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Economics Committee report – recommendation correction

THE House Standing Committee on Economics released its report Better Competition, Better Prices: Report on the inquiry into promoting economic dynamism, competition and business formation on March 26, 2024.

After presentation and publication, a transposition error was identified in Recommendation 33 (at paragraph 6.106) resulting in repeated text in the first dot point of the recommendation. The recommendation, as adopted by the Committee, is meant to read:

Recommendation 33

6.106     That the Treasury Competition Policy Taskforce examine mechanisms to increase consumer engagement with mortgages and deposit products. Initially, this could take the form of pilots of one or more of the following:

  • A requirement that banks reach out to variable rate consumers with older home loans (3 or more years) once per year to review their product, prompting them to consider both price and non-price factors.
  • A requirement that banks should notify the base interest rate at the end of the introductory period where a retail deposit product is offered.
  • A requirement that banks should clearly notify retail deposit holders of changes to their interest rates, changes to the eligibility requirements for a bonus interest rate and, where practicable, alert customers when they are approaching a threshold for eligibility for a bonus interest rate (e.g. a minimum balance level).

That APRA provide an independent benchmark (or series of benchmarks) for variable rates for new/switching customers over the preceding 12 months. That this benchmark be published for use by mortgage brokers and financial advisers to improve their capacity to contact new clients to improve churn rates.

The online version of the report will be updated once a corrigendum can be presented in the House in a future sitting week.

Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the inquiry website.

 

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Better Competition, Better Prices: Economics Committee report released

THE House Standing Committee on Economics has released its report from the inquiry into promoting economic dynamism, competition and business formation. The report’s name, Better Competition, Better Prices, emphasises the outcomes the committee is seeking through its 44 recommendations.

Chair of the Committee, Dr Daniel Mulino MP said, “The committee’s wide-ranging and comprehensive report is the culmination of 14 months of evidence gathering and analysis from numerous sectors of the economy. The committee received more than 60 submissions from stakeholders across industry and government and followed up with many stakeholders and other experts at a series of 18 public hearings.

“Thanks to this evidence and interaction with industry and regulators, the committee has pinned down some of the key factors that have led to the stalling of productivity growth in Australia over the past decade.

“Australia has had one of the highest standards of living in the world thanks to decades of high productivity. However, the data is showing declining competition and dynamism as measured by the high market share of leading firms, the profit margins in key sectors, and a declining rate of firm entry and exit in some sectors.

“Australia needs to lift its game when it comes to competition and economic dynamism because together they drive innovation, which in turns drives productivity. In the short term, this will put downward pressure on prices, thereby improving the cost of living -- and it will place a check on poor corporate behaviour towards consumers.

“If we don’t tackle this challenge, future generations will also be far poorer than they might have been,” Dr Mulino said.

Dr Mulino said it was pleasing that there had been action in relation to a number of issues raised throughout the inquiry.

“This includes progress on mergers law; the regulation and measurement of non-compete clauses; the regulation of landing slots at Sydney Airport; and the announcement of a regulatory grid for the financial services sector.”

Dr Mulino said the report put forward practical steps that would help turn things around, including changes to the regulatory settings regarding mergers law and non-compete clauses.

“Furthermore, government spends tens of billions of dollars procuring services. The efficiency and effectiveness of this procurement could be improved by including more social enterprises and SMEs and through better designed auctions and panels."

The report also sets out options for introducing behavioural prods in the banking sector, as outlined by the ACCC’s Retail Deposit Inquiry report, to ensure fairer outcomes for consumers.

“Additional mortgage products for consumers could also be considered, such as tracker mortgages and residential backed mortgage securities,” Dr Mulino said.

Some of the key outcomes included in the Committee’s 44 recommendations are:

  • Recommendations aimed at bolstering the economic and market data collected by government agencies, the ability for those agencies to use that data, as well as access to that data by appropriate third parties, with appropriate controls;
  • Recommendations to improve competition law and policy, including reforms to the mergers framework and non-compete clauses;
  • Recommendations to reduce red tape for growing businesses and endeavours and to reduce regulatory impact or enable better analysis of potential impact, as well as enable the government to stimulate market growth in areas of need and improve access to government procurement, services and data for wider market players;
  • Recommendations for pilot programs and improvement in mortgage and deposit products from banks, as well as improved regulation of the financial services market; and
  • Recommendations for improvement in digital platforms, the aviation sector, retail markets, and interoperability of markets within the economy.

