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
GRACosway will provide a post-election newsletter on Sunday, with an overview of the election outcome.
Highlights of the Week
The Nick Xenophon Team
- 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 (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.