What we learned today, Tuesday 17 May

A Current Affair’s Tracy Grimshaw grilled the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on his life as a bulldozer, while the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, was roasted over his party’s costings. Now this campaign is really cooking with gas. Or coal, or solar.

In today’s headlines:

Amy Remeikis will be curating your feed tomorrow morning, including Albanese’s appearance at the National Press Club. And the whole Guardian Australia team will be keeping things on the boil.


And an update from Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s camp:

Anthony Albanese’s travelling press pack is in Canberra tonight (the Bush Capital) ahead of his address to the National Press Club tomorrow. Sydney tomorrow night and then a wild ride expected to polling day on Saturday @FinancialReview

— Tom McIlroy (@TomMcIlroy) May 17, 2022

The main theme of that A Current Affair interview with prime minister Scott Morrison was based on his admission that he could be “a bit of a bulldozer”, and that he would change the way he does things. Scott Morrison 2.0 was born. But he bulldozed his way through the interview with “no regrets”.

The prime ministerial mystery tour continues:

The press pack following Scott Morrison’s campaign has touched down at Avalon Airport, just outside Geelong #Auspol #AusVotes2022

— Dan Jervis-Bardy (@D_JervisBardy) May 17, 2022

A celebrity endorsement for Sophie Scamps, the independent candidate for MackellarKamahl!

The people that you meet at prepoll! A huge thank you to Kamahl for his support today at Warriewood! #mackellarvotes #AusVotes2022 #auspol pic.twitter.com/eD96Dcagc1

— Dr Sophie Scamps (@SophieScamps) May 17, 2022


'Jobkeeper saved the country': PM

And the final question is the one I previewed earlier – did you over-egg it when you said you saved the country? (Grimshaw lists everything from not holding a hose to the vaccine strollout to the rapid test shortage to the China-Solomon Islands deal). Morrison says:

That’s quite a long list you’ve been able to pull together, but let me say this: we’ve come through this pandemic better than almost any other country in the world. Jobkeeper saved the country, and that’s what I’m specifically referring to, and if you don’t think it did, then you can have that argument with the 800,000 people who kept a job as a result of that.

He also credits the funding for apprenticeships, university places, shutting the borders, and so on:

That ensured that we did not have the death rate that was the experience in other countries. I acknowledge constantly the great resilience and strength of Australians, and I backed them in, together with Josh Frydenberg and my whole team and that’s how Australia survived, by backing in Australians, and our policies do that.

Sure, I have my critics [and] not everything that we did worked perfectly, but I can tell you, when you stack up, Tracy, what we were able to do in Australia compared to the countries around the world, our economic plan has worked.

Morrison gets in a final dig about the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, being a “loose unit” (he’s very sure that works), and it’s finished.


Good question from Grimshaw: How does getting boomers out of their four and five bedroom homes help first-time buyers in a much smaller market? If you take boomers out of their big homes, they are going to be looking in ... the same smaller, more affordable market that’s already overheated by first-time buyers.

Morrison says:

I think you’re misunderstanding the downsizing. We are talking about people who may have bought very modest homes ... three bedroom homes in suburbs like Guildford or Moonee Ponds. These are people who are able to downsize [and there will be] more housing stock on the market.


Morrison says that the plan to take money out of super actually keeps it in their super (yes.):

It keeps it in superannuation because you have to take the proceeds of the sale and put it back into your super. It’s not like earlier proposals that people have put forward in the past.

The difference here is that when you sell the house or perhaps ... if you choose to refinance, you take the capital, and the appreciated amount, and you put it back into your super.


Grimshaw pushes Morrison on the claim that super is people’s money... it’s for when they retire, she says. Morrison says:

I’m sorry, it is their money. It is their money. It’s not owned by the super fund, it’s not owned by the government, it belongs to them.

On the Coalition policy to let people raid their superannuation to buy a house, Grimshaw asks Morrison about the supply side. He says they’re dealing with that:

People buy new homes, they build new homes.


Grimshaw is pressing Morrison on the “bulldozer” descriptor.

Morrison says:

As prime minister [you] need to be able to have strength, you must have strength. The situations we are dealing with, whether it’s the Chinese government and their coercion of our economic interests and their pushing in to our region – you gotta have a strong prime minister. You can’t have weakness.


Morrison also says he has “no regrets” about cancelling the French submarine contract:

This was one of the most difficult agreements that Australia has ever been able to secure, and there is no easy way to tell a partner in the French government that they are no longer going to have a $90bn submarine contract.


Morrison says he “did the right thing on the day” when he refused to meet with women who were marching on Canberra. Asked about his women’s issues, he says:

Our policies, I think, have been very much focused on the practical issues. I accept that at times people may not have liked my language [but] the actual policies that we put in place have been getting very strong results.


Grimshaw: What could you have done differently?


I think I could have certainly been more sensitive at times, there is no doubt about that, that in terms of actual policy decisions, the one that I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I wish that I’d been, in hindsight ... if I’d been able to bring in [the military for the vaccine rollout] – we were doing it through the Health Department first – if we’d done it earlier ... I think that would have made a difference.

But that said, as always [there are] things, when you look back, that you learn from. But when things don’t go to plan, what we always sought to do as a government was to get back on it, fix what needed to be fixed, set the course right and get on with it.


Scott Morrison interviewed on A Current Affair

Scott Morrison is talking to A Current Affair’s Tracy Grimshaw. Her first question is about how long he’s known he’s a bulldozer (!).

Morrison says he’s been like that for quite some time:

That has been very necessary, over the last number of years, and going back to when I had to stop the boats. There have been a lot of difficult jobs that I’ve had in politics and you’ve got to have the determination to push through and that can be a very handy thing to be able to achieve when, particularly, you are in a crisis.

The exciting thing about the next three years is we were standing at the edge of the best during the course of the pandemic and now we are standing at the edge of a lot of opportunity.


Former prime minister John Howard has been put to work as the Liberal party hopes to trigger fond memories, Elias Visontay reports:


Psephologist Kevin Bonham’s take on the latest Resolve poll:

#Resolve 52-48 to ALP. L-NP 34 ALP 31 Green 14 ON 6 UAP 4 IND 6 other 4. Green + perhaps IND seem suspiciously high here. I get 51.8 by last-election preferences.

Cautions: not an APC member, not publicly tested at elections, forces undecided voters to pick party or exit. https://t.co/u6Qnhn5QmT

— Kevin Bonham (@kevinbonham) May 17, 2022

A teaser for tonight’s A Current Affair says host Tracy Grimshaw asks Scott Morrison:

Do you think you slightly over-egged the part about ‘I saved the country’?

Here’s a flashback to the last time the two went head to head, from Amanda Meade:


Yet another complaint lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission over campaign shenanigans – Natasha May reports:

A man has been arrested after police issued emergency declarations across two Brisbane suburbs.

Police were called to Hamley Street in Wooloowin around 1pm on Tuesday after a number of “suspicious items” were located there, sparking an emergency declaration to be issued under the Public Safety Preservation Act.

Police said “the exclusion zone” included 100m surrounding Hamley Street, including Adamson and Kedron streets.

Police have urged members of the public to avoid the area and for those within the exclusion zone to remain indoors until further notice.

A second emergency declaration has been issued for a number of streets in Coorparoo, including Stanley Street East, Tiber Street, Halifax Street, Milsom Street, Adina Street, Norman Avenue, Rome Street and Thackery Street.

It remains unclear what the suspicious items were.

Police have asked anyone with further information to contact Policelink by providing information using the online suspicious activity form.


A couple of snaps of the campaign trail action from AAP:

Scott Morrison plays carpet bowls at the Palmerston 50+ Tuesday Club in Darwin, in the seat of Solomon
Scott Morrison plays carpet bowls at the Palmerston 50+ Tuesday Club in Darwin, in the seat of Solomon. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Anthony Albanese and WA premier Mark McGowan visit the Metronet Manufacturing facility in Perth
Anthony Albanese and WA premier Mark McGowan (right) visit the Metronet Manufacturing facility in Perth. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Today’s postcards from the campaign trail are in. Daniel Hurst, Josh Butler and Paul Karp have everything you need to know in the election briefing:

In a hard-hitting edition of A Current Affair, Tracy Grimshaw grills Scott Morrison tonight at 7pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.

With the federal election just four days away, and up to 1 in 4 voters undecided, viewers won’t want to miss this must-watch interview with the prime minister.


Josh Butler has been battling to get those texts, which were meant to be reports on his work:

Paul Karp has been on the road with the media pack following Scott Morrison. He’s giving Jane Lee the lowdown in today’s Campaign catchup:


7,873 Australians have died of Covid:

This daily 📅 infographic provides a quick view of the current coronavirus (#COVID19) situation in Australia 🇦🇺

Find out more here 💻 https://t.co/YcsPBOUfPb pic.twitter.com/H9OkntBjQ1

— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) May 17, 2022

Paterson says there was a risk the deal would be leaked, and indeed some details were, and it had to be revealed to as few people as possible:

Because it was highly classified and highly sensitive negotiations that by the very nature of it couldn’t be revealed any more than on a need-to-know basis until it was signed, sealed and delivered.


Liberal senator defends timing of briefing Labor on Aukus

Next up is Liberal senator James Paterson, who chairs the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. That’s particularly relevant because prime minister Scott Morrison didn’t fully brief Labor on the Aukus deal with the US and the UK.

Paterson says:

To the reporting that suggests that there was a requirement to inform Labor many months in advance, the prime minister has emphatically denied that that was ever asked by the United States. And it wouldn’t have made any sense anyway because at that point, only the prime minister and a handful of core and key ministers were aware of the deal.

Subsequently the national security committee of cabinet was informed, but the entire cabinet wasn’t informed until much closer to the announcement and it would be utterly absurd to inform the opposition leader and his team before the full elected cabinet of the Australian government was informed.


Kelly asks Sharkie what she thinks about the competing housing policies from the major parties. Neither of them deal with the housing supply shortage, she says, and she’s not seeing anything substantial to deal with homelessness.

Sharkie confirms she would speak to the Coalition first, in the case of a hung parliament. She says she’s disappointed in both parties, and has several issues on her mind, but:

It is not a partisan view, I would talk with the government in the first place because they are the incumbent government.

Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie is up now. She tells the ABC’s Fran Kelly that she doesn’t think a hung parliament is likely. The polls haven’t narrowed, she says, but either way she’s keen to give more pensioners the chance to work by changing the work test:

A hung parliament or not, I want to take this legislation to the parliament. So this is on the back of the work the national seniors have done around allowing pensioners to work.

If pensioners are going back into the workforce, even part-time, they would actually be putting money into the tax system, so I can’t see why the two major parties are not backing in the national seniors plan.


The ABC’s Greg Jennett puts it to Husic that Labor’s deficits would be higher than the Coalition’s.

“I don’t think you’re right,” Husic says. (Labor will release its costings on Thursday.)

Labor wanted to see the Coalition campaign launch first, he says, and that came “late”.


