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GRACosway Political Week in Review
1 July 2016
 
Federal Election Campaign Diary
 
As we head toward the end of day 54 in what has been a marathon federal election campaign, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have both delivered their final pitches to voters as Australians prepare to head to the polls tomorrow morning. With Monday’s Newspoll showing the Coalition has a slight edge over Labor for the first time during the election campaign, 51 to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred (2PP) basis, the Prime Minister spent the final week of the election campaign promoting the Coalition’s economic credentials and assuring voters the Government’s economic plan will provide the necessary stability to withstand volatility in the global markets. Mr Shorten’s agenda remained focused on spruiking Labor’s healthcare and education policies.
 
The United Kingdom’s shock decision to leave the European Union last week placed the economy front and centre of the Federal Election campaign. Prime Minister Turnbull told reporters the Australian economy remains “strong and resilient” and said there was “no cause for Australians to be alarmed” by the developments, while calling on voters to back a “stable majority Coalition Government” to deliver economic leadership in uncertain times. In his National Press Club address on Tuesday, Bill Shorten linked Brexit to inequality and argued the decision was brought about by “the same sort of policies Malcolm Turnbull offers at this election”. In strengthening Mr Shorten’s argument, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek pointed to Labor’s record of protecting jobs during the global financial crisis and said the Coalition did not deal well with global volatility.
 
The Liberal Party held its official campaign launch on Sunday in the marginal western Sydney seat of Reid, where Prime Minister Turnbull announced modest spending commitments for education, mental health and gun control measures. Mr Turnbull called on Australians to “carefully consider” their vote and back the Coalition to ensure a “stable majority government”, strong economic leadership, secure borders and funding for health and education. Meanwhile, Labor held a Medicare rally in Brisbane to coincide with the Liberals’ campaign launch, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten telling supporters the ALP could win the election on the back of its Save Medicare campaign and highlighting the example of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s narrow win over the LNP last year.
 
Following the rally, Labor released its policy costings, which revealed a $16.5 billion increase to the Budget deficit over four years and new savings measures, such as the removal of the private health insurance rebate on policies that only cover public hospital treatment. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor will return the Budget to balance in 2020-21, while also adding an extra $10.5 billion to the Budget bottom line over 10 years. In response, Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Coalition’s costings on Tuesday, which feature an extra $2.3 billion in savings and a $1.1 billion net improvement to the Budget bottom line since the Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Outlook. Mr Morrison said the savings will largely be achieved through a crackdown on welfare fraud, while also pointing to the Government’s record of saving more than it had spent during this election campaign. 
 
Prime Minister Turnbull addressed the National Press Club on Thursday, once again emphasising the Coalition’s record of strong economic management and speaking about the importance of political stability against a backdrop of global uncertainty. Mr Turnbull also said Australians expect a “step up in political culture” at the election, including “resolute leadership” with a “focus on what unites rather than divides”. The Prime Minister fielded questions on topics such as same sex marriage, Sunday penalty rates and the South China Sea, while telling the audience a Coalition victory was “critically important” for future generations. 
 
On the eve of the election, an Ipsos poll has placed the Coalition and Labor at 50-50 on a 2PP basis, while a Galaxy poll has the Government leading the Opposition 51 to 49 (2PP). The punters, however, are backing the Coalition, with CrownBet offering $1.12 for a returned Coalition Government and $6.50 for a Labor victory.

GRACosway will provide a post-election newsletter on Sunday, with an overview of the election outcome.

