Campaign day 10: Peter Dutton's comments on refugees dominate debate – as it happened

Last modified: 07: 36 AM GMT+0

Malcolm Turnbull questioned over immigration minister’s claims ‘illiterate’ refugees are taking Australian jobs. Follow all the updates on day 10 of the campaign

Good night and good luck

Well, I think that’s all I can give to campaign Wednesday, with all the usual thanks to colleagues and salutations to the readers.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media touring the Port of Townsville during an announcement of the proposed eastern access rail corridor in Townsville, Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media touring the Port of Townsville during an announcement of the proposed eastern access rail corridor in Townsville, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Let’s take stock of the day before drifting off in the direction of our evenings.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

So, Wednesday:

  • The immigration minister, Peter Dutton’s, decision to dial Australia’s toxic refugee politics up to eleven reverberated through the day.
  • The prime minister had a choice today: back in Dutton or differentiate, and Malcolm Turnbull chose to back in the immigration minister, albeit with more diplomacy.
  • The opposition leader also had a choice: go hard against Dutton or tamp it all down and try and hug the Coalition in the areas of agreement between the major parties, which has been Labor’s principle political strategy when it comes to boats policy. Bill Shorten did not play safe, he went after Dutton and Turnbull, either because Dutton had moved the needle too far, or because Shorten felt his strongest pitch on the day was direct to the progressive base rather than pandering to conservative populism.
  • It was an interesting contrast between the two leaders: Malcolm Turnbull, who has traded on his conviction and principle, went full pragmatism. Bill Shorten, who trades on his pragmatism, went full principle.
  • Who says this campaign is boring? Not me, that much is certain.
  • Additionally, Labor’s David Feeney forgot to properly declare he owned a $2m house, which was profoundly dumb, and the Greens, who dearly want his Victorian seat, came after him like the devil was at their heels.
  • The National Press Club hosted a policy debate about climate change, in which Greg Hunt pretended he would not need a great big whack of taxpayers’ money to bankroll his Direct Action plan, and Mark Butler threw some shade while pointing out it would be good if the major parties could find some common ground on policies safeguarding the future of the planet and the people it supports.
  • Labor has some money for Sydney infrastructure and produced a gas policy that I remain deeply dubious about and the Coalition was eyes on north Queensland, with a sweep through Cairns and Townsville.

I’ll be back for Thursday, but a little later than normal, because I must do some recording for our podcast. Until I surface you’ll be in the capable hands of Bridie Jabour. See you then.


Mark Textor says Peter Dutton did not go too far in his remarks

Readers with me all day know that earlier on, I was conversing with the Liberal party’s pollster, Mark Textor, about Peter Dutton, and whether not he went too far.

Textor didn’t answer my question until now. Here’s the answer: no, the immigration minister did not go too far.

@marcuskelson @BenDohertyCorro @KKeneally @murpharoo no. he didn’t go to far

— Mark Textor (@TextorMark) May 18, 2016

Presumably my question was impossible to answer before the prime minister set the tone. Given Malcolm Turnbull has backed in Dutton, Textor will now express a view in public.

The conversation is turning now to immigration and Peter Dutton. Dastyari is on this afternoon with the Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos. Both of the guests are migrants.

Dastyari says when he arrived as a five year old with his parents who were fleeing conflict in Iran, he couldn’t speak a word on English. The Labor man says he’s personally offended by Peter Dutton’s comments. Sinodinos says he didn’t learn English until he went to school because the family only spoke Greek at home. He says Dastyari is entitled to feel however he likes about the Dutton remarks, but what voters need to focus on is this imminent Labor/Greens alliance. Dastyari says hang on a minute, you are the people doing a preference deal with the Greens.

Sky News has been unhappy for most of the afternoon because Labor’s David Feeney was due to be on a program this afternoon and he’s pulled out. Labor’s Sam Dastyari has stepped in instead.

So now we have one of those television moments where the stand in has to cop the shellacking that Sky had been planning for Feeney, who has evidently been shoved into a cupboard in Labor campaign headquarters or inside a safe house somewhere courtesy of the fact he forgot to properly declare that he owned a $2m house, and Labor’s campaign brains trust would evidently like it if the forgetful candidate would just shut up and stay well out of sight.

Sky’s Laura Jayes wants to know why Feeney isn’t turning up. Dastyari says because your office called me and asked me to come on. Well why didn’t David Feeney come on, Jayes wonders.

Sam Dastyari:

That’s a matter for David.

You are fortunate enough to have me.

Christopher Pyne was asked for his view on Peter Dutton’s remarks on asylum seekers stealing Aussie jobs on Adelaide radio earlier today. Pyne stepped through that fairly carefully.

Q: They won’t be numerate, they won’t be literate, they’ll be innumerate and they will take our jobs, are they sentiments that you share Christopher Pyne?

Christopher Pyne:

Well Will, the answer to the issues to do with asylum seekers around the world is not to simply keep doubling our intake of refugees…

Q: No, I asked whether you agreed with Peter Dutton’s comments…

Christopher Pyne:

Well I’m answering the question, and we already have the second most generous program to take refugees in the world, but obviously there are very complex issues when you take a large number of refugees from war torn countries. They need to have a proper settlement process which often involves English language learning, teachings in literacy and numeracy, resettlement, cultural understandings. You can’t just bring people to Australia from refugee camps around the world and expect them to suddenly, you know be instantaneously part of the society. You need to put them through a proper process where they can become full Australian citizens eventually, and know exactly how our community and our and society works, and that’s what he is saying.

Q: But that’s much more diplomatic, Chris, that’s a much more diplomatic way of saying that. I mean, do you think that the rhetoric he used was a bit brutal and do you think that he may have perhaps turned up the volume because it’s election time?

Christopher Pyne:

No, I don’t think that’s what he was doing. I think he was trying to say that obviously we can’t just keep doubling the refugee intake, it’s a very expensive program, like very expensive, and there needs to be proper resettlement of refugees when they come to Australia. Australia does this really well, and I’m sure Anthony will agree on a bipartisan basis that we do the resettlement of refugees extremely well, but the issues that are dogging the Labor party at this election are not about the resettlement of refugees. They’re about the fact that a large number of people in the Labor party support onshore, rather than offshore processing and would restart the people smuggler’s business, now that is what happened under the Rudd government, despite the protests in 2007 that wouldn’t happen, and we got 800 boat arrivals, 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, and people opening up detention centres. I mean we’ve closed 16 of Labor’s detention centres, because we actually have a successful policy, and Tanya Plibersek confused us all again yesterday when she said that she and the 21 support the Labor party’s policy, not the Liberal party’s policy, well Bill Shorten says the policies are the same, so who’s right?

Back to Labor’s gas policy, which I’m still not happy about, even though I still haven’t had time to dive deeply enough to have a proper view. Just some more from the questions and answers at today’s press conference with the shadow treasurer Chris Bowen.

Q: On your gas policy, are you talking about quotas for the domestic gas market?

Chris Bowen:

No, what I’m talking about is a proponent of a new facility or expansion of an existing facility making the case to the Treasurer of the day about why it is in the national interest, and part of that national interest consideration is how much gas would be available for Australian manufacturing, which is my focus today – of course – Australian households as well, but particularly manufacturing, because these fantastic workers here know that they rely, and their company relies, on a clear and consistent gas supply. You’ve got manufacturers right across Australia who are saying they just can’t get gas. The Australian Industry Group has done a good job in building the case for this sort of reform, as has the Australian Workers Union and others. This is an example of Labor’s cooperative approach, bringing together people in the sector, and working on practical solutions for the future.

Q: How does this sit with the ACCC recommendation that there should be no reservations?

Chris Bowen:

This is not a reservation, to be clear, this is a national interest test. They are dealing with similar issues. The treasurer of the day would be talking to proponents and saying where is something here for the manufacturing sector, tell us how you are going to cater for this, and through what I’m sure would be a cooperative process, the national interest be best served.

Q: What would be the criteria for rejecting an LNG project that is, supposedly, in the national interest?

Chris Bowen:

If it’s in the national interest it would be approved, that’s the point. Similar to the foreign interest national interest test, the Treasurer would be the ultimate arbiter. A Treasurer would take into account a vibrant and growing resources sector, a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector, impact on households, and of course, existing environmental approvals would be unaffected.

Q: What is the criteria for rejecting a proposal?

Chris Bowen:

If the treasurer was not satisfied it was in the national interest, just like foreign investment. It’s not a tick the box exercise, it’s a process where the treasurer uses their judgement whether the national interest is being served.

Q: Is there a danger that this could reduce investment in the domestic gas market?

