Issue 4: Federal Election Campaign Diary
6 May 2022
To receive regular policy and political updates, subscribe to our Weekly Wrap Up here.
- Monday’s Newspoll data showed that Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis of 53 – 47 – unchanged for the fourth consecutive poll. While support for Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese as preferred PM has increased from 37 to 39, Prime Minister Scott Morrison still remains ahead with 45.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increased the cash rate from 0.1 to 0.35 per cent. This is the first time the rate has increased since 2010, and the first time it has increased during a Federal Election campaign since 2007.
- A second leaders debate has been confirmed for Sunday 8 May on Channel 9 and a third debate has been scheduled for 11 May on Channel 7.
- Early voting for the Federal Election opens on Monday 9 May.
- Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas handed down[PDF] the 2022-23 State Budget. For more information, please see our dedicated analysis.
The campaign trail
Over the past week, Prime Minister Morrison has travelled to Mowbray, Tasmania and attended Eid celebrations with Sydney’s Islamic community in Parramatta, before moving onto Adelaide. Today, the Prime Minister has returned to Perth.
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese spoke at the Brisbane Labour Day March earlier this week and later travelled to Melbourne. He is campaigning in Sydney today.
Interest rates increase for first time in over 11 years
The RBA’s decision on Tuesday to increase the cash rate for the first time since November 2010 has been a key topic this week, with both leaders facing questioning over the impact of the increase. While an increase was tipped by many economists ahead of Tuesday, the increase to 0.35 per cent exceeded the anticipated 0.25 per cent. Major banks ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac have now all announced increases to their home loan variable interest rates, passing on the interest rate increase in full.
Responding to the rate increase in a media conference, Prime Minister Morrison referred to RBA Governor Philip Lowe’s focus on a “resilient” economy, low unemployment and expected high economic growth during his speech on the decision. Mr Morrison noted that Australians did not reasonably expect “extraordinarily low rates” to continue forever and “have been preparing for this for some time”. At the same press conference, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pointed to higher rate increases in other countries and reinforced Government measures for cost-of-living relief in the recent Budget.
From the Opposition, Mr Albanese and Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers issued a statement where they reinforced Labor’s claim that “everything is going up except wages” and suggested that the Coalition’s economic credibility is “completely shredded”. In addition, Mr Albanese rejected a suggestion from Mr Morrison that interest rates are not political and stated that “Morrison has failed on increasing wages” in line with cost-of-living pressures. Elsewhere, Mr Chalmers conceded that interest rates are unlikely to stabilise under a Labor Government, but argued that Labor has a better understanding than the Coalition of the cost-of-living pressures Australians face, and can “gro[w] the economy without adding to inflation, ge[t] real wages moving again”.
Labor launches campaign in Perth
At the Labor Party’s official campaign launch on Sunday, Mr Albanese noted Labor’s intention to bring in “cheaper child care, stronger Medicare, and fi[x] the crisis in aged care”, calling for Australians to “Vote for a Better Future”. Mr Albanese also unveiled a number of key policies focused on affordable medicine, electric and hydrogen vehicles, gender pay equity, and domestic resources manufacturing.
At its campaign launch, the Opposition also announced a ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, aimed at enabling more Australians to enter the housing market through a government shared equity scheme. The Coalition has since criticised the Opposition’s policy for its eligibility requirements, raising questions around outcomes if individuals involved in the scheme later end up increasing their income beyond the qualifying amount.
Leaders unveil plans for business support and economic reform
Yesterday, both the Coalition and Labor Party made announcements relating to business investment and the economy. The Coalition vowed to support the creation of 400,000 small and family businesses over the next five years. The commitment forms part of the Coalition’s broader plan for small and family business support, which includes a $17.9 million investment in the Business Energy Advice Program (BEAP) to help businesses reduce energy costs. The Coalition also suggested that its tax policies have driven $23 billion of business investment in the last year.
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese addressed the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) where he reinforced his commitment that a Labor Government will increase wages, invest in Australian industry and women’s economic opportunity, and ensure universal childcare and action on climate change. On the topic of increasing wages, Mr Albanese pledged to hold an Employment Summit to bring together business and unions to discuss the issue of secure work and improving enterprise bargaining. The Leader of the Opposition said he would also commission a White Paper to determine how to increase wages and ensure work security, as well as criticising the Coalition’s previous attempts at reform, including its plans to suspend the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT).
This week saw a number of key debates take place. On Wednesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg went head-to-head with Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers on economic policy at the National Press Club. Mr Frydenberg argued that the Coalition saved jobs and businesses during the pandemic and was worried about Labor’s “natural instincts to tax more and to spend more”. Mr Chalmers emphasised Labor’s focus on relieving cost-of-living pressures and stated he is concerned that the Coalition will “continue to ignore this cost-of-living crisis”. In addition, Treasurer Frydenberg faced off in another debate on Thursday, this time against the independent candidate running in his electorate of Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan. Hosted by Sky News, the pair took questions from a crowd of undecided voters. Key topics discussed included the possibility of a hung parliament, climate change action, and the gender pay gap.