Highlights of the Week
  • The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has hired 75,000 staff to run tomorrow’s election, which requires 140km of string to secure 100,000 pencils to 120,000 voting booths in more than 7,000 polling places where 45 million ballot papers will be placed in 60,000 ballot boxes.
  • Reports suggest a record 4.5 million Australians are expected to vote prior to tomorrow’s election, with the AEC already in receipt of 3 million votes as at the middle of this week, including 885,000 postal votes. 
  • Labor referred retiring Liberal National MP for Brisbane Teresa Gambaro to the Australian Federal Police over allegations she ignored departmental advice when selecting her electorate office building, which is owned by LNP donor Stephen Pellagrino.
  • The Greens held their official campaign launch in Melbourne on Sunday, where Party Leader Richard Di Natale told supporters the Greens had “never been in better shape” and paid tribute to the work of his predecessors Christine Milne and Bob Brown
  • Liberal Party members in Julie Bishop’s WA seat of Curtin have passed a motion condemning the Federal Government’s proposed superannuation changes, ensuring the issue will be debated at the Party’s state conference in August.
  • The election campaign advertising blackout commenced at midnight on Wednesday, following friction in the NSW seat of New England where Independent candidate Tony Windsor accused incumbent MP Barnaby Joyce of implying he had been unfaithful to his wife in a television advertisement.
  • Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir told the Victorian Rural Press Club he will continue to seek election at all levels of government and plans to return to politics “one way or another” if he is unsuccessful in tomorrow’s poll.
  • Victorian Senate candidate Derryn Hinch revealed he has never participated in an election because he opposes compulsory voting and believes that commentators should not vote – but intends to cast his first ballot tomorrow, putting himself number 1.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull conceded the Government could have handled its tax reform process “somewhat differently” in an episode of the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet, and said he “got a lot of flak” for leaving all tax reform options “on the table”.  
The Nick Xenophon Team
 
The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) has emerged as a strong force in the federal political landscape and is expected to cement its presence in the next Parliament by securing up to three – and possibly even four – Senate seats at tomorrow’s election. Founded and led by South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, representation in the House of Representatives is also considered to be within the fledgling party’s reach based on consistent strong polling in a number of SA Liberal-held seats.
 
Nick Xenophon is a lawyer by background and was originally elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in 1997 on an Independent anti-gambling, “no pokies” platform with a primary vote of less than 3 per cent. While the early stages of his political career were focused on gambling issues, Xenophon also began to advocate for victims of crime and asbestos disease sufferers, and placed a spotlight on consumer rights and parliamentarians’ entitlements.
 
Resigning from the South Australian Parliament to contest the Federal Election in 2007, Xenophon was comfortably elected to the Senate with 14.78% of the vote on a platform of anti-gambling and pro-consumer policies, and strong opposition to WorkChoices. In 2009, Senator Xenophon expanded his interests and tied his support for the Rudd Government’s economic stimulus package to funding for the Murray-Darling Basin, where he successfully secured $900 million for the cause and firmly established his reputation as a tough and effective crossbench negotiator.
 
Known for his creative stunts and ability to attract media attention, Senator Xenophon launched his eponymous party in December 2014 as an antidote to the “toxic” and “negative” politics of Australia’s “suffocating” two-party system after re-election to the Senate. Based on a “common sense approach from the political centre”, Senator Xenophon said the NXT will be “pragmatic and constructive” in its negotiations with the party that forms the next government. Historically, Senator Xenophon has found common ground across the political spectrum, working with like-minded Independents (pokies reform); the Federal Coalition (asylum seeker processing and Senate voting reforms); and Australian Greens (foreign investment laws).
 
The NXT’s 2016 Federal Election policy platform is centred on three core issues: gambling; Australian-made goods and local jobs; and government and corporate accountability. The NXT has also presented a suite of policy principles designed to guide the Party’s legislative agenda without binding its future representatives to particular policy measures. If re-elected and joined by other NXT representatives in Parliament, Senator Xenophon’s first priority is supporting jobs in the South Australian manufacturing industry – including securing funding for Whyalla’s Arrium steelworks and unlocking extra financial support for automotive parts manufacturers to transition and diversify their businesses before local car manufacturing ceases. Curbing problem gambling is also high on Senator Xenophon’s 11-point wish-list, with the NXT proposing a push to implement $1 maximum bets on pokies.
 
