GRACosway Political Week in Review

10 June 2016
Federal Election Campaign Diary

Week five of the Federal Election campaign saw industrial relations and banking sector reform firmly put back on the agenda, with the Coalition reigniting the workplace relations debate calling for the urgent re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), and Labor renewing its push for a Royal Commission into the banking sector.

The Coalition’s focus on workplace relations was sparked by reports of industrial action affecting construction on the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games sites, with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash saying the work stoppages reiterated the need to urgently re-establish the ABCC. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull pledged to amend the Fair Work Act to limit union influence on volunteer organisations if re-elected, which came amid the ongoing battle between Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the United Firefighters Union over a new industrial agreement. Bill Shorten refused to comment on the situation however, accusing Mr Turnbull of weighing in to the debate for political reasons saying it should remain a state issue.

Labor pushed back against the Coalition’s workplace relations agenda this week by renewing calls for a Royal Commission into the banking sector, following confirmation the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has commenced legal proceedings against the National Australia Bank over allegations of rate rigging. Mr Shorten said the case further demonstrates the need for a Royal Commission, while the Coalition argued it highlights that ASIC is well-resourced and has the necessary investigative powers to uncover misconduct in the banking sector.

The economy also remained in the headlines this week, with Labor releasing its 10-year economic plan on Wednesday and committing to match the Coalition’s timeframe for returning the budget to surplus by 2020-21. Labor went on to reveal it would run deeper deficits than the Coalition in the intervening years, arguing that savings measures should be back-loaded in a bid to protect the economy and retain services. Prime Minister Turnbull dismissed Labor’s plan as a “glossy brochure”, while Finance Minister Mathias Cormann went up against Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke in a debate at the National Press Club, arguing that increased deficits under Labor would place Australia’s AAA credit rating at risk.

Meanwhile, the Coalition continued to spruik its company tax reduction plan, with Treasurer Scott Morrison issuing a mid-campaign report to promote the Coalition’s economic credentials, while also criticising Labor for having a “black hole” in their budget and significantly outspending the Coalition during the election campaign. Labor responded today by unveiling a series of savings, which include reductions in some family tax benefits, the removal of the private health rebate for natural therapies and an extension to the private health insurance rebate threshold pause. Labor also announced support for measures it has previously blocked in the Senate, including cuts to research and development tax incentives, higher education fee indexation, and changes to the university loan program and loan repayment thresholds.

Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader briefly suspended the campaign during the week to visit flood-affected areas in NSW and Tasmania. The PM travelled to Picton, where he joined local Liberal MP Angus Taylor and NSW Premier Mike Baird to inspect the damage, indicating the Federal Government will provide flood recovery assistance through the existing National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements agreed with state and territory governments. Bill Shorten made his way to Coogee Beach’s Surf Living Saving Club, which was severely damaged at the weekend, before both leaders arrived separately in Tasmania to tour the State’s flood zones later in the week.

Former Prime Minister John Howard campaigned alongside Liberal MP Jamie Briggs in his South Australian seat of Mayo this week, telling local media he predicted support for the Nick Xenophon Team would wane over time. Mr Howard also criticised Senator Xenophon for “trying to whip up concern” about free-trade agreements and agreed there were parallels between the South Australian Senator and Pauline Hanson.

Last weekend’s Newspoll, taken at the halfway point of the campaign, indicated the parties were neck and neck, with the Coalition and Labor currently tied at 50-50 on the two-party preferred vote. The punters, however, continue to favour the Coalition, with CrownBet offering $1.29 for a Coalition win and $3.60 for Labor.

Highlights of the Week

  • Newspoll results indicate a record 15 per cent of voters intend to support a micro-party or independent candidate on July 2.
  • Labor released its 10-year economic plan and $16.2 billion in new and updated budget savings proposals.
  • Former Independent MP for the electorate of Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, announced he will contest the NSW seat of Cowper at the Federal Election.
  • The Greens announced a plan to establish a National Environmental Protection Authority similar to the US model as part of a broader $2.6 billion package to strengthen environmental protections.
  • The Coalition released its policy to ban cosmetic testing on animals in Australia and the sale of cosmetic products tested on animals outside Australia, which will take effect from 1 July 2017.
  • Television campaign advertising ramped up, with the Coalition releasing a personal ad about the influence Malcolm Turnbull’s father had on his childhood and Labor rolling out television commercials in a dozen languages to appeal to migrant communities.
  • The Coalition announced it had reached an agreement with the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association to assess the commercial pressures faced by providers via a review process which will take place after the election.
  • The Coalition released its plan for jobs and growth in South Australia, which features a commitment to introduce 1,200 new scholarships for undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational students to study in SA, and undertake internships with local businesses to gain experience.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will participate in Australia’s first online leaders’ debate via Facebook next week, with the final date still to be confirmed.
  • Incumbent Liberal MP for the WA seat of Canning and former SAS officer Andrew Hastie has been dismissed from the Army Reserves after refusing to remove campaign billboards in which he is featured wearing an Australian Defence Force uniform.
  • Labor announced its childcare policy which focuses on addressing waiting lists, tackling childcare fee rises and increasing the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate cap.
  • The Greens announced their solar energy policy, which proposed the establishment of a Solar Ombudsman within the Clean Energy Regulator, ‘right to solar’ for residential and commercial tenants.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull has written to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia confirming the Coalition will continue to support the current community pharmacy model.

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