GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: On the By-election Campaign Trail 

18 May 2018

  • This week’s Newspoll reveals a jump in Prime Minister Turnbull’s popularity, while the Coalition continues to trail Labor on a two-party preferred basis.
  • The PM has announced proposed new laws to expand police powers to carry out identity checks at airports.
  • Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has spent time campaigning in Brisbane and Perth, ahead of forthcoming by-elections.
  • A Parliamentary Committee has recommended changing the Constitution via referendum, to address the citizenship fiasco.
  • Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has delivered his Budget Reply Address.

PM’s Popularity Peaks

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hit the campaign trail this week in preparation for the forthcoming by-election ‘Super Saturday’, amid promising Newspoll results for the Coalition. The latest poll reveals Mr Turnbull’s popularity has surged by 14 points to its highest levels since the 2016 Federal Election, now 46 per cent to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s 32. The Coalition continues to trail on a two-party preferred basis, 49 to Labor’s 51. The Coalition’s primary vote has risen by one point to 39 per cent, still only one point ahead of Labor.

PM on the Campaign Trail 

Out and about talking to voters this week, the Prime Minister visited Melbourne Airport to spruik the Government’s $294 million security package announced in last week’s Budget. Together with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Mr Turnbull has announced plans to introduce expanded powers for federal police to conduct identity checks at the airport. The Prime Minister also visited Tasmania to announce $30 million in federal funding for the tourism-boosting Cradle Mountain cable-way. Supported by a $30 million investment by the State Government, the infrastructure will provide year-round transport between the Gateway Precinct and Dove Lake. The PM jetted to Queensland later in the week, where he visited local businesses and met with voters to talk about the Government’s economic plan. Flanked by senior ministers and local MPs, the PM was unable to endorse a Liberal National Party candidate for the Labor-held marginal seat of Longman after the preselection was delayed due to citizenship questions about two of the candidates.

Labor Campaign Kicks Off

Also in campaign mode, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten visited Brisbane and Perth, while Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek headed to Tasmania. Labor’s health and education policies were at the top of the agenda for both MPs, who spruiked the Party’s plan to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students. In Queensland, Mr Shorten was joined by Longman candidate Susan Lamb at a town hall meeting to discuss health, TAFE and school funding, renewable energy and support for small business. WA Labor State secretary Patrick Gorman, Labor’s candidate for the upcoming Perth by-election, joined Mr Shorten in Perth to discuss issues including GST, citizenship, and live sheep export.

Bowen’s Budget Reply

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen declared that Labor is “ready for an election, and ready for government” in his Budget Reply Address to the National Press Club on Wednesday. Mr Bowen said Labor will pay off national debt faster than the Coalition, and return the budget to surplus by 2019-2020, while also calling on the Government to split the legislation for its personal income tax cuts.

Referendum Recommended

In response to the ongoing dual citizenship saga, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has recommended the Government seek to repeal or amend sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution via a referendum. Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann said the Government is “not inclined” to go down this path ahead of the next Federal Election. The Committee alternatively recommended a number of other strategies to mitigate the issue, such as education and online self-assessment tools for candidates.

By-election Preselections

Georgina Downer has won the Liberal preselection for the SA seat of Mayo, ahead of a by-election triggered by the resignation of Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie. In an ironic twist, it is understood that two potential rival nominees failed to properly renounce their status as dual citizens ahead of the contest. In further preselection news unrelated to the citizenship saga, Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice has lost the preselection for her Queensland seat of Ryan to a former staff member, Julian Simmonds.

Looking Ahead

The NSW, Victorian, WA and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week; Budget Estimates will be held in Federal Parliament.

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