Issue 6: Federal Election Campaign Diary
20 May 2022
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- Election day is tomorrow, with polling booths open from 8am until 6pm.
- As of this morning, over 6.2 million people have already voted either by post or at a pre-polling station.
- The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has confirmed changes to voting rules that will ensure all Australians who are in isolation with COVID-19 and have not applied for a postal ballot will be able to vote over the phone.
- According to the latest Newspoll data released on Monday, Labor maintains its lead over the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, 54-46.
- The Coalition released its election costings on Tuesday, indicating that in order to offset $2.3 billion in election commitments, it intends to generate $2.7 billion in savings on departmental funding by increasing the efficiency dividend.
- The Labor Party published[PDF] its election costings on Thursday, revealing a total cost of $7.4 billion for its commitments. It plans to offset this by reducing government spending on consultants and advertising, and increasing taxes on multinational corporations.
- The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Wage Price Index (WPI) data demonstrated an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent over the 12 months to March 2022, compared to inflation of 5.1 per cent in the same period.
- Meanwhile, ABS labour force data for April showed the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.1 per cent to 3.9 per cent.
- At the Greens’ campaign launch on Monday, leader Adam Bandt unveiled his party’s seven-point “balance of power shortlist” in the event of a hung Parliament. Demands include improvements to affordable housing and the removal of student debt.
The campaign trail
Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese have spent the past two days on a campaign “blitz”. By the end of today, Mr Morrison is expected to visit 10 key seats , while it is anticipated Mr Albanese will have travelled to 20 key seats across five states.
Mr Morrison has started today in the marginal Liberal-held seat of Swan in Perth, while Mr Albanese is moving from Canberra to Victoria, South Australia and then onto Tasmania.
Coalition launches campaign in Brisbane
The Coalition’s official campaign launch on Sunday saw Prime Minister Morrison promise that a re-elected Coalition will “take Australia to the next level” by focusing on the future and “keeping [the] economy strong”. A number of additional policies were announced, including $454 million for the Royal Australian Air Force’s Loyal Wingman Program, and $375 million to develop a Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Queensland.
The centrepiece of the launch was the Coalition’s new housing policy, under which first home buyers will be permitted to withdraw up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, or a maximum of $50,000, to invest in a new home. Meanwhile, as an incentive for downsizing their property, Australians over 55 will be able to invest up to $300,000 in their super. The Labor Party has since criticised this policy, with Mr Albanese claiming it would decrease retirement incomes and further inflate housing prices. Mr Morrison has refuted this by suggesting a rise in housing prices would be offset by the Coalition’s “balanced policy” to also incentivise downsizing.
Opposition Leader addresses National Press Club
Addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Albanese reiterated Labor’s commitment to “build a better future” and drew attention to the party’s key election promises, including addressing the cost of living and investing in aged care. Mr Albanese commented that “these promises remain central to Labor’s vision for Australia”. He also elaborated on other policies including Labor’s ‘Powering Australia‘ plan and the party’s commitment to a national Anti-Corruption Commission.
Notably, the Opposition Leader indicated during this address that as part of its budget repair efforts, an Albanese Labor Government would reduce the uncommitted funding for the Community Development Grants Program by $350 million, as well as returning the $400 million Regionalisation Fund back to the Budget
Earlier in the week, crossbench MPs Zali Steggall, Adam Bandt, Rex Patrick and Craig Kelly also appeared at the National Press Club. While Mr Bandt, Mr Patrick and Mr Kelly outlined their opposition to the Coalition and Labor’s proposed stage-three tax cuts, Ms Steggall utilised her closing pitch to question various aspects of Mr Morrison’s “moral compass”.
Continued focus on foreign policy
Foreign policy has continued to be a focus over the past week. Minister for Defence Peter Dutton accused China of an “aggressive act” after a Chinese warship passed off the coast of WA, stating that the ship’s intention “will be to collect as much electronic intelligence as it can”. When asked about the warship’s presence, Mr Albanese stated that “Labor shares concerns” about the ship’s presence, before turning the focus onto Labor’s disappointment that the Coalition did not brief it on the AUKUS agreement ahead of its announcement, despite the US Government’s request for bipartisan support. Mr Morrison has defended his decision, denying reports that the Coalition “misrepresented the bipartisan nature of the agreement”. He pointed to the highly confidential nature of the agreement and the need to maintain “absolute discretion”, stating that he was “not going to risk that on the Labor Party”.
Elsewhere, Mr Albanese has indicated that if Labor wins tomorrow’s election, he and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong will be sworn in as soon as Sunday or Monday, to enable them to attend the Quadrilateral (Quad) meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday 24 May. The Quad includes the leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. Mr Albanese said his key message to the group will be that Australia is a “strong partner” and that Australia will “re-join the effort and work on climate change” under an Albanese Labor Government.
Outside of announcements made at its campaign launch on Sunday, the Coalition has made a number of final election commitments. It will contribute $200 million to the Barwon Heads Road upgrade in Victoria and invest $26 million in rural health in Queensland. Other commitments include $4 million of support to the wine industry and an expansion of the Sporting Schools program.
From the Opposition, Mr Albanese has promised Labor will allocate $1 billion to an Advanced Manufacturing Fund, as well as $750 million to a Strengthening Medicare Fund, alongside $220 million worth of Strengthening Medicare GP Grants. Labor will also partner with the Queensland State Government, First Nations communities, experts and businesses and invest $194.5 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Other commitments include $200 million for the Bruce Highway in Queensland, and split funding with the WA State Government for a $150 million Bentley Hospital Surgicentre.
