Weekly Wrap Up
9 December 2022
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- Latest Newspoll data was published, showing Labor continues to lead over the Coalition on an unchanged two-party preferred basis of 55-45.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increased the cash rate for the eighth consecutive month, lifting it by 0.25 basis points to 3.1 per cent.
- Meanwhile, the Australia Bureau of Statistics released national accounts data for the September quarter, indicating 5.9 per cent growth in Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the twelve months to September.
- Treasury opened pre-budget submissions for the 2023-24 Federal Budget, with submissions due to close on 27 January 2023.
- Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek released the Federal Government’s response to Professor Graeme Samuel’s 2019 review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Entitled the ‘Nature Positive Plan’[PDF], the response outlines the Government’s commitment to matters including stronger environmental protection laws and a new Environment Protection Agency to make and enforce development decisions.
- Public hearings for the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme continued this week.
- Australia joined other G7 countries in implementing a price cap on Russian oil.
- The Australian Labor Party published the final report of the review into the 2022 Federal Election campaign.
- The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that charges have been dropped in the case brought by former Liberal staff member Brittany Higgins against her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann.
- Meanwhile, lawyers for Ms Higgins gave notice they will sue former Liberal ministers Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash as well as the Commonwealth for up to $3 million.
In light of ongoing concerns about energy supply and pricing in Australia, Energy Ministers across the country met[PDF] in Brisbane yesterday and agreed to establish a Capacity Investment Scheme (CIS). The CIS will provide a national framework to drive new renewable dispatchable capacity, aiming to ensure reliability in Australia’s energy market as it continues to change. Minister Bowen indicated that the CIS will unlock an estimated $10 billion of investment in “clean dispatchable power” and open tenders will determine the projects that will gain CIS support. The Minister also clarified that the Scheme will not overlap with existing State schemes such as the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, therefore avoiding alteration of competitive tenders currently underway. Further details on the CIS are due to be released “in the coming months”.
The Energy Ministers’ meeting took place ahead of today’s virtual meeting of National Cabinet, which was postponed from Wednesday following a positive COVID-19 result from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. National Cabinet will discuss potential solutions to the country’s energy challenges including individual price caps on coal across each jurisdiction and a mandatory code of conduct that will impose a floating price mechanism on gas producers in an attempt to decrease electricity prices.
This week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to the United States for the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, where it was agreed that the US will increase rotational presence of its air, land and sea forces in Australia. Australia and the US also issued a joint statement on the progress of the AUKUS agreement, expressing confidence that Australia will be able to acquire nuclear-powered submarines by early 2023 as specified under the AUKUS alliance. Deputy Prime Minister Marles and Minister Wong are in Japan today for the Australia-Japan Foreign Minister and Defence Ministerial Consultations.
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Albanese hosted Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Sydney, where the two emphasised the need to strengthen ties between Australia and Finland.
New Andrews Labor Government Ministry
Following the Labor Party’s victory in the recent Victorian State Election, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed his new Ministry on Monday, as well as a number of Machinery of Government changes.
Enver Erdogan and Natalie Suleyman were promoted to Cabinet, while Shaun Leane – formerly the Minister for Veterans and Commonwealth Games Legacy – was removed. The Ministry reshuffle also accounted for the retirement of former Minister for Employment, Resources, Small Business, and Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford. Ms Pulford’s former portfolios were distributed among multiple Ministers.
Additionally, a number of machinery of government changes will take effect from 1 January 2023. The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) has been renamed to the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions and will take on responsibilities relating to Training. Investment has moved from DJPR to Treasury, while Resources and Agriculture has been moved to a new Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, replacing the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Planning has been moved to the Transport portfolio, becoming the Department of Transport and Planning. A new Department of Government Services has also been created, with Danny Pearson appointed as coordinating Minister.
Meanwhile, Member for Hawthorn John Pesutto was elected as the Victorian Liberal Party’s new leader in a party room ballot, following Matthew Guy’s resignation from the position. Mr Pesutto regained the seat of Hawthorn at the 2022 State Election following an unexpected defeat in 2018. This parliamentary term will be his second.
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison will appear[PDF] before the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme on Wednesday, while former Minister for Human Services Marise Payne will appear before the Commission on Tuesday.
