Last month in Politics: a whirlwind finish to 2022

Government, Anthony Albanese, Government Relations, Parliament, Political Leaders

Purple Editor 4 Jan 2023
5 mins

The final month of 2022 delivered an extensive range of major global political events, with swathes of new legislation crammed into only a few weeks.

Indonesia introduced some controversial laws, including banning unmarried couples from living together and establishing penalties for insulting the President, while expressing views counter to national ideology will also become a criminal offence.

The UK Government backed a new Bill to criminalise harassment in the streets, New Zealand passed a smoking ban for anyone born after 2008 and Joe Biden signed the historic Respect for Marriage Act.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned women from attending school, university and most forms of employment, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the United States in his first trip since Russia invaded the country.

In Australia, interest rates rose for the eighth month in a row, the competition watchdog began monitoring airlines over price gouging concerns, and Australia announced sanctions targeting Iran’s morality police and Russian intelligence operatives.

The Federal Government announced subsidies for visits to psychologists would be halved from January 2023, as well as making medicines cheaper by reducing the maximum cost of a prescription under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from $42.50 to $30.

It was a busy month for Australia’s federal politicians, as Senator Penny Wong became the first Australian Minister to visit China since diplomatic relations were frozen in 2019, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared before the Robodebt Royal Commission and Kevin Rudd was appointed Ambassador to the United States.

Politics was no less busy at a state level in December in Western Australia. With the last parliament sitting of 2022, the McGowan Government finished the year with a range of big announcements:

  • The Government is set to ban LGBTIQA+ conversion practices in WA, as a response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Esther Foundation
  • The Draft Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2 2022) was released for consultation
  • WA Government released new policy and guidance for large-scale renewable hydrogen projects
  • Laws have been passed to strength Working with Children Checks,
  • The next steps for the development of the State’s Renewable Hydrogen Target were announced
  • Construction began on WA’s first pumped hydro renewable microgrid
  • The Government and Hockey WA’s $135 million proposal to retain Australia’s High Performance Hockey Program was successful
  • The State recognised the 100-year anniversary of women working on WA railways,
  • New measures were put in place to recover West Coast demersal scalefish stocks, protecting the future of iconic species of pink snapper and dhufish
  • The independent review of WorkSafe Mines Safety was delivered
  • The Gender Reassignment Board is set to be abolished, with new streamlined legislation to be introduced


Federal Government passes energy bill

After months of volatility in the east coast energy market, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese backed federal price intervention, which intensified the debate around states’ power.

Following a late minute change to the controversial gas code of conduct, which failed to appease industry frustration, the Albanese Government recalled Parliament and pushed new legislation through both houses putting a temporary cap on gas prices. The Bill passed the Senate with 28 ayes and 22 nays and will now adjourn until 6 February.

The new legislation caps gas prices at $12 per gigajoule for 12 months and will provide $1.5 billion in federal assistance for bill relief. The legislation will also apply changes to the gas market code of conduct, which will include reasonable pricing frameworks and formal dispute resolution channels.

The regulatory intervention passed with support from the Greens, Senator David Pocock and the Jacqui Lambie Network.

The Opposition did not support the legislation, but did acknowledge that they would have supported consumer rebates to lower prices if the government had been prepared to split the bill.

The announced plan to cap coal prices at $125 is yet to be handled by the states.


McGowan Government Cabinet reshuffle

Following resignations from Ministers Alannah MacTiernan and Dave Kelly, the McGowan Government refreshed its cabinet with two new Ministers and five new Parliamentary Secretaries.

The new Cabinet builds on the Government’s strength, stability and experience.

Minister Steve Dawson’s portfolio of Innovation and ICT was changed to Innovation and the Digital Economy, and the new portfolio of Early Childhood Education has been introduced and allocated to new Minister Sabine Winton.

New Ministers:

  • Hon Sabine Winton MLA – Minister for Early Childhood Education; Child Protection; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services
  • Hon Jackie Jarvis MLC – Agriculture and Food; Forestry; Small Business

New cabinet appointments:

  • Hon Don Punch MLA – Minister for Regional Development
  • Hon Simone McGurk MLA – Minister for Training; Water; Youth
  • Hon Dr Tony Buti MLA – Minister for Education
  • Hon Sue Ellery MLC – Minister for Finance; Commerce; Women’s Interests
  • Hon Roger Cook MLA – Minister for Hydrogen Industry
  • Hon Reece Whitby MLA – Minister for Racing and Gambling

New Parliamentary Secretaries:

  • Ms Jodie Hanns MLA
  • Dr Jagadish Krishnan MLA
  • Ms Meredith Hammat MLA
  • Hon Pierre Yang MLC
  • Ms Hannah Beazley MLA


New streamline approval process for green energy projects

The McGowan Government has committed $22.5 million to reduce approval timeframes and overhaul the State’s approach to environmental approvals with a specific focus on the critical minerals industry, hydrogen and renewable energy proposals.

A dedicated cross-government Green Energy Assessment Unit is set to be formed, within the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation – the Unit will require state agencies to collaborate on clear assessment pathways and provide timely support.

The Unit is set to be operational by mid-2023.

The Government and industry will also form a Green Energy Expert Panel to provide relevant information needed to progress approvals to the Environmental Protection Authority.

The Government is expecting the approach to drive investment in areas of wind, solar and wave power generators, hydrogen industries, lithium mining and critical minerals processing as well as green energy product manufacturing.


Renewable hydrogen used in local gas supply

For the first time, WA is using renewable hydrogen in the local gas supply and the state’s first high-speed hydrogen refuelling station has been opened.

The new milestone marks the McGowan Government meeting all four of its 2022 targets in the Renewable Hydrogen Strategy.

ATCO has begun blending a small percentage of renewable hydrogen into a portion of the natural gas network within the City of Cockburn.

The blend is expected to reach more than 2,700 businesses and households, with plans to increase the blend from two per cent towards 10 per cent.

The newly opened hydrogen refuelling station, a collaboration between ATCO and Fortescue Future Industries, can fill hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in five minutes.


WA 2022-23 Mid-year Review

The state’s strong financial position has been maintained amid the global economic uncertainty.

WA’s net operating surplus is now projected at $1.8 billion for 2022-23, with a forecast debt of $29.6 billion, $1.5 billion lower than in March’s budget.

The projected surplus is lower than 2021-22’s $6 billion, which is a result of lower iron ore prices, high costs of salaries, the impact of the Government’s wages policy, carried-over spending and additional resources being allocated to priority services and infrastructure.

WA’s unemployment rate is projected to be down to 3.5% in 2022-23.

The McGowan Government’s Mid-Year Review also included a $35 billion infrastructure program, a range of climate change investments and an additional $667 million to meet costs of WA’s third desalination plant.

Our health system will also receive additional funding, with $511.5 million to connect patients with specialist care and improve patient flow.