Labor’s Ed Husic is on the ABC talking about local manufacturing, after leader Anthony Albanese announced $1.5bn for medical manufacturing earlier today. Husic says they will prioritise local manufacturing but won’t be “closed minded” about it.

He says:

As we saw through the pandemic, the things we needed, particularly when our backs were against the wall, from a medical perspective – ventilators, PPE, medicine themselves – are really important, and we had big supply-chain vulnerabilities.


Video: Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese’s super fight on costings:


Coalition pledges $11m to fight gamba grass threat

There’s been another environmental announcement today, this time from the Coalition, which is promising to tackle the threat of gamba grass in northern Australia.

Late last month, Labor announced $9.8m to address the highly invasive weed, which grows to four metres, fuels hotter and more dangerous fires and is acknowledged as one of the most destructive threats to the savannas of the Northern Territory. At the time, conservation groups described the commitment as a potential game-changer.

Lingiari is a battleground seat in this campaign and the Coalition today has gone slightly further, committing $11m for programs focused on managing and eradicating gamba grass.

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, says a “Tackling Gamba Grass Fund” will fund grants for local communities, traditional owners, environmental scientists and Parks Australia.

She says the money will fund work on the ground as well as in new science and research projects to find a long-term solution to stop the spread of the weed.

The fund is in addition to recently announced gamba grass projects in Litchfield National Park and northern Western Australia and a $450,000 partnership with Territory Natural Resource Management to tackle gamba grass around Arnhem Land.

Ley said:

The Morrison government has prioritised pest and weed control as a key part of our threatened species strategy.

We will identify more priority sites and deliver more equipment, tools and herbicides to remove this weed.

Environment groups welcomed the announcement and the emergence of cross-party support for addressing the gamba grass “crisis”.

Dave Liddle, of the Environment Centre NT, says the funding has the potential to turn things around:

Finally we are seeing funding commitments from all parties which match the scale of the gamba problem and give us a chance to get on top of the gamba crisis for the first time.

Land management technician Steph Rouse spraying pesticide on invasive gamba grass on Darwin’s outskirts last year
Land management technician Steph Rouse spraying pesticide on invasive gamba grass on Darwin’s outskirts last year. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP


Littleproud will also not be drawn on whether Scott Morrison’s lack of popularity is a drag on the vote, saying:

He put a few noses out of joint ... but he got stuff done. This guy’s got a bit of ticker.

(The word “ticker” has barely been heard since about 2005, when former prime minister John Howard said Labor’s Kim Beazley didn’t “have the ticker” for the top job.)


Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud is refusing to be drawn on whether money being splashed around in the regions is anything to do with the “quid pro quo” over its deal with the Liberal party on reaching net zero (despite Sky News host Kieran Gilbert’s best efforts).

Littleproud says his party’s not taking anything for granted in Queensland, and that there’s “growing unease” about the chances of Australia “sleepwalking” into an Albanese government.

And on his colleague senator Matt Canavan declaring the net zero target was “dead”, Littleproud says:

Matt has his own view, it’s not one that the National party agrees with.


The Australian Council of Trade Unions says it has done the maths on the Coalition’s costings (NB: the Coalition is unlikely to agree with their conclusion):

MEDIA RELEASE: Morrison announces 5,500 job cuts in final days of campaign. pic.twitter.com/duy7WZa6Ar

— Australian Unions (@unionsaustralia) May 17, 2022

In case you missed it earlier, here’s Sarah Martin’s piece on those public service cuts:


One in five Australians risked going to work while experiencing Covid-19 symptoms in order to make ends meet, research has found.

The Australia Institute surveyed 1,000 people in February and almost 20% admitted they left their homes “to the detriment of their own health and the health of their colleagues and the broader community”.

That percentage was higher among young employees (29%), who feared they couldn’t work from home, even while sick with the virus, in order to keep their jobs.

The institute’s Centre for Future Work director, Jim Stanford, said millions of workers had either used up their paid sick leave or were not entitled to sick pay:

There is no doubt this has contributed to the epidemic of people attending work with possible Covid symptoms.

More than a third of employed Australians have no access to statutory paid sick leave entitlements, including casual and self-employed workers.

The researchers called for governments to expand sick pay entitlements to cover all workers, including those in casual employment and the self-employed.

(Via Australian Associated Press)

A healthcare worker collects a Covid swab at a testing site in Melbourne
A healthcare worker collects a Covid swab at a testing site in Melbourne. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP


Remember that part of the election campaign that was all about wage rises? Was it... last week?

Paul Karp reports that prime minister Scott Morrison has loosened up on the “loose unit” language:

Re: that post below about Howard – if this is the highlight, I won’t hustle too much.

#Breaking: Former Prime Minister John Howard has told Sky News he doesn’t think Scott Morrison is seen as unpopular.

— David Sharaz (@SharazDavid) May 17, 2022


Thanks so much to Amy Remeikis. I wish I was better at heeding her calls for self care.

But with only 4.5 days left, I reckon I’m gonna make it. OK, let’s see what this afternoon has in store. I just saw the tail end of an interview with former prime minister John Howard on Sky News. I’ll bring you that once I find the clip. Poor guy’s been wheeled out quite a bit on this campaign.


The campaigns are both on the move, with 4.5 days to go.

The wonderful Tory Shepherd will take you through the afternoon. I will be back with you early tomorrow morning.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with me today – and for those who have asked me questions, I am doing my best to get back to everyone. Until tomorrow – take care of you Ax


It’s an empty chair situation.

The only election forum to dig into First Nations issues ahead of Saturday's poll. #NITV asked the major parties for a representative to speak to what’s on offer for Indigenous voters.@LindaBurneyMP & @SenatorThorpe will join.

The Coalition couldn’t give us anyone. ⁠ pic.twitter.com/0fckF8KaXn

— NITV (@NITV) May 17, 2022


There was talk the Reserve Bank of Australia was going to wait for the data we are getting over the next few days before making its rate decision, but obviously it moved ahead of those releases. But it will feed into the Fair Work Commission’s decision.

And it can have an impact on whether or not the RBA raises rates again.


It’s a big week for economic news. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will report the March quarter wages data tomorrow.

April’s unemployment rate will be out on Thursday, and on Friday the ABS will report how many businesses have opened and closed as well as the number of trading businesses and the rates of survival.

Labor is slated to announce its costings on Thursday.


Victoria’s new Aboriginal social and wellbeing centre has launched in Melbourne in a bid to provide culturally appropriate mental health services.

The centre, led by the Victorian Aboriginal community controlled health organisation, was a key recommendation in the state’s royal commission into mental health which handed down its final report in February last year.

Victoria’s mental health minister, James Merlino, said the state government was putting Indigenous communities “front and centre in redesigning our state’s mental health system”.

The acting Aboriginal affairs minister, Ros Spence, said the government was committed to ensuring First Nations communities had the “resources and the skills to continue to care for their communities”.

Victoria’s mental health minister James Merlino.
Victoria’s mental health minister James Merlino. Photograph: James Ross/AAP


Simon Birmingham is pleased with how that press conference ended.

(FWIW, Anthony Albanese said at a couple of press conferences everyone would get a question, but he didn’t commit to doing it the whole campaign.)

Mr Albanese started the campaign saying he would answer every question. Now he storms out of press conferences.

Labor’s first ad said all policies were costed. Yet 4 days until #ausvotes  & none have been.

Mr Albanese’s not up to the job of PM. Don’t risk his weak leadership. pic.twitter.com/Xn39NFqmvV

— Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) May 17, 2022


Albanese pressed on Labor costings ahead of Thursday announcement

Anthony Albanese was tailed through a manufacturing complex by reporters and cameras in Perth after abruptly ending a brief but fiery press conference where he refused on multiple occasions to share any details of Labor’s election costings.

Wrapping the press conference after just 10 minutes of questions, Albanese ended the media opportunity as journalists kept yelling questions. Walking away to another part of the complex, Albanese was followed by reporters and cameras, before walking through a door that was closed behind him by a security guard.

“We have a couple more announcements to go. We have until Saturday, but we will be releasing our costings announcement on Thursday,” Albanese said during the press conference.

Asked whether it was “fair” for voters to only get two days to digest Labor’s financial projections before Saturday’s election, Albanese said Labor has “been transparent throughout the election campaign about those issues”.

Albanese’s public appearances for the day are now done, after he wrapped the press conference at 11am Perth time.

WA premier Mark McGowan, who joined Albanese at the press conference, remarked on the fiery end to the media opportunity as cameras tailed Albanese while he walked off

“I will just wait until this madness finishes … This is very odd,” he said as he prepared to take a set of questions from the remaining journalists.


National Covid summary

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 66 deaths from Covid-19:


  • Deaths: 1
  • Cases: 1,129
  • In hospital: 80 (with 5 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 16
  • Cases: 10,972
  • In hospital: 1,442 (with 59 people in ICU)

Northern Territory

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 347
  • In hospital: 21 (with 2 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 12
  • Cases: 6,270
  • In hospital: 492 (with 14 people in ICU)

South Australia

  • Deaths: 2
  • Cases: 3,773
  • In hospital: 246 (with 7 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 1
  • Cases: 1,216
  • In hospital: 40 (with 1 person in ICU)


  • Deaths: 20
  • Cases: 13,694
  • In hospital: 516 (with 31 people in ICU)

Western Australia

  • Deaths: 14
  • Cases: 15,674
  • In hospital: 325 (with 11 people in ICU)

Labor promises to restore funding to Environmental Defenders Office

Labor has promised to restore funding to the legal firm the Environmental Defenders Office, which had its funding abruptly terminated by the Abbott government in 2013.

The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, and Labor’s environment spokesperson, Terri Butler, say Labor, if elected, will commit to $8m over four years for the specialist legal centre.

The termination of the EDO’s commonwealth funding in 2013 ended decades of bipartisan funding support. The EDO was also excluded from the restoration of federal funding to other community legal centres in 2015.

Dreyfus and Butler said the EDO had a history of fighting for Australians “who want to uphold our laws, to enforce their legal rights, and to protect Australia’s precious natural assets”.

Mr Morrison has continued Tony Abbott’s destructive, anti-environmental policies at the expense of farmers and other regional Australians, First Nations people, Australia’s precious natural environment and the agricultural, tourism and other vital industries a healthy environment supports.

Labor believes all Australians, and especially those living in regional and remote Australia and First Nations people, should be able to have their rights defended in court.

The EDO has a history of taking groundbreaking legal challenges to court. It is currently representing youth organisation Youth Verdict in a challenge to Clive Palmer’s Galilee coal project. The case is the first to challenge a coal mine on First Nations human rights grounds in Australia.

David Morris, the EDO’s chief executive, welcomed the funding promise and said it was acknowledgement of the work the legal service undertook in the public interest.

Many Australians – particularly in remote and regional areas - can’t access legal support on environmental issues, due to either a lack of services in their area, or the prohibitive costs of legal advice.

We provide an expert service to people who could otherwise not afford lawyers, enabling them to scrutinise and challenge decisions and actions of powerful interests which affect the environment.