“Australia is at a crossroads,” Dr Mulino said. "This report identifies the many opportunities -- at an economy-wide level and at a sectoral level -- for meaningful reform that not only produces immediate benefits for consumers but that also delivers higher standards of living for future generations.

"I commend the recommendations and the information that informed them to both governments and the market for a way forward for the betterment of the Australian economy,” Dr Mulino said.

Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the inquiry website.

 

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Recognising, valuing and supporting unpaid carers

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has tabled the report of its inquiry into the recognition of unpaid carers

The committee examined the challenges faced by unpaid carers and options for reforming the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (the Act).

Chair of the Committee, Susan Templeman MP, said, "Despite the best of intentions, the Act has not encouraged a cultural change in how public service agencies and their associated providers interact with and support carers.

"This is because the Act is unenforceable, contains weak and vague statements without clear calls to action, and relies on a voluntary and inconsistent reporting system with little oversight or accountability.

“It is critical that carers have the right to be acknowledged as partners in care, to be involved in planning and policy development, to be provided with information regarding the person they care for in order to provide care, and to be able to access flexible work arrangements.

“I acknowledge the important work of the former Committee Chair, the late Peta Murphy MP, who led this inquiry until her death in December 2023. Peta was committed to making a difference in public life and brought compassion, intellect, integrity, and good humour to her work with the Committee and in everything she did,” Ms Templeman said.

The report makes 22 recommendations, including:

  • modernising and extending the definition of carer in the Act to be more inclusive of the diversity of caring roles, and ensuring this definition is harmonised across all relevant legislation;
  • seeking legal advice to determine how best to establish rights for carers;
  • creating stronger obligations on public service agencies to reflect the principles of the Act;
  • improving carers’ access to the supports they need, such as respite options and counselling, through Carer Gateway;
  • prioritising carers’ health and wellbeing, and providing targeted support for First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse carers, through the new National Carer Strategy;
  • addressing the financial disadvantages carers experience over their lifetime, including supporting flexible work arrangements, introducing an income tax credit for carers returning to the paid workforce and consideration of other options to incentivise and recognise the impact of caring through the income tax and superannuation systems;
  • implementing a community education campaign to promote recognition and awareness of carers’ rights and the diversity of carers, to address gender stereotypes and reduce stigma, and to drive positive workplace cultures;
  • ensuring there is more comprehensive data to inform policy and to track outcomes;
  • requiring a review of the operation and effectiveness of the Act and the National Carer Strategy every five years.

The report and further information about the inquiry is available on the inquiry webpage.

 

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Committee recommends ‘substantial reform’ to foreign influence transparency scheme

THE Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) today tabled the report of its review of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018.

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) was established to provide the public with visibility of the nature, level and extent of foreign influence on Australia’s government and politics. The scheme creates an obligation for people and organisations who undertake certain activities on behalf of a ‘foreign principal’ (a foreign government or political party, or a related entity or individual) to be listed on a public register.

During the inquiry, the scheme was criticised for its limited effectiveness in achieving its intended transparency outcomes. The committee noted with concern the low number of registrations and minimal compliance and enforcement activity during the six years since the scheme was established.

Chair of the PJCIS, Peter Khalil MP said, “The committee was satisfied that the scheme’s objective of shining a light on both legitimate and malign foreign influence activities in our society remains worthwhile and necessary.

“Nevertheless, given the significant flaws in the scheme, the committee considers that substantial reform is required if the FITS is to meet its original intent and justify the compliance burden and resources required to administer it.”