Seats to watch
The 2022 election will see a number of traditionally ‘blue ribbon’ Liberal seats under the spotlight due to challenges from high-profile ‘teal’ Independent candidates supported by Climate 200 and ‘Voices of’. In Victoria, eyes will be fixed on Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong as he faces a challenge from Dr Monique Ryan, while Liberal MP Tim Wilson is up against Zoe Daniel in his traditionally safe seat of Goldstein. In NSW, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth will see Liberal MP Dave Sharma challenged by Allegra Spender, while Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman faces a battle from Kylea Tink in North Sydney, and the Liberal Member for Mackellar Jason Falinski is up against Dr Sophie Scamps. In WA, Curtin is also one to watch, as sitting Liberal MP Celia Hammond is challenged by Kate Chaney.
There are multiple noteworthy contests between the Liberal Party and Labor in NSW. Gilmore will see former Liberal State Minister Andrew Constance fight to unseat Labor’s Fiona Phillips, while Parramatta will see a battle between the Liberal Party’s Maria Kovacic and Labor’s Andrew Charlton, following the retirement of sitting Labor MP Julie Owens. Held by Labor’s Susan Templeman at a margin of 0.2 per cent, Macquarie is the most marginal seat in the country and is one to watch, along with Eden-Monaro, currently held by Labor MP Kristy McBain at a margin of 0.9 per cent. Eyes will also be on the marginal Liberal-held seat of Reid and Labor’s marginal Werriwa in NSW.
A number of Liberal-held seats are also at play in Queensland, including Longman, Brisbane, and Ryan, as well as the National-held seats of Flynn, Capricornia and Hinkler. In particular, Flynn is one to watch following the retirement of sitting MP Ken O’Dowd, with Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett running for Labor, and former State MP Colin Boyce contesting the seat for the LNP.
With a number of marginal seats including the Liberal-held Chisholm and Higgins, and Labor-held Corangamite and McEwen, Victoria is also a state to watch. Nicholls is also in contention following the retirement of Nationals MP Damian Drum, with the Labor Party running Bill Lodwick in the seat for the second Federal Election, this time against the Nationals’ Sam Birrell.
In Tasmania, focus will be sharp on the marginal Liberal-held seats of Bass and Braddon, while key Liberal-held seats in WA and SA will be fiercely contested following the retirement of sitting MPs. In WA, attention will be on Swan following Steve Irons’ retirement. Meanwhile, retiring former Attorney-General Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce will also be one to watch. In SA, Boothby is held by retiring MP Nicolle Flint at a margin of just 1.4 per cent and will see the Liberal Party’s Dr Rachel Swift face off against Labor’s Louise Miller-Frost. Teal Independent Jo Dyer is also in the mix here, having indicated she will direct preferences to Labor.
Policy Wrap Up
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released the minutes of its Board’s May monetary policy meeting, outlining the Board’s discussions and reasoning behind its decision to increase the target cash rate to 35 basis points.
The Financial Services Institute of Australasia held an event with the key financial regulators, which included speeches from Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) Chair Wayne Byres, and Deputy RBA Governor Michele Bullock[mp3].
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Clean Energy Regulator has outlined that Phase 1 of the Guarantees of Origin is in progress to test accounting methodologies for hydrogen production emissions. There are currently 19 trial participants involved to help develop the scheme alongside the Clean Energy Regulator and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and Minister for Territory Development Eva Lawler announced the Territory Government’s passing of legislation to facilitate a $30 billion Sun Cable Australia-Asia PowerLink project. The project is expected to be the world’s largest renewable energy transmission system.
WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston noted the State Government has committed an additional $6 million across four years to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia to fund progress across four key areas. This will fund research and development in critical minerals, low impact mining, alternative uses for mineral processing waste and tailings, and the uptake of clean energy technologies.
The NSW Government released a green paper for consultation on policies affecting established and emerging industries in NSW. The Securing Future Innovation and Global Competitiveness in NSW – Green Paper outlines 10 industries of interest, including energy and decarbonisation, where new technologies are being or will soon be developed.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Infrastructure Australia Chair Col Murray announced the resignation of the organisation’s Chief Executive, Romilly Madew AO FTSE, effective from the end of July. Ms Madew will assume the role of Chief Executive of Engineers Australia.
The NSW Government confirmed design and planning will progress for a new 11-kilometre road tunnel located in the Blue Mountains. The proposed toll-free tunnel will run from Blackheath to Little Hartley, with its Environmental Impact Assessment due to be exhibited later this year.
The NSW Government appointed 15 members to the Freight Transport Advisory Council, chaired by Duncan Gay. This Council will represent the entirety of the freight chain across different transport modes, replacing the Freight and Logistics Advisory Council and the Road Freight Industry Council.
NSW Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021, becoming the final state in Australia to introduce assisted dying laws. Originally introduced to Parliament in late 2021 by Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, the Bill has been a topic of parliamentary debate for seven months.
Under the Implementation Science Fellowship Program, WA Minister for Medical Research Stephen Dawson awarded $2.3 million in funding for four research programs that aim to address challenges in the state’s public health system. Programs that received funding will cover Aboriginal health and regional health, including paediatric and cancer outcomes.
Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health James Merlino launched the new Balit Durn Durn Centre, a mental health hub that will enable Aboriginal groups to redesign how mental health care is delivered to their communities statewide. The centre is a partnership between the State Government and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO).
Tasmanian Premier and Minister for Health Jeremy Rockliff announced further easing to COVID-19 restrictions in the state, with density restrictions being removed from all settings from midnight tonight. Capacity limits for all settings will also be removed.