What we learned today, Thursday 19 May
One more dawn, one more day, one day more! That was the penultimate day of campaigning ... unless of course you include actual election day. But let’s not. Here are today’s headlines:
- Labor revealed its costings, and a $7.4bn increase to the deficit. The Coalition immediately went on the attack.
- Here’s Katharine Murphy’s take on what effect those costings might have.
- The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, set a brisk pace in the last hours of the campaign – Josh Butler and Paul Karp are with them.
- Guardian Australia has taken a stand on the election: say no to spin and inaction.
- The Australian Electoral Commission is still dealing with staff shortages that might force people to drive for hours to vote. It also conceded that an anomaly is set to stop tens of thousands of people from voting.
- The parties are focused on the marginal seats. What’s the vibe outside Canberra?
- What now? What’s monkeypox, and should we be worried?
- And we asked: Does this incredibly annoying election ad actually work?
Amy Remeikis will be back in the morning along with the whole team to see what shenanigans and desperate manoeuvres are afoot as we head towards an electoral climax.
The Australian Electoral Commission has come under fire today, but you can’t fault their social media response. They’re answering your questions here:
NSW became the last state to legislate assisted dying. Now the focus shifts to the federal government, with its power to quash territory laws. Michael McGowan looks at the next front:
“Regulators being too close to the industry and their lobbyists is a classic indicator of industry capture,” a critic tells Royce Kurmelovs:
Some snap analysis from a bloke who’d know on that Ipsos poll below:
Today’s election briefing is in! Josh Butler and Paul Karp have been out on the leaders’ campaign trails, while Daniel Hurst anchored this overview of the day:
Australia’s eSafety commissioner warned sites hosting the US Buffalo terror video to take it down – four did, as Josh Taylor reports:
Elias Visontay has been investigating the “anomaly” that may mean tens of thousands miss out on voting:
The Victorian government has launched consultations for its offshore wind plan, which is expected to generate about a fifth of the state’s power by 2032.
Under the plan, offshore wind farms would bring two gigawatts of energy online – enough to power 1.5m homes. The premier, Daniel Andrews, announced Australia’s first offshore wind targets in March and claimed it would create up to 6,100 local jobs.
The state’s energy and environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said she was confident Victoria would create the nation’s most “cost-efficient” offshore wind projects in Australia. She said:
These consultations that we’re starting off will home in on getting the best value projects ready to go.
The Andrews government said it was committed to working with traditional owners to ensure they had their say on the program’s design.
On a two-party preferred basis – when the 5% of undecided voters are allocated according to how they voted last time – Labor leads the Coalition by 53% to 47%, enough to deliver a comfortable victory if replicated on election day.
Some snaps from Scott Morrison’s day on the trail, thanks to AAP:
Australia’s Covid death toll is now 7,976:
Here’s Cait Kelly again – on how staff shortages might affect people’s access to a polling booth:
These are huge numbers – almost one in three people have already voted:
An update from the Australian Electoral Commission on the staff shortages and potential booth closures:
Sarah Martin has teased out Labor’s costings here:
The Morrison government finally got something to cheer about during the formal election campaign, with today’s jobless figures coming in clearly at a sub-4% rate in April, as we noted earlier.
Taking into account roundings and revisions, the April figure was 3.9%, unchanged from March’s 3.9%, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
Closer inspection, though, indicates last month was more like 3.85%, a drop from the revised 3.93%, Barclays notes.
In short, then, April was better than March, and we can say we’re at levels lower than any time since 1974 when the ABS collected only quarterly figures.
After being forced to squirm over inflation (surprisingly strong), an RBA rate rise (and more than was expected), and wages growth (surprisingly weak), the prime minister could with reason trumpet those unemployment gains.
We can assume the government was also hoping motorists would be driving to vote about now with fuel prices well below the $2 a litre mark. The six-month, $3bn cut in the fuel excise had, after all, slashed 22.1 cents off prices.
However, that’s not been the experience of many, with NSW today joining other parts of Australia to tick over that $2 level. (Lucky Adelaide.)
Rising oil prices lately are one factor, but the global prices are not near their post-Russian invasion of Ukraine highs.
One motoring agency suggested earlier this week that fatter margins from service stations weren’t to blame for the latest run-up in prices.
Data from the Australian Institute of Petroleum seems to bear that out too, with margin levels rising back towards average levels, at least according to the most recent weekly result.
We’ll have to wait until October to see whether a next or returning treasurer is brave enough to use up political capital and return the excise to its 44.2c a litre level.
In today’s Campaign catchup podcast: $7.4bn extra debt. Irresponsible cash splash, or a drop in the proverbial? Katharine Murphy and Jane Lee discuss Labor’s costings.
Got questions? Cait Kelly has answers. Here’s her guide to everything you need to know about voting (with bonus Matilda Boseley explainer video):
On the comments below from the prime minister, Scott Morrison, about the Biloela family, the Home to Bilo campaign says:
The prime minister repeated misinformation that “that matter is still undetermined in the courts”. There is nothing before the courts. Mr Morrison is incorrect. Further, the request for Tharnicaa to have her refugee claims assessed is before the minister.
Kelly asks Plibersek why Anthony Albanese’s approval ratings have dipped. It’s a “tough job”, Plibersek says, but:
I’m sure Anthony has the goods to be the prime minister of Australia. We have the policies that will make this a better, stronger and fairer country.
And she says it’s “not good enough” that some polling booths will not be open on Saturday, and that it could make a difference to the outcome. She says:
It could be making a difference in individual seats, but there is a broader and fundamental principle at stake here. Every Australian citizen has the right to vote in an Australian election. It is the Australian Electoral Commission’s job to ensure that happens. They need to make sure that in this election, on Saturday, every Australian has the opportunity to vote.
Plibersek says Labor has “a shot” at taking the marginal seat of Leichhardt off the Liberal party’s Warren Entsch. She says:
I would not be here if we did not have a shot at winning it. We have a fantastic candidate. Her message about more secure pay, higher wages, taking pressure off the cost of living is resonating here ... this is a seat well within reach for Labor.
On the low unemployment rate, Plibersek says everyone is telling her “life’s got harder under Scott Morrison”.
The price of everything has gone up, she says, “but wages” (yes, another of those repetitive talking points). She says:
We support seeing wages grow as businesses increase their productivity, as our economy improves. We want to see that passed on to hard-working Australians as increased wages.
Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, is now speaking to the ABC’s Fran Kelly. Kelly starts, naturally, with a question about the additional $7.4bn deficit. Plibersek says:
It is the difference between $232bn and $225bn, but it is money invested in the things that really matter and make a difference to Australians. It is investment in cheaper childcare, better early education, tertiary education and renewable energy. It is a bit rich for a government that doubled our national debt before Covid-19 hit to be talking about managing money.
That was it for now from the employment minister, Stuart Robert. Just for kicks, here he is this morning saying the small boy who was crash tackled by Scott Morrison was partly responsible:
Q: The “grim byproduct” from low unemployment is increasing interest rates, isn’t it? What about people with mortgages?
Robert says the government knew inflation was coming:
Keeping in mind that is why there is over $100bn of tax cuts coming forward. $40bn in tax reduction [and] cost of living adjustments within the budget to assist people.
And he’s on to the talking points about the election being a choice, and that Labor’s $7.4bn spend will be “just the beginning”.
Jennett asks if the tightening jobs market could start to “choke our economy”. Robert says:
There is always a balance between giving Australians a crack when it comes to jobs, and we are doing that ... but we combined that, of course, with bringing people, visa holders from overseas.
Might you have to lift the migration cap?
Robert says there’s flexibility in the balance between permanent and temporary visas.
Employment minister Stuart Robert is on the ABC now. Greg Jennett cheekily asks him if the unemployment rate makes Scott Morrison the Gough Whitlam of today.
Robert says it “demonstrates that the Morrison government’s economic planners working and working well”.
Now, about that halving of the fuel excise...
Before we get embroiled in the next round of political interviews about the economy, here’s Jeff Sparrow on the struggle the teals might face after the election:
Some Covid-positive Australians 'may not be able to vote': AEC
The Australian Electoral Commission has conceded that tens of thousands of Australians who have tested positive for Covid in recent days, and will be in isolation on polling day this Saturday, risk not having their votes counted this election.
In anticipation of Australia’s first federal election since the outbreak of the pandemic, a special Covid provision was written into the Electoral Act which gives anyone who tested positive after 6pm on Tuesday eligibility for telephone voting, a method previously used by voters with vision disabilities.
Anyone who tested positive since Saturday – tens of thousands of people according to state and territory health departments – will be in their seven day isolation period on election day this Saturday.
For those who tested positive after Saturday and before 6pm on Tuesday, postal voting is the only option available for voting, provided they did not vote at a pre-poll centre before entering isolation.
