Weekly Wrap Up
12 May 2023
To receive regular policy and political updates, subscribe to our Weekly Wrap Up here.
- The rules to implement the Safeguard Mechanism have been released, with changes due to take effect from July.
- Liberal MP and former Cabinet Minister Stuart Robert announced[PDF] he will resign from Federal Parliament after 15 years, triggering an upcoming by-election in his Queensland seat of Fadden.
- In WA, Premier and Treasurer Mark McGown delivered[PDF] the State’s 2023-24 Budget, outlining a projected surplus of $3.3 billion.
- The NT Budget was also handed down, with Treasurer Eva Lawler confirming[PDF] a forecast $200 million net operating deficit.
- The NSW Parliament resumed for the first sitting week of its new Parliamentary term, with Independent MP Greg Piper elected as Speaker of the Lower House and Nationals MLC Ben Franklin confirmed as President of the Upper House.
- Also in NSW, the Nationals voted in favor of Dugald Saunders to replace Paul Toole as Party Leader.
- Earlier today, Victorian Liberal MPs expelled Moria Deeming from the Party Room. Ms Deeming will now sit on the crossbench as an Independent in the Victorian Upper House.
Federal Budget 2023-24
Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered the Albanese Government’s second Federal Budget on Tuesday evening with a focus on cost of living relief and investment in emerging industries such as renewable energy and advanced manufacturing. Headline measures included $14.6 billion for various measures targeted at easing cost of living pressures; $11.3 billion for a 15-per-cent increase in the award wages of aged care workers; and $5.7 billion for reforms to Medicare. The Budget also forecast a $4.2 billion surplus for 2022-23, which Treasurer Chalmers highlighted as the first budget surplus in 15 years. For further information, please see our detailed Budget Analysis here.
Last night, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton delivered his Budget in Reply speech. Mr Dutton signalled the Coalition’s support for a number of Budget measures including the aged care and NDIS funding commitments, increasing bulk-billing incentives, and expanding the Single Parenting Payment. He also committed to pass almost all of the $14.6 billion cost of living measures when legislation is introduced into Parliament. However, Mr Dutton suggested that the Budget’s increase to JobSeeker payments did not address the barriers recipients face in engaging in employment. Mr Dutton instead advocated for a permanent increase to the income-free threshold of JobSeeker, enabling recipients to receive higher earnings and engage in additional shifts for any part-time work before their welfare payment is decreased.
Mr Dutton also criticised the Government’s approach to increasing migration, suggesting that the forecast growth in net overseas migration over the next five years will occur without “proper infrastructure planning”, leading to a worsened housing and rental crisis. Also on the matter of housing, Mr Dutton reaffirmed the Coalition’s policy to enable first-home buyers to access a portion of their superannuation to form a house deposit. Other measures discussed in Mr Dutton’s speech included the Coalition’s support for nuclear technology as part of Australia’s energy mix and a commitment to ban sports betting advertising during the broadcasting of games and for an hour each side of a sporting game.
Parliamentary Sitting Week
Federal Parliament resumed this week after a five-week break, with debate on the Government’s housing packaging high on the agenda. Yesterday, the Government’s attempt to bring its housing legislation to a vote in the Senate did not succeed, with both the Greens and the Coalition voting against the Government’s motion. Although the Government has secured the support of crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell and David Pocock for the legislation, it still requires an additional eight votes in order for the legislation to pass the Senate and is yet to reach an agreement with the Greens. The Greens have reiterated[PDF] their desire to see the legislation incorporate a freeze on rent increases as well as a guaranteed $5 billion commitment toward additional public and affordable housing. With the Senate due to sit again in mid-June, it is understood that negotiations between the Government and the Greens are ongoing. In other news, the new Member for Aston, Labor MP Mary Doyle, was sworn into Parliament and delivered her first speech.
The Victorian, SA, WA and NT Parliaments are sitting next week.
