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GRACosway Political Week in Review
13 May 2016

Throughout the Federal Election campaign we will be adopting an extended format for the Weekly Wrap Up, but will continue to bring you coverage from around the states. 

Federal Election Campaign Diary

Following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s official announcement on Sunday that a double dissolution election – only the seventh since federation – will be held on Saturday 2 July, the flag has been raised on what is sure to be an exhaustive eight week campaign; the second longest federal election campaign in the nation’s history.
 
In setting the narrative for the Coalition’s campaign, Prime Minister Turnbull said this election presents a very clear choice for voters between the Coalition’s plans for jobs and growth or Labor's plan for higher taxes. In contrast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten responded that the election will be a referendum on jobs, schools, a fairer tax system and keeping Medicare in public hands.
 
The Coalition appeared to meander out of the starting gates this week rather than run, perhaps showing early signs of its approach to an extended campaign. With the Coalition trailing Labor 49-51 in the two-party preferred vote according to the latest Newspoll published after the election was called, no major policy announcements were made by the Government this week. The Prime Minister however, visited key marginal seats in Queensland on Monday, before heading south the following day to the election battleground of Western Sydney. Amid media reports of division within Liberal Party ranks between Abbott loyalists and Turnbull supporters, the Prime Minister cancelled his Wednesday afternoon campaigning activities and deployed Deputy Leader Julie Bishop to Campbelltown on Thursday.
 
Meanwhile, the Opposition made a slightly more aggressive start by launching their campaign with a commitment to reverse the Government’s cuts to Paid Parental Leave. Mr Shorten also made a highly publicised trip to Beaconsfield on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the safe release of Brant Webb and Todd Russell after the mine collapse, which claimed the life of Larry Knight. He then commenced a road trip across the eastern states, cutting a quick path from Cairns to Canberra then spending his birthday in Rockhampton on Thursday. While busy spruiking the Party’s election platform – 100 Positive Policies – the Opposition Leader continued to be hampered by the ill-discipline of candidates on the issue of offshore detention, an Achilles heel for the Labor Party.
 
Despite the Coalition’s best efforts to promote its plan for jobs and growth this week, superannuation continued to dominate much of the political agenda, with fallout from changes contained within the May 3 Budget. The Government also had a further setback in the latter half of the week after it was revealed Mr Turnbull is named in the Panama Papers which identify the Prime Minister as a former director of Star Technology Services Limited, a client of the embattled Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
 
The Prime Minister is campaigning in Adelaide on Friday, where he will commit to $43 million to extend the Tonsley Park rail link, while Mr Shorten is in Sydney focusing on education and teacher training. They will meet for the first time since the election was called later tonight when they go head to head in the Sky News People’s Forum.
 
Meanwhile, the High Court has dismissed a challenge to Senate voting reform brought by Senator Bob Day, ruling that voters are not disenfranchised by the new process, nor is there any infringement of the implied freedom of political communication or the system of representative government. Read more in The Australian here.
 
With 50 days left to go, the punters have the Government odds on favourites, with CrownBet placing the Coalition at $1.33 for the win while Labor is paying $3.25.  
 
Highlights of the Week
  • The High Court dismissed a challenge to Senate Voting Reform brought forward by Senator Bob Day, allowing voting to continue as planned.
  • Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten will face off against each other tonight in the first debate of the campaign in the Sky News People’s Forum, live on Sky News at 7pm.
  • Malcolm Turnbull was stopped by single mother Melinda in Moorabbin outside Melbourne, on Thursday, who attacked the Prime Minister for the removal of the School Kids Bonus and changes to family tax benefits, reported in the SHM here (subscription service).
  • In a statement to the media, Federal Liberal Director Tony Nutt confirmed no decision has been made regarding a preference deal with the Greens in key marginal seats.
  • Bill Shorten celebrated his 49th birthday on Thursday with a visit to Rockhampton.
  • Treasurer Scott Morrison celebrated his 48th birthday on Friday whilst campaigning in Melbourne.
  • Labor announced its Paid Parental Leave policy on Sunday, which claims that 80,000 families with new babies will be as much as $11,800 better off under the policy.
  • Labor also announced more detail on its education policy – Your Child. Our Future – promising to invest an additional $1.8 billion in regional and country schools, see here, and $400 million for teaching scholarships to encourage graduates with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) degrees to become STEM teachers, see here.
  • Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen delivered his post-Budget address at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
 