Chris Bowen:

I don’t believe so. These sorts of tests apply in the United States, where the gas industry has been growing very strongly. Of course, not everybody will approve of this, some people will say this goes too far, some people in the sector would prefer no regulation. I accept that, I know that, I’ve had those discussions, but we set the policy settings for the nation in the national interest, not in any vested interest. I’ve got to tell you, having a good and vibrant manufacturing sector is in the national interest.

Q: You mention the AWU, is this Labor simply doing the AWU’s work?

Chris Bowen:

The AWU has run a campaign for dealing with gas, as has the Australian Industry Group, Manufacturing Australia, the Aluminium Council – they’re not affiliated to the Labor party.

Bernard Keane in Crikey this afternoon (for subscribers, do subscribe) notes that refugees are exactly the kind of people that Turnbull’s innovative, agile Australia apparently wants. Yes it’s true that it costs money to resettle them, but the investment pays off over time.

Here’s an excerpt.

Refugees — because they’ve been forced to move rather than voluntarily decided to migrate; because they usually can’t access their assets in their home country; because they haven’t developed skills with the goal of being employable in a different culture; because they often suffer from mental health problems created by the circumstances that forced them to flee — require assistance when they resettle. They require assistance to learn English, to acquire skills, to adjust to living in a different culture and economy, to educate their children (children make up a higher proportion of refugees than other migrant categories).

Once they acquire jobs, it’s possible it may be 20 years before they pay enough income tax to bring the taxpayer out ahead in net terms. However, there’s little evidence from Europe that large numbers of refugees depress wages. Reported effects of low-skilled migrants on wages, The Economist found, were slight.

And refugees, according to a 2011 report, have lower workforce participation levels than Australian-born citizens (so, actually, they don’t compete for jobs as much as the rest of us do), but that improves over time and refugees who complete their education in Australia actually have higher workforce participation rates than Australian-born people — as do the children of refugees when they reach working age. And refugees highly value education; they and their children have much higher rates of tertiary education than Australian-born people.

Refugees also tend to be more entrepreneurial than the rest of us. Census data has shown higher proportions of owner/managers among refugee communities than Australian-born citizens — usually among longer-established communities, but also among more recent arrivals like the Somali community.

Two views of Malcolm Turnbull in Townsville: the first from his official photographer Sahlan Hayes, and the second from Fairfax photographer Andrew Meares.

The Prime Minister addressing the media at the Port of Townsville announcement today.
PM Turnbull, press conference, Townsville

It was a pity I couldn’t keep eyes on the National Press Club debate about climate policy at lunchtime through until the end because the encounter was cooking away quite nicely. The Greens are unhappy not to have been invited to the debate. NPC president Chris Uhlmann said at the start of today’s proceedings these election encounters are designed to test the propositions of the parties of government, and there will be other opportunities for the Greens and other non-government parties to address the club over the course of the campaign. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a director of the club. In any case, the Greens aren’t waiting for an invitation. Larissa Waters plans to host a Q&A this evening via Twitter and Facebook. If this is something you are interested in, the details are below.

You can also tweet questions to @larissawaters & she'll answer tonight on her Facebook. Sign up here: #NPC #Greens16

— Victorian Greens (@VictorianGreens) May 18, 2016

A bit more detail about Labor’s gas policy unveiled earlier today. The opposition is promising to establish a Domestic Gas Review Board to consider whether any new gas export facility, or proposal to expand an existing one, would meet Australia’s national interest.

It would also require foreign gas companies to say how much gas they plan to make available for local manufacturers and households.

But the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, has stopped short of calling for gas quotas to be introduced to force energy companies to sell an agreed amount of gas to local manufacturers.

“Natural gas belongs to all Australians. We want to ensure it’s extracted in the national interest,” Bowen said on Wednesday. “We want to ensure that we don’t face a situation in the future, as has been predicted, that more and more manufacturing facilities face closure, not only because of the price of gas but because they just can’t get any gas.”

The proposed Domestic Gas Review Board would operate in a similar way to the Foreign Investment Review Board, which considers the national benefit of foreign investment proposals. It would require energy companies to demonstrate how their newly-expanded export facilities would boost Australia’s exports and national income, increase the overall gas supply and deliver a “predictable and affordable source of gas” for local manufacturers.

Labor’s new policy will go some way to placating demands from the Australian Workers’ Union to reserve a proportion of Australia’s gas for domestic use at affordable prices.

The AWU’s national secretary, Scott McDine, said the AWU has been leading the Reserve Our Gas campaign that has been pushing for the government to legislate and create the option to reserve natural gas for domestic use.

“Australia finds itself the only developed nation on the planet which allows gas exporters to extract our gas and sell it to the highest international bidder without any restriction whatsoever,” McDine said.

“Australian households and industry are being forced to match the highest international prices for our own gas.


Poor Mr Bowers’ more than excellent photographic work got short shrift from me this morning because we were in the middle of asylum shock and awe. Quick catch up now.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese and the member for Kingsford Smith Matt Thistlethwaite on their way to a press conference after touring a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese and the member for Kingsford Smith Matt Thistlethwaite on their way to a press conference after touring a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Little bit of photographer hijinks from the hustings. Magic Mike. A man who never rests.

Looking for THE shot.

Meanwhile, looking southwards, the Liberal party’s Indi candidate, Sophie Mirabella, has been cut loose by the Coalition.

The deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has been openly mocking her and senior government sources claim she has been starved of Liberal party funding apart from that which she can raise locally.

The developments suggest both sides of the Coalition have written off Mirabella’s chances of regaining the seat from independent MP Cathy McGowan.

Two days ago Mirabella accused some in the Liberal party of destablising her campaign on the ABC’s 7.30.

“What do they say? If you want a friend in politics, get a dog … Let others be concerned about internecine affairs, I’ll worry about Indi,” Mirabella said.

At a party event in Indi on Tuesday night for Nationals candidate Marty Corboy, Joyce told members and supporters the people of Indi wanted someone in Canberra who would allow them they say “I feel proud of him”.

“I don’t want to talk too much about the other candidates, they can talk for themselves and they did an exceptionally good job of that last night [on 7.30],” Joyce said. “What I can say is the more they talk, the better you look Marty.”

My colleague Lenore Taylor on the day’s asylum developments. This comment piece could have been headlined stop the stupid.

There’s the entry-level scare campaign, the one that has been running all week, that says that because Labor candidates and MPs have expressed concerns about the humanitarian consequences of our offshore detention centres a Labor government would inevitably “restart the boats”.

But are those concerns really heresy, or a reasonable response to the horror stories flooding in from both Manus Island and Nauru, of rape and self-harm and self-immolation? Is it really bad to have some qualms about camps that have been declared illegal by the Papua New Guinean supreme court and condemned by the United Nations?

If the Coalition is so totally unperturbed by those things, if it thinks the policy is “working” in every respect, then what is its answer to its obvious humanitarian failings? What is it planning to do with the people in those camps? Because they are the ones who are really “languishing” in sanity-sapping uncertainty.

Turnbull said at the outset of his prime ministership he “sympathised with, and grieved for” the “mental anguish” of those in detention and promised he would do everything possible to find a resettlement solution.

But no “solution” has been found. Does Bill Shorten have a problem because some in his party are worried about this bipartisan policy failure, or does Turnbull have a problem because (at least according to the Coalition’s own telling) his own MPs are not?

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media touring the Port of Townsville during an announcement of the proposed eastern access rail corridor in Townsville, Wednesday, May 18, 2016.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media touring the Port of Townsville during an announcement of the proposed eastern access rail corridor in Townsville, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

An ungloved fist, and a fist in a velvet glove

I reckon this is worth a little side by side exercise.

Peter Dutton, last night, on Sky News

For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English, and this is a difficulty because the Greens are very close to the CFMEU, as obviously the Labor Party is, and their affiliations with the union movement obviously are well known.

Now, these people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that, and for many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it. So, there would be a huge cost, and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.

Now, we have a managed program at the moment, it’s 13,750 a year that we bring in through the refugee program, but we don’t bring people and we will not settle people who come off boats. Now, one of the little known policies that Labor has put forward in this election campaign is that they want to double that number from 13,750 up to over 27,000 people. Now, that’s to try and buy off the left and hope in a campaign that they wouldn’t break out the way in which we’ve seen now more than 25 candidates do, that have broken out against Labor’s policy.

But, as I say, there’s no sense pretending, Paul, that if you said, ‘Look, we’re going to be super generous and take 50,000 and that will stop people smugglers putting people on boats’, it’s a nonsense, because we know that there are hundreds of thousands frankly who would trek down through Malaysia into Indonesia that otherwise would have seen the door open in Europe and would now see the door open to our country, and it would be an absolute green light.

