GRACosway Political Week in Review

24 June 2016

Federal Election Campaign Diary

Medicare dominated the penultimate week of the election campaign, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten using Labor’s campaign launch in Western Sydney at the weekend to declare the Federal Election a “referendum on the future of Medicare”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused his opponent of telling “extraordinary and audacious” lies about the Government’s plans for the Medicare payments system, refuting privatisation claims and promising that “every element” of Medicare will continue to be delivered by the Government.

With 883,000 pre-poll votes already cast and last weekend’s Newspoll placing the Coalition and Labor neck and neck at 50-50 in two-party preferred terms, debate on controversial policy matters intensified during the week. Labor continued its campaign on the Coalition’s perceived “privatisation agenda”, claiming a tender for the new Australian School Vaccination Register could lead to children’s vaccination records being “handed over to a for-profit company”. The Coalition returned fire by bringing immigration policy to the fore after it was revealed Australian authorities intercepted an asylum seeker boat in the Timor Sea at the beginning of June and returned its occupants to Vietnam when their claims for asylum were rejected. The Coalition argued the Opposition is internally divided on immigration policy while the Prime Minister warned of border protection “chaos” under Labor.

The Coalition continued to pursue its workplace relations agenda, with Prime Minister Turnbull visiting Victoria to meet the volunteer firefighters embroiled in a battle with the Labor State Government and the United Firefighters Union over an industrial agreement. Mr Turnbull confirmed the Coalition’s commitment to “immediately” amend the Fair Work Act when Parliament returns in a bid to curb union influence over volunteer groups. Meanwhile, Labor sharpened its criticism of the Government’s proposed same sex marriage plebiscite, arguing the public vote will be a “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia” and promising to legislate same sex marriage within 100 days if elected.

The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader went head to head in Australia’s first online leaders’ debate last Friday evening, canvassing topics such as penalty rates, housing affordability, climate change and the NBN. A peak audience of 12,400 people tuned in to the debate online, with Bill Shorten declared the winner by a small studio audience. Suffering from the flu and losing his voice, Prime Minister Turnbull was the sole guest on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night where he responded to questions about same sex marriage, asylum seekers and company tax cuts, and also promised not to make any changes to the GST.

Marginal seats in Western Sydney were a priority for both the major parties this week, with the Prime Minister joining NSW Premier Mike Baird to announce a City Deal for the region centred on the Western Sydney Airport. The proposed partnership will facilitate collaboration between all levels of government to improve transport and boost jobs in the region by leveraging existing infrastructure commitments and making land use changes. The Prime Minister also launched the Coalition’s Smart Cities policy, which features an investment fund for renewable energy and energy efficient technology through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Both leaders weighed in to the furore over comments made by radio personality and Collingwood Football Club President Eddie McGuire about journalist Caroline Wilson mid-week, with the Prime Minister telling reporters “there is no place for disrespecting women” – especially from those in the public eye. The Coalition later announced an extra $15 million for frontline domestic violence services, which will be allocated to particular initiatives in consultation with states and territories. The Opposition Leader also cancelled a scheduled appearance on McGuire’s Triple M breakfast show, labelling the host’s comments as “unacceptable”.

With seven days to go until the election, punters continue to favour the Coalition. Crownbet is offering $1.15 for a returned Turnbull Government and $5.50 if a Shorten Labor Government is elected.

Highlights of the Week

  • The Coalition announced it will provide $49.2 million for new machinery at the Arrium steelworks in Whyalla, South Australia to facilitate the production of a higher grade of ore and improve the company’s profitability.
  • Labor committed $88 million for the fourth stage of the Nepean Hospital redevelopment in Western Sydney, including a new cancer centre and operating theatres.
  • The Federal Coalition and the NSW Baird Government will jointly provide $30 million for upgrades to the M5 South West Motorway at Belmore in Sydney’s south-west.
  • The Greens announced a plan to apply a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and raise an estimated $2.1 billion over four years.
  • The Opposition committed to developing a fast-tracked business case for a second Bass Strait interconnector to give Tasmania a more reliable energy supply following concerns over widespread electricity shortages in the State, if elected next Saturday.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the Coalition will establish the Regional Investment Corporation as a single national body to administer the Commonwealth’s $4.5 billion worth of drought and water infrastructure loans in a bid to streamline the process.
  • Labor candidate for the safe Liberal seat of Farrer Christian Kunde resigned over alleged links to an extremist Islamic group, and the Liberal Party’s candidate for Gellibrand Ben Willis was forced to apologise for controversial comments he made on Facebook about Australia Day.
  • The Coalition announced $215 million for upgrades to the M1 on the Gold Coast to ease congestion for commuters.
  • Labor committed to retaining pathology and diagnostic imaging bulk billing incentives at a cost of $884.2 million over the forward estimates.
  • Former Labor Prime Ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard attended Labor’s campaign launch in Western Sydney at the weekend, where Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the party faithful Labor should not be underestimated.
  • The Coalition’s campaign launch will be held this Sunday in the marginal Liberal seat of Reid in Sydney’s inner west, with former Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard expected to attend.

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