Policy in Focus – Superannuation
 
Superannuation has been the dominant policy focus of the major parties and media in the first week of the election campaign, following the delivery of the Federal Budget by Treasurer Scott Morrison on 3 May, and subsequent comments by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in which she said the Government will consult on the legislation drafted to enact the proposed changes. Reforms announced as part of the Budget include lowering the threshold for superannuation contributions tax to $250,000, and initiating a $1.6 million transfer balance cap on total accumulated superannuation. Prime Minister Turnbull was quick to step in and clarify Ms Bishop’s comments however, stating she was referring to changes that occur during the standard process of drafting legislation and that no changes will be occurring to the Government’s package of superannuation reform. See media coverage in the SMH here (subscription service)
 
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed his support for the superannuation changes this week, stating that while there is a “degree of anxiety” within the Liberal Party, challenging decisions had to be made in order to reduce the budget deficit. Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation Jim Chalmers has accused the Government of being in disarray over the issue of superannuation and retrospectivity. See media release More Turnbull Government Confusion over Retrospective Super Changes.
 
The superannuation guarantee was also an issue this week, with Treasurer Chris Bowen raising the Government’s budget announcement that the current guarantee rate of 9.5 per cent is frozen for seven years and will increase by 0.5 percentage points annually from 1 July 2021 until it reaches 12 per cent.  Mr Bowen stated that the rate increase to 12 per cent will occur sooner under a Labor Government, with the Opposition to release its plan on this issue in the lead up to the election. See media coverage Election 2016: Labor to revive 12 per cent super guarantee (subscription service).


Policy Wrap Up

While the federal election dominated the agenda this week, at a state level, Western Australian Treasurer Mike Nahan delivered his third State Budget on Thursday, the eighth of the Barnett Government, which records the worst set of financial figures in the state’s history, and forecasts a $3.9 billion deficit for 2016-17 following revenue write-downs of $14.7 billion since the 2014-15 Budget. The Treasurer announced the Government will take a raft of privatisation proposals to the next election as it seeks a path to debt reduction over the medium-term. Dr Nahan said $11 billion out of the expected $16 billion in proceeds from the sale of assets would be used to pay down debt, with the remaining $5 billion going towards a new infrastructure fund. Read GRA Everingham’s Western Australia budget brief here
 
In NSW, the state Government dissolved 42 councils on Thursday and amalgamated them into 19 new councils to be run by administrators until local government elections are held in September 2017. The Government plans to amalgamate a further 23 councils into nine, however, has spared the councils of Walcha and Tamworth, and Kiama and Shoalhaven. Read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
 
SA and WA parliaments sit next week.


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

State Developments

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman announced the Government will proceed with a 10 cent refund container deposit scheme that will apply to most drink containers between 150ml and three litres. Draft legislation will be released and a working group established in the coming months. See media release:  Container deposit scheme to combat litter in NSW
 
The South Australian Government has invited 25,000 randomly selected citizens to take part in the State’s first Citizen’s Jury, which will consider the 12 key recommendations handed down as a result of the Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle. The first jury will comprise 50 individuals who will sit over two weekends in late June, with a second jury of 350 people sitting later in the year. The outcomes will inform the Government of community attitudes towards nuclear waste storage in South Australia. See media release here: South Australians invited to shape nuclear future
 
The South Australian Government also hosted a workshop comprising resource industry leaders who will develop the Government’s Magnetite Strategy. The aim of the project is to secure $10 billion worth of committed iron ore mining projects and promote South Australia as the world’s best source for quality magnetite product for steelmaking. See media release:  Magnetite Strategy aiming to secure $10 billion in investment.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

State Developments

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan has opened the Expressions of Interest (EoI) process for the $1 billion worth of contracts for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project Rail relating to signalling, communications and other systems on the Metro Tunnel. See media release: Next Generation Metro Tunnel Signalling out to Market
 
The Queensland Parliament passed the Planning Act 2016, which provides a number of reforms for infrastructure and development planning procedures. Reforms include the reinstatement of public access to information and a requirement for the automatic indexing of infrastructure charges. See media release: Palaszczuk Government delivers better planning system for Queensland
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has launched a campaign against the Federal Government’s decision to continue the indexation freeze on Medicare rebates until 2020. RACGP President Dr Frank Jones said the campaign will encourage the College’s 30,000 members to inform their patients about the changes and write letters to political candidates seeking better funding arrangements. See media release: RACGP launches campaign to protect Medicare  
 
State Developments
 
Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick introduced legislation into Parliament to regulate and manage access to medicinal cannabis, which is now being considered by the Parliament’s health committee. The Palaszczuk Government has already sought public feedback on the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 via online survey, which revealed 96 per cent of respondents support the use of medicinal cannabis. See media release: Queensland to lead the way in medicinal cannabis legislation
 
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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