GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Super Saturday Showdown
- Tomorrow marks the climax of the long Super Saturday by-election campaigns, with five polls to be held across WA, SA, Queensland and Tasmania.
- Malcolm Turnbull has become first Prime Minister in decades to visit Tennant Creek.
- The Government has released the blueprint for the National Energy Guarantee to the states and territories, setting up a potential showdown over emissions reductions.
- Allegations of bullying and harassment in the office of Western Sydney Labor MP Emma Husar have emerged.
- Privacy concerns have been raised about the government’s My Health Record system after the commencement of the opt-out period.
By-election battles reach crescendo
Voters in five electorates across four states will be breathing a sigh of relief this weekend as the marathon ‘Super Saturday’ by-election campaigns come to a head tomorrow. Voters in the electorates of Fremantle and Perth in WA, Mayo in SA, Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania will finally cast their votes following a relentless winter by-election campaign. Much of the focus in the final days has been on the seats of Longman and Braddon, with both still too close to call. In Braddon, Prime Minister Turnbull announced a $10 million investment for the Devonport Living City project, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced a Labor Government would fund 20 dedicated Medicare support staff for Tasmania’s north-west coast.
Meanwhile in Longman, Mr Shorten formally launched Labor candidate Susan Lamb’s campaign in Caboolture, while a ReachTEL poll showed the LNP’s Trevor Ruthenberg with a knife-edge 51-49 two-party preferred lead over Ms Lamb. Still in Longman, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has withdrawn from the campaign altogether, heading on a holiday in the final week of the by-election campaign. One Nation preferences are expected to determine the outcome in Longman; Senator Hanson later revealed she had exited the campaign due to exhaustion.
While Labor is expected to hold the seats of Fremantle and Perth in the absence of a Liberal opponent, incumbent Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie is likely to overcome Georgina Downer in Mayo. All eyes will be firmly on Longman and Braddon, where a Coalition victory would mark the first time in almost a century that a government has won a by-election from an opposition.
Turnbull in the Territory
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became the first PM in 36 years to visit the NT town of Tennant Creek this week, as part of a ‘listening tour’ sparked by recent social issues that have brought the outback town into national focus. Prime Minister Turnbull said he was “inspired by the resilience of the community” and announced a new regional deal for Tennant Creek involving the federal, territory and local governments and local Aboriginal organisations, designed to foster improved economic and social improvements for the outback community.
NEG slowly inches closer
In energy news, a new report from the Energy Security Board this week showed that the final design of the Government’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG) would lead to household electricity bill savings of up to $150 a year. The Final Detailed Design of the NEG was sent to the states and territories for consideration this week, with the Federal Government making a number of concessions, including permitting a review of the policy by a future government in 2024. The Labor Opposition said the Government’s proposed 26 per cent cut in emissions is “grossly inadequate” and that it won’t support a NEG that is “designed to stifle renewable energy investment”, adding further complexity to an already politically-charged and fractious energy debate ahead of a crucial COAG Energy Council meeting in Sydney on August 10.
Alleged misconduct by Labor MP
The NSW Labor Party has confirmed it is conducting an internal investigation into the Member for Lindsay, Emma Husar, following complaints from several of her staff. Members of her electorate office staff have come forward with allegations of bullying and harassment, saying the Western Sydney MP asked them to perform personal duties such as childminding and walking her dog. Ms Husar said she is “horrified” to learn of the allegations and has taken personal leave.
My Health Record privacy concerns
The Government’s My Health Record digital medical record scheme has come under scrutiny in recent days, amid growing privacy concerns. Australians have three months to opt out of the scheme that will create an online medical record for all Australians, with critics this week questioning the adequacy of privacy protections in the system and the number of agencies with access to the database. The Government has moved to allay concerns, with the PM saying the system will be refined as required and Health Minister Greg Hunt announcing he will meet the Australian Medical Association and College of General Practitioners to discuss the scheme next week. The Labor Opposition has called for the rollout to be suspended while concerns are addressed and a number of MPs, including the Liberals’ Tim Wilson and Labor’s Ed Husic, have publicly declared they will opt out.
The South Australian and ACT parliaments are sitting next week. Budget Estimates continue in Queensland.