The committee’s bipartisan report makes 14 recommendations to improve the scheme and its administration, including by amending the current FITS Act to:

  • Update key components of the definition of ‘foreign principal’, including to capture a wider range of company, governance and management structures that can enable a foreign principal to exert control over an entity.
  • Review all current and potential exemptions to the scheme to ensure they are operating as intended and are not being exploited for the purpose of covert malign influence.
  • Insert new enforcement options into the scheme, including the ability for the Secretary of the Department to register a person who is liable to register but has failed to do so.

The committee has also recommended that the government review the resourcing of the administering department of the FITS to ensure both the level and capacity of its staffing is sufficient.

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme is distinct from, but sits alongside, the framework for combatting espionage and foreign interference in Australia. The committee has recommended that Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws should also be referred to it for review.

Further information on the inquiry can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

 

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Flood insurance inquiry to hold hearings in south-east Queensland and northern NSW, April 9-11

THE House Standing Committee on Economics will hold public hearings in the Moreton Bay and Logan regions (Queensland) and the Northern Rivers (New South Wales) on April 9–11 as part of its inquiry into insurers’ responses to 2022 major floods claims.

Committee Chair, Daniel Mulino MP, said the inquiry had heard from regulators, insurance companies and consumer advocacy, and legal rights groups. “Now we want to hear firsthand from the locals in some of the worst-hit regions.”

Dr Mulino said councils, community organisations and businesses had been invited to give evidence at roundtable discussions at the hearings. (Organisations that wish to contribute can email their interest to the Committee secretariat.)

Expressions of interest are also being sought from residents to each give a three- to four-minute public statement about their experience with their insurers. Dr Mulino urged people “with a story to share, and who are willing to go on the public record, to register – as soon as possible – their interest in appearing”.

The committee would like to hear about any of the following issues:

  • the experiences of policyholders before, during and after making claims
  • timeframes for resolving claims
  • obstacles to resolving claims
  • insurers’ communication with policyholders
  • accessibility and affordability of hydrology reports and other expert assessments
  • affordability of insurance premiums
  • claimants’ experiences of insurers’ dispute resolution processes.

People interested in appearing should email a one or two sentence summary of their experience to the Committee secretariat.

Dr Mulino acknowledged that the inquiry may not be able to accommodate everybody on the day.

The committee will hold public hearings at:

  • The Hub, Caboolture, Queensland on Tuesday April 9.
  • Beenleigh Events Centre, Logan, Queensland on Wednesday April 10.
  • Invercauld House, Lismore, New South Wales on Thursday April 11.

 

“We know that in some of these places almost everyone has a story to tell. But for anyone who misses out or who wishes to provide information to the Committee, there is still time to make a public or confidential submission, and/or complete our online survey.”

More than 400 people have completed the survey about their experience with their insurer.

Individuals who want to make a statement at the hearings should email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

They should write “Public hearing” and the hearing location (whether Caboolture, Logan or Lismore) in the subject line and include full name(s) for each person who wants to participate, as well as a contact number and email address.

Submissions can be uploaded through this online link or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. until July 31, 2024.

Programs for the hearings will be posted on the inquiry website closer to the time. A live audio stream of the hearings will be available on the APH website.

Online survey

The survey is open until July 31 and is available here: Insurers’ responses to 2022 major flood claims.

For further information contact the committee secretariat on 02 6277 4707 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Upcoming hearings, April 2024:

Public Hearing – Moreton Bay, Qld – local councils, businesses, community organisations and community members

Date: 9 April 2024
Time: 9am (tbc)
Location: The Hub, Caboolture

Public Hearing – Logan, Qld – local councils, businesses, community organisations and community members

Date: 10 April 2024
Time: 9am (tbc)
Location: Beenleigh Events Centre

Public Hearing – Lismore – local councils, businesses, community organisations and community members

Date: 11 April 2024
Time: 9am (tbc)
Location: Invercauld House, Goonellabah

Background information

Committee Secretariat
02 6277 4707
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about this committee, visit its website.

 

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New Parliamentary inquiry on Australia’s live music industry

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts will inquire into and report on the challenges and opportunities within the Australian live music industry.