However, applications for postal voting closed at 6pm on Wednesday, meaning those only eligible for postal voting, who did not register before the deadline – some of whom had just 24 hours to do so – cannot cast their vote by post.
The AEC has acknowledged that some in this cohort “may not be able to vote”. A spokeswoman told Guardian Australia there is no scope to change the voting eligibility rules because they are set out in legislation. “We cannot change this,” the spokeswoman said.
Even those who applied for a postal vote before the registration deadline are not guaranteed to receive their ballots before Saturday, meaning they cannot be counted.
The AEC spokeswoman said:
We will be doing everything we can to ensure people who applied for a postal vote will receive them.
Frydenberg and Birmingham are defending spending on community projects, following a Sydney Morning Herald report that some might be unconstitutional.
There’s a “long-established legal framework”, Birmingham says.
Q: In the scheme of things, what does $7.4bn matter?
Birmingham says the Coalition’s spending was “temporary and proportionate” and that emergency spending was removed, which improved the budget bottom line. He says:
We’ve done the hard yards to show a reduction in government deficits to the tune of $104bn, Labor wants to add $7.4bn in extra spending.
He says Australians are conscious of inflationary pressures, and the higher deficit would add to inflation, risking higher interest rates.
I’m sure you’ve heard all this before – Frydenberg says there are lower taxes under the Coalition, the defence spending fell under Labor, etc., so on, ad nauseum. We’re at the point in this campaign where people hope repetitive statements will drill their way into the brains of undecided voters.
Q: What do you say to Australians who are doing it tough?
Frydenberg says the government is “very conscious” of cost of living pressures, and points to the (temporary) halving of the fuel excise, the (temporary) extension of the low and middle income tax offset, the (one-off) payment to pensioners, and the reduction in medicine prices.
On wages, he points to a statement from the Reserve Bank that about 40% of the employers surveyed are providing wage increases of at least 3% (inflation is at 5.1%). The wage price index this week showed a 0.7% increase, Frydenberg says, but look at all these overseas countries where it’s worse.
Frydenberg says the jobs that have been created are full-time jobs ... with some part-time jobs lost from the economy. “We have a very strong story to tell about the participation rate,” he says, adding that youth unemployment and female unemployment is down:
Of those 1.9 million more Australians in work ... 1.1 million of those are women and 70% of those jobs have been full-time.
He’s harking back to the start of the pandemic and the fears then that unemployment could reach 15%. “This is not a good result, this is an extraordinary result,” he says.
“The choice as this election is becoming clearer and clearer,” Birmingham says, before repeating Frydenberg’s criticisms of Labor leader Anthony Albanese.
Birmingham says the costings document is “flimsy”, and “released with just one day until polling day”. He says not a “single policy” has been submitted to the Parliamentary Budget Office.
He’s running through a list of Labor promises, and says the amounts in the costings documents are lower – that’s why the $7.4bn deficit is “just the beginning”, he says.
The Coalition is committed to creating 1.3m new jobs and 400,000 new small businesses over the next five years, Frydenberg says. He says Labor’s costings are a “farce”, without independent verification (I’ll check on this later), and then we’re into the “this election is a choice” talking point.
Frydenberg is now handing over to Birmingham to talk about Labor’s costings.
Frydenberg is speaking now. He says nearly 2m more Australians are in work today “than when we came to government”. He says:
And it’s not the numbers that count, it’s the people behind the number. It’s a Mum, or a Dad, or a brother or a sister, a son or daughter who now have the dignity of work and the ability to provide for their families.
He says Australia’s economic recovery has outpaced the other developed nations’. The truth is it’s a little more complicated than that, as Paul Karp explained.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has addressed the multicultural afternoon tea in Werriwa.
Around half the population either was born overseas or one of their parents were. There’s two things they come for: that economic opportunity, knowing they can have a job or afford to run a business.
Migrant communities have a much higher rate of running their own business, there’s that entrepreneurial spirit, that work ethic. I’ve always said if you have a go you should get a go. I think that’s demonstrated more than anywhere else in multicultural communities. Today unemployment has fallen to 3.9%. I know that our economic plan is working.
He went on to say:
The other thing that they come for, as their kids grow up, what they really want to see is them owning their own home. It provides the foundation for that most important thing, and that is family. The responsibility, love and care of family. Strong relationships, strong marriages.
Owning a home is the biggest investment you’ve ever made, the biggest asset you’ll ever own, the biggest decision you’ll ever take ... what we want to do is ensure that people can get access to their own money in their own superannuation.
Morrison argued that Labor doesn’t “trust” Australians with their own super. He said they wanted you to leave it in super “for union bosses to decide what shares you buy” – which got a little exclamation of “shame!” from the audience, who are those entrepreneurial small business people Morrison mentioned and a good few young Liberals – neither with much regard for unions.
Morrison disparages the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, for supporting the Western Sydney Airport through the late 90s and noughties but failing to get it built. That also draws another little cheer of “shame”. There was also a cheer of “vote for Sam (Kayal)” – not sure any of these folks are undecided.
Morrison also urged attendees to put the pandemic behind them:
Governments telling us where we can go, what we can do – we’ve had enough of that. We can put that safely behind us, because we’ve been able to demonstrate we can protect our public hospitals. We can look forward to the future in confidence.
We’ll hear from treasurer Josh Frydenberg and finance minister Simon Birmingham shortly, as economic debate dominates these last days (hours?) of the election campaign.
Former Liberal prime minister John Howard has been very active in the last few days – he was out and about yesterday supporting controversial Warringah candidate Katherine Deves.
He’s on the ABC now, and describes the election as “very tight” and “hard to predict”. He says:
I don’t have a strong feeling about the outcome.
He says he hasn’t detected a lot of “enthusiasm” for Labor leader Anthony Albanese.
Albanese says the $7.4bn “pales into insignificance” compared with the “waste” of the current government. He says:
$5.5bn for subs, they didn’t actually build a dinghy, let alone a sub. $20bn to companies who were increasing their profits.
They spent $1bn on advertising themselves and telling the Australian people how good they are in the lead up to an election.
And that’s it from Albanese for now.
Labor spending 'will produce a return', Anthony Albanese says
Albanese is asked whether his (potential) government’s extra spending would further boost inflation. He says:
The way that you can boost wages and boost profits, without putting pressure on inflation, is by making sure that you boost productivity. The measures that we aimed at here, whether it is childcare, whether it is clean energy or skills and training, are precisely those. That is why we have prioritised those investments.
The spending “will produce a return”, he says.
You’ll start to see a return on investment “really quickly”, Albanese says, particularly in the clean energy policies.
Albanese is asked about local Queensland issues with hospital wait times and ambulance ramping. He says:
We have seen real pressure on health systems. We have had a number of measures which will take pressure off those health systems, including the urgent care clinics we have announced, 50 of them, taking pressure off emergency departments.
He will talk to premiers and chief ministers, he says, about the issues in the health systems.
Albanese is asked if he was being a “bit too cute” when he earlier denied reports that Labor’s deficit would be $10bn (that figure was reported, Albanese denied it, the end result wasn’t too far off).
He says he stands by his comments at the time.
Albanese is asked if he’ll make further cuts in office. He says:
What we have said clearly, there will be further savings from the waste and the rorts that are there in the budget. That is what we have said.
We will have an audit conducted by the Department of Treasury and the Department of Finance. We will go through line by line, not just this budget, but that is what government should do every budget.
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, is up now, talking about that $7.4bn deficit. He says the extra spending “is based upon the three big things that we will do to produce an economic dividend”. He says:
Those three investments [are] our childcare that will boost both productivity and women’s workforce participation.
Skills and training – 465,000 fee-free Tafe places and 20,000 additional university places that will help to deal with the skills crisis.
Our clean energy policies that will end the climate wars, that will result in $52bn in private sector investment, that will result in some 604,000 new jobs created, five out of every six of them in regional Australia.
We are very proud to be putting this forward, we have released all of the detail, it is available to everyone, we have released it in the usual way at the usual time as we said we would.
Morrison calls an end to the relatively short press conference, saying $7.4bn is “a lot of money”, spruiks the Coalition’s economic credentials again, and says Saturday will be a choice between a strong economy and a weaker one.
Quick topic change – Morrison is asked about the Biloela family. He says there is “no protection owed” to the family, which remains in limbo. He says:
That matter is still not determined in the courts. There has been no finding of protection for the family, that is what our law requires for protection to be provided with such a visa.
He’s asked if the immigration minister can intervene, and he says:
There is no protection owed. They have not been found to be refugees. And so Australia’s rules do not permit permanent visas for people who have not been found to be refugees. That is the government’s policy. It hasn’t changed.
