GRACosway Political Week in Review

20 May 2016
Federal Election Campaign Diary

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten squared off against each other last Friday in the first leader’s debate of the campaign, addressing 100 swinging voters at the Windsor RSL in NSW. While Mr Shorten fixed heavily on Labor’s traditional strengths of education and healthcare, Mr Turnbull continued to prosecute the Government’s jobs and growth agenda, confirming it had reached an accommodation with pathology service providers on proposed changes to bulk billing.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister kicked off week two of the election campaign with a visit to Marsden Park in the western Sydney marginal seat of Macarthur – currently held byLiberal Russell Matheson on a margin or 3.4 per cent – where he announced $54 million in funding for continuous glucose monitoring devices for children and young people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Mr Turnbull then headed west, where he visited Perth’s Austal Shipyard in the seat of Fremantle to promote the Government’s previously announced $282 million commitment to build up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats at the Austal site.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten started his week in the NSW electorate of Richmond to announce a $40 million water safety package, before heading to Geelong in his home state of Victoria on Monday to talk about Labor’s $59 million jobs package to help automotive workers transition into new employment. The Opposition Leader then flew to Adelaide, where he pledged $500 million toward the construction of the $1 billon AdeLINK tram project.

The Prime Minister continued his criss-cross of the nation, flying into Darwin on Tuesday to talk about the Government’s ‘national economic plan’ with the Member for Solomon Natasha Griggs (who currently holds the seat on a slim margin of 1.4 per cent). From there, Prime Minister Turnbull journeyed to Cairns with Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch to announce $24 million in federal funding to upgrade the Cairns Marine Precinct, before heading further north to Townsville and the relatively safe seat of Herbert.

While the Government continued to prosecute the case against Labor over its apparent disunity on border protection policy, Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton created controversy on Wednesday when he suggested illiterate and innumerate refugees were stealing jobs from Australians. The Prime Minister and Deputy Party Leader Julie Bishop defended Mr Dutton, with the Prime Minister stating many refugees “are illiterate in their own language” and describing Mr Dutton as an “outstanding Immigration Minister”.

On Thursday, Mr Shorten sought to shift the campaign focus to health care, announcinga Labor Government will restore indexation of co-payments under the Medicare Benefits Schedule at a cost of $2.4 billion over the forward estimates. Adding a touch of excitement to a somewhat mundane campaign, Mr Shorten played hero to an injured woman on Thursday afternoon, coming to the aid of both her and her son who were involved in a head-on collision on a narrow stretch of Cessnock Road near Testers Hollow.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer also announced this week that the Government hasdelayed the introduction of the ‘backpacker tax’ until 1 January 2017, in a move thatDeputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce described as a good outcome for regional Australia. Mr Joyce also floated the possible extension of concessional drought loans to dairy farmers hit by plummeting milk payments during a visit to Shepparton in regional Victoria, with the Prime Minister later confirming he will discuss a proposal for more immediate assistance with the Labor Opposition, as required under the caretaker conventions.

The Labor campaign hit some turbulence this week after Mr Shorten failed to commit to maintaining weekend penalty rates, instead saying that a Labor Government will respect the pending ruling by Fair Work Australia, which is due to report following the election – more details below. In a further distraction for the ALP, Labor’s David Feeney– who is facing a significant challenge from the Greens in his electorate of Batman – suffered embarrassment when it was revealed he failed to declare a negatively geared $2.3 million investment property he owns in his electorate.

Speaking at the Greens National Conference in Melbourne at the weekend, Party Leader Richard Di Natale outlined the priorities that will form the basis of any negotiations with the Labor Party in the event of a hung parliament. In his address to the party faithful, Dr Di Natale said the Greens will demand strong action on climate change; an end to the fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry; and greater support for renewable energy, political donation reform and the establishment of a federal anti-corruption watchdog. Later in the week, Dr Di Natale caused a stir by calling for an end to the formal Australian-US alliance and abolition of anti-discrimination exemptions for religious organisations.

Mr Turnbull is in the Tasmanian Liberal seat of Bass – held by Andrew Nikolic on a margin of 4 per cent – today, where he has committed to launching free trade negotiations with the European Union and exploring the feasibility of trade agreements with Canada, Mexico and Colombia. For his part, the Opposition Leader has been dealing with the aftermath of a raid on the office of Stephen Conroy by the AFP late on Thursday in relation to allegedly leaked commercial-in-confidence documents fromnbn Co.

Despite a mixed week for the Government, the Coalition has managed to shorten its odds with CrownBet at the end of the second week of a long campaign to $1.30, while Labor has slipped to $3.45.

Highlights of the Week

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