proposes changes to the gig economy, casual workers, labour hire and wage theft. While introducing the bill, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke said the bill was needed “to close loopholes that have undercut secure jobs, better pay and safe workplaces”. During debate in the Senate, the Opposition successfully moved a motion to delay the reporting due date of an inquiry into the bill to February next year. The Greens have also called on the Government to address unpaid overtime by including a ‘right to disconnect’ in the bill. Meanwhile in the House, Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek introduced the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 to deliver the revised Murray Darling Basin Plan. Greens environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said that while negotiations were continuing with the Government, the bill in its current form did not include sufficient guarantees.
Elsewhere, the Financial Accountability Regime (FAR) Bill 2023 passed Parliament, which will establish the FAR based on recommendations from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry. Meanwhile the Government’s higher education bill also passed the House, which aims to implement recommendations from the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report. Also in the House, the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry Bill 2023 passed, which would establish a registry to report occupational respiratory diseases such as silicosis.
Spotlight on the aviation sector
Issues relating to the airline industry continued to dominate discussions this week, with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announcing his retirement two months early. In Parliament, the Opposition successfully moved a motion to establish an inquiry into the Government’s decision to reject Qatar Airway’s application for extra air rights, which is due to report in October.
Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Catherine King released an aviation green paper calling for feedback to help inform the Government’s policy agenda for the sector, including delivering a more competitive environment. Minister King has faced questions this week over the decision to reject Qatar Airways’ application for extra air rights, stating the decision was “in the national interest”. The Minister later revealed that the treatment of Australian women subjected to bodily inspections at Doha airport in 2020 was “a factor” in the decision but emphasised that “certainly it wasn’t the only factor”. Minister King has said the aviation paper is “the next step in getting the aviation sector back on track”, with the Aviation White Paper expected to be released in mid-2024.
Foreign relations in Southeast Asia
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Indonesia where he joined the 3rd ASEAN-Australia Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit in Jakarta. At the ASEAN Summit, Mr Albanese announced a new economic strategy to increase trade and investment opportunities between Australia and Southeast Asia, stating “our economic future lies with Southeast Asia”. The strategy provides a pathway to 2040 to change foreign investment rules, free trade agreements and migration policies to help encourage more trade activities between the two regions. The Prime Minister also committed almost $95 million to support the strategy, including through establishing Investment Deal Teams based in the region and setting up a Southeast Asia Business Exchange.
On the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Mr Albanese met with China’s Premier Li Qiang and confirmed he will visit China later this year. This will mark the first trip to China for an Australian Prime Minister since 2016.
Federal, NSW, Queensland, SA, WA, ACT, and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus opened consultation on proposed reforms to Australia’s bankruptcy system. The reforms include increasing the bankruptcy threshold and reducing the timeframe on which an insolvent individual is registered on the National Personal Insolvency Index. Public submissions close on 29 September.
Parliament passed legislation to empower ASIC and the ACCC to facilitate competition in the provision of clearing and settlement services for cash traded equities in Australia. The legislation implements recommendations from the Council of Financial Regulators.
NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and Minister for Finance Courtney Houssos announced that NSW coal royalty rates will increase by 2.6 per cent from 1 July 2024. Coal royalty rates have not changed since 2009 and are expected to improve NSW’s budget position by $2.7 billion over four years.
Chris Barrett was appointed as Secretary of the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance, after deciding not to take on the role of Chair of the Productivity Commission. Mr Barrett is currently Deputy Secretary (Economic) of the Department and will commence as Secretary in December.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
During his visit to Jakarta, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed $150 million as part of a second tranche of funding under the Australia-Indonesia Climate and Infrastructure Partnership. The funding will support de-risking private infrastructure projects and Indonesia’s sustainable finance and energy transition.
The Australia-China High Level Dialogue was held in Beijing, which provides a platform for senior representatives from industry, government, academia, media and the arts to exchange perspectives across the breadth of Australia and China’s bilateral relationship. The Dialogue will contribute to Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China since it was first held in 2014.
The Premier of Western Australia addressed the Western Australia-Indonesia Energy Forum whilst on the Invest and Trade WA Indonesia Connect Roadshow. The Forum focuses on new and renewable energies and supporting the energy transition for both regions.
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Natasha Fyles visited Washington DC to meet with key Australian and US foreign affairs and defence representatives to reaffirm support investment activities between NT and the US. During her meeting with Under Secretary of Navy Erik Raven, Chief Minister Fyles discussed investment opportunities in defence, maritime security, energy, and digital communications.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government reached an agreement with the Tasmanian Government to amend the Marinus Link project, which aims to provide energy savings and support cleaner energy- for Tasmania and the East Coast electricity grid. The updated agreements include initially using one cable to connect Tasmania to Victoria’s energy grid, with the project expected to be completed by 2028.
The Senate referred an inquiry into the proposed development of the Middle Arm Industrial Precinct to a parliamentary committee. The inquiry will examine funding intentions, intended use, and other measures relating to the project. Submissions to the inquiry are open until 31 October, with the final report due by 28 February 2024.
Additional single-use plastic bans came into effect in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia on 1 September. The bans include plastics such as microbeads (in WA and QLD), plastic-stemmed cotton buds, and certain polystyrene materials.
The NSW Government committed $1.8 billion to establish the Energy Security Corporation (ESC) and accelerate transmission projects to connect the state’s Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) to the grid. The ESC will be responsible for investing in storage projects and supporting the electricity network as part of the renewable energy transition, and REZ funding will be allocated to Central-West Orana, Hunter Transmission Project, and the Waratah Super Battery.
NSW Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos opened consultation to inform the development of a new Critical Minerals and High-Tech Metals Strategy. The strategy will outline the Government’s future direction in the sector to ensure a stable supply of critical minerals and high-tech resources. Consultation will close on 17 November.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King approved the next master plan for Melbourne’s south-east Moorabbin Airport. The plan sets out a 20-year strategic vision for the airport. The plan also addresses several stakeholder concerns that were raised during the development of the plan including flight training and land use controls.
The NSW Government invested an additional $115 million into the NSW Reconstruction Authority to support preparation for and reduction of the impact of natural disasters. The investment will increase the Authority’s budget to $321.3 million over four years.
The Western Australian Government announced that $200 million will be privately invested into modernising port infrastructure at the Port of Broome. The development will commence in late 2023.
The SA Government confirmed that new regulations on the processing of engineered stone came into effect on 1 September. Under the new regulations, any workers involved in the cutting, grinding, trimming, sanding, or drilling of engineered stone products will be required to have respiratory protective equipment and use a dust control system.
HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND EDUCATION
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth opened consultation for a National Autism Strategy. The inaugural strategy will make recommendations for the healthcare, education and employment sectors and be overseen by the National Autism Strategy Oversight Council. Submissions close in late October.
The Federal Government appointed former Gillard Government Health Minister Nicola Roxon as the new Chair of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Roxon is currently Chair of VicHealth and the health and community services superannuation fund Hesta.
The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs published its report on Concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sports. The report made 13 recommendations, one of which was to establish the National Sports Injury Database for all sporting codes.
The NSW Government reached an in-principle agreement with the NSW Teachers Federation to raise teacher wages. The agreement would see the starting salary of a NSW teacher increase from $75,791 to $85,000. The offer will require the agreement of the Teachers Federation Council on Saturday.