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Friday, 26 March 2021

Federal Parliament has sat for the final time before this year’s Budget and it has been a dramatic start to 2021 to say the least.

At the time of writing two ministers remain on leave and a tumultuous February and March has seen the Opposition jump ahead 52-48 in the latest Newspoll. Speculation is rife within Canberra that a Ministerial reshuffle is imminent, with word both ministers possibly moving to new portfolios. The SAS Group will keep our ear to the ground on any developments, particularly to changes in portfolios that affect our clients. With an election still possible late this year, it is clearly game on between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.

The Government was successful in getting the Senate to pass its Omnibus Industrial Relations Bill, but it did require the legislation to be heavily amended. No less than four of the five key reforms that were included in the initial Bill were dropped from the final version.  The one measure that did pass related to clarifying the legal definition of casual work. The catalyst for this reform was a high-profile case that required a labour hire company to back pay entitlements such as annual leave to a casual employee who had already been paid a loading for working as a casual for a prolonged period. This change follows a high-profile campaign devised and originally executed by the SAS Group in response to that initial Court ruling.  It will mean that many businesses across a swath of industries will not need to make similar back payments for “double dipping”.

Meanwhile the economic indicators do suggest that Australia is in recovery mode. Earlier this month it was revealed that GDP grew by a sizeable 3.1 per cent for the December Quarter. The ABS has also confirmed that close to 90,000 Australians found jobs in February, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.8 per cent. However, before everyone begins to pop the champagne corks it should be noted that JobKeeper is set to end in the coming days as will the Coronavirus Supplement. No doubt the Government will look to implement more targeted stimuli moving forward, such as the subsides to encourage domestic travel. It could still be a challenging period ahead and until there is a widespread rollout of the COVID vaccine there’s still the distinct possibility that the economy could again move in the wrong direction.

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