Morrison is asked about homebuilder Metricon, which has run into financial trouble.
He says the challenge is the disruption of supply chains, and:
The company is not in liquidation or anything of that nature, and it is our hope that they will be able to work through any challenges they may have, that is a matter for the company and obviously they will have more to say about that at the appropriate time.
Prime minister attacks Labor over 'off-balance sheet borrowings'
Morrison says “this election is a choice about who can manage money and who can’t” before attacking Labor’s costings. He says:
What they are going to do is increase the deficit by $7bn. When we released our costings, we were reducing the deficit by $1bn. On top of that, there is $52bn worth of off-balance sheet borrowing to fund more and more spending by the Labor party. What we have always seen from the Labor party is when they can’t manage money, they come after yours in higher taxes.
(Here’s a fact check on Labor’s response, which is that the Coalition is the higher taxing government).
Morrison is speaking now. He says we were “staring down the abyss” of an unemployment rate of 15% at the start of the pandemic. He continues:
The actions which were taken since then have been without precedent in our country. But today is an important day. Because today for the first time, since 1974, unemployment in this country once again has a three in front of it.
Good afternoon, all – and thanks as always to Amy Remeikis. And we’re straight into a press conference with prime minister Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison is at a multicultural afternoon tea in Werriwa, in south west Sydney, held by Labor’s Anne Stanley since 2016. Werriwa is currently on a 5.5% margin, so an ambitious move for the Coalition this late in the campaign.
Sam Kayal is the Liberal candidate; the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, is also in attendance.
Before the PM’s arrival a member of Morrison’s staff appeared to confuse another attendee for the candidate.
Once they found the actual candidate Kayal then got coaching from the staffer and Hawke about how to do noddies, staring down the camera and approving Morrison’s message in a press conference.
Morrison is doing a second presser to boast about the unemployment rate - something he didn’t do after yesterday’s dismal wages figures.
The PM is at the Michael Clarke Recreation Centre to announce additional funding for the addition of a swimming facility, and then attend an afternoon tea at the adjacent Carnes Hill Community Centre.
Kayal lives with his wife and two teenagers in Hinchinbrook; he is a local accountant and resident of over 20 years.
Scott Morrison is expected to hold a second press conference today to respond to Labor’s costings announcement.
Tory Shepherd will take you through that – I am off to record with Murph and the team to answer some of your question’s for Murph’s pod, and then start your video wrap of the week (we are getting in early ahead of election day)
I’ll be back with you early tomorrow morning for the last Friday of the campaign. Thank you so much for joining me – and take care of you Ax
National Covid-19 update
Here are the latest coronavirus case numbers from around Australia on Thursday, as the country records at least 52 deaths from Covid-19:
- Deaths: 1
- Cases: 997
- In hospital: 82 (with 4 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 22
- Cases: 10,964
- In hospital: 1,283 (with 46 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 286
- In hospital: 25 (with 2 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 2
- Cases: 6,448
- In hospital: 493 (with 12 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 5
- Cases: 4,395
- In hospital: 246 (with 11 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 2
- Cases: 1,076
- In hospital: 43 (with 2 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 14
- Cases: 13,201
- In hospital: 512 (with 32 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 6
- Cases: 17,105
- In hospital: 300 (with 10 people in ICU)
Despite how big an issue violence against women has been over the last couple of years it has barely rated a mention during the election campaign, with neither major party making too many commitments.
Advocacy group Fair Agenda have released a statement on the gap:
Today, gender campaigning organisation Fair Agenda reveals which election candidates have pledged to fund essential services for rape survivors.
Karen Iles, a sexual assault survivor, says:
The impact of my multiple rapes is on me – not on the boys and men that raped me. I have needed a lot of support, but it has been incredibly difficult to be able to see a specialist sexual assault social worker, counsellor or psychologist. I live in Sydney now, and this was so much worse growing up in a regional area.
I am currently on a waitlist for two specialist services: one public and one private. I’m in the privileged position where I can afford to pay, but even then there is still a huge waitlist. Many services don’t even keep a waitlist: the demand is just so high. I’m speaking up about it now because I don’t want other women to have to go through this.
I’m the one living with this. The very least our governments can do is to support self healing and preservation through specialised sexual assault counselling services.
The Pledge for a Safer Future outlines six key areas for action on gender-based violence, including support for the $1bn a year federal investment in women’s safety that experts say is necessary to properly resource services.
There is full party-wide commitment for the funding from the Australian Greens. The Australian Labor party provided a partial commitment to the pledge and committed to further work to ensure adequate funding for the National Plan.
Only one Coalition candidate – Andrew Constance in Gilmore – pledged support for the increased funding. At a party level, the Coalition did not commit to any additional funding, instead responding to the pledge’s call for commitments to further action with a statement focused on commitments made during the last parliament.
High-profile independents in key races have also committed to support the funding needed to properly resource sexual and domestic violence services, including: Monique Ryan, Zoe Daniel, Allegra Spender, Kylea Tink, and David Pocock.
Find out which candidates committed to the Pledge for a Safer Future at voteforsafety.com.au.
Victoria’s crisis-riddled triple zero system lacks agility to respond to emergencies and is besieged by a risk-averse culture, according to an independent review of the service.
The review – by the former police chief Graham Ashton – found the state’s Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) operated like a “corporate entity” rather than an emergency management service.
It found simple time-critical decisions had to be escalated through multiple levels of ESTA’s leadership until it reached “a person who felt empowered to make a decision.”
The release of the review follows the deaths of more than 12 Victorians – including four children – since October, after waiting for triple zero to pick up, or the call being answered outside the service’s benchmark times.
The report recommended that the service be integrated into the Department of Justice and Community Safety from next year to focus on faster call-taking, as well as undergo a rebrand to become “Triple Zero Victoria” in a bid to refocus call-taking as its primary responsibility.
A new board of advisers will also be created which will include members of Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police, drawing on their emergency services expertise.
The Albanese campaign has landed in Queensland, arriving at a pre-poll site in Peter Dutton’s electorate of Dickson. He’s here to campaign for Labor candidate Ali France.
The Queensland visit comes after controversy at an earlier plan to send Albanese’s travelling press pack to Canberra for a costings press conference instead - an arrangement quickly changed after backlash from reporters, who didn’t want to be split from the prospective prime minister just 36 hours from polling day.
Still, Albanese held an event before the press even arrived - another pre-poll with the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Albanese is said to be doing a short doorstop after this on costings.
Nick Evershed and the data team taught an AI to find pictures of politicians or wannabe politicians holding giant cheques (you may remember it was Liberal Mayo candidate Georgina Downer presenting a giant cheque which led to the auditor general looking into what became the sports rorts scandal)
Here is what they found:
So in budget terms, it is $1.85bn extra a year than the Coalition has forecast over the next four years.
Higher-than-expected commodity prices – and Josh Frydenberg has made a virtue of the fact the government has deliberately chosen a more conservative number when it comes to commodity prices and the like – can wipe out $2bn in deficit very easily.
But your reminder, that costings are estimates and usually are not thought of again once a budget has been handed down.
And that is where the costings press conference ends.
Q: A lot of the major savings announced today are based on behavioural-type forecasts. Tax avoidance, finding competition breaches, things like that. I assume it’s based on behavioural analysis by the PBO (Parliamentary Budget Office) or something else, but notoriously in the past these things are really estimates only.
If you go to the other side of the budget, will you have a crack at more structural savings? Will you have a go at the NDIS, for example, which is now headed towards $64bn annually by the end of the decade, stuff you can deliver rather than this sort of thing?
First of all, the revenue measures before you have been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and they use the methodology the Treasury and Finance would use so those are robust costings.
I’d say about it that on the 19 improvements to the budget that we are releasing today, 13 of them savings. Six of them are revenue measures, so more than twice as many savings than revenue measures and that’s deliberate as well.
We are not proposing to cut some of the key social services programs, that’s not our intention. What we would like to do instead is to make room for meaningful investments in the care economy by unwinding some of the rorts and waste in the budget.
If there is a theme [our work] is that if we do a bit less of the rorting and wasting which has defined a decade of the Coalition in office, then we can do more of the things we truly value in the society and in our economy.
Q: [What if there’s] rorting and wasting going on inside the NDIS as well? You can’t make a better program?
We’ve said we’d look for ways to make it more efficient and we have said that, for example, there are extreme lawyer fees paid in the NDIS and we have made that clear.
Q: By service providers?
We’ve made all of that clear that there is work to be done on the NDIS but our intention ... is not to reduce people’s services or not to reduce people’s packages. What we desperately want to see in this country is a better future that requires a stronger economy which requires a better-quality, more responsible budget, that’s what you have before you today. This work begins with what we are proposing today but hopefully it will continue for the life of an Albanese Labor government.
