GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Promising Polling for Government
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been in Europe and attended the Anzac Day dawn service in Villers-Bretonneux, France.
- The Coalition has seen improvements in polling this week, placing it in its strongest position since September 2016.
- The PM has conceded that he made a political error in not establishing a Royal Commission earlier to address misconduct in the financial services sector.
- The Government’s proposed Medicare levy increase has been axed, ahead of next month’s Federal Budget.
- South Australia’s Legislative Council results have been announced.
PM’s European Tour
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull began the week in Berlin, where he delivered an address on trade, defence and national security before travelling to Belgium, where he attended NATO headquarters in Brussels. The PM has put a free trade agreement with the European Union back on the agenda, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirming her country’s support for a possible deal. To mark the centenary of Australia’s involvement in a WWI victory in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux, Mr Turnbull opened the Sir John Monash Centre, and spoke at the Anzac Day dawn service.
Back at home, the Coalition has welcomed positive Newspoll results which have returned the party to its strongest position since September 2016. The Coalition now trails Labor by only two points on a two-party preferred basis, 49 to 51 per cent, while its primary vote remains unchanged on 38 to Labor’s 37 points. The improved polling comes on the back of pre-budget infrastructure spending announcements and a new package of increased and harmonised penalties for corporate misconduct by major banks and financial services companies in the wake of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission.
Royal Commission Commentary
The Prime Minister has conceded he made a political error in not establishing a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sectors sooner, while contending the Government put “action and reform and legislation” ahead of an inquiry. Meanwhile, Labor has called for a compensation scheme for victims of banking misconduct, along with an extension for the inquiry and a government apology for not establishing the Royal Commission sooner. The Royal Commission will commence its third round of public hearings from 21 May in Melbourne, focusing on small and medium enterprises.
Medicare Levy Increase Scrapped
Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced that the proposed Medicare levy increase from 2 to 2.5 per cent has been dropped, ahead of next month’s Federal Budget. The proposed increase in the levy was expected to raise $8 billion over four years from July 2019 to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Treasurer has confirmed the funds will be found elsewhere in the Budget, with tax receipts up until February running $4.8 billion higher than expected in December and a $3 billion increase in company tax receipts.
The Budget is also expected to feature further spending on rail projects, as part of the Coalition’s focus on a cluster of marginal seats in Queensland. The Government’s track record in infrastructure spending has come under scrutiny from Labor and the business community, despite early announcements of the $5 billion Melbourne Airport rail link and the $1 billion Brisbane Metro project. Reports suggest the Budget will also include a $400 million package for projects to conserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef.
SA Upper House
More than one month after the March SA Election, Legislative Council results have been declared. Out of the 11 seats up for grabs, the Liberal and Labor parties retained four seats each; SA Best gained two; while the Greens won a single seat. The results see Australian Conservatives MLC Robert Brokenshire and Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent lose their seats, eliminating both party’s SA parliamentary representation. With nine members in the 22 seat Upper House, the Liberal Party does not hold a majority.