Given the focus on costings and how the Anthony Albanese press conference ended (being chased over costings questions), Labor’s Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher are trying to get ahead of the attacks, releasing this statement:

The facts on the Morrison Government’s wasteful spending speak for themselves –

  • The Morrison Government has taxed more, spent more and borrowed more than their Labor predecessor, but delivered much less.
  • The Liberals are taxing more than the last Labor Government by every measure – in total, as a proportion of the economy, per person and adjusted for inflation.
  • Taxes have been higher every single year under this Liberal Government than the level inherited from Labor.
  • They are the second highest taxing government of the past thirty years – the highest was under John Howard.
  • While they try to make a virtue of their tax-to-GDP cap, the fact is that the current cap has only been breached four times since Federation, and on every single occasion it was under the Liberals.
  • The Liberals are spending more than their predecessor by $230 billion this year compared to the last Labor Government in 2013.
  • Spending as a proportion of the economy averaged 24.9 per cent under the last Labor Government, but that’s risen to 26.5 per cent under the Liberals.
  • The Liberal Government announced $70 billion in spending between the December update and the March Budget alone, without offsets.
  • The Liberal Government committed $39 billion in its Budget without offsets.
  • Analysis in the media indicates that the Liberals made $23.3 billion of announcements in the month after the 2022 Budget – which equates to $833 million a day.
  • After promising surpluses in the first and every year, the Liberal Government has delivered more consecutive deficits than any government since the 1920s.

With this record, it’s not surprising that the Liberals doubled the debt before the pandemic began.


New Zealand set for climate election fight in 2023

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, a climate battle is whirring up ahead of next year’s election, as AAP reports:

Next year’s New Zealand election looms as a brawl over climate policy after the opposition National party signalled stark disagreement with the government’s emissions reduction plan.

On Monday, Jacinda Ardern’s government released a plan four years in the making, from its introduction of the Zero Carbon Act in 2018.

That law created the independent Climate Change Commission (CCC) to advise on emissions budgets and proposals to cut greenhouse gas use, all which fed into $NZ2.9bn ($A2.62bn) worth of proposals revealed this week.

The government will offer a cash-for-clunkers scheme to allow poorer Kiwis to trade in dirtier cars, plant native forests, invest in decarbonisation and fund research to reduce agricultural emissions as it attempts to stay true to its international climate pledges.

The plan has been panned by academics and Greenpeace for its timidity, and somewhat surprisingly, the National party for corporate handouts.

“The taxpayer shouldn’t be subsidising big corporates to make emissions reductions,” opposition leader Chris Luxon said.

“Big corporates should be able to do that right now. They need to get ahead and get on with that program.”

Luxon says the plan contains “plenty of mush”, pointing to an analysis by news outlet Stuff which revealed over half of the 284 “actions” in the plan were in fact “plans to make other plans”.

However, there’s no fight over the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Luxon says National are “big big believers” in New Zealand’s international obligations and the emissions budgets that will see emissions peak before 2025 and drastically decline over the next decade.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern’s government has announced its climate plan.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern’s government has announced its climate plan. Photograph: Reuters


That press conference ended with Anthony Albanese leaving as questions were still being yelled about costings, and some journalists attempted to follow him.

Josh Butler was there and will have more for you

And the press conference ends.

Q: Is it fair for Australian voters to release it on Thursday? Does that give them enough time to be able to digest what you are offering and for us to scrutinise it?

Anthony Albanese:

Let’s be very clear here. You have an $80bn deficit at the moment. You have $1tn of debt. You had $70bn expended by this government.

You have our announcements, every single one of them, we have put a costing on. We’ve been transparent throughout the election campaign about those issues.

And the other thing that we have done in terms of fiscal responsibility is point out how fiscally irresponsible it is of the government to be promoting a policy which will lead to increased numbers of people potentially being reliant upon the pension, rather than their own superannuation savings. And I’ll conclude with this point: the costings and expenditures which we have made have been responsible.

They pale into insignificance compared with the waste and the rorts that are riddled through this budget: $5.5bn on French subs is more ... than any of the commitments that we have made during this election campaign, the largest of which is for childcare.

It was hard hats and high-vis at Anthony Albanese’s press conference at the Metronet Manufacturing facility in Perth today.
It was hard hats and high-vis at Anthony Albanese’s press conference at the Metronet Manufacturing facility in Perth today. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Q: Do you know whether your projected deficit is higher or lower than the Coalition’s?

Anthony Albanese:

We will announce that on Thursday. There’s no point announcing it now ... I want you to be there on Thursday. I don’t want to disappoint you.


Q: This morning, you mentioned your childcare policy. You said that there would be a return to government in productivity increases. Could you please detail the productivity increases you expect, separate from participation, which is well understood.

Anthony Albanese:

Thank you. Childcare does two things. One is ... workforce participation increases, so that you remove the disincentive that is there structurally towards women working a fourth or a fifth day at work. What that means is that those women have greater career opportunities to advance.

That means they earn more income. That means they pay more tax. That also means that the businesses, which is why our policy is supported so strongly by business, get productivity improvements. Because when you have a greater input in terms of the capacity of the workforce, that is one of the ways in which productivity grows. So this is if for individuals, it’s also good for businesses in terms of the growth which is there. This provides a considerable economic incentive ... participation is a good thing.


Q: You’ve said you’re going to be a prime minister who answers the questions. You’ve been asked this morning about deficits, higher or lower, and haven’t answered it ... Aren’t you doing exactly what you accused the prime minister of – not being transparent?

Anthony Albanese:

Not at all. And I’ll be at the National Press Club tomorrow.

Our costings policy will be released on Thursday. We’ve been very clear about that. But we’ve also, with every single announcement that we’ve made, we’ve attached dollars to it.


Q: You spoke admiringly today of modern Labor economics. Doesn’t the fact bear true that Keating cut manufacturing tariffs, exposing the industry to competition? What you’re doing is exposing the market.

Anthony Albanese:

What we’re doing here is providing a fund ... similar to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation model that has worked incredibly effectively, backing Australian industry, backing Australian jobs. This here works. And let me tell you what doesn’t work. It’s building a train that won’t fit on a station.


Q: The World Health Organization next week is meeting. On the agenda is clearly the formulation of what’s called a pandemic treaty, which will give the WHO greater control in how they dictate [how] other countries manage pandemics. Would you sign up to such a treaty?

Anthony Albanese:

What we have said is that we need, clearly, to strengthen the WHO and the way that it operates. One of our three pillars of our foreign policy is our alliance with the United States, engagement in the region, and support for multilateral forums. Today, one of the things that we’re about as well, and today’s announcement is about the response of the pandemic. That’s why we’re announcing today our support for medical manufacturing.

Clearly, one of the lessons of the pandemic is that we weren’t self-reliant enough.

People line up for Covid testing in Wuhan in China on Monday.
People line up for Covid testing in Wuhan in China on Monday. Photograph: Getty Images


Q: Mr Albanese, can you confirm the Labor deficit will be higher than the one unveiled by the Coalition today? Given that you’re running on bringing more transparency to government, do you think it’s fair for voters to go to the polls with less than 48 hours knowing what your detailed costings are just because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Anthony Albanese:

It is the way that it has always been done, including by the Coalition in 2010 and 2013. We can do without the interjections. You ask a question, and I answer it.

... Are you finished? When you’re finished, I’ll answer it. What we will do is outline all of our costings, all of our costings will be outlined on Thursday.


Q: The government has announced cumulative deficits over the next four years of $233 bn. Can you be fair dinkum with us and confirm that your deficits, over four years, that you’ll unveil on Thursday, will be higher?

Anthony Albanese:

We’ll unveil our plans on Thursday. But ...

Hang on. What we have done – throughout this campaign – let’s get real here. Let’s get real. This government made $70bn of announcements with no offsets. Not a dollar of offsets between December’s MYEFO and the March budget that they brought forward.

... Hang on. You get a chance to ask a question, then we have the answer. That’s the way it works, and everyone will be ... happier at home.

Q: You’re not giving us an answer.


Everyone will be happier at home. In terms of what this government has done is – $70 billion they have added. They will leave a legacy of $1tn of debt. Now, what we have done during this campaign is be responsible. We’ve been fiscally responsible in all of the statements that we’ve made, including today’s announcements ... We said what dollars would go, and we have done that throughout this campaign. We have a couple more announcements to go. We have until Saturday. But we will be releasing our costings announcement on Thursday.


Q: A disability employer here in Western Australia have announced they’re closing down their industrial work sites. As many as 700 disabled people may become unemployed. The government have, in their current NDIS plan, said they’re favouring mainstream employment for disabled people, as opposed to supported employment more like the industrial workshops. What’s Labor’s policy on that? Is your preference for mainstream or supported? And how does your NDIS plan address the issue of employment for people with disabilities?

Anthony Albanese:

Thanks very much. Look, this is a really serious issue. This is a serious issue that goes to the cuts that have occurred to the NDIS and goes to, as well, what has occurred in employment services.

This decision has been devastating for the people involved in those employment services, but also their families. This is a company that have been active in Western Australia for 70 years. They’ve survived all sorts of pressures, but they couldn’t survive the Morrison government.

We will do what we can to sit down and get advice about how these services can continue to operate. I know that, last night, families of people involved were ringing in to a radio interview I was doing on WA ABC here, expressing their real concern. This is about employment and engagement. It’s also the social interaction that comes with these services. And it is absolutely of real concern.

I’ve said, consistently, that the NDIS has one key difference between us and the government. That is, we understand that the NDIS is about people. It’s about the people who are involved in the scheme. And at the heart of it, what we want to do is, in all ways, encourage the fullest participation possible in society, including in employment, of people with a disability. What we understand is that that’s not only good for the people with disability – it’s also good for our Australian economy and for our society as well, to be inclusive. That’s our view.


Q: Will your costings be higher or lower than the $2.3bn that the Liberal party has outlined?

Anthony Albanese:

Our costings will be out on Thursday. They’ll be released at the same time that the last time that there was a change of government occurred. I’ll tell you what our costings won’t include – what they included on that couple of days before the election was $4.5bn of foreign aid cuts. We’ve seen how that damaged Australia’s standing in the region.


Over in the NT:

SBS Political Correspondent @ShubaSKrishnan tried to get the Prime Minister on why no one from the Coalition was available for NITV while campaigning in Lingiari (the seat with the highest percentage of Aboriginal voters in the country)

Here is the response. 👇🏽 👇🏽👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/B1PCjWu7GE

— Sarah Collard (@Sarah_Collard_) May 17, 2022

Anthony Albanese holds press conference

It is hard hats and Mark McGowan for Anthony Albanese’s press conference. The Labor leader says:

My friend the premier here has shown what good Labor governments can do. He has kept West Australians safe, understanding that you needed to get good health outcomes in order to get good economic outcomes. And what we’ve seen is that the West Australian economy has powered our national economy.

Mark McGowan has a vision for WA that includes making things here, and this is a demonstration of it.