And, you know, Paul, I think in the run up to this election people want first and foremost from their leader, from a prospective prime minister, they want somebody with strength of character. They want somebody that has the ability to keep their families and our community safe, and I think Bill Shorten has failed that test. He’s demonstrated that he doesn’t have the mettle to stand up to his own backbench let alone to people smugglers and terrorists that would seek to do us harm that might seek to cross our borders, and I think Malcolm Turnbull demonstrated again today that he has the ability, the absolute determination to make sure that we keep our borders secure, and if we do that, we can keep our community safe.

Malcolm Turnbull, Townsville:

Peter Dutton is an outstanding immigration minister. For more than 600 days, there has not been one successful people smuggling operation bringing unauthorised arrivals to Australia. He has done an outstanding job as immigration minister.

Let me say something about our immigration program. We are one of the most generous host countries for refugees. We take our responsibilities to refugees very seriously. As Peter was saying earlier today, many of them come to Australia from shattered areas of the world. They are from dreadful, devastated, war-torn regions of the world and many of them, large percentages of them have no English skills at all. Many of them are illiterate in their own language. Many haven’t completed high school. That is no fault of theirs. That is why we are reaching out to help them with compassion. What we do, in a way that many other countries do not, we invest $800m a year in ensuring they get the settlement services they need so they learn English, so they are integrated into our society. That is why we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.

Our immigration program is built on a pillar of compassion which means that we take the refugees and their needs seriously and we invest in them. What the Labor party is proposing to do, as you know, is to double the refugee intake. That is presumably a gesture to the Greens who want to quadruple it. But they have made no estimation of what the additional cost would be. It will run into billions of dollars.

Nor have they considered whether we have the capacity in our settlement services to ensure those additional refugees are settled here. To conclude on this point, we should never forget this - our success as a multicultural nation, our success depends upon secure borders. Australians accept this high level of refugee intake, this large humanitarian program because they know that their government keeps their borders secure. We keep the borders secure. Peter Dutton, as immigration minister, is keeping the borders secure. Mr Shorten on the other hand, leads a party that is utterly divided on this issue and would, once again, were they to be in government, once again fail Australians at the border.

Same message, Dutton’s is delivered with an ungloved fist, Turnbull’s is delivered as a fist in a velvet glove.

The prime minister’s tone is different to the immigration minister’s tone, and Malcolm Turnbull declined to repeat the Dutton suggestion that asylum seekers would take Australian jobs, he said the government wanted humanitarian entrants to get jobs, which is the same clean up formulation that Julie Bishop deployed earlier today, but he’s otherwise locked and loaded on the political strategy, which is beat the boats drum, just beat it a little more quietly, everything being relative.

So did Malcolm Turnbull disavow Peter Dutton?

No, he did not.


Q: Was Mr Dutton sent out to make those comments as part of a deliberate strategy as Mr Shorten suggested or was he freelancing?

Malcolm Turnbull:

Mr Shorten is freelancing. It is a long campaign. He is getting shriller every day. It is going to be a challenging campaign for you to deal with him by the time we get to the end, unless he slows up a bit.

Q: When you became PM, you promised a new wave of positive activity and intelligence and there is a minister engaging in what some are calling as xenophobic dialogue. Is this the campaign you want to run?

Malcolm Turnbull:

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We are an immigrant society. We take a large number of refugees, through the humanitarian channel. We integrate them and settle them better than any other country and the reason we do that is because we invest a lot of money and a lot of time, a lot of hand holding in supporting them. That pays dividends, both for the immigrants, the humanitarian immigrants, the refugees and for all Australia.

We make no bones about the fact that we have a very generous immigration policy, a generous refugee policy, but you have got to do it right.

Q: Immigration and border protection is notoriously hot as an election issue in this country over recent history. Do you, as our PM, seriously want, a deeply hot and divisive asylum and border protection argument running for the next six weeks?

Malcolm Turnbull:

Border protection and immigration are and always have been key political issues. Our position is very straightforward. We have a strong border protection policy. We have denied the people smugglers the product they want to market. They cannot get their boats to Australia. That is why we are not seeing thousands of people put on boats, leaky boats, many of them drowning at sea. That has been a profoundly humanitarian act and we have been successful.

Labor is all gesture politics, he says. Turnbull repeats the line about settlement costing a lot of money, and investing in settlement is an investment in multiculturalism.

Malcolm Turnbull:

Peter is right to draw attention to that. We have to do the job properly. Labor does not. For Labor it is all gestures and at the moment, gestures to the Greens. They are targeting Green voters and that is why you are seeing Bill Shorten shriller every day, more personal every day and moving further to the left every day.

Malcolm Turnbull is asked twice whether he agrees with Dutton’s statement that refugees will take Australian jobs. Twice he steps gingerly around the point, deploying Julie Bishop’s third way formulation from this morning. We want them to become part of our work force.

'Peter Dutton is an outstanding immigration minister'

Q: Do you agree with Peter Dutton’s comments on refugees?

Malcolm Turnbull:

Peter Dutton is an outstanding immigration minister. For more than 600 days, there has not been one successful people smuggling operation bringing unauthorised arrivals to Australia. He has done an outstanding job as immigration minister. Let me say something about our immigration program. We are one of the most generous, host countries for refugees. We take our responsibilities to refugees very seriously.

As Peter was saying earlier today, many of them come to Australia from shattered areas of the world. They are from dreadful, devastated, war-torn regions of the world and many of them, large percentages of them have no English skills at all. Many of them are illiterate in their own language. Many haven’t completed high school. That is no fault of theirs. That is why we are reaching out to help them with compassion. What we do, in a way that many other countries do not, we invest $800 million a year in ensuring they get the settlement services they need so they learn English, so they are integrated into our society. That is why we are the most successful multicultural society in the world. Our immigration program is built on a pillar of compassion which means that we take the refugees and their needs seriously and we invest in them. What the Labor party isproposing to do, as you know, is todouble the refugee intake. That is presumably a gesture to the Greens who want to quadruple it.

All local questions thus far.

Malcolm Turnbull:

There will be a new rail corridor, longer trains, more trains, more exports and more jobs. That is why we have opened up the big markets in Asia with our trade export deals. We are committed to that.

Malcolm Turnbull hosts his second press conference of the day

I have to tune out of the press club because the prime minister is speaking to reporters again from Townsville.

A question about funding for the agencies the CEFC and Arena. Hunt says the government has innovation dollars, Butler says he’ll sit down with Arena after the election.


Mark Butler on the ERF.

Malcolm Turnbull got it right when he described it as a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale.

A brief fight on environmental spending. Then ..

Q: Mr Hunt, at the last election, you went to the poll promising a $2.55bn Emissions Reduction Fund. There is $816m remaining, according to the clean energy regulator. Could you tell us what the future of that fund will be? Aren’t voters entitled to know how much you will be spending going forward? Mr Butler, you have got a 45% target that you’re taking to the election. Warwick McKibbin reckons it will cost $200bn more over the decade. Do you agree with that assessment?

Mark Butler goes first.

Warwick did some research for the Tony Abbott government. The do nothing approach and the targets that Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull took to Paris and the target we ended up adopting. The difference between Greg’s target and mine would be over the course of the 2020s, the difference between 23% and 23.5% of real GDP growth over that decade. That half a per cent difference would be about consumption of energy which is not a particularly productive use of GDP.

He also found that the higher target would produce a substantial positive impact on investment as businesses and households moved to become cleaner in their energy and cleaner in their technology. We took that analysis very seriously and considered it deeply when we came to the view to adopt the Climate Change Authority advice which is the minimum position consistent with keeping global warming below 2C.

Greg Hunt avoids the question of the funding gap in the ERF. He says there’s plenty of money in the fund now.


Mark Butler says this.

[Greg’s] own data, that he kept behind and didn’t release before the Paris conference and snuck out the week of Christmas Eve shows emissions in the year 2020 will be 6% above 2000 levels not 5% below. Year on year they will continue to climb from now on under direct action and the Renewable Energy Target.

Greg Hunt says Labor will not be reducing emissions in Australia under their policy.

That is the dirty secret at the heart of their policy. They are not actually reducing emissions in Australia. They are purchasing overseas.

The moderator Chris Uhlmann, says, hang on, you’ll likely do that too. (There have been some signals the Coalition will bring international permits back into the mix after a review of Direct Action next year).

Q: You released modelling shortly before the election was called which you said proved you could meet your targets within your existing policies. It looked at where emissions reduction might be found and assigned it to various policies that might do the job. It assigned half the emissions reductions you would need to the safeguard mechanism and the Emissions Reduction Fund. The author of that study told me for those policies to do that job, you would need to either put lots more money into the Emissions Reduction Fund or tighten the baselines on your safeguard mechanism which would turn it into a baseline and emissions trading scheme. Since you have criticised your opponent with empty slogans, I am assuming you will be able to tell the voters which of those two options you will be choosing?

