Issue 1: Federal Election Campaign Diary
14 April 2022
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- This week, it was announced that a Federal Election will be held on Saturday 21 May 2022, after the Governor-General accepted advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to prorogue the Parliament and dissolve the House of Representatives on Monday.
- ‘Caretaker conventions‘ have begun, meaning the Federal Government cannot make major policy decisions that would impact or commit an incoming government to uphold.
- Sunday’s Newspoll showed a slight decrease in support for Labor, but the Opposition maintained its lead over the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, 53 to 47.
- Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) demonstrate the national unemployment rate remains at 4 per cent.
- Federal Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja travelled to the Solomon Islands to discuss national security concerns regarding the Solomon Islands’ proposed agreement with China.
- Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Morrison confirmed the Board of the Brisbane Organising Committee for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- Victoria has been named as the host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Federal Election campaign begins
Monday saw the official start of a near six-week election campaign as the Governor-General issued the writs for a Federal Election to be held on Saturday 21 May. Prime Minister Morrison started his campaign for re-election by highlighting the Coalition’s economic management, while Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese pitched for voters to elect a Labor Government to address the increasing cost-of-living, as well as aged care, health, education and climate change.
Mr Morrison started the week in the seat of Gilmore in the Shoalhaven region in NSW, before continuing onto Western Sydney, Geelong, and today landing in Tasmania. Meanwhile, Mr Albanese was in the Tasmanian electorate of Bass on Monday and made a brief stop in Melbourne before arriving in Cessnock, NSW earlier today.
A number of high-profile independents have also launched their campaigns, with many aiming to win traditionally safe Liberal seats across the country. In Victoria, former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel is up against Liberal MP Tim Wilson and neurologist Dr Monique Ryan is looking to take the seat of Kooyong from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Both Ms Daniel and Dr Ryan launched their campaigns over the weekend to significant crowds, with Ms Daniel’s launch attracting over 1,000 supporters.
This week’s battlegrounds
The first week of the election campaign has continued to be dominated by a slip-up from Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, where he was unable to respond to media questions asking him to name the national unemployment rate and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate. The Coalition has pointed to Mr Albanese’s error as an indication that Labor is not focused on the economy, while Mr Albanese conceded that he made a mistake and said it was important he took responsibility for it. Following this, Leader of the Greens Adam Bandt criticised the media for turning the election into a “basic fact-checking exercise” that is “turning people off politics” after he was asked to name the Wage Price Index following his address at the National Press Club.
Meanwhile, border protection policies hit the spotlight today after Mr Albanese said that a Labor Government will turn back people attempting to arrive in Australia by boat and that “turning back means that you don’t need offshore detention”. Mr Albanese later clarified this statement noting that a Labor Government will still support offshore detention, further outlining that boat turnbacks were the “preference” to offshore detention. The Prime Minister accused Mr Albanese of being a “weathervane” on border protection policy and said that voters “are confused about what he stands for”.
Mr Morrison has faced questions over the Government’s 2019 Election commitment to establish a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission. During a media conference, the Prime Minsiter indicated that a re-elected Coalition Government will not proceed with introducing legislation to establish a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission unless Labor agrees to support legislation the Government has already proposed, without amendments.
Former Liberal National Party (LNP) Member George Christensen has reversed his decision to retire from politics and will instead contest the upcoming election as a One Nation Senate candidate for Queensland. An outspoken critic of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates, Mr Christensen noted that he had grown increasingly disgruntled with the Coalition’s handing of certain issues including religious liberty, abortion laws and Chinese government ownership of Australian land and assets. Mr Christensen has conceded that it will be difficult for him to win election from the third position on One Nation’s Senate ticket – an unwinnable spot – and commentators have suggested the former LNP Member has made the move to guarantee a resettlement allowance for involuntary retirement from Parliament.
The status of former Minister for Education Alan Tudge has continued to be a point of contention for Prime Minister Morrison this week. Mr Morrison suggested that while Mr Tudge stood aside from the Ministry, no Minister was sworn in as a replacement and he is “still a Minister”. Further, Mr Morrison has indicated that he has “no visibility” over a purported $500,000 payment made to the former staff member with whom Mr Tudge had a relationship, and cannot confirm “whether a payment has even been made”.
