Issue 3: Federal Election Campaign Diary
29 April 2022
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- The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) data indicates inflation growth of 5.1 per cent over the 12 months to March 2022 – the highest annual increase since 2000.
- Negotiations remain ongoing for the next leaders debate, which is likely to be held next week.
- The Coalition has pledged a Lower Tax Guarantee, in addition to $100 billion in tax relief over the forward estimates.
- Labor has released its Economic Plan and Budget Strategy, which includes a plan to address multinational tax avoidance.
The campaign trail
Over the Anzac Day long weekend, Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed a dawn service in the Northern Territory. He then travelled across Far North Queensland with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce before moving on to Singleton in NSW today.
After contracting COVID-19 late last week, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese is now out of isolation and his first stop back on the campaign trail will be Perth, ahead of Labor’s campaign launch on Sunday. Meanwhile, Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles tested positive for COVID-19 earlier today and will spend the next seven days in isolation.
Inflation reaches highest level in 22 years
CPI data released by the ABS on Wednesday has dominated the past few days of public debate for both leaders, with the highest level of annual inflation being recorded since the GST was introduced in 2000. Economists are now anticipating that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will increase interest rates as early as its Monetary Policy Meeting next Tuesday.
Consumer prices increased by 2.1 per cent over the first three months of this year, taking the annual CPI up to 5.1 per cent over the year to the end of March, well beyond the RBA’s target of 2-3 per cent. This compares to an annual increase of 1.1 per cent in the same period last year, with the ABS attributing the sharp increase to a combination of transport costs, fuel prices, house building costs and tertiary education costs. In addition, new data released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) this morning demonstrates that wholesale electricity prices increased by 141 per cent since the first quarter of 2021.
Speaking about the inflation rate on Sky News, Prime Minister Morrison stated that Australia is experiencing “some of the toughest economic times…if not the toughest, since the Great Depression”. The Prime Minister suggested that the Ukraine conflict, coupled with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, continues to place pressure on prices globally and emphasised cost-of-living relief measures provided in the Coalition’s recent Budget. Pointing to higher inflation rates overseas, Mr Morrison suggested that his Government had led Australia through these uncertainties and outperformed “most, if not all, of the advanced economies of the world”. Meanwhile. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg emphasised the importance of strong economic management heading into the Election, maintaining that now “is a time for strength and stability”.
When asked about Labor’s plan to address inflation, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers emphasised the Opposition’s industrial relations policies, as well as its commitment to increase childcare subsidies and ensure that “wages get moving again”. Mr Chalmers also claimed that the CPI increase has “torpedoed Scott Morrison’s claims on economic management” and that this should be a “wake-up call” for the Federal Government about cost of living pressures. Speaking from isolation, Mr Albanese stated that “the cost of everything is going up but people’s wages aren’t”.
Preference wars unfold
Leader of One Nation Pauline Hanson confirmed that One Nation’s how-to-vote cards will preference Labor candidates above incumbent moderate Liberals in key seats including Bass, North Sydney, Goldstein and Sturt. Ms Hanson emphasised her aim to “protect Australian values” and “clean out a small number of left-leaning Liberals who masquerade as conservatives”.
Ms Hanson’s announcement comes as the Liberal Party revealed it would preference Jacqui Lambie Network Senate candidates ahead of One Nation candidates in Tasmania. Ms Hanson accused Senator Jacqui Lambie of entering into a “dirty deal” with the Liberal Party, while Ms Lambie denied that a deal had been made.
Additionally, the Liberal Party’s how-to-vote cards show that preferences will be directed to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) in all states except WA. Liberal How-to-Vote cards in Victoria and Tasmania will encourage voters to place the UAP second on their ballot paper, while cards in NSW and Queensland direct voters to place the UAP third, and fourth in SA. The Liberal Party will not preference the UAP in the territories either.
Independent Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has also indicated that she will likely negotiate “with the current government first” in the event of a hung parliament.