Greg Hunt says this question is framed on a false dichotomy.

What they have said, they put out a statement after your article effectively disagreeing with the interpretation of it and they said two things: that we can meet and beat our targets for 2030. A 52% reduction in per capita terms, one of the highest in the developed world. We can meet and beat it without additional measures, using the policy framework that we have set out, exactly what we have said and we have laid out where those sources of abatement are. We have attributed abatement. The second thing that they have said is that you can achieve greater emissions abatement than we have identified using our existing measures. It is not just that we will meet and beat our targets but that you can go further with the very mechanisms that we have put in place.

This question is from my colleague Lenore Taylor, who is shaking her head vigorously at this answer.

Questions now.

Q: You have both promised to make extensive funds available for solar power projects and you have both made positive noises about the proposed solar thermal power and storage plant near Port Augusta, but can voters in SA rely on you both to deliver on that project after the election?

Greg Hunt says yes.

Mark Butler says that project would be at the front of the queue.

Greg Hunt:

Now we look at the alternative. The alternative is very clear. What did we see last time? $5.5bn to brown coal generators to do nothing other than continue exactly what they do. We saw a carbon tax that they themselves pledged they had to terminate because it was too expensive and it wasn’t doing the job.

Then the very words pink batts, green loans, cash for clunkers are bywords for policy failure in Australia. Sadly, nothing has been learnt. When you look forward, what do we see now? Empty slogans because the carbon tax, they will tell us the plans after the election. The electricity tax, they will tell us the plans after the election. The plan for 10,000 turbines in 10 years, they will tell us the plans after the election.

(Bit confused now. I thought Labor’s emissions trading scheme was end times, now it’s an empty slogan?)


Greg Hunt:

The Emissions Reduction Fund is now arguably the most successful classic market mechanism auction fund in the world. After three auctions, we have seen 143 million tonnes of emissions reduction. We have seen that occur at an average price per tonne of just over $12.

(Arguably being the operative word in that sentence.)

Greg Hunt opens with passion.

You know, it is an immense privilege to have a role in which you can both believe deeply and about which you can be passionate. Central to that role is the idea of a comprehensive national plan to protect the environment and to enhance jobs and quality of life.

I compare that with a set of empty slogans which will ultimately fail the environment on the Labor side and do damage to both jobs and quality of life and the cost of living.

Butler goes through the government’s record, and Labor’s policy platform, and he concludes on this note.

Mark Butler:

Labor’s ETS will cap and reduce pollution from heavy industry without a direct carbon price. The most consistent message that I have received in my consultations, particularly over summer, across the board, is that the next parliament simply must do better than the past three have on this question. No-one, I’m sure, expects it to happen in the next hour or even the next six and a half weeks. People want the next parliament to work much harder at bridging our differences and establishing a level of consensus that gives business and the community the confidence to move forward on this question.

(Praise the Lord.)

I anticipate some solid shade over the next hour or so, if that isn’t already obvious.

Climate policy debate at the National Press Club

Down at the NPC, the environment minister, Greg Hunt, has won the toss and has elected to let his opponent, the shadow environment minister, Mark Butler, open the batting.

Butler obliges.

To Greg, a daunting opponent in a debate, not only was he famously crowned as the world’s best minister in February this year, I am told he was something of a world champion debater at university, I presume at the same time he was penning his thesis about making polluters pay. That is a story for another day.


Gabrielle Chan is having way too good a time on the road. Like Mike Bowers, she needs to be brought home and flogged.

Delicate art of 3 cornered dance. Libs Murray cand Duncan McGauchie crashes @Barnaby_Joyce @SenatorNash @murpharoo

— Gabrielle Chan (@gabriellechan) May 18, 2016

A few protesters outside debate

— Lenore Taylor (@lenoretaylor) May 18, 2016

Campaign this lunchtime

Let’s take stock.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes a tour of the Norship Marine shipyards in the seat of Leichhardt in Cairns, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Leichhardt is held by Coalition MP Warren Entsch.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes a tour of the Norship Marine shipyards in the seat of Leichhardt in Cairns, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Leichhardt is held by Coalition MP Warren Entsch. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
  • Malcolm Turnbull has declined to repeat comments from his immigration minister Peter Dutton that asylum seekers are both illiterate and going to take jobs from Australians (#YouKnowItMakesSense), but he hasn’t disavowed them either. The prime minister cut short a press conference in Cairns when asylum questions persisted, saying he was there to attend to local issues. He’s indicated he will take more questions in Townsville.
  • Bill Shorten has gone on the offensive, declaring Dutton’s comments are in the realm of Pauline Hanson’s playbook and they must, as a consequence, be disavowed immediately by the prime minister. Shorten has his own problems today with one of his colleagues, David Feeney, forgetting to declare he owned a $2m house on the pecuniary interests register that he was negatively gearing.
  • Policy today is infrastructure, gas, and ships maintenance. I’ll get there eventually, don’t fret.

Onwards and upwards, to the National Press Club.

I’m making one more attempt to get Mark Textor’s view on whether or not Peter Dutton went too far on asylum seekers. I’ll let you know if he responds. Next a quick summary of the morning before we move on to today’s policy debate at the National Press Club, which is about the environment.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Monday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Q: Would a Labor government commit to funding the Safe Schools program post-2017? Could you keep the changes education minister Simon Birmingham has made and would you support changing the religious exemptions on anti-discrimination laws?

Bill Shorten:

Thanks for those three questions, Joe. First of all, when it comes to Safe Schools, the approach that Labor has taken is that we do support the provision of anti-bullying programs in our school system. I know that there are a lot of Australians who are deeply surprised when Malcolm Turnbull caved into the right wing of his party and instead of debating the issue intelligently in a fashion which recognises the need to have anti-bullying programs, he caved in, had a very quick review and said they won’t keep funding into the future.

Labor believes that our children when they go to school should be safe from bullying. The other thing I believe is that I don’t want politicians ... trying to dictate the books kids read in school or their curriculum. That’s what we’ve got teachers and experts for. When it comes down to a beauty parade for who’s best qualified to educate the children of Australia, I’ll pick the teachers and the curriculum experts over the right wing of the Liberal party every time. In terms of the other matters, we do believe that people shouldn’t be discriminated against in their employment on the basis of the criteria which currently exist so we are not as keen to simply start changing everything and denying people their employment rights.

Q: How can Labor be considering a domestic gas reservation policy when Martin Ferguson and Gary Gray have called such a thing an investment killer and ill-informed populism?

Bill Shorten:

I can’t speak for Martin Ferguson but the policy we developed in the past was done while Gary was a member of the caucus. The truth of the matter is we’re very proud of our LNG export industry but we’ve also got to keep an eye on making sure our domestic manufacturing sector survives. For me it is all about manufacturing jobs, making sure as we export LNG we keep an eye on making sure Australian manufacturing has a fair go.

The Labor leader gets hit with a bunch of questions about David Feeney’s house.

Q: Do you believe that David Feeney didn’t know his property was negatively geared?

Bill Shorten:

In terms of Mr Feeney’s conduct, he’s indicated to me that he’s corrected the record, as I expect him to do, and I was very clear that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

Q: Is it hypocritical of Labor to advocate for changes to negative gearing and criticise the so-called rich investors who engage in it if one of your MPs has negatively geared his property?

Bill Shorten:

Let me be clear here because people do negatively gear now. Liberals, Labor, many Australians, in terms of an amount of people. That’s why the changes we are making are prospective. I do not believe in retrospectively changing the tax laws.

Q: Will you fire Mr Feeney or dock his salary or something like that?

Bill Shorten:


'Mr Dutton's comments are comments that Pauline Hanson would have been proud to make ..'

Back to Bill Shorten, in Sydney.

Before we take questions, I want to address the deeply divisive and offensive remarks made by the Liberal party and Peter Dutton overnight. There are many issues that the people of Australia want addressed – jobs, education, Medicare, infrastructure. They’re just some of the issues that people want to see addressed but the best that [the Liberal party] can do it appears is to put out a string of lies and pathetic scare campaigns.

In the last 12 hours we’ve seen Mr Dutton insult refugees and indeed our great migrant history. Mr Dutton’s comments are comments that Pauline Hanson would have been proud to make and if this is the best that the Liberal party can do, it is not very good at all.