Announcements roll in
Continuing his focus on the economy, Prime Minister Morrison promised the creation of 1.3 million jobs by 2027 under a re-elected Coalition Government. Earlier today while in Tasmania, the Prime Minister also announced a $219.5 million package to expand the forestry industry through the investment in new technologies. The Coalition has also announced $250 million in grants to the Ampol refinery in Lytton, Brisbane, and the Viva Energy refinery in Geelong, Victoria, through the Refinery Upgrades Program.
Announcements from Deputy Prime Minsiter Barnaby Joyce include $1.5 billion for the Middle Arm port in the NT to support the export of gas, including hydrogen, and critical minerals, as well as $55 million to upgrade Newcastle Airport.
This week, Mr Albanese has confirmed that an elected Labor Government will not increase the JobSeeker rate “in our first budget”, instead maintaining the current rate of $642.70 per fortnight for a single person. Meanwhile, during his address at the National Press Club this week, Mr Bandt confirmed the Greens’ pledge to include dental care in Medicare.
The Opposition also made a series of health-related announcements. Mr Albanese pledged that an elected Labor Government will restore telehealth psychiatric consultations via Medicare for people living in rural and regional Australia, and fund 50 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics based at GP surgeries and Community Health Centres across Australia. The Opposition has also promised $1.5 million to assist children with hearing loss.
Policy Wrap Up
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published its bi-annual Financial Stability Review. The Review highlights rising uncertainty, as well as noting the risk that potential large falls in the property market would bring to Australia’s financial institutions.
Chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) Wayne Byres delivered a speech at an event held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, where he stated that APRA would be sending out a letter to banks, super funds and insurers on how best to manage the risk from cryptocurrency.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Federal Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor announced that Steven Skala AO has been reappointed as chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) for an additional five-year term to commence on 7 August 2022. Additionally, David Jones AM and Matt Howell have been appointed to fill the vacancies left by the departures of Laura Reed and Philip Coffey.
Meanwhile, Justin Punch has been reappointed as chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) board, while Anna Matysek and John Hirjee have also been reappointed as members of the board for an additional two-year term. Furthermore, Elizabeth O’Leary has been appointed to the ARENA Board to replace Justin Butcher who will conclude his work on the Board on 22 July 2022.
The Queensland Government has selected a site in the Yarwun Industrial Precinct in the Gladstone State Development Area as the location for a $500 million renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel biorefinery. The site is now under contract with Economic Development Queensland.
Over $11 million has been allocated towards seven regional projects as a part of the second round of the WA Government’s Clean Energy Future Fund (CEFF). The seven selected projects have been proven to be commercially viable, with a combined estimated emissions reduction of 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in WA.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal and NSW governments awarded a $538.5 million contract for surface and civil alignment works for the Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport to a joint venture between CPB Contractors and Western Sydney group, United Infrastructure.
The Audit Office of NSW released its report into the effectiveness of reforms led by the Department of Customer Service (DCS) and Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), which aimed to address the unsafe use of combustible external cladding on existing residential and public buildings.
The Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020 was published, demonstrating continued progress toward Reef water quality targets, with key reductions in nitrogen levels and fine sediments.
Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Baily announced the release of the Queensland Road Safety Strategy 2022-31. The Minister also advised that new penalties for speeding, red light running and seat belt offences will come into effect from 1 July 2022.
Applications for the 2022 Mitochondrial Donation Pilot Program grant opportunity have opened, with up to $15 million available to support research for mitochondrial donation reproductive technology, following the recent passing of Maeve’s Law.
The National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) will see an investment of $100 million over three years to ensure those with a disability have access to advocacy and legal support.
Multiplex Constructions was appointed as the early works contractor for the $835 million John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct project in NSW.
NSW Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor announced the establishment of a new Regional Health Division, focused on supporting health outcomes in regional and rural areas. The new Division will be led by a Coordinator-General for Regional Health, which will report directly to the Secretary of NSW Health.