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Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the Coast recently. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the Coast recently. Featured
14 May 2019 Posted by 

PREVIEW OF THE 2019 FEDERAL ELECTION

Coast to be a major player in result
TERRY COLLINS
The dust has hardly settled after last month’s State Election saw all four sitting Coast members retain their seats, and already we are gearing up to go to the polls again on May 18 – this time to elect our Federal Government for the next three years.
 
THE Coast could well be a major player in the result, with the seats of Robertson and Dobell both classified as marginal by the Australian Electoral Commission.
 
The seat of Shortland, which also bleeds into the Central Coast region, is classified by the Commission as fairly safe, with sitting Labor Member Pat Conroy likely to retain it unless Liberal opponent Nell McGill can pull off a 9.9 per cent swing.
 
Both Dobell and Robertson saw sitting members Emma McBride (Dobell, Labor) and Lucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal), squeeze in with less than 56 per cent of the final vote in 2016 and with latest polls showing Labor as the favourite to win the election, but Scott Morrison (Liberal) as the preferred Prime Minister over Bill Shorten (Labor), it could be anyone’s game.
 
The Greens and outspoken Independent candidate for Robertson Dave Abrahams are likely to pick up some environmental votes, with the possibility of seismic testing off Coast waters a huge issue with thousands of voters.
 
Asset Energy has confirmed it intends to set the ball rolling for approval for the testing, with both Labor and the Libs maintaining a low-key stance on the issue.
 
Abrahams and The Greens have been very vocal in calling for the revocation of the existing PEP11 licence, which would see the end to that possibility, but while the renewables lobby might well shake things up a bit, as always the primary race will be between the two major parties.
 
Advocating for region
 
Originally a fairly safe Labor seat, Dobell grew increasingly marginal from 1996, with a mix of Liberal and Labor MPs until 2016, when Ms McBride wrestled the seat back from sitting Liberal MP Karen McNamara with a four per cent swing.
 
Even in Opposition, Ms McBride has been very active in advocating for the region, but Liberal opponent Jilly Pilon has built up quite a public profile since being elected as a Central Coast councillor in 2017.
 
Robertson also has a chequered past, with Liberal Jim Lloyd holding the seat from 1996-2007, and Labor taking it back from 2007-2013 (Belinda Neal and then Deb O’Neill) before Mrs Wicks reclaimed it for the Libs in 2013 and being re-elected in 2016.
 
A 1.1 per cent swing could see it revert to Labor on May 18.
 
Mrs Wicks has a strong record of wins for the region, but Anne Charlton is shaping up as a strong contender for Labor.
 
The importance of the Central Coast vote has been highlighted by rare appearances in recent weeks by both Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who popped into Central Coast Motors to talk up the Government’s employment initiatives, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who spoke to Coasties about a range of issues, including plans for expanding
 
Medicare services
 
Inevitably, the deciding factor will be what each of the major parties has promised to do for the Coast, with energy costs, tax cuts and spending on health, education and unemployment relief likely to be among the big issues.
 
In voter’s minds
 
The recent Federal Budget and Labor’s response will be foremost in voters’ minds.
 
Mrs Wicks says the region will see “record investment” thanks to the first national surplus in a decade, but Ms Charlton has described the Budget as an “election con”.
 
During Budget week and since, the Libs have been splashing the cash around the Coast.
 
Mrs Wicks said the Budget would see more jobs created and taxes lowered while guaranteeing essential services like schools, hospitals and roads.
 
“Already under this Budget we have been able to announce $35M for fully funded and properly costed commuter car parks at Gosford and Woy Woy; $8.25m for upgraded sporting facilities on the Peninsula; $3.8m to improve cancer services at the Central Coast Cancer Centre and $945,000 for a unique service that takes health services to those sleeping rough,” she said.
 
“The Budget delivers an additional $158B in income tax relief on top of the $144b in tax cuts locked into legislation last year.
 
“This includes immediate tax relief of up to $1080 for low- and middle-income earners and up to $2160 for a dual income couple to ease cost of living pressures.
 
“We are also backing the 18,000 small businesses on the Central Coast by increasing the Instant Asset Write Off to $30,000 and expanding its access.
 