Mr Turnbull needs to come out and recognise the damage Mr Dutton’s remarks are doing. Mr Dutton didn’t just insult refugees when he made those qualities. He insulted the millions of migrants who’ve contributed to making this a truly great country. Refugees like Victor Chang, like Richard Pratt, like Frank Lowy.

Mr Turnbull, if he has any shred of self-respect left on this matter, must immediately condemn Mr Dutton’s comments, but of course I’m skeptical if he will condemn Mr Dutton’s comments because I wonder if Mr Turnbull is actually feeding the lines to Mr Dutton. Australians expect more from their prime minister. They expect more from this electoral process that we are undertaking than run scare campaigns and pathetic lies.

Australians want to see in this election a contest of solutions to make this country better, not this string of orchestrated rubbish we’ve seen Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton come up with.


Just while we are getting through the truck movements (which granted are very important in that part of Sydney, which is horrendously congested) .. Mark Textor says the immigration minister was trying to make a point that resettlement is not consequence free.

@murpharoo @marcuskelson ok, I’m talking the part of the *national* campaign many don’t see. PD's point is resettlement not consequence free

— Mark Textor (@TextorMark) May 18, 2016

Bill Shorten addresses the media in Port Botany

The Labor leader Bill Shorten is holding his daily press conference, which for now is focussing on truck movements around Port Botany.

Mark Textor and I are still chatting. He’s quite right that the bulk of the campaign happens at the local level, far away from the national spotlight. Absolutely correct. But national campaigns also matter.

@TextorMark @marcuskelson yes mate, but national campaigns still matter. Are you avoiding my question about Dutton?

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) May 18, 2016

Back at the Bowen press conference, the shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus says the prime minister has questions to answer about Stuart Robert after a story broadcast last night on the ABC’s 7.30 program, which I confess I haven’t seen. Perhaps readers have seen it and can bring me up to speed? Robert, readers will recall, departed the Turnbull ministry earlier this year and is the subject of an AFP investigation.

I’m continuing my discussion with Mark Textor on twitter.

@TextorMark @marcuskelson I've never assumed that, and again, you know it. And in any case it's Dutton's commentary. Do you agree with it?

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) May 18, 2016

Thus far he’s not biting on Dutton. He thinks this morning is yet another example of journalists being obsessed with process. I agree, too often journalists are obsessed with process, but this isn’t a process story. Not today.

The shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is now outlining some detail about the gas announcement. He suggests this is a compromise.

Chris Bowen:

Some have called for things to go further but a national interest test strikes the right balance. We agreed this at Labor’s national conference this year and today I’m announcing further details that the treasurer of the day and a Shorten Labor government – that would be me – would appoint a domestic gas review board which would advise the treasurer of the implications of a export facility or a significant expansion of an existing export facility for the national interest.

That board would act in a similar way to the foreign investment review board in giving advice to the treasurer. It would consist of experts in the resources sector and in manufacturing and industry. And it would be able to see government, the resources sector and the manufacturing sector working together to ensure the best possible outcomes from the new facilities or new expansions.

Not a confrontational process but one in cooperation. It works in the United States, it works in Canada. Both have a national interest test in place already and both have seen expansions in their liquefied natural gas industries under the national interest test, so this is a good announcement.

I’m not going to pretend it’s a magic bullet that solves all the problems for manufacturing in SA. We don’t play those sorts of games. I’m not going to pretend this is the be-all and end-all of what needs to happen for manufacturing, or indeed for gas, but it’s a good step forward and will only happen under a Labor government.


Now, Mark Textor is suggesting this is an outbreak of collective vanity. As receptive as I am to arguments about journalistic vanity (he’s completely correct, journalists are prone to vanity) – this is not about vanity, and he knows it.

@marcuskelson @murpharoo you all say it therefore its news? oh the vanity! “Je parle, donc je suis les news” :-P

— Mark Textor (@TextorMark) May 18, 2016

Mark Textor, pollster for the Liberals, is suggesting I don’t make assumptions.

@murpharoo this assumes “comments” count for gross penetration or salience. dangerous assumption!

— Mark Textor (@TextorMark) May 18, 2016

I’ve told him I’m not making assumptions, I’m asking a question.

Labor’s gas announcement, the second policy agenda item for the opposition today, is a commitment to introduce a domestic gas national interest test for “new or significantly expanded natural gas export facilities.” If memory serves, this is something unions have been on about for some time – the Australian Workers Union and others. On the face of it I’d have a lot of questions about the merits of this as a course of action, but I’m not sufficiently across the detail yet to have anything approximating a settled view. I’ll get to it as the day unfolds.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Wednesday 18th May 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tours a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Wednesday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Good morning too to Gabrielle Chan, who is chasing wombats.

Good morning from sunny #Shepparton at Pactum Dairy @murpharoo

— Gabrielle Chan (@gabriellechan) May 18, 2016

Labor’s announcement in Port Botany is a $175m equity injection to the Australian Rail Track Corporation for rail infrastructure.

The commitment involves:

  • Duplication of 2.8km of freight line between Port Botany and Mascot ($108m)
  • A rail crossing loop at Warwick Farm ($67m)


An obvious consequence of the prime minister cutting and running in Cairns is the Dutton comments run all day on the electronic media. Cock-up or deliberate? You can make your own judgment on that.

Meanwhile, in Port Botany. Good morning to Mike Bowers.

Anthony Albanese gets his hi-vis vest on while waiting for Opposition leader Bill Shorten to arrive for a campaign event at a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Wednesday 18th May 2016.
Anthony Albanese gets his hi-vis vest on while waiting for Opposition leader Bill Shorten to arrive for a campaign event at a container freight facility in Port Botany in Sydney this morning, Wednesday 18th May 2016. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Labor has two announcements today – one infrastructure, on natural gas – I’ll get to them and the other events of the campaign day.

Perhaps it’s time for the national media to step off the campaign bus if we are only taking local questions at events.

That little Turnbull deflection really is #PeakLame.

Reporters did try and persist. A question on Peter Dutton’s comments goes to the local member, Warren Entsch.

Q: Any thoughts on Peter Dutton’s comments calling refugees ...

Warren Entsch:

I haven’t seen that comment.

I will actually have a look at it but at the end of the day, the prime minister’s across it, I am not.

'Any more questions for Cairns?'

Malcolm Turnbull is asked does he agree with Peter Dutton’s comments? He says we have the most successful multicultural society in the world, we have a very generous humanitarian program. The reason we are successful is we invest an enormous amount of money in settlement services.

Malcolm Turnbull:

So it is - it’s very expensive. We don’t begrudge the money but it’s important to get it right.

Turnbull then attempts to shut the asylum questions down.

We are going to do have another doorstop in Townsville and this is really for the local Cairns media. Any more questions from Cairns?


Malcolm Turnbull is addressing reporters in Cairns

The prime minister has found the cameras and is currently enthusing about jobs and growth and excitement and patrol boats maintenance in Cairns.

Really interesting news break this morning from my colleague Lenore Taylor, who has been looking closely at the peace deal the Turnbull government struck with pathologists last week.

Australia’s biggest pathology companies are likely to be millions of dollars better off after striking a peace deal with the Turnbull government on budget savings, with the biggest provider Sonic Healthcare estimated to be $50m to $70m ahead, according to an industry analyst.

The pathology industry – heavily dominated by two large companies Sonic Healthcare and Primary Healthcare – has in recent years been a large donor to theLiberal party.

In a peace deal announced by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull during his debate with Bill Shorten on Friday night, the pathologists agreed to shelve their fierce “don’t kill bulk bill” campaign against the government’s plan to save $650m by cutting bulk-billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging.

The government will still cut the bulk-billing incentives and save the money, but has agreed to change the law to reduce the rents that pathologists pay to doctors for co-locating their collection centres in surgeries. The pathologists have agreed that they can absorb the cost of losing the bulk-billing incentives when their rents come down.

In fact Craig Collie, analyst with Macquarie Securities, says a company such as Sonic is likely to be better off in net terms by about $60m a year from the deal, and that its profits could be boosted by 9%.

Sonic has been a large Coalition donor in past election years and the pathology industry’s peak body – Pathology Australia – has also donated only to the Liberal party for the past three years.

Burke is also facing questions on David Feeney’s undeclared house in Northcote, which Bridie referenced earlier in the morning blizzard. This story broke in Fairfax yesterday: the Labor MP has a house he has been negatively gearing in Northcote that wasn’t declared on the registry of pecuniary interests in line with the rules. Burke says it was plainly an error, which Feeney has now fixed.

Feeney is clearly a complete numpty for failing to declare this property, no doubt about it, and he deserves to be pulled up about it. But some of the extrapolations around this story I find a bit confusing.