The Australian Government committed to initiatives in The National Cultural Policy, Revive to revitalise Australia’s live music industry following the impacts of COVID-19. However, in the wake of numerous venues closing and cancellations of some of Australia’s most established and successful music festivals in recent years, the committee is now considering the industry-wide issues facing the sector.

Chair of the Committee, Brian Mitchell MP, said, "Australia’s live music industry is currently facing considerable operational challenges. In the last couple of years, after the reopening of live music venues and festivals post COVID lockdowns, we have seen the sector face new and unprecedented issues."

Mr Mitchell said, "Some common struggles include the rising costs of presenting live music, shifting consumer behaviours, the loss of skilled workers in the industry, and cost of living ramifications. We will be exploring sustainability and growth in the Australian music industry into the future, domestically and internationally.

"The committee would like to hear about barriers to industry growth, including to export, the impact of current grant and support programs, and capacity building in the sector. The impacts of emerging audience behaviours and mechanisms for audience development will also be explored, along with the suitability and location of venues and artist development and career pathways," Mr Mitchell said.

"The industry sits on the cusp of transformation, and it is important that opportunities are harnessed while the traditional community nature of experiencing a live event is retained.

The committee is welcoming submissions from interested organisations and individuals by April 30, 2024.

Further information on the inquiry, including the terms of reference and how to contribute, is available on the committee’s website.

 

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Shared vision, equal pathways -- Report of VET inquiry released

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education, and Training has today presented the report of its inquiry into the perceptions and status of vocational education and training (VET).

Committee Chair, Lisa Chesters MP said, "High-quality VET is crucial to skilling Australians for an increasingly dynamic economy and labour market. Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand the VET sector or the careers to which it leads, and many still consider VET a less valuable or rewarding pathway compared to university.

"Governments at all levels must ensure access to reliable, accurate information on VET and actively promote the sector and the fantastic opportunities that it offers," Ms Chesters said.

"However, information and marketing efforts will not on their own be sufficient to address negative perceptions of VET," she said. "Tangible improvements to the sector must also be made to ensure the quality and relevance of training, and that the sector is subject to robust regulatory, governance, and funding arrangements."

The committee has made 34 recommendations designed to address poor perceptions of the sector and enhance the quality of and access to VET pathways. These include:

  • Significantly overhaul the functions of the National Careers Institute.
  • Developing a national careers education strategy for secondary schools.
  • Improving VET delivered to secondary school students via cooperative partnerships and increased school funding.
  • Rationalising the development and implementation of VET qualifications.
  • Addressing systemic barriers to women’s participation in VET, with a focus on eliminating gender-based violence and workplace discrimination and challenging gender stereotypes.
  • Enhancing apprenticeships, including by piloting a network of industry-led apprenticeship support providers, lifting pay and conditions, and exploring new apprenticeship pathways.
  • Creating a robust framework for developing, implementing, and funding micro-credentials.
  • Implementing measures to attract and retain a VET workforce with industry expertise and a greater range of pedagogical competencies.
  • Defining a clear roadmap to a genuinely integrated tertiary education system.

The committee’s report was informed by other reform processes including the Employment White Paper, the National Skills Agreement, and the Australian Universities Accord. The committee’s recommendations should be considered alongside the findings of these reports.

The report and further information about the inquiry is available on the inquiry website.

 

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87th Annual Report recommends reform to the Public Works Committee Act 1969

ON MARCH 26, the Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public WorksGraham Perrett MP, presented the Eighty Seventh Annual Report to the House of Representatives.

The report contains a recommendation for reform of the committee’s foundation legislation.

The Public Works Committee was established in 1913. While it has provided parliamentary scrutiny of Commonwealth expenditure and ensured public value of proposed works, the government procurement and construction environment has evolved significantly in the last century.

Mr Perrett said, "A full review of the Public Works Committee legislation, with a view to repealing and replacing the current Act, would ensure the Committee can continue to provide effective oversight of government expenditure".

The annual report is a statutory requirement of the committee. It also includes statistics on inquiries, hearings and medium works for 2023.

For more information about this committee, visit its website.