Around Australia, Liberal governments have privatised, have contracted out, have sought to make rail and light rail and ships overseas, and imported them back.

Invariably, they haven’t been fit for purpose. We’ve had trains that are too long for the stations. We’ve had trains that can’t fit through tunnels. We’ve had the light rail line near me at the moment inoperable because you’ve got to get parts from Spain, so it shuts down for long periods of time.

You have ferries down the Parramatta River which are fine, except for if people stand on the top deck, they’re likely to be decapitated because of where the bridges are. It hasn’t worked. We need to make more things here.


The Reserve Bank of Australia has released the minutes from its 3 May board meeting when the central banks surprised almost everyone and lifted its cash rate target from the record low 0.1% to 0.35%.

At the time, some prominent economists including Gareth Aird at the CBA said the RBA would hold off until its June meeting because governor Philip Lowe had repeated how he wanted to see the March quarter CPI and data on wages before moving. As the latter was not out until 18 May (tomorrow), Aird and some others assumed the first rate rise would not happen until the June (post-election) board meeting.

Anyway, today’s release of the minutes suggest that the members only considered three options, and all of them were for a rate rise. The 15 basis points option (which most economists predicted) was one of them, a 25bp option (which nobody picked, but was what the bank opted for), and an even higher increase to 40bp.

The smaller of the three was rejected as that stance was deemed “very stimulatory”, and was also inconsistent with an historical practice of raise rates in 25 bp moves. (A little surprising that history should be a factor since that 0.1% was a record.)

In its minutes, the RBA said:

An argument for an increase of 40 basis points could be made given the upside risks to inflation and the current very low level of interest rates.

In the end, the board opted for 25bp since that size “would help signal that the Board was now returning to normal operating procedures after the extraordinary period of the pandemic”.

And anyway since the board meets every month (save January), the RBA would “have the opportunity to review the setting of interest rates again within a relatively short period of time”.

As we saw in an earlier post here today, investors are predicting the RBA’s cash rate to climb at a rapid pace, reaching 3% by next March.

Oh, and what about wages? Well in the end, Lowe and other board members were satisfied with what they saw from the bank’s “liaison program” that found “labour costs were rising at a faster pace and that this was likely to continue”.

Looking ahead, growth in the [WPI] was forecast to be around 3.75% by the end of the forecast period, which would be the fastest pace since 2012.

Since that meeting, though, we’ve also seen the RBA’s quarterly monetary policy statement, which noted that it won’t be until 2024 – according to its forecasts – that wages will rise faster than inflation.

Worth keeping in mind given the recent political debate over what the Fair Work Commission will recommend for pay rises for those on the minimum wage. We’ll know who’ll be making that decision tomorrow, with a verdict due in late May or early June.


If you can help Luke out, let him know

Call out: Would love to speak to people on jobseeker payment about looking for work right now. Particularly keen to speak with those with a chronic illness or disability, facing age discrimination, or caring responsibilities. DMs open or luke.henriques-gomes@theguardian.com

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) May 17, 2022

I wanted to wait until the transcript came out because I wanted to include the questions, and here they are. Josh Frydenberg was asked about the Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn today and the state move to expel him from the party.

Frydenberg was not impressed with having to answer these questions:

Q: Should Bernie Finn leave? Should Bernie Finn leave the Liberal party now over his abortion comments?

Frydenberg: It might surprise you. I’m not up with every comment that Bernie Finn, as a state member of parliament, has said.

Q: No, but you’re the leader of the Victorian branch of the Liberal party and you’d be aware of the comments.

Frydenberg: Well, firstly, let me just say this to you. Decisions about the membership of the state parliamentary party will be ones that you can put to Matthew Guy, not to the federal deputy leader and the treasurer and the member for Kooyong.

Q: But I’m told the federal branch been involved in this motion.

Frydenberg: Again, I would say on state parliamentary matters. You leave that to Matthew Guy.

Q: I’ve spoken to Mr. Guy.

Frydenberg: OK, good. And I will focus on the national.

Q: That’s what he, that’s what he told me.

Frydenberg: I will focus on the national scene ahead of the election in just a few days time.


There are 17,228,900 Australians enrolled to vote.

And a big chunk of them want this all over and done with.

More than 2.59 million people have now cast their vote at an #ausvotes2022 early voting centre. We've also received 2.56 million postal vote applications.

If you can't make it on Saturday, find your nearest early voting centre at https://t.co/pv99YKD0X2 (& check opening hours) pic.twitter.com/u4ra3Z1GJK

— AEC ✏️ (@AusElectoralCom) May 16, 2022

Yesterday it was housing and then darts with the over-50s.

Today it is housing and now tea with the over-50s

There’s a pattern emerging in the final week of Scott Morrison’s election campaign. After visiting a housing estate this morning, he’s meeting over-50s in Palmerston. @canberratimes pic.twitter.com/IUkRWJWIIH

— Dan Jervis-Bardy (@D_JervisBardy) May 17, 2022

Sarah Martin has your Coalition costings covered:

The Coalition says spending cuts across the public sector will deliver $3.3bn in savings to pay for its election commitments, as the government turns the pressure on Labor to submit its plans to Treasury for costing.

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and finance minister, Simon Birmingham, released the Coalition costings in Melbourne on Tuesday, revealing that the proposed increase to the public sector efficiency dividend and changes to super contributions would offset the $2.3bn in new spending promises made by the Coalition since the beginning of the election campaign.

This would deliver a $1bn improvement to the budget bottom line over the four-year forward estimates period, with $386m of this coming in 2024-24 when the deficit is forecast to be $42.5bn. Cumulative deficits over the next four years total $223bn.


Albanese says climate action would be his legacy but rules out raising 2030 target

Anthony Albanese claims that “acting on climate” would be his “legacy” in parliament – but simultaneously ruled out raising Labor’s 43% 2030 emissions reduction target.

Asked a few questions in a Q&A session after the Perth leadership breakfast, Albanese said he’d take WA premier Mark McGowan to a footy game over Annastacia Palaszczuk if he had a spare ticket, and admitted that the last few weeks have “seemed like a very long campaign”.

Labor’s climate plan is being panned by a Coalition scare campaign as a “carbon tax”. Albanese, asked what his legacy would be – win or lose on Saturday – and he sat thinking for several seconds before answering “acting on climate”.

But asked “will you increase your climate targets if that’s a condition of the teal independents” in a potential hung parliament, the Labor leader gave a flat and instant “no”.

Asked about his gaffe in forgetting the unemployment and interest rate in the first week of the campaign, Albanese admitted he was “not perfect”.

“I’m human and one of the things that we need to do is to own it. We’re not perfect. And I had an issue with with memory recall, and I didn’t blame someone else,” he said.

“Will I make a mistake in the rest of my life? Probably. The point is how you respond. That’s the key. Everyone makes mistakes.”

The Labor bus is off to a press conference with McGowan at a manufacturing facility. Albanese is expected to speak in the next half hour, before leaving WA and heading back to the east coast for the rest of the week.

Anthony Albanese speaks to the West Australian newspaper’s federal political editor Lanai Scarr this morning.
Anthony Albanese speaks to the West Australian newspaper’s federal political editor Lanai Scarr this morning. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Another week, another drop in the ANZ-Roy Morgan’s survey of consumer confidence.

This time it’s down another 1.3% to a level not seen since mid-August 2020. Only New South Wales and Queensland saw increases.

Consumer sentiment sinks again, dropping to lowest level since mid-August 2020… @ANZ_Research and Roy Morgan says in their latest weekly survey. #auspol #ausvotes #AusVotes2022 pic.twitter.com/MaNRAXhdr4

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) May 16, 2022

One measure, “Time to buy a major household item”, fell 2.7%, dropping 14.7% over the past three weeks – which of course coincides with the high CPI figure at the end of April and the subsequent RBA rate rise on 3 May.

ANZ’s Head of Australian Economics,David Plank, said the fourth week in a row of sinking consumer sentiment was “mainly driven by drops in the sub-indices that capture the financial situation compared to a year ago”.

“This suggests that cost of living concerns are front and centre for consumers,” Plank said. “Confidence was 2.7% lower for people who own their home, while it rose 0.5% for people who are renting”.

Inflation expectations have nudged a bit higher too, according to @ANZ_Research and @RoyMorganAus in their weekly survey. pic.twitter.com/2b2367VWFu

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) May 17, 2022

Household inflation expectations rose 0.2ppt to 5.3% amid higher petrol prices, and that’s an issue for the RBA because that’s what they are trying to avoid getting out of control. (Fuel prices above $2 a litre seem increasingly common in Sydney and Melbourne at least – so much for that 22.1 cent cut in the excise.)

Investors aren’t really budging on the prospect of a rapid run-up in the cash rate. Market economists are doubtful the rate will really rise another 1 percentage point by August from 0.35% now, but that’s what investors tip.

Investor bets point to about a one percentage point increase in the RBA's cash rate by the August meeting. pic.twitter.com/GQXCXNXmkA

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) May 17, 2022

And spotted at Sydney Airport this morning, an “election sale”.

I’m wondering how many people think, yes, 21 May is the time for a spending spree ... other than politicians, of course.


We’ve heard a lot about Aukus from Scott Morrison this campaign – but what has moved on it?

Daniel Hurst reports:

Scott Morrison’s Aukus middleman has not lobbied any US officials since the landmark security deal was announced, despite a previous agreement with the prime minister “to engage with US personnel to facilitate Australia’s engagement with US and UK per Aukus agreement”, according to a newly filed document.

Prof Donald Winter, a former US navy secretary, was serving as the prime minister’s special adviser on naval shipbuilding when the deal to enable Australia to access America’s nuclear-propelled submarine technology was revealed.

A new filing to the US foreign lobbying register shows that, since the Aukus announcement, Winter has received about $62,560 from Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for “consultations re shipbuilding”.


Scott Morrison has spoken to Mix 104.9 in Darwin, about the change in chief minister from Michaela Gunner to Natasha Fyles and other local issues.

Morrison said he had congratulated Fyles and will work with the Northern Territory government, but urged voters to “support the [Country Liberal party] make the territory stronger” at the federal election. Asked about crime in Alice Springs, Morrison pointed to a $14m investment in programs including youth early intervention programs.

He said:

We need the territory government to get on top of law and order issues in the territory ... We’re willing to be a partner.

Morrison was also grilled on why petrol prices don’t seem to be coming down, despite the government halving the petrol tax in the budget, a cut of 22c per litre.

Morrison claimed there are “strong laws” to prevent petrol stations pocketing the savings and not passing them on to consumers, warning they “can be prosecuted” – but the enforcement solution was super vague, he asked territorians to report “specific bowser prices” to the competition regulator. Prices “will move around – they go up and down”, he said.

Just speaking for myself – I’m not sure how a person at the petrol bowser can tell if prices drop for a bit then increase whether they’ve actually received the benefit of the tax cut or been scammed.


Scott Morrison is now appearing on the Seven Network’s morning show (this is minutes after he appeared on the Nine Network’s morning show).

And he is once again defending the Coalition’s housing policy. Asked about the criticism of economic analysts that the policy will drive up prices, Morrison says:

Analysts usually own their own homes. I am trying to help people buy homes, it was hard 30 years ago, and it is harder now. It is really important that people have choices about how to use their own money. We are ensuring that once you have used your super to invest in your own home, after you sell your home down the track, or perhaps if you choose to refinance, then you can pay it back into your superannuation, but what you put into it, and the capital growth you had, and that is all tax-free, it is a good investment for your superannuation, get you into the housing market early. When you get to the end of your retirement, if you do not own your own home, then you do not own your own home, then you are worse off, so this enables us to achieve two goals, stronger retirement savings, and ensuring that Australians can own their own homes sooner with their own money, not having the government own your house.

(Technically the bank owns your home.)


Albanese says his 'twin' political goals are 'social good and economic growth'

Anthony Albanese has begun his speech to business leaders in Perth. The Labor leader said his “twin goals” in politics were “social good and economic growth”.

Australia needs a plan to create an economy where we have high wage jobs and we have economic growth without increasing inflation.

Our economy is crying out for leadership and reform – but getting neither.

Barely two minutes into his speech, Albanese poured praise on his “good friend” the Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, talking up his “true character and true leadership”. In a place as parochial as Perth, both Albanese andScott Morrison have been tripping over themselves to plug their links to the Emperor of WA.

The only gripe I have with Mark McGowan is that he has set a bar that can’t possibly be reached by those of us who are seeking to win an election.

Albanese talked up Labor’s morning announcement of $1.5bn for medical manufacturing under its National Reconstruction Fund.

Australians should be able to access medicines, vaccines and medical supplies when we need them. We cannot afford our health and wellbeing to be hostage to global supply chains.

But more than that, we have medical innovation and world-class science happening right here.

Albanese talked up Australia’s record in producing scientific breakthroughs, but criticised the Morrison government’s settings which he claimed “commercialise that science as poorly as any country in the OECD”.

He also announced a joint funding commitment with the McGowan state government to commit $50m for an Aboriginal cultural centre in Perth, encouraging business leaders at the breakfast to also join the project.

This has the potential to be an important place to celebrate First Nations cultures. To recognise that our continent is home to the oldest continuous culture on earth. A place for learning and for sharing.

The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, speaks to the chair of Seven West Media, Kerry Stokes, ahead of the West Australian’s Leadership Matters Federal Election Breakfast on Day 37 of the 2022 federal election campaign in Perth.
Albanese speaks to the chair of Seven West Media, Kerry Stokes, before his speech to business leaders on Day 37 of the 2022 campaign in Perth. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Coalition's super for housing policy 'informed by Treasury analysis', PM says

Scott Morrison is speaking to Channel Nine’s Today Extra about the Coalition policy to allow first home buyers to withdraw up to $50,000 from super for housing.

Morrison said the policy is “informed by Treasury analysis” which is curious because for two days now he has refused to release modelling underpinning his claim that it will have only a “marginal” impact on prices.

Earlier, Morrison deflected a question at his doorstop in Zuccoli (in the Northern Territory) by saying the treasurer had addressed the issue.

Josh Frydenberg has said the policy allows first home buyers access to a total of $5bn of super. The policy will facilitate them to buy $100bn of housing.

Morrison told Today Extra the policy had been worked on for “many months”:

It has been carefully thought through and informed by Treasury analysis. The key point is the hardest thing to do when buying a home is to get that deposit ... There were about 164,000 first-home buyers last year. That’s up from around the level of 100,000. Our policies are getting people homes but it’s getting tougher. That’s why we think they should be able to have access to their own money. It’s theirs! They saved it. They earned it through their superannuation. And where it can help them get into that first home, they should have the choice about that.

But note the Coalition policy requires people to pay back into superannuation when they sell.

Morrison was also grilled about why the government hasn’t met its targets for disability housing. He promised to “double down” on the targets and pursue them “enthusiastically”.


And Labor’s main message, as distilled by Jim Chalmers:

The ... best way to understand that is that this government doubled the debt even before the pandemic. Now, they want to pretend that all of this debt in the budget is a consequence of the last couple of years. But they had doubled the debt before the pandemic and now they’ve multiplied the debt.

You know, they inherited debt a fraction of what they’re now saying is manageable. These were the same characters going around Australia saying that debt and net debt at $175bn was a debt and deficit disaster. Now, for the coming year, I think it’s $715bn or so.

And so, that gives you a sense of the change in debt levels under this government. The debt in this budget is not entirely a consequence of the pandemic. This government has an excuse for everything and a plan for nothing.

They take credit for things like commodity prices improving, but they don’t take responsibility for the fact that they wasted $5.5bn on submarines that will never be built; $20bn on pandemic support for companies that didn’t need it because their profits were going up; $1bn on marketing and advertising of the government itself. As far as the eye can see, rorts and waste and mismanagement. That’s why we don’t have enough to show for the $1tn in debt.


'We need to flick the switch to quality' Jim Chalmers says

Chalmers on quality spend – something Labor has been talking about since the pandemic:

First of all ... we need to flick the switch to quality. That’s the most important thing. We are realistic about this mountain of Liberal debt that we would inherit if we won the election. This problem has been accumulating for much of the last decade and it will take some time to turnaround.

But we’ve already suggested some ways that we would begin that task, whether it is trimming outsourcing, whether it is multinational tax reform, whether it is an audit of the government’s waste and mismanagement. That seems to be the best place to start. But we be inheriting a debt trajectory at record levels.

We take that challenge seriously. And no government, whoever wins on Saturday, will be able to suddenly flick the switch and make that debt disappear.


Here is more of that groundwork for a potential bigger budget deficit from Chalmers:

The most important thing here is not whether deficits are a couple of million dollars each year better or worse than what the Government is proposing. What matters most is the quality of the investments. We’d be inheriting $1tn in debt and no plan to grow the the right way. The difference between our approach to the budget and the government’s approach to the budget is we want to crack down on all their rorts and waste and mismanagement and we’ve suggested a few ways that we would begin that important task. But we would also be investing in growth and productivity and participation in areas like childcare and cleaner and cheaper energy and training more people for more opportunities. So that would be the difference.


On the costings timing fight the government is picking, Chalmers says:

That’s consistent with the practice that’s established. It’s entirely unsurprising, entirely consistent with the practice that the government, themselves, set a precedent for. That we would tally up and release our costings towards the end of the campaign. But what we have done is we’ve released an economic plan and a budget strategy some weeks ago so people can understand where we’re coming from when it comes to the economy.

Now, the government’s only just released most of their costings today in the final week of the campaign, in the 2019 election, they did it on the Thursday. In 2013, in 2010 they did it on the Thursday. You know, they desperately want Australians focused on the costings being released so that Australians aren’t focusing on the cost-of-living crisis that this government has delivered them courtesy of a decade of attacks on their real wages, which has seen real wages go backwards. The big issue in the economy is not the day that Labor releases the costings. It’s the cost-of-living crisis on Scott Morrison’s watch.


On Labor’s costings which will be released on Thursday, Jim Chalmers is laying the groundwork for what might be a bigger spending than the government by pointing out money the government as “wasted”:

Now, we have been working closely with the parliamentary budget office. We’ve sent costings to the parliamentary budget office, but some of our commitments are capped. Some of them come at no cost. Some of them are matching the Coalition. And so, what you’ll see on Thursday is a tallying of the commitments that we’ve made. Our responsible investments in a better future will cost the budget a fraction of what the Coalition has rorted and wasted over almost a decade in office. Our responsible investments are all about growing the economy the right way without adding to inflation, getting real wages moving again and making sure that Australians actually have something to show for this $1tn in Liberal debt.


Chalmers continued:

Now, tomorrow, we’ll get new numbers which show that the cost-of-living crisis is set to get worse in this country as real wages fall further and further behind. Economists expect the wages data tomorrow to show that Australian working families are falling even further behind on Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s watch. This is why they’re trying to is desperately to distract from their own failures. Real wages falling. Cost-of-living crisis. $1tn in debt with not enough to show for it and today we saw consumer confidence fall as well. This is the legacy of the Liberals and Nationals after almost a decade of waste and rorts and economic mismanagement. This is the legacy that they would be leaving an incoming government.


Jim Chalmers held a quick doorstop which started with what seemed a 10 minute speech.

Here is part of it:

This government has borrowed more, spent more and taxed more than the last Labor government, but delivered much less. Now, Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham want to talk about delivery today. All this government’s delivered is a full-blown cost-of-living crisis, real wages going backwards and $1tn of debt that they had already doubled before the pandemic. You can’t take this government seriously on the economy or the budget given their record.

This Morrison government has become a laughing stock on the budget and the economy given the failures over almost a decade in office now. Now, what we see in the budget and what we see in the government’s costings today is a budget which is absolutely heaving with rorts and waste and $1tn in Liberal debt. Now, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, they want to bang on about Labor’s costings as a desperate attempt to distract from their own failures on the economy and on the budget.


Asked if Territorians should prepare for war, Scott Morrison speaks about defence spending. He holds up his stapled “plan for responsible economic management” papers for the third time and gives his stump speech before wrapping up as questions are still being yelled.

Scott Morrison at a press conference in Darwin, in the seat of Solomon
Scott Morrison at a press conference in Darwin, in the seat of Solomon. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Q: The World Health Organisation meets on May 22 and on the agenda is a potential pandemic treaty to allow the WHO to direct countries in how they control pandemics. Would you consider signing up to that? And handing over any controls to the organisation?

Scott Morrison:

I have always been supportive right from the outset, and was criticised heavily, I stress, heavily, mocked in fact, by the Labor party, for saying that the WHO should have those powers and those authorities to be able to go and deal with pandemic situations, because we all know what happened at the start of this pandemic.

Well, the problem is we don’t know what happened at the start of this pandemic, and I was the one calling to ensure that we had an independent process to understand what happened so it couldn’t be repeated.

So I have been in the vanguard of those moves internationally to ensure that there is greater protection for world health to ensure that those world health authorities can come and understand what’s going on and be able to assist countries to be able to prevent the spread and outbreak of major infectious diseases. Now, we’ll look at the text of all of that. But we have been, amongst the countries that have been positive about these sorts of changes. You have to look closely at what the detail is in these things, as you always must.

But the idea that countries can just say – no, you can’t come in and have a look at a pandemic that’s about to break out and actually affect the public health and the economy of the entire world, as we saw with this pandemic, then I think it’s only sensible that that is an area of international cooperation.

And that is very, very important and I’ve been consistent on that. And remember, the Labor party mocked me for saying that that was a good idea.


Q: Are you concerned about a $1 an hour pay rise for low-paid workers but not arming first-homebuyers with $5bn of their super to buy $100bn of housing? And why won’t you release modelling on the price bump of the super policy?