Power bill relief
 
“To assist with power bills and to help ease cost of living pressures, there will be a one off, income tax exempt payment of $75 for singles and $125 for couples to more than 3.9 million eligible social security payment recipients.”
 
Mrs Wicks said the Budget provided record health spending of $81b, record schools funding and a record infrastructure investment of $100b over the next decade.
 
But Ms Charlton said the Budget had “no plan for wages, no plan to tackle power prices, no plan to address climate change, and no plan for the future”.
 
She said it had failed to reverse cuts to Central Coast schools, hospitals, TAFE and apprenticeships and underspent on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
 
“In the past six years, the Liberals have cut $3b from TAFE and skills, and cut 150,000 apprenticeship places,” she said.
 
“One hundred and twenty staff have been removed from our local TAFEs and there has been a 9.3 per cent drop in local enrolment since 2016.
 
“We have also seen the closure of 162 local businesses since 2011.”
 
While Labor would support tax cuts for working- and middle-class people, Ms Charlton said the Liberals were “so out of touch” that they have given a much smaller tax cut to two million Australians earning less than $40,000.
 
Cancer scans
 
Ms Charlton said Labor’s decision to put cancer scans, consultations and medicine on Medicare and the PBS would mean many Coasties would no longer need to pay huge out-of-pocket costs for healthcare.
 
Ms McBride said the “best parts” of the Budget were a “copy and paste” from Labor’s policies and the worst parts had let down pensioners and low-income earners.
 
“Hundreds of people in Dobell have been stranded without NDIS plans and services due to the Liberal National Disability Insurance Agency mandatory staffing cap and this has not been removed as part of the Budget,” she said.
 
“In fact, the Liberals’ projected budget surplus has been built through under-spending on the NDIS.”

She said Labor would provide an additional $43.7m in funding for schools and lift the cap on NDIS staff numbers.
 
“We will take real action on climate change and renewable energy to drive down power costs,” she said.
 
“Workers earning under $40,000 will also get a tax cut and penalty rates will be restored.”
 
Labor has also pledged to spend up on hospitals, reverse cuts to penalty rates and crack down on abuse of labour hire and 457 visas.
 
Vocational training
 
Ms McBride said the Coalition’s promise to spend $525m on vocational training and skills hubs was a “pretty underwhelming effort” with $3b cut from vocational training over the past six years.
 
But the Libs’ announcement that they will spend $67.5m to trial 10 national training hubs in regions with high youth unemployment could be a vote winner with business, with one of those hubs already promised for the Central Coast.
 
NSW Business Chamber Central Coast Regional Director Paula Martin said the Coast would benefit greatly from having a hub and from the $8.2m scholarship scheme for VET students which was also announced.
 
“Creating better linkages between schools and local industry, and other skills development measures is to be applauded and it is great that we haven’t missed out,” she said.  
 
“The Skillsroad Youth Census of more than 30,000 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 confirmed what many of us already know, that not enough information, support, or advice is available to school students and their parents to help them consider future training and career options.
 
“Having the latest advice on industry trends, employment futures and training, and learning options is essential to select a future career path and vital to nearly 5000 unemployed youth on the Central Coast.”
 
Ms Martin said the Coast would also benefit from more than half a billion dollars set aside by the Coalition for 80,000 new apprenticeships.
 
Payment incentive
 
“The incentive payment for employers will be doubled to $8000 for taking on an apprentice, while the apprentice will also receive a $2000 incentive payment,” she said.
 
“This is a great outcome and was something actively sought by the NSW Business Chamber.”
 
Ms Martin said the Government had delivered on an extension to the instant asset write-off scheme for business.
 
“They also extended the threshold to those businesses with turnover of up to $50m,” she said.
 
“Extending that scheme will go a long way to helping business on the Coast to invest.”

At the same time, she said, the Federal Election is hurting business confidence, along with uncertainty over key policy areas such as workplace relations and operating costs, according to the Chamber’s latest quarterly survey.
 
Whichever way you look at it, the Federal Election promises to be a close fought battle, with Robertson and Dobell poised to play a huge role in the outcome. 


editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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Central Coast Business Access (CCBA) covers the business and community issues of the NSW Central Coast region. CCBA is a prime media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities.