Federal Election Campaign Diary
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
squared off against each other last Friday in the first leader’s debate of the campaign
, addressing 100 swinging voters at the Windsor RSL in NSW. While Mr Shorten fixed heavily on Labor’s traditional strengths of education and healthcare, Mr Turnbull continued to prosecute the Government’s jobs and growth agenda, confirming it had reached an accommodation with pathology service providers on proposed changes to bulk billing
On Sunday, the Prime Minister kicked off week two of the election campaign with a visit to Marsden Park in the western Sydney marginal seat of Macarthur – currently held by Liberal Russell Matheson
on a margin or 3.4 per cent – where he announced $54 million in funding for continuous glucose monitoring devices
for children and young people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Mr Turnbull then headed west, where he visited Perth’s Austal Shipyard in the seat of Fremantle
to promote the Government’s previously announced $282 million commitment to build up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats
at the Austal site.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
started his week in the NSW electorate of Richmond to announce a $40 million water safety package
, before heading to Geelong in his home state of Victoria on Monday to talk about Labor’s $59 million jobs package
to help automotive workers transition into new employment. The Opposition Leader then flew to Adelaide, where he pledged $500 million toward the construction of the $1 billon AdeLINK tram project
The Prime Minister continued his criss-cross of the nation, flying into Darwin on Tuesday
to talk about the Government’s ‘national economic plan’ with the Member for Solomon Natasha Griggs
(who currently holds the seat on a slim margin of 1.4 per cent). From there, Prime Minister Turnbull journeyed to Cairns
with Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch
to announce $24 million in federal funding to upgrade the Cairns Marine Precinct
, before heading further north to Townsville and the relatively safe seat of Herbert.
While the Government continued to prosecute the case against Labor over its apparent disunity on border protection policy, Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton
created controversy on Wednesday when he suggested illiterate and innumerate refugees were stealing jobs from Australians. The Prime Minister and Deputy Party Leader Julie Bishop
defended Mr Dutton, with the Prime Minister stating many refugees "are illiterate in their own language" and describing Mr Dutton as an "outstanding Immigration Minister".
On Thursday, Mr Shorten sought to shift the campaign focus to health care, announcing
a Labor Government will restore indexation of co-payments
under the Medicare Benefits Schedule at a cost of $2.4 billion over the forward estimates. Adding a touch of excitement to a somewhat mundane campaign, Mr Shorten played hero
to an injured woman on Thursday afternoon, coming to the aid of both her and her son who were involved in a head-on collision on a narrow stretch of Cessnock Road near Testers Hollow.
Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer
also announced this week that the Government has delayed the introduction of the ‘backpacker tax’
until 1 January 2017, in a move that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce
described as a good outcome for regional Australia. Mr Joyce also floated the possible extension of concessional drought loans to dairy farmers
hit by plummeting milk payments during a visit to Shepparton in regional Victoria, with the Prime Minister later confirming he will discuss a proposal for more immediate assistance with the Labor Opposition, as required under the caretaker conventions.
The Labor campaign hit some turbulence this week after Mr Shorten failed to commit to maintaining weekend penalty rates
, instead saying that a Labor Government will respect the pending ruling by Fair Work Australia
, which is due to report following the election – more details below. In a further distraction for the ALP, Labor’s David Feeney
– who is facing a significant challenge from the Greens in his electorate of Batman – suffered embarrassment when it was revealed he failed to declare a negatively geared $2.3 million investment property he owns in his electorate.
Speaking at the Greens National Conference in Melbourne
at the weekend, Party Leader Richard Di Natale outlined the priorities
that will form the basis of any negotiations with the Labor Party in the event of a hung parliament. In his address to the party faithful, Dr Di Natale said the Greens will demand strong action on climate change; an end to the fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry; and greater support for renewable energy, political donation reform and the establishment of a federal anti-corruption watchdog. Later in the week, Dr Di Natale caused a stir by calling for an end to the formal Australian-US alliance and abolition of anti-discrimination exemptions for religious organisations.
Mr Turnbull is in the Tasmanian Liberal seat of Bass
– held by Andrew Nikolic
on a margin of 4 per cent – today, where he has committed to launching free trade negotiations
with the European Union and exploring the feasibility of trade agreements with Canada, Mexico and Colombia. For his part, the Opposition Leader has been dealing with the aftermath of a raid on the office of Stephen Conroy by the AFP
late on Thursday in relation to allegedly leaked commercial-in-confidence documents from nbn Co
Despite a mixed week for the Government, the Coalition has managed to shorten its odds with CrownBet at the end of the second week of a long campaign to $1.30, while Labor has slipped to $3.45.
Highlights of the Week
Policy in Focus – Workplace Relations & Employment
With the ghost of the Howard Government’s WorkChoices policy still in the Coalition’s memory, the Government has chosen to tread lightly in the area of industrial relations, proposing only relatively minor reforms since 2013. The issue however, is likely to be a strong recurring theme throughout the campaign, with the Coalition seeking an electoral mandate for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the passage of their union governance legislation
; the two triggers used to call this double dissolution election.
In the employment sphere, the Government’s ‘jobs and growth’ message is underpinned by its Backing Small Business
package and Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan
, which focuses on cutting business and company tax rates progressively to 25 per cent by 2026-27 to promote employment. The Coalition’s Protect Vulnerable Workers
policy is also proposing to establish a Migrant Workers Taskforce, and an increase in funding of $20 million and additional powers for the Fair Work Ombudsman to tackle the exploitation of workers and deceitful conduct by employers. The Coalition has previously committed $840.3 million to a Youth Employment package
outlined in the Budget, which seeks to assist young people under 25 find jobs.
In a counter to the Coalition’s attack on union corruption, Labor’s policy Better Union Governance
proposes a series of reforms to address the issue, including an additional $4.5 million over four years for the Fair Work Commission to monitor Australia’s 109 employer and employee organisations and tougher penalties for union officials who break the law. Labor is also proposing to safeguard workers’ rights
by granting additional resources and powers to the Fair Work Ombudsman to police liquidated companies, and introducing reforms to better protect temporary overseas workers from exploitation. Labor will also spend $21 million on a Youth Jobs Connect pilot
, which will provide one-on-one coaching to help young people in the areas of high youth unemployment strive towards employment, and has pledged $59 million towards a retraining and assistance program
to help automotive workers in South Australia and Victoria transition into other manufacturing jobs.
The Labor Party’s workplace relations platform was thrust into the spotlight this week, after Bill Shorten confirmed that if elected, a Labor Government will continue to argue the case for weekend penalty rates to the independent Fair Work Commission, but would ultimately abide by any ruling. Labor has also confirmed that it does not support the Greens employment policy
, which calls for legislated protections for penalty rates and the introduction of a minimum of five weeks annual leave.