Scott Morrison:

We are supportive of wage rises. We think that wage rises are good things and we want to see the wage rises to occur and for that to occur on a sustainable basis, and the best way for that to happen is to get unemployment down, ensure economy grows and that businesses are succeeding which enables them to provide sustainable wage rises for workers across this country. And the best way for those minimum wages, which I stress have gone up 7% minimum wage in Australia since we first came to government.

In seven out of the eight decisions on minimum wage, they’ve gone higher. Under Labor, three out of the six went down. So they talk a big game on this, but frankly, when they were in Government, they didn’t deliver one. They didn’t deliver one at all*.

(*Last week Morrison was suggesting Anthony Albanese would destroy the economy with one word “absolutely” in terms of supporting at least a 5.1% pay rise in line with inflation.)

So we’re for wage increases but it’s important that as the Fair Work Commission considers this, that they look at all of the moving parts and all of the moving factors. Because you don’t want people to take one step forward and then take two or three steps back because decisions lead to an even greater increase in the cost of living, or an even greater rise in interest rates and it all gets clawed back. See, that’s why this is so important. You’ve got to know what you’re talking about and you’ve got to understand how the economy works.

And if you don’t, as Mr Albanese as we know has been very loose on these issues, that impacts on your cost of living. It impacts on your interest rates. It impacts on your wages. It impacts on your ability to make your way or even buy your own home. If the government doesn’t know how to manage money, then that is going to impact on you. And that’s why this election is so important. And why responsible economic management is so important. Now, the treasurer addressed the other issues that you raised this morning so I’ll refer to his comments.

(So that is a no to modelling, again.)


Q: We’ve just got four days to go. The polling is not working in your favour every which way we look at it. Are the polls keeping you up at night, prime minister?

Scott Morrison:



Q: You mentioned law and order in the Northern Territory. In Sydney, there’s been three gangland assassinations in Sydney had in a fortnight. The police say that it is the drug war. Why is neither side of politics in this election saying anything about drug importation and the security of our borders and drugs?

Scott Morrison:

I’d be happy to. We released our policy on those issues just a week ...

Q: People are being killed on the streets in Sydney.

I wouldn’t say that. I would say that battling crime and law and order issues is a challenge in every country in the world. The idea that there’s zero crime, I think, is a bit unrealistic. What we’ve done, as a government, is we have massively increased our investment in the federal police in particular to ensure that they’re working more closely with state authorities, whether it be in New South Wales or Western Australia or anywhere else in the country, to ensure that they have the tools.

I mean, we only have to go back to the major operation that we were involved in in disrupting gangland activity that we did with the FBI. That was one of the most significant multi-jurisdictional operations that our country has ever engaged in. And in fact, the FBI came here, I stood with one of the senior FBI directors, with me, and praised Australia for the work that our AFP had done and our local law enforcement authorities. The battle against organised crime – it never stops. It never stops.

And that’s why we have continued to invest in the capabilities we have to track down organised crime, to disrupt organised crime, to use the surveillance and technology that’s there to actually increase our capabilities, and not just on organised crime. But on paedophiles and on those who would seek to abuse our children online, and groom them, and we have been doing that in season and out, as a government, and made that a very big priority. Now, that is what our government has been doing.

That’s what we’ve been doing, each and every day – increasing our capacity to deal with law and order issues. But importantly, and Damian may want to speak to this because we were just down in Alice Springs recently. A very serious problem with law and order there. We sat down with the mayor. We worked out the right way to do that, which was a mixture of early intervention programs through to greater patrols and ensuring that we could deliver that on ground there in Alice Springs. So we’re coming to the table to try to solve these problems. But law and order here in the Territory – it’s a big problem. And we’ve been putting resources to it and support to ensure it can be addressed. And with Damian and Tina, that will continue.


PM says Australia still 'first call on security' for Solomon Islands

Q: Just to follow up with the concerns of China. On the Solomon Islands, the dichotomy, and saying that the Solomon Islands is an independent country and they can go where they want but Australia is their first security partner. If we’re their first security partner, why have they turned to China? And on Icac, you mentioned you don’t want a kangaroo court and that public hearings would be essentially that. Our justice system is built on openness and transparency. Our court processes are open and journalists can attend. And what is the difference between Icac and the court process?

Scott Morrison:

It’s not a court. That’s the first point. It’s not a court. And where matters were to proceed under our model that involved criminal behaviour, they would go to court and that’s where that process would be followed. That’s how we’ve designed it. That’s consistent with how the justice system works. It is a very significant peels of legislation that we have, fully funded. They’re ready to go. We’re the only ones with such a detailed plan. And I think that it completely respects the principle which you referred to, and no, I don’t see a dichotomy at all. We have a federal police in the Solomon Islands right now, and we’ve had defence forces there also back in December. We are their first call on security. That has always been the case. That has not changed and to suggest otherwise would be wrong.

Q: How big do you want the US rotational forces in Darwin to get? And do the Americans need access to a port that isn’t Chinese owned? And will your budget commitment go towards building one?


Well, it does. That was in the budget. In terms of the development of significant port facilities here in the Territory. It’s all part of the middle arm program. It’s a very significant program and Damian or Tina may wish to comment on this. This is one of the biggest investments in the Northern Territory that we’ve ever seen. This is going to revolutionise the Northern Territory with the infrastructure that is going to be built here, opening up the wealth of the Northern Territory and it’s going to see the Northern Territory go through a golden period. And that is our vision for the Northern Territory.

That’s why the Northern Territory was the centrepiece of $21bn worth of investment across regional Australia. We know what can be achieved up here in the Northern Territory, and we’re very excited about it. No federal government has ever committed more to a more ambitious program, developing the Northern Territory than ever before.


Q: Prime minister, you mentioned earlier that there’s too much instability here in the Territory. What do you mean by that? And secondly, with this efficiency dividend, can you guarantee that the amount that the government spends, or departments spend on consultancies and contractors won’t increase in the next Coalition government?

Scott Morrison:

Well, see, the way an efficiency dividend works is when you’ve got some $327bn of expenditure, with public service chief executives, secretaries, responsible for managing that, they are the best people to make the decisions about how they achieve those savings. That’s their job.

That’s what they’re tasked to do. That’s what you do. You task your public servants to get the job done and I respect those who work in the public service, but I also expect results.

Respect and expect, that’s been my charter with the public service that I’ve led. And that means that they will make the sensible decisions about the best way to achieve that. And we were talking about $2.7bn and ensuring that departments themselves are making the appropriate contributions when it comes to the retirement incomes of their own super schemes, which are quite different to the rest of the country, including the politicians, I can add. So, they will make those decisions, and they’re tasked to make those decisions, and I believe they’ll make good decisions to make that. And it’s eminently sensible. And the second part of the question?

(Instability in the NT.)

We’ve had further changes here. I worked very closely with Mr Gunner and there are serious issues in the Northern Territory. We want the Territory to be safe. We want it to be safe.

I don’t hear the follow up but the answer is:

Of course it is. The Chinese government is a concern.

Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference during a visit to the Alpha Homes display home in the Lingiari electorate in Darwin
Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference during a visit to the Alpha Homes display home in the Lingiari electorate in Darwin. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images


Q: Prime minister, the Coalition is speaking about the budget bottom line today. Do you agree that’s likely cold comfort for Australians who are worried about their own family budgets, their household budgets? And also, their wages and aren’t we expecting to see real wages go backwards tomorrow?

Scott Morrison:

Well, we’ll wait to see what the figures say tomorrow, just like we’ll wait to see what the unemployment figures say on Thursday.

But that is why we responsibly managed the economy, so we can cut tax in half and provide that immediate relief. Our budget has turned around by more than $100bn in the last 12 months.

That is the single biggest turn yarned in a budget in 70 years and that has enabled us to provide that immediate cost-of-living relief right now, the extra $250 for pensioners, extra tax relief on 1 July and the halving of the petrol tax, the extension of the commonwealth seniors’ health canrd to another 50,000 Australians, to ensure that we’re freezing the deeming rates so people on fixed incomes can have surety about their pensions and what they’ll receive during what are times when cost-of-living pressures are being applied and ensuring that we’re dropping the cost of non-concessional pharmaceuticals under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by $10 a script ...

Q: But that’s what today, as you say ... tax those measures are temporary.


Tax relief is not temporary*. In the next term, will not pay more than 30 cents in the dollar if you earn anywhere between $45,000 and $200,000 a year.

That is one of the biggest changes to our personal income tax system that our country has ever seen. That’s bringing it down from 32.5 cents to 30 cents for many and 37 cents down to 30 cents for many others.

That is real, lasting change, which enables Australians to keep more of what they earn and the other thing we’re not just letting them keep more of what they earn.

We’re allowing them to have more control of what they’ve saved to ensure that they can access their own savings in their own superannuation, that will help them be able to achieve what they’re looking to achieve, which is to buy their own home.

... That also ensures that when you’re investing in your own home through your super, you don’t pay tax on the capital gains. You don’t pay tax on the earnings. You do pay tax when it’s in your superannuation account.

So when the earnings from the capital and the principle amount goes back into superannuation, it goes back tax free. This is why it’s a smart and good investment. I don’t think it’s a gamble to buy your own home.

I think it’s the smartest thing that you and your family can do. I don’t agree with the Labor party that it’s a gamble. I believe it’s the best and smartest thing you can do. And the only way you will be able to get access to your own superannuation, to be able to buy your first home is by voting CLP here, LNP in Queensland, by voting Liberal and National, because the Labor party, they hate this.

They want big union funds to control your money. I want you to control your money.

(*The low and middle income tax offset is temporary.)


Q: Prime minister, you credited the public service with helping Australia get through the pandemic, the once-in-a-century pandemic. The savings you’re seeking here are $1bn over four years. In the context of a deficit, that’s nearly $80bn. Isn’t this a mean-spirited way of rewarding them for hard work?

Scott Morrison:

No. This is responsible budgetary management. We’ve made commitments in this election and we ensured that we pay for them. That’s how you manage your budget. You live within your means. At this election, we’ve been responsible in the commitments that we’ve made and it’s important that we make very clear how we pay for them. Now, as I said, it’s a budget of $327.3bn, which is where we’re seeking to save $2.7bn off on departmental expenses, so how they use accommodation, how they manage their administrative expenditure. That is something that I think is entirely sensible and frankly taxpayers would be demanding, that these types of sensible efficiencies are achieved and that is part of the process of managing a good budget.


Q: Prime minister, your government says it will achieve a $1bn improvement to the budget bottom line through public sector service efficiencies. Can you confirm which departments or agencies will be targeted by cuts? And also will the ABC continue to have its funding cut?

Scott Morrison:

Well, the ABC is not having its funding cut. I don’t know why you’re suggesting it is. The ABC’s funding actually increases. That was set out in the Budget. To suggest that ABC’s funding is being cut is just completely false* and the ABC continues to not be subject to that dividend which was set out by the treasurer and the finance minister this morning.

The efficiency dividend is less than what the Labor had when they were last in government and the efficiency dividend applies to departmental expenditure. It doesn’t apply to programs. So we’re saying we’ll be in a position to realise some $it 2.7bn in savings off a departmental expenditure Budget of $327.3bn.

