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What happened this quarter? Four events that kicked off 2023

It’s been a bumper start to the year in Australian politics, with advocates having plenty to watch.

As predicted, the first quarter of 2023 was a bumper start to the year in Australian politics. With the Federal Labor Government hitting its stride, an election in the country’s most populated state and a national push towards climate and inclusion action – the first three months have given advocates plenty to watch (and talk about!).

As we head into an equally packed second quarter – which will see a budget announcement, a new King coronated and the expected passing of some significant federal and state bills – we recap four of the top happenings of 2023 so far.

The Voice

Set to be more iconic than the song by John Farnham, the Prime Minister recently announced a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (The Voice) will be an independent, representative advisory body for First Nations peoples. The Voice forms part of the government's commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

Later this year Australians will have their say on the constitutional amendment and referendum question, agreed to by the Referendum Working Group, the government and soon to be introduced into parliament.

Greenlight given for climate change legislation

One of the most prominent issues shaping global politics, climate change action in Australia continued to evolve in early-2023. Significant strides had already been made on this issue in late 2022 with Labor’s Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022 introducing substantial national targets to cut emissions and reach net zero.

Following the first steps in 2022, and after weeks of heated negotiations, the Greens recently announced it will support the passing of Labor’s key climate policy into law – a critical step to reaching the 2030 emissions target.

In committing support, the Greens, alongside climate activists and independent Senator Pocock, fought hard for additions to the bill. This has included limitations on the use of carbon credits and a hard cap on emissions produced under the safeguard mechanism.

Justice Paul Brereton to head up the NACC

Justice Paul Brereton has been named as Commissioner of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which was established in late 2022 as an independent body with broad jurisdiction to investigate public sector corruption at the federal level.

Described as the biggest integrity reform to hit the Australian Parliament in decades, the establishment of the NACC followed a commitment made by the Labor Government during the 2022 Federal Election campaign.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus recommended Justice Brereton’s appointment, based on Brereton’s strong reputation as both NSW judge and former investigator into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Labor regains power in NSW

After 12 years on the sidelines, the Labor Party led by Chris Minns was elected to power in NSW in late March. This significant win not only broke a longstanding Liberal streak in the state, but means Labor now holds the majority in all mainland jurisdictions (with Tasmania the only remaining Liberal government in the country).

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