On Thursday, a Defence leaders debate was held at the National Press Club, with Minister for Defence Peter Dutton up against Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor. Ongoing tensions with China emerged as the key theme of the debate, with each side reiterating their plans to increase defence spending. Mr O’Connor referred to Minister Dutton’s claim that China would prefer a Labor Government as a “conspiracy”, while Minister Dutton rejected Mr O’Connor’s claims that the Coalition “dropped the ball” on its relationship with the Solomon Islands in light of its security deal with China.
This week’s battlegrounds
Mr Albanese has again been under the spotlight after he was unable to name all elements of Labor’s plan for the NDIS. He has since reiterated his party’s policy on the NDIS and outlined his intention to “pu[t] people back in charge of the NDIS”, and criticised the media for ongoing “gotcha” questions.
Independent candidates running in inner city Liberal-held seats are continuing to gain traction and raise concern within the Liberal Party. On Tuesday night, former Prime Minister John Howard launched Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman’s campaign and warned fellow Liberals that the Election is so close that any loss in a so-called “teal” seat will spell the end of the Morrison Government. He described the Climate 200-backed independents as “anti-Liberal groupies.” Following this, former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull encouraged voters to support independents if they align with their values, in a move that is likely to cause enormous anger within the Liberal Party.
Prime Minister Morrison has indicated he is confident the Coalition is able to be returned to Government, in spite of polls pointing to a Labor win. The Prime Minister stated that “people have not made up their mind, and they’re looking to determine what is going to drive their choice”.
Election commitments continue
Multiple commitments have been made by both parties over the past week. Following the RBA’s decision to increase interest rates, Prime Minister Morrison confirmed that a re-elected Coalition Government would freeze deeming rates at their current levels for two years for social security recipients and pensioners. Mr Albanese then indicated that a Labor Government would match this promise. The Coalition has also announced an additional $146 million in funding to support rural health, a commitment which was then matched by Labor. Both parties also announced policies on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with the Coalition pledging to decrease the cost of scripts by $10 to $32.50, and Labor promising to lower costs by $12.50 to $30.
Other significant Coalition commitments include $2 billion for self-defence missiles for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the co-funding of a program to develop a new autonomous robotic undersea warfare capability for RAN. Funding has also been committed to medical research projects across the country aimed at reducing wait times in hospital emergency departments
Outside of commitments made at its campaign launch, the Opposition has announced that an elected Labor Government will extend the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program with an additional $250 million funding commitment.
Early voting for the Federal Election opens on Monday. The NT Budget will be handed down on Tuesday, while the WA Budget will be delivered on Thursday.
Policy Wrap Up
Today, the RBA released its quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy, which outlines the RBA’s assessment of current domestic and international economic trends as well as forecasts for inflation and economic growth.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) latest retail trade figure indicate that retail turnover rose by 1.6 per cent in March 2022, a new record high. Every state and territory saw an increase, with the exception of SA.
The ABS also published statistics showing that dwelling approvals fell by 18.5 per cent in March, following a 42 per cent rise in February. Approvals decreased in every state except Queensland and WA.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb delivered a keynote address at the International Chamber of Commerce / International Bar Association, where she outlined the need for competition regulators to work together across international borders on mergers.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The WA Government allocated $65 million to upgrade energy and water infrastructure on Rottnest Island as part of its upcoming State Budget. The project will see 75 per cent of the island’s energy derived from renewables.
The Queensland Government dedicated $28.9 million to the development of CS Energy’s joint venture with Senex Energy to fuel the latest stop on the east coast Hydrogen Superhighway with green hydrogen. The joint venture has agreed to develop the Kogan Renewable Hydrogen Demonstration Plant near Chinchilla.
Three organisations have been shortlisted by the NSW Government for the primary role in developing Australia’s first renewable energy zone. The NSW Government has selected ACE Energy, Network REZolution and NewGen Networks as the final contenders for the Central-West Orana renewable energy zone transmission network.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The SA Government launched[PDF] a review into the development of the former Brompton Gasworks site, as well as releasing the criteria for the development. It comes after the former State Government rejected the Adelaide Crows’ bid to use the site for its new headquarters in January this year.
The ACT Government selected Lendlease as its preferred contractor for the design and construction of the new Canberra Institute of Technology campus in Woden Town Centre.
The NSW Government awarded contracts for the first two sections of the $2 billion M12 Western Sydney International Airport motorway. Seymour Whyte has been selected for the central section of the M12, while CPB Georgiou Group Joint Venture will deliver the western section, which includes the airport interchange and Elizabeth Drive flyover.
The NSW Government committed $460 million for the development of a new mental health centre at Westmead Hospital Campus in Western Sydney.
The WA Government announced multiple investments in health as part of its upcoming 2022-23 Budget, including $223.4 million for health infrastructure, $252 million to reform emergency care, and $49.4 million for the Geraldton Health Campus Redevelopment.