GRACosway Campaign Diary
3 May 2019
- Nearly 510,000 people have already cast their ballot after four days of pre-poll voting, confirming the growing trend toward early voting.
- The campaign has been overshadowed by a number of candidate resignations over inappropriate social media posts and improper behavior.
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has today announced $2 billion of federal funding for the Metro Tunnel project in the marginal Victorian electorate of Macnamara.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also in Victoria and has announced $203 million to promote recycling, clean up waterways and protect native animals.
- Labor has pledged $20 million for community legal centres, with Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus backing calls to reform defamation law and “beefing up” enforcement of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
- The Coalition has announced a farming, fisheries and forestry plan, including concessional loans of up to $2 million for first-time farmers.
- Former PM Tony Abbott went head-to-head with independent candidate Zali Steggall in a public debate in Warringah on Thursday, with Ms Steggall confirming she would be more likely to support the Coalition in a hung parliament scenario.
Shorten wins first leaders’ debate
The third week of the election campaign kicked off in WA, with the first leaders’ debate held in Perth on Monday evening. During the debate, Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasised the Coalition’s economic management credentials and spoke about lowering unemployment, strengthening the economy and fixing the GST in WA. In contrast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten focused on health and education funding and action on climate change. Both leaders put pressure on their opponent, with the PM challenging Mr Shorten on Labor’s policies around asylum seekers, electric vehicles and dividend imputation. Mr Shorten hit back by highlighting the Coalition’s leadership instability, criticising its preference deals with minor parties and underscoring the rising cost of essential services. According to the studio audience of 48 undecided voters, Mr Shorten won the debate with 25 votes, while 12 people picked the PM and 11 remained undecided.
Cash splash in WA
While in WA, the Coalition made a slew of smaller announcements, including $20 million to clean up crime hotspots in Perth; $34 million for an aged care workforce research centre; and $10 million to help seniors tackle loneliness. The PM also made a $1 billion commitment to bring forward the construction of three new navy ships, to be built in Perth in the mid-2020s, and earmarked a further $156 million to combat cyber security threats. Meanwhile, Labor announced a $1 billion plan to provide cheap loans to schools to install rooftop solar panels and committed to review Australia’s defence capabilities during a visit to Fremantle. Mr Shorten stopped in SA on the way home from Perth, before both leaders hit the campaign trail in Tasmania on Thursday. They will meet again in Queensland today ahead of the second debate of the campaign this evening.
Climate debate continues
The Opposition placed climate change at the centre of its agenda this week, with key announcements including a $75 million renewables training package and the creation of two ‘renewable energy zones’ in SA and Tasmania, in addition to the $1 billion schools solar panels package. Labor remains under pressure to provide details of its climate policy costings, after Mr Shorten rejected new modelling by economist Brian Fisher which suggested Labor’s plan to cut emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 could cost between $264 billion and $542 billion by 2030. Mr Shorten labelled the modelling “propaganda”, while the PM said Labor is “forcing people to choose between the economy and the environment”.
Medicines policy overhaul
Health Minister Greg Hunt and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King squared off in the National Press Club health debate on Thursday, canvassing issues such as mental health, private health insurance and medicines. Earlier in the day, the Coalition announced it will reduce the number of scripts it takes to reach the safety net threshold on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), giving patients access to free or further subsidised medicines sooner and saving more than 1.4 million Australians up to $80 per year. Labor has subsequently confirmed it will match the Coalition’s commitment if elected, effectively guaranteeing that the policy will be implemented regardless of the election outcome. Ms King also released further details on Labor’s preventive health policy, which focuses on tackling obesity, smoking and dangerous levels of alcohol consumption.
Greens willing to work with Labor
Leader of the Australian Greens Richard Di Natale delivered his National Press Club address on Wednesday, signalling that the Greens are willing to work with Labor to find a compromise on climate change policy, should Labor form government. The Opposition Leader, however, was quick to reject the idea the two parties will have any formal coalition-style arrangement.
A number of candidates have been disendorsed by their parties after being found to have made inappropriate comments on social media or to have behaved improperly, while other candidates remain under a cloud. PM Scott Morrison called for improvements to the vetting process for political candidates, saying the process was “not up to standard”, while conceding social media represents “new challenges” for party officials. As of today, a total of five candidates have been disendorsed by their party following the close of nominations, meaning their names will remain on ballot papers.
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