Now, if our senior public servants – and they’re paid well – if they can’t find $2.7bn out of a budget of $327.3bn, well, I’ve got a lot more confidence in them that they can achieve that.

This is a sensible, practical measure which has, I think, been responsibly applied to ensure you responsibly manage your expenditure. It doesn’t impact on programs or services at all. It never has. And we’ve ensured particularly the key agencies that are in areas of national security and smaller agencies for whom those sorts of things can have a bigger impact and there’s a long list of them – I won’t go through a list here to detain a press conference, but that information was released in details today. That’s the difference with us.

We’re very transparent. We had a Budget before we went into this election and we’ve been very transparent about our costings all the way through. Why? Because we know how to manage money and we’re confident about that and that’s why we’ve maintained our AAA credit rating over these most difficult years. There’s been no government in this government’s history that has had to face the economic pressures and maintained the AAA credit rating**, as we have.

(*The ABC’s funding which had been set out by the previous government was wound back by the Coalition when it came to power, so its funding did not increase by the amount it had planned for, which led to the broadcaster having to make cuts.)

(**The Labor government maintained the AAA credit rating throughout the global financial crisis.)


Scott Morrison press conference

Scott Morrison is in Darwin and he is still talking housing policy:

The advantage of this policy is it not only helps Australians get into their own home, but it also preserves their retirement savings for the future. And that’s the big difference with this policy. There’s been plenty of policies earlier which have just said you take your super out and you never put it back. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying you get access to your own money to help you get that start and talking here with the developers and the estate managers here, that extra $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 that they can access can make all the difference to what you can build here.

It is also about costings.

How can you trust an opposition that says they want to take the reins of the Australian economy when they haven’t been prepared to share with you what their policies cost and submit them to independent costing as we have done.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is campaigning in Darwin and focusing on housing policy
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is campaigning in Darwin and focusing on housing policy. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images


Greens election campaign launched in Brisbane

The Greens launched its election campaign at a Brisbane brewery overnight. The Greens are a chance in the lower house seats of Ryan and Brisbane, as well as Griffith and have a strong chance of picking up another Senate spot.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt, Greens candidate for Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather, and Senate candidate Penny Allman-Payne attend the Australian Greens national campaign launch in Brisbane
Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt, Greens candidate for Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather, and Senate candidate Penny Allman-Payne attend the Australian Greens national campaign launch in Brisbane. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP
Australian Greens faithful attend the Australian Greens national campaign launch
Australian Greens faithful attend the Australian Greens national campaign launch. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Josh Frydenberg has been appealing to his Kooyong electorate by speaking about what he says is the government’s record on lowering emissions.

Josh Frydenberg on @RNBreakfast: “Our policies have delivered a 20% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels.”
This has been shown to be false. Getting repeated every day.

— Adam Morton (@adamlmorton) May 16, 2022

Environment and climate editor, Adam Morton, has already factchecked this and found it to be misleading.

Reality: True, according to official government data – but the statement is misleading. Nearly all the cut happened when Labor was in power between 2007 and 2013, and most of that was due to state policies that slowed the country’s extraordinary pace of forest destruction for agriculture, particularly in Queensland. Government climate data suggests Australia is still clearing native forests, just at a slower pace (though there is some evidence that emissions from the land may be higher than reported).

Fossil fuel emissions – the main game – were rising before the Covid-19 lockdowns hit due to increases from transport, mining and major industry. Government projections suggest those sectors will do little to reduce their impact before 2030 under current policies.


Scott Morrison is in Darwin

Scott Morrison’s first stop today is an Alpha Homes display home in Zuccoli, outside Darwin in the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari.

Scott Morrison arriving at display village in Zuccoli, outside Darwin in NT seat of Lingiari. pic.twitter.com/Y1TaiPim8w

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) May 16, 2022

Morrison will appear at the event with his wife, Jenny, who has been a fixture of every campaign event in the final week, and the Country Liberal candidates for Lingiari, Damien Ryan, and for the seat of Solomon, Tina Macfarlane.


On the Coalition’s housing policy, Josh Frydenberg repeated what he said this morning on ABC RN, that it will have a “material” impact on housing prices. This is after the superannuation minister, Jane Hume, admitted that in the short term, she would expect it to cause a temporary “bump” in prices.

If the 100,000 first-homebuyers were able to access the maximum $50,000, that’s a $5bn addition from super into the housing market. And that is why the Property Council have said that this is fairly targeted and that they’re not expecting to see an inflationary impact on prices that is material. That is the key point.


There are a few important developments in aged care this morning. A new report from the University of Technology Sydney Ageing Research Collaborative has warned the sector is struggling to improve its critically low staffing levels, despite the enormous “community and political pressure” in the wake of the royal commission.

The report finds just 5% of residential facilities would be able to meet the average minimum staffing standards legislated as a response to the royal commission’s recommendations. Staffing in residential homes had grown by just 1.9% in 12 months, the report said.

The problem was mirrored in home care – a critical sector in relieving pressure on the residential system – where average staffing time has continued to fall, dropping 32% in five years. Meanwhile, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says 70% of its members have not received the promised $800 staff bonus announced by the Morrison government in January.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced in January up to $800 would be made available to aged care workers through a bonus scheme designed to recognise their efforts in the pandemic and stem the loss of workers from the sector.

The scheme, which pays out a pro rata bonus in two instalments of up to $400, began taking applications in March. The government asked the underfunded aged care sector to stump up the cash for their workers prior to receiving approval, a design critics say has created a barrier to access.

It found 71% have not received any of the two promised bonuses. About one in five workers have received one payment and only 2.7% have received both.


Anthony Albanese is in Perth with four days until the election

Anthony Albanese is starting his campaign day in Perth, addressing a breakfast event with the West Australian newspaper’s Leadership Matters series at Crown casino. He’ll give a speech and a Q&A session, before a press conference later on this morning – expected to be at a factory or industrial facility, to coincide with Labor’s announcement today of $1bn for medical technology under its National Reconstruction Fund.


Josh Frydenberg is now gathering his folders as he finishes answering a question over who had permission to put up election signs and murals on buildings in Kooyong and who didn’t.

The corflute wars continue.

Josh Frydenberg then steps in to give the message which is the reason for this press conference:

The bottom line is this – the Coalition has been responsible with respect to both our economic management and the way we’ve managed the costings process through this campaign, putting forward 35 policies for independent costing and verification by the departments of Treasury and Finance.

Anthony Albanese has been irresponsible and has lacked transparency and is running away, hiding from proper scrutiny, because he’s put zero – zero – policies forward for independent costing by Treasury and Finance.

He is simply hiding from the Australian people the fact that under, under Labor, taxes will be higher, deficits will be larger, and debt will be higher. And he is not prepared to do what the Coalition has done, which is to put our policies forward in a responsible way for independent costing and verification.

The Australian treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, address the media during the release of the Coalition’s election costings, in Melbourne on Tuesday
The Australian treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, address the media during the release of the Coalition’s election costings, in Melbourne on Tuesday. Photograph: James Ross/AAP


It was Bob Hawke’s government which introduced the efficiency dividend, for those playing at home.

Simon Birmingham, who has been in a government which doubled debt before the pandemic, manages to say all of this with a very straight face:

The difference, really, is not so much in the savings. It’s the fact that we have made sure that our policies live within our savings envelope. Labor’s policy blow vastly outside whatever savings they’ve got. Labor’s policies will see the budget deficit and debt balloon and Mr Albanese will probably deign to take some questions from journalists today*. And when he does, if he does, he should actually today admit that Labor will run higher deficits and higher debt, that under him, he shouldn’t just admit they will, but he should ‘fess up and say how much. Fess up, Mr Albanese and acknowledge you’re going to be running bigger deficits and tell Australians just how much more debt you’re going to pile on to them.

(* Anthony Albanese, like Scott Morrison, has held press conferences on almost all the days he has been on the physical campaign.)


Simon Birmingham on efficiency dividends (cuts):

The opportunities for departments, which they’ve demonstrated time and time again in meeting efficiency dividends exist in relation to management of their accommodation, their properties, management of technology, management of consultants and contractors, management of staffing arrangements. These in no way impact the delivery of services and support to Australians.

Essential services remain guaranteed under the Coalition. We have lifted Medicare bulk billing rates.

We’ve fully funded the NDIS and we’ve grown investment in areas of mental health in aged care and schools, etc. This is about public sector administration, administration by government departments.

The Labor party themselves have indicated around $3bn worth of public sector savings that they seek to pursue as well. They’ve tried to be more prescriptive, suggesting that somehow that can only be achieved by one means.

We have outlined an efficiency dividend that’s been used by Labor and Liberal governments before, that provides the abilities for heads of public sector agencies to find the most effective way to meet and achieve those efficiencies. It’s a very safe and reliable way of achieving modest savings.


Josh Frydenberg (who looks exhausted) is hoping this is the message which gets out:

Ask yourself the single question – and hopefully 26 million are asking the simple question – why has Labor not put forward these policies for costings? Why? There’s no reason other than they do not want to be subject to scrutiny. We know they will spend more.

We know they will tax more. We know they will deliver a budget after the next election. But they’re not telling the Australian people before they vote what will be in that budget.

And we have detailed where all these spending pressures are with respect to Labor’s commitments.

And we also know from recent experience what Labor will do to fund these increased commitments. They will put in place higher taxes*. So we have been both accountable and responsible, in putting our policies forward for costing.

(*Labor governments have taxed less in the last 30 years than either the Howard government or the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government.)

And today, we are reconciling our spending commitments with the efficiency dividend which will more than offset those spending commitments and again improve our budget bottom line. You have not seen the same responsible approach from the Labor party.


Simon Birmingham also strays off costings to say this:

Even this morning we saw the lack of accountability or transparency. At 6.49am, Bill Shorten said that Labor’s costings will be released this Thursday. At 6.50am, the Shadow Treasurer, Mr Chalmers, sneaky Jim Chalmers, wouldn’t say when Labor’s costings would be released.

At the last election he was honest enough as Labor leader to outline $387bn worth of higher taxes, to pay for Labor’s spending, and today at least he’s been honest enough to reveal that Labor will drop their costings at the absolute last minute at this election campaign.

But Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese, they’re trying to hide their costings, hide their spending, and hide their higher taxes. Australians should know they cannot trust Labor and this demonstrates our plan released today, they can trust the coalition for lower taxes and responsible budget management.


Josh Frydenberg then strays into non-costings territory:

During this election campaign Anthony Albanese has been found out. That he is not up to the job. In an election campaign about jobs, he didn’t know the unemployment rate. In an election campaign about cost of living, he didn’t know the cash rate. In an election campaign about economic management, he and the Labor party have not put forward one policy for independent costing by Treasury and Finance. In clear contrast with the Coalition, who have put forward 35 policies for costing by Treasury and Finance.