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) issued a report outlining recent market interventions it made in response to greenwashing surveillance undertaken between July 2022 and March 2023. ASIC’s surveillance program focused on listed companies, managed funds and superannuation funds, and examined net zero statements and targets, use of terms such as ‘carbon neutral’, ‘clean’ or ‘green’, fund labels, and more.
ASIC announced it will take enforcement action against credit providers and debt management firms engaging in predatory lending, high-cost credit, and misconduct towards vulnerable consumers experiencing financial distress.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) published the findings from its review of the amendments to the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (SGAA). APRA’s review did not find any unintended consequences on the operation or ongoing viability and profitability of defined benefit schemes that could be attributed to the amendments to the SGAA.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released latest data on retail sales, volumes, and household spending, showing that retail sales fell 0.6 per cent in the March quarter and household spending rose by 8.2 per cent over the year to March.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to Beijing yesterday to meet with China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao to continue discussions on trade and also co-chair the 16th Joint Ministerial Economic Commission. Minister Farrell will promote progress on China’s review of duties on Australian barley and on the resumption of unimpeded trade between China and Australia across all sectors.
In WA, as part of the State Budget 2023-24 the Government committed $463 million to support economic infrastructure and diversification projects across the state. The funding includes an allocation of $28.2 million for investment and trade initiatives, including $10.1 million to open an Americas hub in Austin, Texas to promote WA’s Invest and Trade global network.
During a visit to Berlin this week on a hydrogen trade mission, SA Premier Peter Malinauskas announced that SA will open a trade office in Frankfurt, Germany. The office will be used to increase investment opportunities in alignment with SA’s Hydrogen Jobs Plan.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek rejected two proposed coalmines in Queensland, citing a lack of information from developers regarding the projects’ potential impacts on threatened species and water. MacMines’ application for the China Stone coalmine in the Galilee basin was rejected, as was Stanmore Resources’ application for the Range Coal project in central Queensland.
The WA 2023-24 Budget included a $3 billion investment in various measures on climate action, with most of this funding allocated toward energy storage, wind power generation and transmission network upgrades on WA’s main electricity grid.
In Queensland Parliament, the State Government introduced legislation that would reform the approval process for hydrogen and renewable gas pipeline projects by applying the State’s existing safety frameworks for pipelines to hydrogen and other renewable gases.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government released grant guidelines for Round 1 of the Growing Regions Program, which provides funding for infrastructure projects across regional and rural Australia. Expressions of interest for the first of two $300 million funding rounds opens on 5 July.
In the first sitting week of the new Parliamentary term in NSW, the State Government introduced legislation that will prevent future privatisation of Sydney Water and Hunter Water, both of which are currently state-owned. Legislation was introduced to amend the State’s Constitution Act, which will be binding on current and future State governments.
In the NT, the Territory’s 2023-24 Budget included a $2.24 billion investment in road and infrastructure projects. Funding will be distributed across key projects including upgrades to roads, aerodromes, jetties and barge landings.
The NT Budget also allocated $601 million towards remote housing in Alice Springs. The funding will be distributed across the Territory’s HomeBuild, Room to Breathe, and Government Employee Housing programs, and will see the development of housing across 61 communities and six Town Camps.
The Federal Government confirmed the Governor-General has extended the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme. The Royal Commission will now deliver its report by 7 July this year – a seven-day extension to the initial reporting date.
The Queensland Government launched the Workforce Attraction Incentive Transfer Scheme, which will offer medical practitioners bonuses of up to $70,000 to work for the public health system in regional and remote Queensland. As part of the scheme, healthcare workers from interstate and overseas will receive a $10,000 incentive on commencement at any location in Queensland and additional $10,000 after completing 12 months of service.
NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park announced that from Monday 15 May, women with uncomplicated urinary tract infections will be able to seek treatment from around 100 community pharmacies across the State as part of the pharmacy prescribing trial. From July, the trial will be extended to include the resupply of the oral contraceptive pill.