I’ve heard the Green Adam Bandt on the radio this morning saying if NSW lost a premier over an undeclared bottle of wine just think of what should happen to Feeney over an undeclared house. Great line, unless you think about it for five seconds. Barry O’Farrell resigned as premier in NSW because he denied in Icac receiving a $3,000 bottle of wine in 2011 from Australian Water Holdings executive Nick Di Girolamo. Is Bandt suggesting someone else bought David Feeney’s house and he’s failed to declare it and subsequently told an anti-corruption agency that he never got the house?

Probably all you need to know about this story, apart from the obvious numpty element, is there’s a bare-knuckle fight going on in Melbourne between Labor and the Greens for the seat Feeney holds.


Over in the Mural Hall, Labor’s campaign spokesman, Tony Burke, says in the constant stream of consciousness from the Coalition on asylum seekers he learns nothing factual about refugees, but he learns a lot about the Turnbull government.

Tony Burke:

This bloke’s just not some new candidate. He’s a member of Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet. He is the person who’s meant responsible for this government’s attitude towards refugees.

Malcolm Turnbull can’t get out of today without being very clear whether or not the minister for immigration speaks on behalf of the Turnbull government on immigration policy, whether or not the minister for immigration is the person who provides the views of the government on immigrants.

Malcolm Turnbull cannot dodge this. What we saw last night and what’s been replaying this morning from Peter Dutton is something which runs against the data, runs against the lived experience, plays into some sort of strange, crazy political strategy that the Liberal party might think is clever, but ultimately on this, all roads lead back to Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull decided that Peter Dutton would be the person who would be in charge of enunciating to the Australian people and the world what the Turnbull government thinks of refugees who make a home in Australia, and refugees who have a new life in Australia.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to make clear today whether or not his own immigration minister speaks for him.


The Greens immigration spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, has followed Richard Marles in the Sky studio and says Malcolm Turnbull is running a dog whistle campaign.

She thinks Dutton should be stripped of his portfolio.

This is low, it’s xenophobic and this should not take place in an election campaign.


Last week, when Peter Dutton held a press conference to announce that another asylum boat had arrived and been turned back during budget week, but he’d declined to tell the public about it until week one of the election campaign, I noted the Coalition has used boats during elections before in tricky ways. We were all here. We saw it and we haven’t forgotten.

This Dutton event last week kicked off the Coalition’s partisan campaign on boat arrivals. The turnback was used to highlight how hopeless Labor would be on border protection if they won government – as if this boat had somehow arrived on Labor’s watch. Does the Coalition really think voters are stupid? I mean, really?


Richard Marles says Australia is the country of Sidney Myer and Frank Lowy, refugees who came to Australia and made an enormous contribution to our society.

He’s asked by host Kieran Gilbert whether or not there’s any truth in Dutton’s assertion that refugees are illiterate. What about the people in offshore detention? Marles says the cohort on Manus Island and Nauru is extremely varied, some are university-educated, some would not be literate.

Marles also acknowledges that it is correct to say resettlement costs money. It does have a cost but Marles says Australia should be proud of the success of its resettlement program.

He says Dutton’s comments were political: pure and simple.


Labor calls on the prime minister to disavow Peter Dutton's comments

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, is on Sky News now. Marles says Peter Dutton’s comments about refugees taking Australian jobs are offensive, and they are a test for Malcolm Turnbull.

The prime minister needs to disavow Dutton’s comments, Marles says.

Richard Marles:

He can’t squib it like Julie Bishop did just then and if he doesn’t then I think we all know the transformation is complete: Malcolm Turnbull is running the Abbott government.

This is very ugly indeed.


Morning, I'm cranky, best you step back

I have only one question as I join you this morning, and it’s this. Will Peter Dutton promise to build a wall before this election campaign is through? Because I wouldn’t be at all surprised given the way the grim partisan nonsense on asylum seekers is escalating.

As I join you this Wednesday morning we are a considerable distance away from the adult government the prime minister promised us when he returned to the Liberal leadership. We are also a considerable distance from the positive campaign of affirmation Malcolm Turnbull wanted to run. Remember the exciting times? Remember disruption is our friend? Poor old Mathias Cormann is going to have to be reprogrammed because the poor love thinks this election campaign is about jobs and growth. Now the campaign is about stoking the national neurosis about invasion and about otherness.

It’s taken the Coalition less than a fortnight to crumble, dust off the tired old script, and campaign by deploying its worst excesses of negativity. If this is the campaign the Coalition wanted to run, there really was no point in unseating Tony Abbott, because let’s be honest, he would run this nonsense far more compellingly than Malcolm Turnbull will. Abbott shines in an Apocalypse. It’s his tempo.

The other thing the ready resort to fear-mongering invites is close scrutiny of the Coalition’s record on asylum policy, as Michael Gordon points out in the Age today. And what is that record? The United Nations has slammed offshore detention in Nauru. The supreme court of Papua New Guinea says people should not be detained on Manus Island. Peter Dutton either can’t or won’t tell us what will happen to the people on Manus Island in the wake of the court decision. This minister blames refugee advocates for the human rights disaster that is Australia’s offshore immigration detention, not our own policies. Despite the stop-the-boats rhetoric, the boats haven’t actually stopped, they’ve just been pushed back to their country of origin.

They can’t even get their scare campaign straight. Peter Dutton thinks asylum seekers steal Aussie jobs when the default moral panic from conservatives has always been asylum seekers arrive then promptly ease into a life of welfare. Julie Bishop at least remembers what the default moral panic is. She’s told a couple of outlets this morning she very much hopes asylum seekers will get jobs because otherwise they’ll be unproductive, and that will be unfortunate, given it costs a bomb, repeat, costs a bomb, to resettle these people.

As to the politics, let’s be clear what this is about. This is about as cynical as election campaigns get. It’s about as far away from the marketplace of ideas as it gets. Question of the day, will Malcolm Turnbull disavow Dutton? Second question of the day. Will Malcolm Turnbull have the self-belief to run his own campaign on his own terms?

You’ll have questions too, and today’s comments thread is open for your business. If the thread’s too bracing for you, Mike Bowers and I are up and about on the twits – he’s @mpbowers and I’m @murpharoo. If you speak Facebook you can join my daily forum here. And if you want a behind-the-scenes look at the day and the looming campaign, give Mike a follow on Instagram. You can find him here.

Buckle in for Murph’s blog rage. Here comes Wednesday.


After that galloping start to the morning it is time for Katharine Murphy to take the reins.

She will guide you through inevitable nonsense that will reign today as well as the policy, the important comments and the political movements.


Guardian Australia’s immigration reporter Ben Doherty has gone digging for those novel things in the asylum seeker debate: facts.

He writes:

Peter Dutton’s own department takes an overwhelmingly positive view of the contribution refugees make to Australia.

In 2011, the department of immigration and citizenship (as DIBP was then called) commissioned a report by University of Adelaide Professor Dr Graeme Hugo.

Hugo’s report is here.

The department’s own summation of Hugo’s findings (still available on the department website) reads:

The research found the overwhelming picture, when one takes the longer term perspective of changes over the working lifetime of Humanitarian Program entrants and their children, is one of considerable achievement and contribution.

The Humanitarian Program yields a demographic dividend because of a low rate of settler loss, relatively high fertility rate and a high proportion of children who are likely to work the majority of their lives in Australia. It finds evidence of increasing settlement in nonmetropolitan areas which creates social and economic benefits for local communities.

Humanitarian entrants help meet labour shortages, including in low skill and low paid occupations. They display strong entrepreneurial qualities compared with other migrant groups, with a higher than average proportion engaging in small and medium business enterprises.

Humanitarian settlers also benefit the wider community through developing and maintaining economic linkages with their origin countries. In addition, they make significant contributions through volunteering in both the wider community and within their own community groups.

The research provides valuable insight for all organisations that assist with and plan for the settlement of Humanitarian Program entrants and seek to enhance their contributions to Australian society.


Julie Bishop: Dutton pointing out 'self-evident fact'

I have the extended comments Julie Bishop made on Sky News earlier when asked about Peter Dutton’s assertion that illiterate refugees would take Australian jobs.

She attempts to back him in with her “interpretation” of what he said:

Well, let’s have a reality check, of course the cost of ensuring the people who come here to Australia as a refugee is very high. As I indicated it was costed at over $700m just for 12,000 Syrian refugees, so Peter Dutton is pointing out the self-evident fact that it costs a great deal of money to settle refugees in Australia.

The Greens never have to account for the budget … it’s just another example where they are so out of touch with reality, there is a cost and the Australian people bear it.

It has to be paid for and Peter Dutton is talking about real cost in doing so.

Asked if Dutton was right that refugees were illiterate and innumerate Bishop went to education.