Q: In relation to costings today, your commitment to effectively cover an increase to the wage of aged care workers, which is from one analysis could be in the multiple billions of dollars from the point that comes into effect, that’s not included in the costings today, is it?
It’s not possible to cost that which is why the government hasn’t hasn’t costed that either. Scott Morrison has said that a federal government would have to fund a future outcome of an aged care wage case. We have said that we support the case and we think that aged care workers are quite substantially underpaid when you consider the value of the work that they do in the care economy.
Neither the government nor the Labor opposition can anticipate the outcome of the fair work process in terms of timing, in terms of quantum. That’s why Scott Morrison, who is also said they will fund it, hasn’t included it in the numbers the treasurer and finance minister released in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Q: Back to the spending in marginal electorates and whether or not Labor is doing anything different to what the Coalition has done: since the beginning of the year Labor has promised more than $1bn to marginal electorates, which is 2.5 times what would be expected if those promises were made on a equal electorate basis. Can you honestly suggest that Labor is doing anything differently to what the Coalition is doing in terms of pork-barrelling? Will any of those commitments be subject to integrity processes?
We’ve said that these projects are ones that we support and we made the announcement during the election.
In terms of some of the, I don’t know which you have got in the list, there are smaller commitments and there are ones that fall under Catherine’s portfolio. She has made it clear they will go through a merit process.
Where we’ve made smaller commitments, we have made them where councils and state governments have done business cases and have strong community support for those commitments. But we have made commitments across the board, in a number of seats that we don’t expect to win where we still believe there is a need for a particular commitment. We have made them.
The big difference, and there is a big difference between us and them, is we are being upfront and we are accounting for those in our costings. We do not have the luxury of the approach that this government takes, which is to bury billions of dollars in secret funds and then use those – those funds set up in government, with government guidelines and processes in place, which they then allocate as election commitments – and that is the issue the audit office has had a problem with them on.
It’s not that commitments are made, it’s about how they hide the money and allocate the money and pretend that it hasn’t come from funds that should be shared equally across the country.
Q: Are you being honest about pork-barrelling?
I don’t think anyone expects you to go through an election campaign and not make commitments. We are doing that as every opposition in government has done in previous times. We are being upfront and clear and accounting for the costs.
There is a question on the urgent care clinics and why Labor has not provided a list of where they are going.
On urgent care, it’s a capped program, $135m for 50 urgent care centres across Australia ...
Q: They’ve been assigned during the election campaign, where’s the process for that?
Some of them have been assigned, and they’ve been assigned – the announcements have been made where ED presentations, particularly of categories four and five, are causing real stress to those hospitals in those areas.
Everybody knows categories four and five can be treated by a general practitioner if they are available.
That’s the idea behind the urgent care centres, is that they are open extended hours and they’re available for people when they need them. I speak from experience, I know when EDs get really busy and it’s in the early evenings and weekends and your kids get sick and there is no other alternative.
This is a 3-year program, a capped amount and we want to review to ensure it works in the Australian health is done, it works in other jurisdictions, and the idea is that a GP would get, on average, about a grant in the order of $750,000 depending on the size of the practice and how many people were working, so it would change slightly. That would be implanted in government. It was informed by PBO costing.
[There have been other questions but the transcription is not coping, so apologies]
Q: Yesterday Anthony [Albanese] said you’d cut by using a different model to focus on productivity, not where electorates are [receiving grants]. Is Labor committing to budgeting grants programs based on frequent pork-barrelling, or does that only apply to the National Reconstruction Fund?
In terms of our approach to grants, the approach we have taken today is announced in our costings, we have them clearly ... the commitments we have made to local communities through local commitments process are all accounted for.
In terms of grants, what we would see is [for us to] abide by the grant guidelines which this government doesn’t do.
The community development grants program, which has turned out to be the biggest pork-barrelling grant rounds we have got going now ... the government learned that people are watching the Building Better Regions Fund and the Urban Congestion Fund, so they moved in the space of one month between February and March of this year, they moved almost $1bn into that fund so they can allocate it through this election.
That’s what’s happening right now. So don’t think they have learnt the lesson of sports rorts and car park rorts and all of the shenanigans they got up to before the last election, they haven’t. They just found a new fund that didn’t have the same scrutiny placed on it. That’s the story. We won’t operate like that.
We’ve made our commitments and have made them upfront and are accounted for them in our costings and in government, we would have a much better process, i.e. we would follow the grant guidelines as required by the finance department which this government rips up.
Q: Returning to the question about the Constitutionality of those discretionary grants. This has been an issue since the sports grant report was released by the National Audit Office. There’s been a discussion that has been on for the best part of two years. You answered it in a passive – it’s consistent with past practice. Surely, someone actually has to seek some legal advice to determine whether or not this method of disbursing funds is constitutional or not? If you win the election on Saturday, will you seek that advice?
That’s a decision that is yet to be taken. Our understanding, our strong firm understanding that it is consistent with constitutional requirements. If that changes our approach will change too, but that’s not what we’re anticipating.
Q: More generally, do you believe that a couple of billion dollars over the forward estimates doesn’t really matter? Isn’t that Labor’s problem when it comes to budget management?
I believe it is absolutely crucial to growing the economy the right way. We don’t dismiss it lightly. We have spent more than 100 hours with the ERC (Expenditure Review Committee), [with] Katy or I in the chair.
We have gone through ... every bit of spending from the government, every bit of proposed spending from us. We don’t take these decisions lightly.
From time to time you or your counterparts and colleagues will ask us, if a first budget will involving us going line by line through the spending, and my answer is every single budget should involve that level of rigour.
We have been very rigourous here.
The extra investments we are making, these decisions are not taken lightly. We feel the budget will be weaker without investing in crucial economic policies like childcare, cleaner and cheaper energy, and training.
We have made that judgement, not lightly, but in the interest of the economy into the future, because we want to make these decisions based on economics, not politics.
On the TPVs [temporary protection visas], Katy Gallagher:
Under our costings, there’s about 19,000 people who are currently on those arrangements. This would abolish those visas and shift people on them to a permanent visa. A new permanent visa.
It would remove the need to reapply and go through that process every three to five years which is currently what is happening. That is for people who have met the security and character requirements test under the current visa arrangements.
Under the new visa subclass it would allow the same support as under existing visas. They would be entitled to work, access Medicare, income support, English-language tuition and things like trauma and torture counselling. That’s the costings that we’ve been provided for that.
Labor won't compel companies to pay back jobkeeper they didn't need
Q: You criticise the Government that pouring jobkeeper into companies that don’t need to, will you compel those companies to pay that excess money back? Also, you’ve outlined the cost of abolishing the TPV [temporary protection visas] is, can explain some of the costs associated with creating a new permanent visa?
I will answer on jobkeeper and Katy will answer the migration one.
We don’t intend to compel businesses who received jobkeeper, even though their profits were increasing, we don’t intend to compel them to return that money to the taxpayer. That horse has bolted.
We are grateful and appreciate the efforts that some companies took off their own back without government pressure, but from opposition pressure, to return some of the money to the budget, but we feel that horse has bolted.
When you hear ... the government talk about our budget position, when they do, never forget that this is a government that got their jobkeeper sums wrong by $60bn, they gave $20bn at least to companies during the pandemic whose profits were increasing and they didn’t need assistance.
They gave $5.5bn at least to a submarine program that did not produce as much as a canoe.
They spent $1bn on advertising themselves. They spelt billions and billions of dollars in these slush funds that Katy went through. We will not be taking lectures from the most wasteful government since federation.
Objectively, if you look at the budget history of this country, there has not been a more wasteful government since federation, and we need to start putting a stop to that, we indicated some ways that we would go about it. But recouping job keeper is not part of what we are proposing today.
Q: Will you rule out a change to the public service efficiency [dividend], and out of Victoria, you promised $2.2bn for the Suburban rail loop. How the math on the infrastructure project add up It doesn’t seem to me to be 2.2 billion?
I will answer that question. On the first question around the public sector efficiency dividend, we are not proposing any change to the arrangements that exist. We are not adopting the government’s approach with the over $3 billion that they have announced a couple of days ago. We have made our position on where we think there are some sensible and more efficient ways to do that and that is included in the costing.
On the infrastructure program, we have made provisions in the costings, we have taken the same approach the government has where they’ve made infrastructure announcements, and then made a smaller provision in the costings.
Our belief is in a program that size, with the amount of delays and some of the cancellations that the government has been making themselves – for example, the treasurer’s four car parks he is no longer building on his own electorate ...
Within a $120bn 10-year-program, that those commitments will be funded within the existing infrastructure investment program. Where that is not the case, we have made provision in the costings document.
Q: To clarify before I asked, you were saying that there are no second round effects in these costings. That is the convention?
