Issue 2: Federal Election Campaign Diary
22 April 2022
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- Monday’s Newspoll showed Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis of 53 to 47 – unchanged from last week’s poll. Support for Labor Leader Anthony Albanese as preferred PM has fallen two points to 37, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s standing remains at 44.
- On Thursday evening, Mr Albanese tested positive to COVID-19 and will now be isolating in Sydney for the next week of the campaign.
- Senator Anne Ruston was named as Greg Hunt’s replacement as Minister for Health and Aged Care in a re-elected Coalition Government. Senator Ruston is currently the Minister for Families and Social Services and Minister for Women’s Safety.
- Treasury and the Department of Finance released the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO). The assessment noted that the outlook for the Australian economy remains strong and confirmed that the economic forecasts for growth, unemployment, inflation and wages were the same as in the 2022-23 Budget.
- Following Monday night’s cut-off to enrol to vote or update details, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirmed that over 17.2 million Australians are enrolled for the upcoming Federal Election.
- In SA, David Speirs was elected leader of the State Liberal Party and announced his new Shadow Cabinet. It follows Steven Marshall’s resignation from the role after the party’s loss at the March State Election.
- Following Speirs’ election, former SA Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman announced her resignation from politics, triggering an upcoming by-election for her seat of Bragg.
- The NSW, Victorian and Queensland governments have announced a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including the removal of close contact isolation requirements.
The campaign trail
The Prime Minister was in Western Australia earlier this week where he delivered a speech to the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy, before briefly stopping in Adelaide and then moving onto Brisbane for the leaders debate on Wednesday night. The Prime Minister will visit the Amberly airbase today near Ispwich, Queensland.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese attended Bluesfest in Byron Bay on Sunday and later visited flood-affected individuals and businesses in Brisbane. However, before departing for Western Australia, Mr Albanese returned a positive COVID-19 test and he will now be isolating at his home in Sydney for the next week of the campaign.
Albanese voted as winner of first leaders’ debate
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese went head-to-head at the Sky News and Courier Mail People’s forum in Brisbane for the first leaders’ debate of the 2022 election campaign. The leaders faced questions from 100 undecided voters, with Mr Albanese declared the debate’s winner on a basis of 40 votes to 35, with 25 attendees remaining undecided.
Topics discussed included boat turnbacks and offshore detention, a federal anti-corruption body, housing affordability and aged care. The leaders were also questioned about the Solomon Islands’ security deal with China.
Mr Morrison has also faced criticism over comments he made during the debate when an audience member asked him about the NDIS. The Prime Minister has apologised for causing any offence but maintained his comments were made “in good faith”.
Spotlight on balance of power deals
Both leaders have ruled out making deals with independents and minor parties in the event of a hung parliament and have respectively reinforced their intention to win a majority government. On Tuesday morning, Mr Albanese stated “there will be no deal with the independents and crossbenches”, as he is “seeking to form a government in [his] own right”. Mr Morrison also clarified that he “won’t be doing any deals with independents”, and went further by stating that “a vote for an independent is a vote for chaos in the Parliament”.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Greens Adam Bandt has continued to promote his party’s priorities, confident the Greens will be “in balance of power in the Senate after the next election”. Mr Bandt has indicated that the Greens will push for an end to tax breaks for corporations undertaking offshore gas extraction.
Queensland MP Bob Katter also revealed[PDF] what it would take to garner his support to form a minority government, indicating that investment in new coal and copper mines in North Queensland will “have a heavy weighting on [his party’s] decision making” as he negotiates in a balance of power situation.
The Solomon Islands’ security deal with China has continued to be a topic of questioning for the Coalition. Upon the deal being signed, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a statement expressing that Australia is “deeply disappointed”. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong has since labelled the Morrison Government’s handling of its relationship with the Solomon Islands as the “worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific”. Mr Morrison has stated that the signing of the deal “comes as no surprise” to his Government, and has reinforced his focus on communicating respectfully with the Solomon Islands while also standing up to China.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party’s candidate for the NSW seat of Warringah, Katherine Deves, has been under the spotlight over the past week, with a number of Liberal members calling for her to be disendorsed following comments she made about transgender individuals prior to her preselection. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has maintained his support for Ms Deves, suggesting that people “want to cancel her” while reaffirming he is “standing by [his] candidate”.
Mr Albanese has faced questioning over costings for Labor’s pledge to deliver 50 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics across Australia. While Mr Albanese initially indicated that the commitment was fully costed, Shadow Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher later clarified that while the policy has been informed by work done by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), it has not been fully costed by the PBO, but will be before the Election.
Election commitments continue
Coalition commitments made in the past week include funding for new hydrogen hubs and critical minerals research in WA, as well as $124 million for new Evolve Cape Class patrol boats to protect Australian borders. Together with Minister for Housing Michael Sukkar, Prime Minister Morrison announced the Coalition’s new Home Guarantee Scheme. Deputy Prime Minster Barnaby Joyce has also unveiled plans for the new $75 million Future Farmer Guarantee Scheme, an 18-month pilot to support farmers into first time ownership. The Coalition’s new healthcare plan has also been released.
From the Opposition, Mr Albanese has confirmed that Labor will legislate a National Anti-Corruption Commission by the end of the year, and has also outlined Labor’s plan for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). He has also indicated that an elected Albanese Labor Government will allocate funding to Disaster Relief Australia.
On the topic of industrial relations, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has announced that the Coalition will increase fines for union officials who break the law. Mr Morrison has also indicated that the Coalition will not seek to revive the abandoned provision in the omnibus industrial relations bill that sought to suspend the ‘better off overall test’. Labor has said that the Coalition’s commitment would serve to lower wages and worsen working conditions.
Policy Wrap Up
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released the minutes of its most recent board meeting, outlining that it is awaiting further evidence on wage growth and inflation before changing the cash rate target.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics published the February household spending statistics, revealing that spending was 7.7 per cent higher in February 2022 than the previous year, with Victoria and Western Australia showing the biggest increases.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) released two new financial crime guides relating to digital currencies and the reporting of ransomware payments.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Energy Regulator has opened public consultation on stage 1 contingent project applications for TransGrid’s HumeLink project. Within the stage 1 application, TransGrid is looking to recover $71.5 million in revenue in order to deliver “early works” on the HumeLink project.
The WA Government awarded local Aboriginal company Gee Gie the contract for preliminary engineering surveying of a new project under the Abandoned Mines Program. The company will work with the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety to help identify and document remediation works in abandoned mines near Cue, Marble Bar and Yalgoo.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia released the report, Decarbonising Infrastructure, setting out recommendations for governments and industry to reduce emissions in the infrastructure sector. Recommendations include a coordinated national energy transition plan.
The Victorian Government awarded a construction contract for 100 new accessible trams to Bombardier Transportation Australia. The contract forms part of the Government’s Next Generation Trams Project, which will see high-floor trams in Melbourne progressively replaced.
The NSW Government launched the new Scaffolding Industry Safety Standard, which provides a work health and safety guide for principal contractors, scaffolders, engineers, and others involved in scaffolding work.
The NSW Government established the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation (NRRC) to lead the long-term reconstruction of flood impacted areas across Northern NSW. The NRRC will work across multiple government agencies and sit within the Department of Regional NSW, reporting to the Deputy Premier.
Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley announced Exemplar Health will lead the redevelopment of Frankston hospital.
Queensland Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath committed $104 million for the redevelopment of five rural healthcare facilities across the state. The projects are due to be completed by early 2023.