In relation to tax policy, the NXT is supportive of the Coalition’s proposed company tax reductions for businesses with turnover of up to $10 million. In relation to the Coalition’s proposed ‘backpacker tax’, the NXT joins Labor and the Greens in opposing this budget measure and shares Labor’s view that negative gearing needs to be modified to improve housing affordability. More broadly, the Party is in favour of new laws that will enable same sex marriage and further tighten foreign investment laws, including lowering the FIRB threshold. The NXT is also opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement due to perceived negative repercussions for consumers and Australia’s sovereignty. 


Policy Wrap Up

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) officially commences today. Legislated under the former Gillard Labor Government with support from the Coalition, the NDIS is designed to provide flexible support and services for eligible people with a disability. In Victoria, the Andrews Government announced a list of 16 organisations set to share in $10 million of State Government funding to assist with the transition to the new scheme. In NSW, Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka also said the State Government will fully transition to the NDIS by July 2018 and noted “the NDIS is on track, on time and on budget in NSW”.
 
The Federal Government’s new country of origin food labelling laws also come into effect today, marking the start of a two-year transition period for businesses to comply with the new system. The reforms are designed to provide clarity around the origin of products by outlining the amount of Australian content in a bar chart on the label. Australian Made Campaign CEO Ian Harrison has welcomed the changes and estimates around 50,000 products will require new labels under the revised system. More information about the country of origin food labelling reforms is available here.
 
The NSW Baird Government has announced an overhaul of the State’s compulsory third party (CTP) insurance scheme in a bid to reduce green slip costs for motorists. Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the proposed reforms will see a shift toward a defined benefits scheme for those with minor injuries, while lump sum compensation will be restricted to those with the most severe injuries. ‘No-fault’ compensation will also be introduced under the proposal to offer protection to an extra 7,000 road users not covered under the existing ‘at-fault’ scheme. See media release: NSW motorists to benefit from CTP reforms.
 
Still in NSW, Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP) has threatened to withdraw its support for the Baird Government unless the Safe Schools program is “immediately” suspended in all public schools. The CDP holds the balance of power in the State’s Upper House and Mr Nile said that while he had raised his Party’s concerns with the Premier, no action had been taken by Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to stop the Safe Schools program. The CDP is running Senate candidates in every state at tomorrow’s Federal Election. See the Daily Telegraph’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
The Chief Fire Officer of Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) Joe Buffone has resigned amid an ongoing industrial relations dispute with the State Government. Mr Buffone tendered his resignation on Tuesday after his concerns about a new workplace agreement were not addressed, saying his ability to carry out the role will be “compromised by an industrial agreement”. Emergency Services Minister James Merlino confirmed Mr Buffone’s resignation and revealed his offer to withdraw the resignation in exchange for a pay rise, a 12-month pay out clause and equal status with the CFA’s CEO. See media release: Resignation of the Chief Fire Officer.       

The South Australian Parliament sits next week. 
 
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
has committed $800 million in funding for the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project and called on Prime Minister Turnbull to provide Commonwealth funds. The Cross River Rail is part of a four year, $40 billion infrastructure program announced in the 2016-17 Queensland State Budget. The Budget also committed $50 million to form the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority to oversee the rollout of the project. See media release: $800m for Cross River Rail.
 

HEALTH

State Developments

The Queensland Government has released a discussion paper on creating knowledge-based jobs in the biomedical and life sciences sector. Biomedical and life sciences has been identified as one of six key priority sectors for growth under the Government’s Advance Queensland strategy, and the paper will help inform a road map and future action plan for the industry. Consultation on the plan is open until 5 August.  See media release: Govt pursues biomedical industry potential and the discussion paper
 

About GRACosway
GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel, and has been assisting organisations understand and navigate elections at federal and state levels for over 20 years. The firm provides a full suite of integrated services to a range of domestic and international clients across all industry sectors, including public policy, communications, regulatory, issues management and media relations advice. From offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth (GRA Everingham), GRACosway’s clients benefit from the combined experience, expertise and strategic perspective of our team of professionals in addressing complex and commercially sensitive projects. For more information, visit www.gracosway.com.au
 
GRACosway is a Member of the Clemenger Group. 
 
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