 

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Treaties Committee to consider Southeast Asia trade area agreement and removal of wrecks treaty

THE Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will hold two public hearings today for its inquiries into the Second Protocol to Amend the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) (AANZFTA Second Protocol) and the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (the Nairobi Convention).

The second public hearing to be held by the Committee on the AANZFTA Second Protocol will provide an opportunity for the committee to discuss issues arising from the treaty including the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, inter-state dispute settlement, the adoption of a negative list approach and cooperation in education.

The committee will hear from Professor Luke Nottage, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The committee will then hold a public hearing for its inquiry into the Nairobi Convention which aims to give State Parties the legal means to remove or have shipwrecks removed that potentially affect the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, and the marine environment.

The convention provides rules and standards that facilitate prompt and effective removal of shipwrecks which are located in areas beyond the territorial sea. The convention also ensures that registered ship owners are held financially liable for the creation of wrecks and are required to have insurance or other financial security to cover the costs of locating, marking and removing wrecks. 

Committee Chair Josh Wilson MP said, "Australia is dependent on international maritime trade, so it is vital we keep our maritime environment safe.

“Most wreck incidents affecting Australia involve lost shipping containers from foreign flagged vessels in Australia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). By acceding to this treaty, Australia would be legally allowed to remove or have removed wrecks in the EEZ that pose a danger, impede navigation or could cause major consequences to the marine environment or Australia’s coastline.”

The committee will hear from officials from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications, and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Public hearing details - AANZFTA Second Protocol  

Date:               Monday 25 March 2024
Time:              11am approximately
Location:        Committee Room 2R1

Public hearing details - Nairobi Convention

Date:               Monday 25 March 2024
Time:               11:50am approximately
Location:         Committee Room 2R1

The hearings can be accessed online and the programs for the hearings are available on the Committee website, along with further information about the inquiries. 

 

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Electoral Matters Committee launches inquiry into civics education, participation and engagement

THE Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has commenced an inquiry into civics education, engagement, and participation in Australia, and is seeking written submissions in response to the Terms of Reference by Friday, May 24.

The committee is particularly interested in hearing from people with direct experience of civics and citizenship education and challenges associated with electoral participation. This includes students and teachers, young people, First Nations peoples, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, civic and educational organisations, and people in regional, rural, and remote areas.

Committee Chair, Kate Thwaites MP, said, "In a time when we’re seeing challenges for democracies across the world, and a rise in mis- and disinformation, it’s important that every Australian has the opportunity to be informed about and engaged in our democracy.

"The committee wants to hear Australians’ experiences of civics education, and what we can do better to support democratic engagement and participation.

"So many young Australians are passionate about social and political issues, but they may not have access to relevant and reliable information about democratic and electoral processes.

"The diversity of cultures, languages, and life experiences within Australia means we need to ensure access to relevant, digestible, and accurate information about our democracy. This includes for First Nations peoples, people in remote areas and CALD communities."

The committee intends to present a final report for the inquiry by the end of 2024.

Further information about the inquiry is available on the inquiry website.

 

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New inquiry - Australia’s local government sustainability

THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport will examine local government sustainability in a new inquiry launched today.

Chair of the Committee, Luke Gosling OAM, MP, said, "The committee has prioritised a deeper understanding of local government financial sustainability and funding frameworks, alongside the changing infrastructure requirements and service delivery obligations for local governments.

"Local government sustainability is essential to supporting our Australian communities through the provision of vital infrastructure and related services. The committee is seeking to understand the challenges faced by local governments in servicing infrastructure requirements across Australia’s regional, rural, and remote locations."

Mr Gosling further emphasised, "The committee is aware of significant public infrastructure workforce shortages, particularly in local government areas, and the importance of promoting skills development and job security for Australians.

"The committee will examine labour hire and retention trends, including the impacts of labour hire practices, to identify barriers and opportunities to support our local workforce and local government sustainability and service delivery obligations."

The committee welcomes submissions from interested organisations and individuals by May 3, 2024.

Further information on the inquiry, including the terms of reference and how to contribute, is available on the Committee’s website.

 

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