GRACosway Political Week in Review

17 June 2016
Federal Election Campaign Diary

Voting for the July 2 election started this week, with the leaders making their final pitches to early voters as pre-polling centres opened on Tuesday. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelled it a day of “momentous choice” between a Coalition Government with a “clear economic plan”, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged Australians to back Labor’s health and education policies at the ballot box. Up to one-third of voters are expected to cast their vote before polling day.

National security issues dominated the campaign early in the week, with the Prime Minister extending the nation’s condolences to the Orlando shooting victims and their families while also reflecting on domestic security matters and warning against complacency in light of the global terror threat. The Prime Minister announced a re-elected Coalition Government will pursue new laws designed to keep convicted terrorists in jail beyond their sentences if they remain a threat to the community.

Both major parties faced questions about the global economy after $30 billion was wiped from the Australian stock market in response to uncertainty around next week’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Treasurer Scott Morrison argued the Government’s strategy to reduce spending and lower taxes will protect against a global downturn, while Prime Minister Turnbull told the Perth business community that Australia needs a “strong, stable government, committed to business” to confront the “many risks and uncertainties” facing the global economy. Bill Shorten told reporters Labor’s economic plan will remain the same, irrespective of overseas events.

In a debate about the domestic economy on the ABC’s 7:30 program, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen pitched their respective economic plans to voters. Mr Morrison said the Government is pushing ahead with its promise to reduce spending and bring the Budget back to surplus, while the Shadow Treasurer argued Labor has made “tough decisions” to improve the Budget’s bottom line. Using the recent National Accounts data to bolster his argument, Treasurer Morrison contended the Coalition’s plan for jobs and growth will provide “stability” for the transitioning economy but Mr Bowen rejected his opponent’s policy as “a slogan with a one-point plan” and argued for Labor’s “fair” approach to budget repair.

Labor called for an investigation into the Liberal Party-owned company Parakeelia, following concerns about the nature of its payments to the Party. Reports suggest Liberal MPs use their publicly-funded electorate allowances to pay Parakeelia for a software system used to track information about constituents, with the firm making payments of around $1 million to the Liberal Party over the past three years. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor has written to the Auditor-General requesting an immediate investigation into the issue, while Liberal Party National Campaign Director Tony Nutt said the Party will “fully assist” any regulatory body seeking information about the company.

Workplace relations remained on the agenda this week, with the Coalition renewing its criticism of the Victorian Labor Government’s approach to resolving the industrial dispute between volunteer firefighters and the United Firefighters Union over a new workplace agreement. Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash announced she will use a range of ministerial powers to intervene in the case in a bid to prevent the agreement from coming into effect, saying Opposition Leader Bill Shorten cannot “escape his responsibility” on the matter. The Victorian Government removed the Country Fire Authority Board after it refused to sign the new agreement by the Government’s deadline late last week.

With just two weeks until polling day, the punters are still favouring the Coalition, with CrownBet offering $1.18 for a re-elected Turnbull Government and $4.75 for Labor.

Highlights of the Week

  • The third and final Leaders’ Debate of the campaign will be held tonight at 6pm and streamed live on Facebook and, making it Australia’s first online Leaders’ Debate.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull announced the Coalition will preference Labor ahead of the Greens in every Lower House seat, while Labor revealed it will direct preferences to the Liberal Party over the Nationals in key regional seats in Western Australia and Victoria.
  • Labor pledged $80 million to help more than 6,000 people with Type 1 diabetes access continuous glucose monitoring.
  • The Greens announced a $6.6 billion dental policy to retain and expand the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, which the Government has previously announced it will scrap.
  • Bill Shorten told triple j’s Hack program that Labor’s proposal to lower the voting age to 16 was no longer a priority for the Party after it failed to spark “overwhelming excitement” when flagged late last year.
  • Labor pledged $100 million for the Arrium steelworks in Whyalla, South Australia if elected, with the funding to be used for projects to support the long-term sustainability of the facility.
  • Member for Kennedy Bob Katter told channel 7 he does not read the news and was not aware of the recent shooting in Orlando after being criticised for releasing a campaign advertisement in which he is featured shooting dead his political rivals.
  • Labor announced a National Broadband Network policy, which it says will deliver fibre-to-the home for an additional two million residences and businesses and will be capped at $57 billion in line with the Coalition’s $56 billion policy.
  • The Coalition committed $1 billion for a Great Barrier Reef fund to be managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will deliver projects designed to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve water quality.
  • Bill Shorten has announced that if elected, Labor will commit $43 million in funding to upgrade the Roe Highway in Western Australia.
  • Residents will have a say on the NSW Government’s council amalgamation plan under a Federal Labor Government after the Party committed $20 million to facilitate plebiscites on the matter if requested by local councils.
  • Immigration policy made headlines, with the Coalition accusing Labor of giving a “green light” to people smugglers after reports suggested the Opposition plans to scrap temporary protection visas and grant permanent residency to 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat under the previous Labor Government.
  • The Minerals Council has criticised the Opposition for not including the previous Labor Government’s commitment to streamline Australia’s federal and state environmental approval processes in their campaign manifesto.

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