Federal Election – 36 Days to go!

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Government House early yesterday morning to ask Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to trigger an election to be held on 18 May 2019. The 45th Parliament was suspended and Parliament dissolved. This cancelled the Senate Estimates hearings that were due to commence at 9am.

The 2019 election will see all MPs in the House of Representatives and half the Senate up for re-election. By-elections since the last election and redistributions mean the Coalition notionally holds only 73 seats in the expanded 151-seat House of Representatives.

Labor notionally holds 72; the Victorian seats of Corangamite and Dunkley having been nudged onto the Labor side of the electoral pendulum by their new boundaries. It creates the unusual situation where both the Coalition and Labor need to gain seats if they want to form government.

This is an election where the key issues that may decide the result are tax policy, climate change, asylum seekers, health, education, national security and industrial relations.

Climate change is an issue that is of critical importance to local government. ALGA has been advocating for a climate change partnership fund of $200 million over four years to help communities plan for and adapt to climate change. We hope that we may see some further announcements in this area as the election campaign continues.

So far we have seen the Coalition announce in February a $2 billion injection into an Abbott-era scheme to fund a range of carbon abatement programs in mostly the land and agricultural sector and an announcement a further investment in hydro-electricity, funding the next stage of the Snowy Hydro 2.0. The Coalition is sticking with its Paris target of reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, but has no specific climate policy.

Labor has set a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, by delivering 50 per cent of power by renewables by 2030, and wants all industries to play their part, not just the electricity sector. Labor have also committed to implementing Australia’s first national electric vehicle policy, setting a national electric vehicle target of 50 per cent new car sales by 2030 and introducing vehicle emissions standards to reduce pollution and make the cost of driving a car cheaper for consumers.

It was revealed in estimates during the week that the coalition’s climate solutions package uses a target of 25 to 50 per cent of new car sales in 2030 as electric vehicles. So it appears that regardless of who wins, increased adoption of electric vehicles will occur. As highlighted in ALGA’s 2019 Local Government Roads and Transport Agenda all levels of government and industry will need to invest in the infrastructure that supports the transition to electric vehicles and fund the construction of charging stations critical to future mobility including at places of employment and in public spaces including car parks, retail outlets, fuel station forecourts.

The burden of funding this infrastructure should not fall upon local government rate payers particularly in rural and regional Australia. A government program should be considered for retrofitting of existing buildings and infrastructure. Local government procurement of electric vehicles will also play a key role in helping Australia meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.