The costs involved are also education costs, teaching people English because they speak another language, these are all significant costs and we shouldn’t run away from it, that’s a fact.

And in some pretty spectacular rearranging of Dutton’s comments, when asked if he was right refugees would be “taking Australian jobs” Bishop responded:

It’s not one of the considerations [that they would take Australian jobs], what he’s pointing out is that we would want such people to have a job, we wouldn’t want them to be on welfare, we would want them in jobs.

.@JulieBishopMP responds to Peter Dutton's comments on refugees not being literate and numerate #ausvotes

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 17, 2016


Meanwhile, Bill Shorten is on 2DayFM where he has been asked about the woman who planted a kiss on him yesterday on the campaign trail:

Shorten on yesterday's kiss via 2DayFM "Take the adventures of life as they present", says better to be out on the street than in a bubble

— Frank Keany (@FJKeany) May 17, 2016

The Labor campaign headquarters is helpfully distributing quotes from Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech after Peter Dutton’s comments on refugees.

Seems they are not too terrified of a scare campaign and think Dutton has gone too far right with his dog whistling. The sidestepping of Dutton’s comments by his own colleagues also indicate he has tripped and dived over the line.

From Hanson’s maiden speech:

Abolishing the policy of multiculturalism will save billions of dollars and allow those from ethnic backgrounds to join mainstream Australia, paving the way to a strong, united country. Immigration must be halted in the short term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language.

No, it did not take long:

@bkjabour @michellegrattan it took a full week of campaigning and some confirming opinion polls before the switch to vaudeville.i

— Scott McWhirter (@mcwhirter_scott) May 17, 2016


The election campaign is pretty much off the front pages at this point:

The Courier Mail front page. Wednesday 18 May 2016. @couriermail #ausvotes #election2016 #auspol

— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) May 17, 2016

The Sydney Morning Herald front page. Wednesday 18 May 2016. @smh #ausvotes #election2016 #auspol

— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) May 17, 2016

The Daily Telegraph front page. Wednesday 18 May 2016. @dailytelegraph #ausvotes #election2016 #auspol

— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) May 17, 2016

Financial Review front page. Wednesday 18 May 2016. @FinancialReview #ausvotes #election2016 #auspol

— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) May 17, 2016

Feeney making the Age front page in Melbourne though:

The Age front page. Wednesday 18 May 2016. @theage #ausvotes #election2016 #auspol

— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) May 17, 2016


Julie Bishop asked on Sky News about Dutton’s comments:

There’s an extraordinarily high cost in ensuring they can be a contributing member of society.

Julie Bishop asked directly if she endorses Peter Dutton's comments: "Let's have a reality check here...the cost if very high" #ausvotes

— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) May 17, 2016

Michelle Grattan has been asked about the turn in the campaign on Radio National:

I think it is turning nasty, whether it will backfire, it should but i don’t know that it would.

This is a very emotive issue and a scare campaign can be whipped up very easily.


Those comments by Dutton that refugees are illiterate and innumerate and will take Australian jobs are really gathering steam and beginning to dominate the morning news cycle.

Julie Bishop has been asked about it and tried to steer the conversation towards the economic costs of increasing the refugee intake. I will have her extended comments soon.

Meanwhile, the Greens are hitting out:

Peter Dutton's scare mongering on refugees over jobs exposes the Liberal policy as being steeped not in care for ppl in need, but xenophobia

— Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) May 17, 2016

Feeney defends 'forgetting' to declare $2.31m home

The Labor MP David Feeney failed to declare a $2.31m house he bought in Melbourne in 2013 which brought his real estate portfolio to three properties. This is causing a headache for his party today while giving the Greens a free kick.

He has told the ABC he has written to the register of members’ interests to properly declare the property and it was a simple oversight.

Feeney is under threat from the Greens in the seat of Batman and the Greens member for the neighbouring seat of Melbourne, Adam Bandt, says the issue is confirmation the voters of Batman need a different representative.

Voters in Batman need honesty, not the Labor party … the people need a local over someone who doesn’t even live in the seat.

Feeney lives in Bandt’s electorate but says he bought the property in Northcote to honour an election commitment to live in the electorate. He says planned renovations have prevented he and his wife from moving in.

I’ve racked my mind how this omission came to be, I was elected in September 2013 and bought in December 2013 and in that maelstrom of events I failed to update my register. We had the former prime minister Tony Abbott in precisely the same circumstances having to update his register for his mortgage.

Oh dear, if you’re invoking Abbott’s actions to justify your own, aren’t you in a bit of trouble?

I’m not saying it as an excuse, just making the point it occurs.

Is human error a reasonable basis for his oversight? Bandt acknowledges there are oversights when it comes to some gifts, or switching superannuation accounts.

Australia lost a premier over a bottle of wine, what happen to someone who doesn’t declare a $2m house?

Will Feeney stop negatively gearing the property if Labor introduces its policy to wind it back?

If your point is that I am campaigning against my own economic interests than that is true.

Our intention is to make our home in Northcote our family home and when that happens it ceases to be an investment.


He may not be allowed in the leaders’ forum but Richard Di Natale always has his own town-hall style events:

Talking with folks in Granville about the issues raised by the community - global warming & treatment of refugees

— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) May 17, 2016


Barnaby Joyce on Peter Dutton: 'We are an incredibly compassionate nation'

Barnaby Joyce has dodged a question about whether he agrees with Peter Dutton’s characterisation of refugees as illiterate and innumerate.

We are an incredibly compassionate nation … we are a strong nation, we are a good nation, I am very proud of the work we do in getting refugees in our nation and we do that in making sure they don’t arrive by sea because we don’t want to be responsible for people drowning.

We want to show our compassion by finding people who are under threat of their life somewhere else and giving them support of our nation and allowing them to come here.

That seems like a “no, I don’t agree”.

Joyce spoke in detail about the crashing milk price and the affect on dairy farmers but he has ruled out reinstating a levy on milk – there was a 10c levy in the Howard years.

I have the discussions with dairy farmers and, to be frank, the dairy farmers I have ben talking do not want a levy. What they want is that over the long term we have a sustainable industry and they believe the levy will not fly.

So what can the government do in the longer term?

We need to make sure we have a fresh milk market. We need to make sure they don’t sell off into another industry … for instance almonds.

But global prices have crashed, so where is the hope of recovery?

Global prices have a problem in regards to oversupply, particularly in Europe. In Asia we have had exponential growth … globally there is no trend for people to start drinking less milk.

Moving on to the “backpackers tax” which is of particular concern to farmers who hire backpackers, Joyce is asked if it is on hold or if it is dead.

The issue was we want to make sure we get the labour supply in, within that six months [of reviewing the tax] we have the capacity to go through this and if legislation is required we will have capacity to get it through.

Joyce treads lightly when asked if his personal view is that it should be scrapped:

One would presume further change is required in six months.


Everyone remembers (how could we forget) the furore about the Safe Schools anti-bullying program. The right of the Liberal party were up in arms parts of it have been watered down, or withdrawn, in the wake.

With the Greens closing in on the left flank on the party the Australian is questioning Labor candidates in seats at risk about various policies. The education spokeswoman for the opposition, Kate Ellis, has commented on Safe Schools on behalf of the questioned candidate, which the Aus has interpreted as a return to the original program.

We established the Safe Schools program and we think it does incredibly important work.

In contrast, the Liberals are cutting the program entirely next year. Given Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals are intent on ­pursuing their divisive plebiscite on marriage equality, it’s more important than ever before that LGBTI young people, and kids growing up in diverse families, are safe from bullying at school.


The former treasurer Peter Costello has raised his head to question the government’s superannuation policy, specifically the claim a proposed $1.6m limit on superannuation pension transfers is enough to generate four times the age pension for retirees, the Australian Financial Review reports.

When you work it out, that is on the assumption of a 5.5% return rate. That is what the government thinks you are going to get. Does it really think that? It is issuing bonds at 2[%].

The benchmark 10-year Australian government bond yield fell to 2.2% on Monday.

Costello said:

What is going to give in this situation? The first thing that will give is that you will run out of money and go back on the pension, or a part pension. That is what most people in Australia are going to do. The other thing is that many people are going to work for longer, beyond 65. They’ll put off their retirement.


From the blue light glamour of the campaign trail:

The Shorten plane has landed in Sydney @2GBNews @NewsTalk2UE #ausvotes #auspol

— Olivia Leeming (@olivialeeming) May 17, 2016


The shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, is on Radio National being asked about Peter Dutton’s comments that refugees are illiterate and will take Australian jobs.

Is he right?

No. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in Australia who have worked hard, who have educated themselves and their children and will be shaking their heads in disgust.