We follow the convention of the PBO and treasurer. [Indicates for next questioner]
Q: That is not my question. There will be second rounds effects.
It sounded like a question.
Q: You got me there. There will be second round effects because that what we’re talking about in the budget. The unemployment rate is 3.9%, today. It is forecast to come down in the budget very soon to 3.75%, and then lower. Will taking this into account, taking what you have done into account, your October budget, should there be one, have lower unemployment forecasts, even lower than those in the budget and Myefo (Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook) as a result going out four years. Or can’t we really be certain that there are benefits to your spending?
I’m not going to preempt forecasts by the Treasury that we haven’t seen and would appropriately see until or unless we are the government. I’m not going to make predictions about that.
When it comes to the unemployment rate ... Even when unemployment is falling in welcome ways, it hasn’t generated the real wage growth we need to see and that we would expect to see. That’s because for the best part of a decade we’ve had a government whose deliberate economic policy has been to attack job and undermine wages. They confessed to that before.
So I think in the labour market in particular, the balance of risks has shifted to this wages cut we’re seeing, this dramatic cut to real wages. Our priorities are obviously [in] creating good, secure, well-paid jobs, [to] get real wages moving again, trying to get the economy moving without adding these inflationary pressures. We will work with Treasury and Finance if we are elected to make sure that those dividends of our investments are appropriately represented in our budgets.
Q: Productivity measures are coming from those off-budget funds you have announced, about $48bn worth. NBN polls and wires, a National Reconstruction fund. Is the interest on those policies reflected in your bottom-line figures? I assume there’s extra debt incurred from having to borrow that money, is that reflected in the [$7.4bn difference]? And is there anywhere in these savings a prediction on the improvement in productivity from those policies?
On [the interest] have we include an impact on that, yes.
It is worth remembering that a number of these budgets make the budget money. The national reconstruction fund, for example, and others.
What we’re doing with the off-budget funds is entirely consistent with how the government has gone about a number of the funds they have. I think they are an important way to leverage the national balance sheet in the interests of good economic outcomes. We’ve seen with the CEFC [Clean Energy Finance Corporation] and other funds that you can generate a very worthwhile economic dividend from these funds.
Many of these, some of these we announced more than a year ago. So, yes that has been accounted for here, but don’t forget that in some instances these funds make money.
Q: What part of section 51 of the constitution enables the federal government to spend money on dog parks, BMX tracks, swimming pools, and wall murals which you’ve all committed to. Doesn’t the fact that you are borrowing money to pay for those projects that you are running larger deficits than would otherwise need to have done?
We are making responsible investments in local communities. The difference about how we go about it and how the government goes about it is that we want to work with local councils and state governments to provide that community infrastructure.
We are not sitting around in an office somewhere pouring over colour-coded spreadsheets like the Liberals and Nationals have been doing. The constitutional basis, it is consistent with past practice, if that advice changes then obviously we will take that into account. We are aware of some of the opinions that your newspaper and perhaps others have published. But it is consistent with past practices, so we don’t participate any issues on that front.
Q: On the last two elections you have made a virtue of having a better budget bottom line compared to the government. Now debt is spiralling, and seemingly the last thing the economy needs is more spending, given inflation. Can you talk me through the logic of now actually adding to spending?
On the basis of your question, that is accurate for the last election but not for the one before.
When it comes to our investment and the difference in the bottom line between us. It is entirely explained by those investments in those three key areas which will grow the economy without adding to inflation.
If you look at that $7.4bn difference between the budgets, you add up skills and training in universities, cleaner and cheaper energy and childcare, which are arguably the three policies that will get us the best bang for buck. What we are anticipating is that the economic return on those investments will dwarf the investments themselves.
We think that is worth it. Obviously, every government and every alternative government has choices to make. And we could have not announced those policies and we could have come to the same bottom line, but if you come from the basis of what is best for the economy is best for the budget, then these investments are absolutely necessary and we are proud of them.
Q: You talked about the need for your plan to be driving productivity and boosting economic growth. When you hand down your first budget and you have all your plans in place, what does success look like in terms of your productivity forecasts and actual outcomes in your first term? Should we expect to see WPI or GDP in your first budget reflecting higher outcomes as a result of the policies?
We will engage with the Treasury and Finance in the usual way, and they will include in the budget the impact of our policies. We are realistic about the scale of the challenge that we will be inheriting, in economic terms and also physical terms.
... We’ve tried to be upfront with people and say a lot of these challenges haven’t been just developing during the pandemic. A lot of challenges are a decade old, when you think of stagnant wages, flatlining productivity. [The] weakest business investment since the 90s recession. A lot of these challenges have been building for long time.
Nobody can just flick the switch and make these trillion dollars of debt disappear. Nobody can flick a switch and turn what has our woeful performance ... around in one budget, or even in one term. What we’re doing here is making a start. We are doing it in the most responsible, forward-looking way that we can.
For too long in this country, we’ve having a budget determined solely by political imperatives. What Katy and I want to do and what our costing document and economic plan we released here weeks ago is all about, is making sure that we have something to show for these trillion dollars of debt that we inherit. That was have an economic dividend. And that is what our policies are about.
Q: You say this will deliver an economic dividend. Which column of your first budget would that be evident?
It’s already clear from the policies we are releasing today, you think about at least two of our big policies have already been modelled. Reputex has modelled our Powering Australia plan, which says there will be tens of billions of dollars in extra investment from our investment in cleaner and cheaper energy. There would be more than 600,000 jobs, five out of six of those in the regions.
The benefits are already clear, and childcare similarly, when it comes to the Grattan Institute modelling. When you speak to the economists in the jargon, the fiscal multipliers, when you get the best bang for buck is in areas like childcare, like training, like energy. That is what we have gone for here.
That is why the difference between what the government is proposing is what we are proposing. We want to unwind the slush and waste and rorts in the Liberal-National budget and we want to redirect that toward spending on quality investments and growing the economy the right way.
Q: My question was about which column of your first, second, third budget would be economic dividend show other than more debt?
All of our policies would be included in the first budget. And where it is consistent with the accounting rules, all of those would be shown.
Q: Yes, but would it be in higher wages, higher productivity?
All of our policies, our economic plan and budget strategy is about growing the economy more strongly [without raising] inflation. It is about getting real wages moving again ...
... It is about easing cost of living pressures in areas like childcare, energy, the PBS. The benefits from Australians will be set out in the first budget. I think the economic dividends are clear. We tried to do is we have tried to draw a line under the way that the government has gone about budgeting, which is always for a political dividend. We cover an economic dividend and they will be clear in the budget.
Our approach since taking on these roles and looking at what we can afford going forward has been in a number of areas ... First is responsible and targeted investments that deliver an outcome, whether it’s being creating jobs, boosting participation, lifting productivity, driving business investment and being able to grab the opportunities that come with that, increasing wages and growing incomes.
To end the rorts, and we saw that yesterday with Anthony [Albanese] announcing the return to the budget of $750m, since they are unallocated at this point of time.
A waste audit, to go through the budget line-by-line, department-by-department, after nine years of this government fiddling the books and stashing money wherever they feel like it for their own political convenience. And also sensible savings to start that work of budget repair.
Our plan, which we are releasing today, are costings of modest new investments of $18.9bn over forward estimates, but we also announce $11.5bn in budget improvements over the same time.
So the difference in deficits between the two costings is $7.4bn.
Getting out of the submarine contract will cost Australia $5.5bn – and we get nothing for that.
Labor costings announcement
Jim Chalmers is in Canberra with Katy Gallagher to announce Labor’s costings. (The Coalition’s Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham announced the government’s earlier in the week – in Melbourne though, not with campaign or press gallery journalists)
The costings we released today, our economic plan, our budget strategy, is all about responsible quality investments in a stronger economy, and a better future. After a decade of the Coalition’s failings, the economy is crying out for these responsible investments, to grow the economy the right way and get productivity moving again, and to get real wages growing again.
Our investment are a fraction of what the Liberals and Nationals have rorted and wasted. Our investments are a fraction of what the Liberals and Nationals added at the last budget and at the last media update as well.
The modest $7.4bn difference between the two budgets is made up of key investments in childcare, investments in training and education, and investments in cleaner and cheaper energy. Our investments will generate an economic dividend every dollar of difference between us and the government is carefully calibrated to deliver a bigger economic return [and] to deal with these challenges that we would inherit.
Victoria’s treasurer, Tim Pallas, has emerged from a meeting with Australia’s biggest home builder, Metricon, which was held this morning as rumours race around the construction industry that the company is in deep financial trouble.
In a statement, Pallas said the company was in talks with its lender – who he did not name but we can tell you is the Commonwealth Bank – but had reassured him it was up-to-date with its trade creditors.