Fitch Ratings reaffirmed Australia’s AAA Credit Rating. The ratings agency has also forecast that GDP growth will slow from 3.9 per cent in 2022 to 1.5 per cent in 2023.
The Parliamentary Budget Office released its Beyond the budget 2022-23: Fiscal outlook and scenarios report. The report highlights the improved economic conditions since emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the worsening economic conditions associated with high inflation, interest rate rises and structural expenditures.
The Australian Banking Association announced changes to the Banking Code of Practice, including improved protections for small businesses and consumers.
The Queensland Government published[PDF] its 2022-23 Budget Update, highlighting improved economic growth and lower unemployment.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) announced it is developing a guideline relating to the recent Federal Court decision that dismissed Santos’s appeal in relation to its Barossa offshore gas development. The guideline, which will be open for consultation for three months, will be applied to the assessment of offshore project proposals and environmental plans.
The Department of Industry, Science and Resources opened consultation on a discussion paper on Australia’s new Critical Minerals Strategy. Consultation closes on 3 February 2023.
The WA Government released draft laws that aim to modernise the State’s Petroleum Acts and allow for hydrogen exploration and production. The draft legislation includes a number of petroleum operational-based amendments including changes to royalty calculation, environmental aspects, additives and underground storage. Consultation on the draft legislation closes 24 February 2023.
Also in WA, the State Government committed $22.5 million to streamline approvals for green energy proposals. The funding will be directed towards creating new teams to assess critical minerals, renewable energy and hydrogen projects, as well as the development of fast-tracked time frames in assessment processes.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government responded to Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak AO’s independent review into Infrastructure Australia, supporting all 16 recommendations[PDF] either in full, part or in-principle. As part of recommended changes, the current board will be replaced by three commissioners who will be supported by an advisory board with industry experts and senior public service officials.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency awarded a $20.1 million grant to Team Global Express to increase the adoption of battery electric trucks in Western Sydney. Through the project, 60 new battery electric trucks will be produced alongside charging and other site infrastructure.
The NSW Government announced it will initiate 10 land rezonings, primarily in Western Sydney, to enable 70,000 new homes to be built.
Also in NSW, Minister for Transport David Elliot opened a Registrations of Interest (ROI) process for industry partners seeking to build the first phase of Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2. The ROI closes on 18 January 2023, with an Expressions of Interest Process to open soon after for shortlisted industry partners.
The SA Government released a tender for the development of the business case for a zero-emission bus fleet for the State’s public transport system. A tender also opened for the delivery of a feasibility and technology study to determine technology options for the decarbonisation of trains on the Outer Harbor and Grange lines.
The Federal Government appointed Robyn Kruk to lead an independent review into regulatory settings relating to health practitioner registration and qualification recognition for health professionals trained overseas, as well as international students who have studied in Australia. The review will focus on easing skill shortages in key health professions including nursing and midwifery, medicine, psychology, pharmacy, para-medicine and occupational therapy.
The Department of Health and Aged Care announced applications for the 2022 Rapid Applied Research Translation Grant Opportunity will open on 9 January 2023, with $38.5 million available in funds for projects that accelerate the implementation of research into healthcare or practice. Applications are open until 12 May 2023.
The ACT Government released the ACT Drug Strategy Action Plan 2022-26, which intends to outline evidence-based and practice-informed policies to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harm for Territorians. Actions in the Plan include establishing a multidisciplinary service to support young people suffering from trauma, disability and/or drug and alcohol use; reviewing ACT legislation to ensure harm from online liquor sales and delivery is minimised; and launching a supervised injecting service tailored to the ACT.
Through the latest round of the Victorian Government’s Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund, State Minister for Health Infrastructure Mary-Anne Thomas awarded $25 million in funding to upgrade and expand 10 metropolitan health services and community health services, as well as two Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Tasmanian Premier and Minister for Health Jeremy Rockliff released Our Healthcare Future: Advancing Tasmania’s Health, which details the policy direction the Government aims to take to implement its broader Our Healthcare Future plan set to be released in early 2023. The document incorporated feedback received from a wide range of stakeholders and members of the public following consultation undertaken earlier this year.