GRACosway Political Week in Review
Federal Election Campaign Diary
The state of the Federal budget was back on the agenda this week, with debate over Labor’s costings dominating much of the campaigning. This followed claims of a four-year, $67 billion black hole in the Opposition’s figures by Treasurer Scott Morrison, who was later forced to backtrack based on apparently flawed assumptions and revise his initial statement to ‘at least $32 billion’. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen sought to capitalise on the issue by confirming a Labor Government will further improve the budget bottom line by $8 billion through not restoring the ‘Schoolkids Bonus’ or reversing changes to the age pension assets test. Yet this change of position from Labor, which has previously campaigned against the cuts, combined with a poorly messaged interview by MP David Feeney on Sky News, led many commentators to label Thursday as Labor’s worst day of the campaign to date.
Earlier in the week, the Opposition Leader kicked things off in Perth where he pledged $1 billion in federal funding toward construction of the city’s proposed Metronet rail system, should the project receive positive assessment from Infrastructure Australia. He later flew to Darwin to mark National Sorry Day with retiring Northern Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris, who has left the Party scrambling to find a replacement following her decision to leave the parliament.
The Government’s move to extend the freeze on Medicare rebates for GPs remains a key political issue, following Labor’s commitment to reintroduce indexation. Health Minister Sussan Ley was accused of being at odds with the Coalition’s policy on the matter this week, after saying in a radio interview that she would like to see the freeze lifted as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Turnbull later sought to clarify the Minister’s comments, suggesting the indexation freeze will end when the economy improves.
The fallout from reduced farm gate milk prices for the 2015-16 season continued this week, culminating in Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce announcing a $579 million support package for the industry. The bulk of the money will be go toward a Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans Scheme.
Both the Liberal and Labor parties went on the attack against the Nick Xenophon Partythis week, with State Labor Assistant Minister Chris Picton singling out NXT candidate Damien Carey for his views on acupuncture as a successful treatment for infertility. Industry Minister Christopher Pyne – who faces a significant challenge from the NXP in his seat of Sturt – also attacked Senator Xenophon on political donations after it was revealed he has accepted a $175,000 donation from a South Australian businessman.
One of the nation’s most colourful politicians of recent years, Clive Palmer, announced he won’t be standing for the Senate in Queensland, having previously announced he will not be recontesting his seat of Fairfax. Mr Palmer may be replaced on the national stage by former Member for Oxley and One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson, who confirmed she will be seeking to re-enter Parliament on July 2. Ms Hanson came close to winning the sixth and final Queensland Senate seat at the 2001 election but was narrowly defeated by the Nationals’ Ron Boswell. With the quota for election to the Senate halved to 7.7 per cent at this election, both major parties have acknowledged the ‘very real possibility’ they may be seeing Ms Hanson in the corridors of Parliament.
Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop conducted a blitz of key Queensland marginal when she visited the seats of Brisbane, Petrie, Blair, Rankin, Oxley, Fisher, Fairfax and Longman this week, and attended the official opening of the new $45 million GrainCorp fuel storage tank facility at the Port of Brisbane in Wayne Swan’s electorate of Lilley. Ms Bishop said the result in Queensland will likely have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
Prime Minister Turnbull was in Brisbane today to unveil a $115 million Aboriginal employment package; this was in contrast to Mr Shorten’s $200 million announcement yesterday to expand the Working on Country Indigenous Rangers Program.
While Mr Morrison and his counterpart continued debate on the budget and broader economy at the National Press Club earlier today, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are preparing for their first formal debate of the campaign which will also take place at the Press Club on Sunday evening.
The latest Newspoll published on Monday shows little change to either side during the past fortnight, with Labor still leading the Coalition 51 to 49 in the national two-party preferred vote. Despite the polls however, the betting markets still have the Coalition as favourites, with CrownBet offering $1.30 for a Coalition win and $3.45 for Labor.
Highlights of the Week
- The Prime Minister announced $150 million to fast-track the feasibility assessment and construction of water infrastructure across Queensland.
- The Coalition committed $20 million to improve tourism infrastructure in the Dandenong Ranges.
- The Prime Minister also announced $44 million for the Port of Eden expansion in the marginal Liberal held seat of Eden-Monaro.
- Mr Turnbull appeared on the Alan Jones show on Wednesday – his first appearance since 2014 (transcript here).
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten released Labor’s policy on indigenous health,Closing The Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.
- Labor also announced its policy to support a new generation of young indigenous leaders.
- Scott Morrison and Chris Bowen appeared opposite one another at the National Press Club on Friday.