This week’s battlegrounds
The security deal between the Solomon Islands and China has continued to be a topic of debate for both parties, with an ongoing focus placed on national security issues. Prime Minister Morrison has noted that the US and Australia “share the same red line” on the possibility of China building a military base on the Solomon Islands, though he refrained from stating what would happen if China crossed that line. Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced Labor’s Plan for a Stronger Pacific Family, which includes $525 million in Official Development Assistance over the forward estimates, and the establishment of a Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership.
Climate policy has also been a prominent topic over the past week. After several Nationals backbenchers, including former resources minister Matt Canavan, made dissenting comments about the Coalition’s climate change policy, Prime Minister Morrison clarified the party’s position, stating the commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 is “the government’s absolute policy”. Elsewhere, while Mr Albanese has promised a Labor Government will not introduce a carbon tax, he has been criticised for plans to introduce tighter emissions-reduction requirements for major industrial polluters. It comes after Shadow Energy Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen confirmed coal mines will be covered by the safeguard mechanism.
Election commitments continue
The Coalition has continued to roll out announcements in the area of hydrogen, with funding committed to new hydrogen hubs in the Hunter in NSW, Queensland, and Darwin, with carbon capture storage (CCS) projects also promised in the latter two regions. On the economy, the Coalition has released its plan to create 450,000 jobs in regional Australia by 2027 and its Lower Tax Guarantee commitment. While in Cairns on Wednesday, Prime Minister Morrison announced a $24 million commitment to fund Stage Two of the upgrade for the Cairns Marine Maintenance Precinct. Other commitments include funding for youth suicide prevention and a program to reduce business energy bills.
This week, the Labor Party released its Economic Plan and Budget Strategy, which included the party’s policy on multinational tax reform. On the topic of Defence, the Opposition unveiled its plan to create an Australian Strategic Research Agency, which aims to increase the country’s involvement in technology sharing and research and development through the AUKUS partnership. Labor will also train an additional 500 First Nations health workers, as well as funding dialysis and rheumatic heart disease treatments.
Labor’s official campaign launch will take place in Perth on Sunday, while the date for the Coalition’s launch is yet to be confirmed. The 2022-23 Victorian Budget will be handed down on Tuesday. Next week, SA Parliament will resume for its first sitting week of the new Parliamentary term.
Policy Wrap Up
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its report into general online retail marketplaces. This is the fourth report as part of the ongoing Digital Platform Services Inquiry and outlines the ACCC’s concerns on the use of algorithms, the use of consumer data, and inadequate dispute resolution processes.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) published its Crypto-assets: Risk management expectations and policy roadmap letter, which was recently sent to all APRA regulated entities. The letter outlines APRA’s expectations of how to manage risk when engaging with crypto-assets, as well as timelines for future policy development and consultation.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Victorian Government has announced an expansion of the Solar Homes Program, allowing eligible households to receive up to $2,400 in rebates for the installation of solar panels and solar hot water or high-efficiency electric heat pumps. The amendments to the scheme allow eligible households to access an additional $1,000 for support towards the installation of solar products.
The WA Government has committed $10.5 million to facilitate transitioning 379 Esperance energy customers from recirculated gas prior to the closure of the privately-owned gas network in the area.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The NSW Government released its 2026 Road Safety Action Plan, including new targets to halve deaths and reduce serious injuries by 30 per cent on NSW roads by 2030. As part of the plan, the Government has committed to spend an additional $250 million on road safety.
The Victorian Government awarded Ace Infrastructure the contract to design and build 440 new and upgraded car spaces across Kyneton, Gisborne, Riddells Creek, North Shore and Beaufort stations.
As part of the 2022-23 State Budget, the WA Government pledged to invest $48.6 million for the new WA Regional Digital Connectivity Program to improve mobile and internet coverage in regional areas around WA.
The SA, WA and Tasmanian governments have followed moves made by the eastern states last week and announced a significant easing of COVID-19 restrictions. This includes the removal of close contact isolation requirements.
WA Minister for Medical Research Stephen Dawson confirmed the recipients of grants under the latest round of funding for the Research Institute Support program. $6.5 million was distributed among the recipients.