He also denied that the government’s home-building projects, where Metricon holds contracts worth $195m, were in strife, and paid tribute to the company’s founder, Mario Biasin, who died unexpectedly earlier this week.
The entire building industry is under pressure from inflation, with the prices of some building materials up as 50% over a year.
The Victorian government welcomed the opportunity to meet with Metricon today and will continue to talk to the company and the sector more widely about factors affecting the industry.
We understand the pressure on builders on the eastern seaboard due to increases in costs, and the impacts this is having on the construction industry and residential clients.
The government will continue to work constructively with the industry to help address these challenges.
Metricon is one of several partners in our Big Housing Build delivering high-quality social and affordable homes across the state, and this unprecedented program of work is on track.
Metricon informed the government that all its trade creditors have been paid in full and on time and Metricon expects this to continue. Metricon also informed the government that it is working constructively with its lender.
I was shocked and saddened to learn of Mario Biasin’s passing. On behalf of the government, I extend my condolences to his family and his Metricon colleagues and acknowledge his significant contribution to the construction industry and the state.
New South Wales has become the last Australian state to pass voluntary assisted dying legislation.
After months of delays and following a mammoth all-night debate, the legislation, first introduced last year, passed its final hurdle when the state’s lower house passed an amended bill without opposition just before 1pm.
Its passage is a landmark moment in the state, and follows a long-running campaign from advocates who have pushed for NSW to follow the rest of the country in passing voluntary assisted dying laws.
The bill was spear-headed by the independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich after a series of past attempts failed to make it through the state’s parliament.
He said the bill marked a moment in which NSW had “passed a threshold of honesty and compassion”.
Honesty that not all people die well, and compassion that people with advanced and cruel terminal illnesses will have the same end of care options as those in every other stat.
He said the passage of the bill in NSW should turn attention to the federal government, and Howard-era laws which have prevented both the Northern Territory and ACT from passing similar laws.
Supporters had hoped the bill would pass on Wednesday night, but after a mammoth debate in which opponents moved some 90 amendments in a late night filibuster attempt, it passed through the upper house on Thursday afternoon.
One of the bill’s opponents, the employee relations minister, Damien Tudehope, said the bill “betrayed” people suffering from a terminal illness.
Some will say this is a great moment for NSW ... I will leave here today thinking this is a dark day for our state.
Voluntary-assisted dying laws pass NSW parliament
We will have more for you soon
South Australia reports five Covid deaths
There are more than 4,000 infections in SA today as well.
We will be hearing from Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher about Labor’s costings in just under an hour (1.30pm EST).
Covid will have an impact on voting as well – if you haven’t organised a postal vote before 6pm yesterday, you are not eligible for the phone vote:
The Nationals appear to be turning up the heat with alleged smear tactics against Independents running in the rural Victorian and mid-north NSW coast seats of Nicholls and Cowper.
On Wednesday night constituents in Cowper got text messages linking their Independent candidate Caz Heise to the Greens, days after Rob Priestly was linked to Labor, both authorised by the National Party.
But whoever’s behind the text messages in the Nationals party HQ seems to have either done a shoddy copy and paste job, or else election fever is getting to their head seeing the Independent threat merging into a singular bete noire.
Guardian Australia has seen a text message received by a Cowper constituent referring to “Caz Priestly.”
Constituents in Nicholls have also been receiving letters purporting to be concerned neighbours such as “Andy”, “Liz” and “Beth” - no surnames listed. “Liz” said “I don’t like the way [Priestly’s] getting endorsements from the Dan Andrews Government” - with small print endorsement by the Nationals at the bottom.
While Priestly has said the Nationals message that he is linked to the Labor party is false, the Cowper text messages take advantage of Heise’s admission in an interview on Australian Story Monday night that she used to be a Greens member.
In the interview Heise said “at times in my life, I have been a member of different movements. At one stage I was a member of the Greens. Another stage I’ve been a member of the union movement, the Nurses Association. But none of them resonated enough with me to step up and actually represent my community.”
Antoun Issa’s last fact check for the election campaign looks at Scott Morrison’s claim that a 5.1% minimum wage increase will hurt inflation.
(Spoiler: it won’t.)
Another interesting fact – corporate profits have gone up 21.9% over the course of the pandemic.
Covid and illness lead to drop in working hours
The labour figures include a few interesting titbits, including WA’s jobless rate now at 2.9%, down from 3.4% in March. That’s just ahead of 3.1% in Canberra (pre-“efficiency dividend”, perhaps), which is better by 0.3 percentage points.
A big mover, though, was NSW, the most populous state, with the jobless rate down to 3.5% (from 3.9%), while Victoria went slightly the other way to 4.2% (from 4.0%). Queensland and SA both landed at 4.5% from different directions, with Tasmania zooming from 4.5% to 3.8%. NT, since you asked, was rock solid on 4.1%.
Overall the picture was a (revised) steady as it goes, nationally for the month:
Nature and Covid, played different roles. On the one hand, the flood crisis in Queensland and NSW eased a bit so that the number of people working fewer hours because of disruptions sank from more than half a million to about 70,000.
On the other hand, the rising numbers of Covid cases in April meant the number of people working reduced hours due to illness continued to be high, according to Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS:
Around 740,000 people worked reduced hours in April because of illness, almost double what we usually saw in April before the pandemic.
Of these people, around 340,000 worked no hours, which was around triple what we would usually see.
And yet Covid has barely featured during the campaign.
Queensland records two Covid deaths
The state has also reported more than 6,000 cases.
The issue of Australia’s participation in next week’s Quad summit in Tokyo came up during a White House press briefing overnight. The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, noted that the president, Joe Biden, would take part in the second in-person Quad summit “alongside the prime minister of Japan, the prime minister of India, and the prime minister of Australia”:
And we believe that this summit will demonstrate, both in substance and in vision, that democracies can deliver and that these four nations working together will defend and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Sullivan said Biden, while in Tokyo, would also launch “a new, ambitious economic initiative for the region: the Indo-Pacific economic framework – IPEF, as we affectionately call it”.
(Side note: the US has been struggling to come up with a coherent economic vision for the region after pulling out of what is now known as the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. Australia and Japan helped keep that alive after the US withdrawal.)
Sullivan also pointed to the Aukus security partnership, which brings together the US, Australia and the UK, and cited the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy as an example of “the extent to which European countries are increasingly invested in the Indo-Pacific”.
Then on to questions:
Q: It’s about the Quad summit. And there is a possibility that Saturday’s election in Australia will not produce a winner in time for someone to go to Tokyo to participate in the Quad summit. So what contingencies are there? Will the one meeting go ahead if Australia cannot participate?
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre:
I believe that the Quad meeting will go ahead. I don’t have any more specifics than that about the — you know, how that’s going to affect any further, deeper. But from what I understand, and even Jake said this, that there’s going to be a Quad summit. It’s going to happen. We can – we can talk more about the specifics of what will – you know, what it will look like with Australia.
(Translation: Watch this space, but we’re watching like everyone else.)
A very quick look through the April unemployment figures shows the participation rate has fallen, and while full-time jobs did increase (92,400,) part-time jobs decreased by 88,400.
Unemployment at 3.9%
Australia’s jobless rate in April has just landed and it’s 3.9%, steady with a revised 3.9% for March.
That’s the last major economic number from the ABS during the campaign, book-ending a busy period that included inflation figures reaching the highest point since 2009 (using the rate), a subsequent Reserve Bank rate rise that was larger than most predicted, and yesterday’s barely budging wage growth.
The unemployment rate has been hovering at the lowest level for about half a century for a few months. That’s a plus, obviously, for people looking for work and for those who had been worried about keeping their jobs during the pandemic.
For comparison’s sake, New Zealand’s jobless rate sank to 3.2% by the end of 2021, while the US is lately at 3.6% and the UK 3.8% (to name nations we often compare ourselves to). We’re doing better than Canada at 5.2% and the average of the euro area at 6.8% but Germans and Japanese are in economies with jobless rates starting with a “2”.
The economy added 4,000 jobs, fewer than the 20-30,000 jobs expected by economists although monthly numbers can be tricky to predict.
More to come shortly.
Scott Morrison has spoken to 2SM Radio.
He continued his general confusion about whether being a bulldozer is a good thing or not, by noting that being a bulldozer “helps get stuff done”. It really is a case of being all things to all people – promising to continue the supposed strength he showed in the pandemic, but also promising greater empathy.
Asked about the teal independents, and how many will win, he replied:
My intention is they take none. The reason is: who are they? And who’s behind them? Big money coming out of Melbourne trying to buy seats. They’ve got policies that will shut down the economy ... treasurer Josh Frydenberg is so essential to the future of the government, to the future of the parliament. These guys turn up – they won’t tell you how’d they’d vote but want you to vote for them. I think will cause weakness in the parliament at a time we can’t afford it … They’re a dangerous group, nobody knows who they are or who’s behind them.