He owes an apology, and it’s not the Labor party, it’s to them.

Australia takes refugees for the right reasons, because of human reasons, but we have also benefited over the years from the contribution of refugees.

Most Australians would tell him he is just plain wrong.

MPs and candidates within the Labor party have been publicly taking issue with some elements of the party’s border protection policy. Malcolm Turnbull yesterday put the number of dissenters at 25, but Bowen is brushing it off.

Refugee policy will always be controversial, the Labor party is party of good people who want to do the right thing. Shadow cabinet, the incoming cabinet, is absolutely resolute in implementing our policy, it does involve turning back boats where necessary, it does involve off shore detention, it also involves increasing the refugee intake. Some people have different views but it will be the policy implemented by a Labor government.

Malcolm Turnbull, devoid of vision, has been left with nothing less than ridiculous scare campaigns.


Good morning

The day is dawning in an ugly way for both main parties with dog whistling, rogue candidates and questions about assets. The tempo is certainly increasing and after circling each other for 10 days the attacks are on the rise. I will be here to guide you through the battlefield until 8.30am when Katharine Murphy will take over as your squadron leader.

The big picture

The government are really hitting Labor hard over asylum seekers, harking back to the 2001 campaign. And 2010. And 2013. And most of the years in between. Anyway, enough about the Liberal party’s imagination when it comes to wedge politics. The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has polished up the dog whistle for an appearance on Sky News, Fairfax Media reports.

They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.

For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.

These people.

.@PeterDutton_MP says more refugees will take Australian's jobs or languish in unemployment queues #ausvotes #pmlive

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 17, 2016

Dutton was speaking about the Greens policy to increase Australia’s refugee intake to 50,000. Peta Credlin was also on the program, saying the Liberal party was “just as compassionate” about asylum seekers as the left.

Do not try and say my side of politics somehow is morally corrupt by wanting the intake to be paid for,” she said. “You’ve got to pay for it … my side of politics is just as generous as your side of politics. But the thing is we’re always left with the bill. And you want Australians to come with you on your humanitarian intake. You want Australians to support the level of intake. Because if you don’t, you get a feral outbreak, like [Pauline] Hanson, and you must not have that happen again.

Those comments are from the Australian which also quotes Credlin as saying Fairfax Media were reporting on her comments extensively because she chose News Corp Australia over them when becoming a commentator. The Aus, of course, a News Corp Australia newspaper – and the only outlet with a Credlin headline I can see this bright morning.

The government is also being helped in its asylum seeker line by an amping up of coverage on the issue in the tabloids. The Daily Telegraph has put the cost of running Manus Island at $985m and says only one in four asylum seekers have chosen to fly home.

The Tele has taken the line that the cost is the asylum seeker’s fault and has Dutton saying they have a “stark choice” – to go home or be settled in Papua New Guinea – and “they will never be settled in Australia”.

The Telegraph is also saying two refugees have been “bashed” by locals after a “drug-fuelled rampage”. The story says the pair were beaten up by private security guards after trying to steal a television and smashing items.

The men are facing charges of assault, theft and wilful damage. The report does not say if the people who beat them up were charged.

The Labor MP for Batman, David Feeney, is set to give his party a tough day after it was revealed he “forgot” to declare a $2.3m investment property which is negatively geared. A gift for the Liberals, as well as the Greens – who are putting Feeney under great pressure in the Melbourne seat.

Feeney bought the property in Northcote in 2013.

On the campaign trail

Malcolm Turnbull will wake in Cairns in far north Queensland after spending yesterday in campaigning in Darwin. Bill Shorten is back in Sydney.

The campaign you should be watching

Macarthur covers most of the Campbelltown area in south-western Sydney and is on what the election analyst Antony Green calls the New South Wales “mortgage beltway”. Here people vote for either party and the “bread-and-butter issues” resonate. These voters care about the national economy and certain issues but are also busy with their own lives so are not completely engaged.

Along with Queensland’s mortgage beltway, it is where the Coalition can expect to win or lose this election.

Macarthur is held by the Liberal MP Russell Matheson, who was first elected in 2010. A redistribution has reduced his margin from 11.4% to 3.3%. The Liberal party has held the seat for 20 years but Labor now has a strong chance of winning it back.

And another thing(s)

Lenore Taylor has penned a thoughtful essay about Malcolm Turnbull, the man he has become to win power and the type of leader he could be. It’s a long, illuminating read and examines how and why voters have seen a different prime minister to the Turnbull they thought they were getting:

And it’s probably partly about the realities of governing – a fiendishly difficult thing, especially taking the prime ministership many years after you’ve last dealt with the day-to-day pressures of detailed policy work while facing a demanding media cycle. Especially when your predecessor has – as one Turnbull insider put it – ‘shredded everything’.

And it’s part the product of unrealistic expectations, from progressives who somehow thought Turnbull’s stated position on things like marriage equality or climate change or the republic might translate to a broader common cause and from voters who seemed to hope subbing in one bloke they quite liked might somehow change everything they hated about the dumbed-down busted-up political system.

You’re not allowed to mention the gap between the rich and poor without being accused of class warfare but Michelle Grattan has broken down an interesting Essential poll about class perceptions over at the Conversation.

The poll found 81% of those surveyed believe social classes still exist in Australia; 48% identified themselves as middle class and a third – 34% – as working class. Just 2% were willing to describe themselves as upper class.

Grattan wrote about how these findings fit into Labor’s campaign narrative on Turnbull.

Such basic figures indicate the sub-soil that Labor is seeking to tap into when it paints Malcolm Turnbull as a wealthy toff out of touch with the average person. They also highlight why Peta Credlin’s description of Turnbull last week as “Mr Harbourside Mansion” is seen as so potentially damaging.

In the continuing “look I’m a normal bloke, I drink beer at the pub” campaign

A great nation when the PM can end a busy day with a quiet beer in a pub in Cairns @janeenorman @annikasmethurst

— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) May 17, 2016



Katharine Murphy and Bridie Jabour

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Parliament winds up business to await treasurer's speech – as it happened
It’s budget day in the national capital

Katharine Murphy and Melissa Davey and Helen Davidson

03, May, 2016 @9:19 AM

Article image
Australian election campaign: day 11 – as it happened
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten spend day 11 of the campaign in New South Wales after a particularly ugly day 10. Follow all the latest updates here

Katharine Murphy and Bridie Jabour

19, May, 2016 @5:54 AM

Article image
'Barnaby Joyce is loose and dangerous,' says Shorten – as it happened
Shorten questions whether Joyce is an appropriate choice for deputy PM; Nova Peris says ‘no one should judge’ her after quitting Senate. All the latest campaign news with Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy and Melissa Davey

26, May, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Today's campaign: first leaders' debate set as focus turns to economy
Election 2016: Chris Bowen says Labor will deliver a mini-budget to preserve credit rating as Shorten and Turnbull prepare to meet on Friday

Bridie Jabour

09, May, 2016 @9:54 PM

Article image
The day in politics: Credlin says Abbott has caused not one scintilla of grief this campaign – as it happened
Justice minister made claims about Labor’s candidate in Cowan, the anti-radicalisation expert Anne Aly, but would not discuss them with her live on radio. Follow the day’s developments with Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy and Helen Davidson (earlier)

23, Jun, 2016 @7:26 AM

Article image
Bill Shorten calls for independent review of superannuation changes – as it happened
Opposition leader says people need reassurance that the changes promised by the Coalition in the election campaign will not be retrospective

Gabrielle Chan

11, Jul, 2016 @5:43 AM

Article image
Turnbull refuses to condemn or support Dutton's comments on South African farmers
Prime minister praises Australia’s ‘non-discriminatory’ refugee policies when asked if he supports minister’s position

Ben Doherty

16, Mar, 2018 @4:14 AM

Article image
Bronwyn Bishop says she was asked to resign the speakership to protect Tony Abbott – politics live
It’s the day after the budget and the government launches its traditional big sell. All the measures, and all the reaction from Canberra

Katharine Murphy

04, May, 2016 @7:59 AM

Article image
The day on the campaign trail: Coalition announces $2.3bn in savings – as it happened
Scott Morrison says the Coalition will improve the budget position by $1.1bn; Coalition’s corporate tax cuts to flow overseas, report finds. All the developments live, with Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy and Helen Davidson (earlier)

28, Jun, 2016 @8:01 AM

Article image
Australian election 2016: expect more frequent storms, says Turnbull – politics live
The prime minister talks flood relief and climate change in Tasmania as Bill Shorten begins his tour of the floods. Follow all the developments with Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy and Calla Wahlquist (earlier)

09, Jun, 2016 @5:36 AM