GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Sparks fly on energy debate 

20 July 2018
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended his lead as preferred PM over Bill Shorten, at the half-way mark of the winter recess.
  • The Australian Energy Market Operator has released a key report, recommending the continued use of coal for the next 20 years.
  • Tomorrow marks one week until the 28 July Super Saturday by-elections.
  • The PM visited Melbourne to announce $5 million in funding towards a cancer research trial.
  • Bill Shorten will recontest Maribyrnong, while Labor’s Mark Butler will contest the SA seat of Hindmarsh at the next election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended his lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred PM to a 19-point margin, representing a lead not seen since before the 2016 Federal Election. Labor nonetheless continues to lead in two-party preferred terms in the latest Newspoll, on 51 per cent to the Coalition’s 49 per cent. Both major parties have lost one point from their primary vote, while the Coalition is ahead on 38 to Labor’s 36 points.

Continued focus on energy 

Energy policy has continued to dominate debate this week after the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released its Integrated System Plan for the National Electricity Market on Tuesday, calling on the continued use of coal-fired power generation for the next two decades in order to ensure system reliability. However, the report does not recommend continued use of coal beyond this 20-year period. Meanwhile, industry has called on the Government to amend the design of its National Energy Guarantee (NEG); the current design would impose a ‘reliability obligation’ on Australia’s 100 largest power users and retailers to guarantee electricity supply, either by managing their use or holding suitable supply contracts.

Labor has rejected the “utterly ineffectual” 26 per cent emissions reduction target under the NEG, with energy spokesman Mark Butler calling for a 45 per cent reduction target to boost renewable investment to 50 per cent of generation by 2030, and lower wholesale electricity prices by a predicted 25 per cent. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will next need to secure unanimous support from his state and territory counterparts at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council on 10 August.

Malcolm in Melbourne

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne this week to announce $5 million in federal funding for the Zero Childhood Cancer trial. Joining State Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy ahead of the November state election, the PM faced questions over whether comments by federal MPs concerning Sudanese violence had fuelled racist sentiment. The questions came after Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner reported a 34 per cent jump in racial discrimination reports. Mr Turnbull denied the connection but said that “you’ve got to acknowledge there is a concern” about crime in Victoria.

One week to Super Saturday by-elections

In a hiccup for the Coalition ahead of Super Saturday, LNP Longman candidate Trevor Ruthenberg was forced to apologise for wrongly claiming to hold the prestigious Australian Service Medal instead of the Australian Defence Medal (awarded to all armed service members who serve for over four years). PM Malcolm Turnbull told reporters this was “an innocent mistake” and that “Big Trev is as honest and straight as he is big, and he is big”. Following the incident, internal Labor polling indicated a shift in sentiment towards incumbent Susan Lamb. In Tasmania, independent candidate for Braddon Craig Garland may be set to collect enough votes on 28 July to influence the final outcome on preferences, to the frustration of Liberal candidate Brett Whiteley who is hoping to steal the seat from Labor incumbent Justine Keay. Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, however, has calledinto question Mr Garland’s character over a 1994 altercation with an off-duty police officer.

Pre-election positioning 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced he will recontest his seat of Maribyrnong at the next election, despite it becoming more marginal following a redistribution of electoral boundaries. This follows reports of a failed factional deal that would have seen Mr Shorten contest the new seat of Fraser. In SA, reports suggest Labor MP Mark Butler has struck a factional deal to run for the seat of Hindmarsh at the next election, after the Australian Electoral Commission recommended his seat of Port Adelaide be abolished in a recent redistribution. Hindmarsh is currently held by Labor MP Steve Georganas, who will instead nominate for the seat of Adelaide after Kate Ellis retires at the next election.

Looking ahead 

The Victorian and SA parliaments are sitting next week; Estimates will be held in Queensland Parliament.


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