Morrison said Simon Holmes à Court tweets describing John Howard as the “angel of death” were “despicable – it made me want to throw up”.
Asked why he is steering clear of marginal seats, Morrison replied he is not – he is campaigning in seats where it is a choice between the Coalition and Labor (not independents and the Coalition).
And yet he didn’t campaign in Brisbane, Ryan or Longman on his latest Brisbane trip. Nor in Bass today in Tasmania. No, he is steering clear of places where he is a liability – and a great many of them are marginals.
Ninety electoral officers in Hobart have been impacted by Covid in the last 24 hours, the Australian Electoral Commission has said, meaning they will not be able to be at polling booths on Saturday.
It follows the announcement yesterday that a number of booths in Queensland, SA and WA may not open as planned.
AEC digital engagement director Evan Ekin-Smyth said there were enough staff in Hobart to cover the shortage:
[It’s] an example of the challenge, particularly in Covid times. We have staff lined up, we feel confident, even despite that level of drop within one day.
We’ve got people dropping out around the country, but we’re adding people too. Of the 7,000-odd polling places we’re not worried about most of them.
The AEC has 15,000 electoral officer positions, with a register of 250,000 people who are keen to jump in and help. But it thins out in some regional areas, Ekin-Smyth said:
We’ve identified ones in regional Queensland and SA in danger at the moment of not being able to open. It’s an incredibly difficult challenge with Covid.
Not sure if it’s an OMG moment, given that so many people in the country have it, but Pauline Hanson told Sydney radio KIIS FM, when asked how she was:
Do you really want to know? I’m up the shit. I’ve got Covid.
At least that is what I think she says, as she is coughing.
Hanson adds that she is fine and hasn’t been in hospital.
And he finishes with a question about Luca:
I spoke to Luca and spoke to his mum. Luca is in great shape – probably came off a little better than I did last night because I hit the ground with a great thud. He’s a great sport and kid. He shared with me his young sporting highlights. He told me he got three hat-tricks with a goal, he’s got a story to tell his mates today and I suspect a yarn he’ll be able to spin for many, many years to come. Thanks very much, everyone.
'I have demonstrated the empathy that comes with action,' PM says
Q: You said you’d be more empathetic, you have just bulldozed through multiple questions on the cost of living and what comfort should be there for people. Where is the empathy? And secondly – for those who are seeing prices rise, where should they be cutting their personal spending?
I want wages to rise and everything I do everyday is designed to achieve ensuring Australians get paid more. I have – and with Jenny on many occasions, have sat with people in their worst of times and their best of times and this drives me every single day to ensure that Australians can improve the quality of their life and the standards of their living.
It’s why we fought so hard to ensure 2,900 new and amended the listings for putting on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme so people who are struggling with terrible conditions, like cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy, and all of these. If you can’t manage money, you can’t put these medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Last time Labor was in power, they didn’t manage money, they lost control of the borders, and they had to not put medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. So ...
Q: That doesn’t answer the question where is the empathy though?
What I have been able to demonstrate is the empathy that comes with action. And when you understand the pressures that Australians face, you do take action and the most important action a prime minister and, indeed, a treasurer and a government can take, is to ensure that our economy is strong and to ensure that our finances are well-managed because when you can’t do that, Australians lose out.
Labor cut our defence forces. Labor couldn’t list medicines. Labor lost control of our borders last time they were let into government. They promised they’d be a safe option. They weren’t. It took us six years to repair the budget after what they did to it when they were in government …
And that’s why this election is so important because you are going to decide who is going to be in control of the purse strings over the next three years.
Are we going to have a Labor party and a Labor leader that doesn’t know their way around the economy and is a complete loose unit or is it going to be a government who understands how the economy works, has put in place budgets that have actually made our economy stronger?
That is the choice Australians are going to get to make.
They’re also going to decide on Saturday whether they can get access to their own superannuation to buy their own home.
Now, when I’m listening to Australians who want to buy their own home and listening carefully to the challenges that they’re facing, they want to be able to get access to their own superannuation and their own money and they want a government who treats it like their own money, not as if it’s their own.
That’s why we’re always for lower taxes, we’re for lower taxes, because we know that it’s your money and we want you to keep more of your own money.
[Journalists try to interrupt but he keeps going through the questions]
Q: The federal government’s fault or actions they took 25 years ago as to why the ACT and the Northern Territory might be the only jurisdictions in this country that will not have voluntary-assisted dying, removing that ban is not about the territory suddenly having voluntary-assisted dying, it’s about their right to choose. Why won’t the Coalition government commit to doing that? Or do you think that Territorians are second-class citizens?
There are differences between territories and states and that is under our constitution and we’re not proposing any changes to that.
Q: Prime minister, we all pay all the same taxes.
Many residents of the ACT joining me here today in Tasmania today I know. Territories, states, have different authorities that are vested in them and I’m not proposing any changes to those arrangements ... Any questions on Tasmania? Other than the ACT!
I have lost the feed to the rest of the prime minister’s press conference but I will bring you the rest of that as soon as it is back.
An update to our story yesterday about Australian tech company Canva’s continued operations in Russia, which have outraged Ukrainian expats.
Since yesterday, the company has been moved from the “digging in” category to “scaling back” on a database tracking corporate involvement in Russia run out of Yale University’s school of management. Canva’s head of communications, Lachlan Andrews, told Guardian Australia:
This should’ve been the case originally and the list now reflects that we ceased payments in the region on March 1st.
You can read our full story from yesterday here.
Scott Morrison has addressed the media at Island Block and Paving in Lyons. He was asked about Anthony Albanese’s comments about the pun on his name in Liberal ads.
Morrison said he “didn’t accept” that anyone had taken offence from it, noted that the Liberal party had punned on Bill Shorten with the “Bill you can’t afford”, and that Labor had made fun of Zed Seselja’s name as well.
Morrison said Albanese was “quite happy to dish it out”, claiming Morrison had been the victim of “criticism and abuse” during the pandemic:
I’m big enough to take it, but if he’s that precious, if he can’t hack the campaign [then how can he govern]?”
Asked about mixed messages he’s sent about not being a bulldozer, while at other times praising the strength of the proverbial bulldozer, Morrison said you “do need strength” to do the job of PM:
The times – it is our intention – will be changing.
He said that would provide him an opportunity to be more empathetic rather than cutting straight to solutions. So, no changes in substance nominated so far, nor really a conscious change of style, more that the times will allow it. Uh huh.
Morrison said the government would “consider” the Fair Work Commission ruling on 10 days of paid domestic violence leave.
He was also asked about New South Wales moving to legalise voluntary assisted dying, and the federal ban that prevents the NT and ACT following suit. He said he had no plans to change that.
Q: You say you want to become a more empathetic leader if you’re re-elected. Under your government talks with the [speaks indistinctly] from 10 to 14 have stalled. What is your position on that and what would you do if you’re re-elected to try and make it so that 10-year-olds are detained in prison?
I’ve worked closely with the attorney general and the states and territories – these are their responsibilities ultimately because they’re state laws. And as a federalist, I respect state laws and state powers, I always have. They have responsibilities, I have responsibilities and where they overlap we work together as we have sought to do over the course of this pandemic. It’s a sensitive issue and it’s not one that you make policy on the run on.
Q: Any changes of substance now that you’re not being a bulldozer?
Scott Morrison does not answer.
Q: Prime minister, soon after the 2019 election you want to Honiara.
Q: If you win, will you go again? For example, after the Japan visit next week?
Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to go next week but it would be my intention, not only to visit there, but many of the other Pacific countries that I had hoped to visit during the last three years which Covid prevented me from visiting. We had planned visits to Samoa as well and and I look forward to seeing the prime minister there. There’s a few rainchecks we had during the course of the pandemic. There were plans for us to visit Vietnam again and places like that which I think is really important for our relationships in the Asean region.
Most of what the diplomacy we had to do in the last three years was on the phone, but over that period of time, I made over 100 direct contacts and calls with Pacific leaders over the course of the last three years. And so, yes, I would look forward to doing that and I look forward to having an opportunity to do that.
Q: Do you support domestic violence leave?
We’ll consider all of those matters in a proper way and we have supported that in terms of unpaid leave and we have legislated for that.
Q: Prime minister, you described your – you conceded you’re a self-described bulldozer style has alienated voters but yesterday you seemed to suggest that it was a sign of strength. I’m wondering which is it? And what is it about your leadership style that you’re actually promising to change?
You do need strength in this job and that will continue.
Of course that will continue. But the times it is our intentions will be changing and the times will give us an opportunity to be more inclusive about how we take our economic plan forward.