And Australians who are already voting can go to the Treasury and Finance website and see those independent costings ahead of delivering their vote.

So this is an important election. We know the Coalition will deliver a strong budget bottom line and a stronger economy. And the Labor party who will always spend more, who will always tax more, who will dust off the $387bn of higher taxes from the last election to pay for their commitments at this election.

(This is the second highest taxing government in the last 30 years, the first being the Howard government. Debt had doubled before the pandemic.)


Coalition costings announced

Josh Frydenberg is announcing the Coalition has made $2.3bn in new spending which will be offset by an increase in the efficiency dividend to 2%.

Efficiency dividends means cuts. It will be up to departmental heads to work out where those cuts come from.

John Howard is robo-calling people:

Hear the full call here 👇https://t.co/ZXuC7s7HlW

— 2GB Sydney (@2GB873) May 16, 2022


The Coalition is banking on having a better costings bottom line. Labor is hoping people will be willing to have a conversation about “quality” spend.

Penny Wong:

I think voters care about ensuring we’ve got quality spend in our budget. That we actually do the right thing with the money that taxpayers provide to the federal government. That we grow the economy. That we provide more funding for skills, that we support more childcare – access to childcare – because of the benefit of that. I do think that voters care about that. Our policies have been very clear about that. Ultimately, this election – do you want more of the same? Do you want to give Mr Morrison another three years? Or do you want something better?


Then on to costings, which Penny Wong says will be released “in the usual way”;

I can remember when I was finance minister, if you can remember back that far, the coalition in opposition released theirs on the Thursday before the election. Which is what we would propose to do.

Q: So you’ll be releasing it on Thursday.

That’s what we said. What I would say is this – though. We’ve got wages data out tomorrow. We’ve got a prime minister who, you know, is pretty desperate about losing his job. Of course they’re going to try to make this even issue. They don’t want to talk about the cost-of- living crisis. They don’t want to talk about the housing crisis. They don’t want to talk about the fact they’ve got $1tn of the debt, they’re taxing more than any government in history.


Penny Wong compared the policies (Labor’s shared equity scheme is open to 10,000 people)

Who are we helping? Who is Mr Morrison, apart from helping himself, who is he saying this policy will help? People with enough super. A lot of young people don’t have enough super.

A lot of women don’t have enough super. We’re saying we’ll help this end of the market, people who can’t otherwise afford to buy to buy. We want to bring more housing onto the market.

We think there’s a role for federal government in housing. This is the problem - the coalition doesn’t think that. We’ve got a housing Australia fund which will build more houses, more affordable houses, more social housing, bring more housing onto the market.

Penny Wong was also out and about this morning. She spoke to ABC News Breakfast about the costings (the Coalition is releasing theirs very soon). But first Wong had some things to say about Morrison’s housing plan:

Look, this is a desperate plan from a desperate prime minister who wants to change the topic and wants to make Australians think that after nine years of being in government, after presiding over housing crisis and presiding over declining affordability, that somehow he really does care about this issue. Now he wants to gamble your super, the superannuation scheme, on a policy that won’t help people to buy. It won’t help people to buy. I think you may have asked Mr Sukkar about Mr Falinski’s report, yesterday we saw Jane Hume driving a bulldozer through the bulldozer’s policy. It will increase housing prices.

Scott Morrison has given an interview with the Australian newspaper where he has laid out his latest pitch to voters – vote for me because there is a lot of stuff on next week (Quad meetings and the like) and procedures are already in place:

“We know what we will do on Monday; we know what we will do on Sunday,” Mr Morrison told The Australian in an exclusive interview in Brisbane on Monday.

“We know what we have to do on the national security side. We know what we have to do on the Quad for that meeting on Tuesday.”

He indicated there were “conventions” to cover such important meetings if the election result was unclear after the Saturday poll.


Josh Frydenberg was asked on ABC radio this morning what he thought about Scott Morrison’s assertion last night on 7.30 that electorates with teal independent challengers were not as impacted by economic shocks. Essentially he was saying they were wealthy enough to worry about things like climate change and integrity, because they didn’t have to worry about money.

Kooyong is one of those electorates. Frydenberg said:

Well, differently electorates have different priorities within those electorates. In my electorate, economic management is absolutely critical.

For example, 30,000 people in the electorate had to receive the jobkeeper a payment. Around 7,000 businesses small businesses received the cash flow boost. Around 8,000 pensioners received the $250 payments that we recently announced.

So those economic initiatives, including the 60,000 taxpayers in Kooyong who received tax relief as a result of our measures, you know, my community like other communities, that are sharing the benefits of strong Coalition economic management, and they’re also interested in our policies going forward. That being said, they’re also focused on climate change.

And what I’ve explained to people in my electorate as recently as a candidates forum last night was, was that our policies have delivered a 20% reduction in emissions based on 2005 levels, which is a higher reduction than what we’ve seen in many other comparable countries


Ita Buttrose:

We will retain an internal system of editorial complaint handling. We accept the recommendations, but we have amended one already. The review recommends that the ombudsman should report directly to the board. We should report to the board and the managing director, but the directors felt that this would simply be continuing the system we already have and we wanted a different more independent approach. So the ombudsman will report directly to the board and the process will be separate from editorial management.

ABC to introduce an ombudsman to manage complaints

The ABC Board has released an independent review of the editorial self-regulatory system and complaints handling.

The claim the system is flawed because the ABC “marks its own homework” has been rejected.

The review’s key recommendation is that the ABC should retain an in-house process as the frontline in complaints resolution and introduce the new role of ABC Ombudsman to lead it.

Ita Buttrose is now speaking to RN Breakfast. She says the review shows the ABC takes its viewers concerns seriously.


Labor to release costings on Thursday

Bill Shorten has told the Nine network the Labor campaign will release its costings on Thursday.

First of all, Mr Morrison would like to think that everyone forgets what happened in previous elections. When Mr Abbott ran for Prime Minister in 2010 and 2013, he released his costings in the last week. This government when I ran against them previously released their costings in the last week and that’s what we’re doing, in the usual way.

Yes, we have put our headline figures out. Then we’ve been very upfront. But let’s not forget that if Mr Morrison wants to have an argument about financial creditability, he has taken our debt to $1 trillion. There’s not enough zeros to run across the screen. He is desperate. He just wants to bag Labor.

Katharine Murphy has seen some polling showing Labor has the potential to make gains in Queensland:

Labor is deploying frontbencher Penny Wong to the electorates of Brisbane and Higgins in the final days of the election campaign, as the opposition becomes increasingly bullish about its prospects in the Liberal-held seats due to voter disaffection with Scott Morrison.

Strategists say Labor’s internal polling points to opportunity in four Liberal-held seats – Brisbane and Ryan in Queensland, Bennelong in Sydney and Higgins in Victoria – because disapproval of Morrison is high in these electorates and disaffected centrist progressive voters don’t have a teal independent to back.

Guardian Australia understands in private YouGov seat polls, 58% of respondents in Ryan, 57% in Bennelong, 62% in Brisbane and 65% in Higgins disapproved of Morrison’s performance as prime minister when asked whether they had a positive or negative view of the Liberal leader.

Back to Radio RN Breakfast, Josh Frydenberg is asked why Scott Morrison isn’t on his election signage.

There’s a lot of signage of me because I’m the candidate, he says.

Asked again, he says;

It is my name and my name only on the ballot box.


The Liberal campaign is in Darwin this morning. They believe they can win Lingiari.


Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has told Radio National the Coalition will impose a further 0.5% “efficiency dividend” on the public sector, cutting $2.7bn from government departments and agencies that develop policy and deliver services to help achieve a total saving of $3.3bn.

He said:

The way the efficiency dividend works is it’s up to departmental heads to find those efficiencies ... The annual departmental bill is $327bn, what we’re saying is it will be reduced to $324bn ... They are best placed to work out how they will find efficiencies.”

Frydenberg noted that Labor also had an efficiency dividend when it was last in office.

Frydenberg claimed that Labor’s policies, such as urgent care centres have not been properly costed, and Anthony Albanese was forced to retract the claim it had been independently costed by the PBO.

Asked about Jane Hume’s comments that tapping superannuation for housing would cause a temporary “bump” in prices, Frydenberg pivoted to noting that first home buyers would bring forward their purchase.

Frydenberg relied on the Property Council for claims property prices won’t rise much. He noted the policy is estimated to add $5bn to the housing market, which would not have a “material” impact on the housing market.


Part of the Coalition’s costings include efficiency dividends – which is just another way of saying cuts.

Where from? Josh Frydenberg can’t say. That will be up to departmental heads.

He told ABC Radio RN:

Well, the way the efficiency dividend works is it’s up to departmental heads to to find those efficiencies within their own organisation.


The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and finance minister, Simon Birmingham, will release the Coalition’s costings in Melbourne this morning.

The costings will show a budget improvement of $1bn over four years, which is peanuts, really, given in the 2022 budget the government chose to spend $70bn of the $100bn improvement in the bottom line. The $1bn saving is largely driven by a public sector efficiency dividend, or, in plain English: cuts to agencies that develop policy and deliver services.

The government will use the occasion to reheat claims that Labor is fiscally irresponsible, citing claims it would have spent $81bn more during the pandemic a factoid based on heroic assumptions about how much Labor would’ve boosted jobseeker. It also conveniently ignores the $40bn of jobkeeper given by the Coalition to companies that didn’t meet the revenue downturn threshold.

The Coalition is also targeting Labor for having not yet submitted its policies to the Parliamentary Budget Office for costing, leaving it to the dying days of the campaign - the same trick Tony Abbott pulled before the 2013 election.

Frydenberg said:

We have submitted 35 policies for costing yet Labor has submitted none. Labor can’t manage money and to avoid proper scrutiny they have not submitted their costings for independent verification and publication during the campaign.

Birmingham said:

The Morrison government will always pursue opportunities to strengthen the budget while growing the economy and guaranteeing essential services.


Good morning

There are just four days to go and Scott Morrison 2.0 and Anthony Albanese are doing all the can to win hearts and minds.

Morrison has a turn at darts pic.twitter.com/sPPIrddUI7

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) May 16, 2022

But as the battle of the photo ops continues, both campaigns are trying to win the headline battle, with each leader trying to paint the other as the bigger risk.

Today, that’s led the Coalition to announce its releasing its costings in a move designed to wedge Labor who are yet to announce theirs.

Costings used to be a big deal and were treated seriously. Then it became just another political weapon.

I'd rather modelling that looks at whether than $1bn would increase employment etc etc.

Costings [correctly] don't have 2nd order impacts (eg spending this $1bn will generate $500m income tax) so they often say little about actual *economic* impact

— Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) May 16, 2022

But the Coalition will say they can improve the budget bottom line and then use that to point the finger at Labor. After setting up a housing battle, the Coalition is now looking for an ‘economic managers’ fight.

We’ll bring you all of the day as it happens. I’m currently swimming in coffee and it still doesn’t seem to be enough.

Ready? Nope, me either. Still, we must begin.


Tory Shepherd and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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