When you’re in the middle of the pandemic you just got to make decisions. You have to make decisions.
And you have to push through and that has been very necessary and that’s something I have always had the ability to do and as a result Australia is in a much stronger position now than so many other advanced countries in the world today.
But what I’m looking forward to is being able to move into a new period where we can be more engaging and inclusive and bringing more people with us because I hope, given the way our economic plan is working, it will give us more opportunities to do that.
So that’s exactly what I’m saying. We’re going into a gear change as a government because the times are going to enable us to do that. And that’s what governments have to do.
Q: Prime minister, you have ruled out extending the fuel excise, but if you are the – cut to the fuel excise, but if you are re-elected, will you consider reducing it even further given petrol prices have already gone beyond $2, beyond the 22 cents you have cut?
What we have always done particularly through the pandemic is we haven’t got ahead of ourselves. OK, the budget was about six weeks ago, a bit longer than that, and in that budget we committed to a six-month period which took us through for halving petrol excise. It’s May, that doesn’t conclude until the end of September. There’s a lot of time between now and then and the international forces that are impacting on the world bower price and on fuel prices have a long way to run out over that period of time. So I think speculating on what that situation is going to be many, many months from now is a bit of a fool’s errand. It is not something that we have done before because we focused on looking at the data, what the impact is ...
Q: In the meantime?
No, no, there’s in change to the fuel excise over that six months. We have halved it. We have halved it. That is a significant cost but it’ one we committed to and we’re only able to do because of the $100bn turnaround in the budget in the last 12 months. Now, had we listened to the Labor party, who had always, the armchair critic after the fact, had we listened to the Labor party during the pandemic, we would have spent $81bn more.
Now, that’s almost three times what it cost to run Medicare every year and if we had done that, like extending jobkeeper when we know we shouldn’t have, that it was time to get in and it was time to get out, paying $6bn to people to have a vaccine that they’d already had. I mean, these were the poorly thought through ideas that the Labor party had. If we had done that, then that would have put upward pressure on inflation and it actually would have denied us the opportunity to cut the petrol excise in half. See, that’s what good financial management does – you look at the data, you make sensible decisions, you think it through.
Mr Albanese just runs off at the mouth on these issues when you have never done a budget, you have no idea about the implications of what you’re saying for other ways of how it impacts on the economy. There are so many moving parts in the economy. Mr Albanese, he just hasn’t done that before and that is a big risk with what we’re facing in terms of the economic and indeed national security challenges around the world today.
Q: The New South Wales parliament is debating today laws that would legalise voluntary-assisted dying. Do you have a personal view on that legislation? And secondly the ACT and the NT are still prevented from making laws in this space because of a federal ban that dates back 25 years. If elected, Labor has committed to prioritising debate to be able to repeal that bill. Would you follow that lead?
That’s not our policy and I’ll leave those other matters to the New South Wales parliament.
Q: Do you genuinely think Australians find comfort in those numbers?
And the inflation challenges that Australia faces are no different to any of the other countries in the world, but if you’re sitting there looking at it today and you go, “What I rather be in the UK where inflation is 9%? Would I rather be in the United States where it’s 8.5%? Would I rather be in New Zealand where it’s 7% and interest rates have gone up 125 basis points? Or would I rather be in Australia where unemployment is 4%, where inflation is at 5.1%, where youth unemployment is at 8.3 and where we have seen particularly the number of hours worked increase, we have under-employment fall under our Government from 7.4 to 6.3%.” This is a record of economic management which is making our economy strong because only through a strong economy can you have a stronger future.
Q: Just go back to [those] questions, you bulldozed through and not answered there, to use your term. Do you think Australians deserve a wage rise? 67% in the most recent ...
Q: What are you going to do about it, prime minister?
That’s how you get wage rises – you get unemployment down. And you ensure that businesses can invest for growth so they can pay their workers higher wages. See, there’s no ...
Unlike the Labor party we made a submission to the Fair Work Commission commission.
Q: In that submission you argued for [the benefits of] low-paid work. If you believe Australians deserve a pay rise, why did you put that submission in even as the inflation rates were soaring?
Our Fair Work Commission submission always did what governments do – provides the factual information that Fair Work Commission needs to make decisions about wages and, you know, when we approached these issues, we’re careful about these things because we understand the economy has many moving parts.
And I commend the Fair Work Commission, I have seen some of the reports of the issues they’re focusing on at the moment, and looking to potentially separate out those who are on the minimum wage and the more than 120 awards that are actually linked to the minimum wage.
Now, Mr Albanese didn’t seem to understand this when he made comments on this before. He didn’t seem to understand that the minimum wage applies to about 2% of Australians in the workforce. But there’s another 23% of the workforce that are actually tied to that minimum wage.
And so when he was just making stuff up and making comments on-the-run, he had no understanding of what the following implications would be for higher inflation and higher interest rates.
This is why we let the Fair Work Commission work through all of that and come up with the right decision, which under our government has meant on seven out of eight occasions minimum wage has risen higher than inflation. Now, under the Labor party, it was only three out of six. So the Labor party talk a big game on this but, when it comes to the actual record, it’s not matched. I’m for higher wages by ensuring that we get unemployment down and we’re supporting businesses as we come out of this pandemic being able to invest and grow so they can support their workers with higher wages.
Q: You speak of the low unemployment rate. But why should that be any comfort to Australians when their wages [aren’t] keeping up with the cost of living?
Let me understand your question – no, no, I’m going to repeat it. You’re saying what is the comfort of a low unemployment rate?
Q: The average Australian when their wages are not keeping up with the cost of living and politicians are talking about low unemployment rate, how do people find comfort in that?
How does getting Australians in jobs and giving them the confidence that when they leave school they can get a job or when they do their training as an apprentice there’s a job for them there full-time, and unemployment rate which means that when banks look at the economy, they’re confident to lend people money because the unemployment rate is so low and that in ...
Q: When they pay their grocery bill next week, do you think that’s of any comfort to them being right now?
People being in jobs is the most important thing that an economy needs. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have choices. You don’t have choices. As a young person ...
Q: But the cost of living is increasing ...
Young people unemployment in this country today is 8.3%. Now, that – that was double that during the course of the pandemic. And a young person if they’re in the in a job by their early 20s has a much higher likelihood of spending their entire life on welfare. No, I think getting unemployment down is incredibly important. It is actually the most important job, the most important job, that a federal government has in managing the economy is to get people into jobs. Now, it wasn’t just me who said that. It was actually the shadow treasurer who said that and he said that the biggest test of – our government’s management of the economy in the pandemic is what happens to unemployment. Now, unemployment is at an equal 48-year low. The issue in terms of people being able to afford things, there are two issues there.
First of all, by turning the budget around by over $100bn in the last 12 months, the biggest budget recovery in 70 years, a product of our economic plan means that we can extend that tax relief. We can provide the income support to those on pensions and we have been able to halve the petrol tax. We’re extending the commonwealth senior’s health card, we’re freezing the deeming rates, we’re extending the arrangements for self-funded retirees on minimum drawdowns. All of this is helping people meet those daily cost of living.
Q: Prime minister, thank you. There’s a 2.7% gap between real wages and inflation. This is the largest on – highest gap on record. It sounds like your cost-of-living plan isn’t working.
The challenge for real wages is inflation. That’s the challenge. Wages themselves, as you know, inched up a bit further to 2.4%. That’s above the 10-year average for wage growth …
That was market expectations, 2.4%. That was market expectations yesterday. And so that edged up over the 10-year average. The challenge for real wages is inflation, OK. The inflation pressures that are coming from all around the world. In the UK, inflation has gone to 9%. In Australia, it’s 5.1%. In the United States, it’s 8.5%, in New Zealand it’s almost 7%.
These are global pressures putting upward pressure on inflation and on interest rates and so you’re right to highlight that inflation pressures and pressures on interest rates are central issues in this election campaign.
And so the issue is this: who do Australians think is going to be better able to shield Australia from those very significant pressures – a government that has maintained an AAA credit rating through the course of the pandemic and brought unemployment down to the equal lowest level in 48 years?
Or a Labor party led by Mr Albanese who’s never done a budget, didn’t even know what the unemployment rate and cash rate was a few weeks ago, and today – today – on a completely separate issue, doesn’t even know whether the borders are open or closed. This guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. I mean if you don’t even know whether your borders are open, you don’t know what unemployment is, you don’t know what the cash rate is, you have never done a budget, who are you going to trust to manage Australia’s finances and he won’t even understand what his own costings are for his own policies. That is a huge risk for Australians.
Australians have achieved a great deal over the last few years, an incredible amount. Businesses like the one like here today, invested $2.5m on new plant and equipment in the last 12 months backed in by the instant asset write-off, accelerated depreciation that our government put in place to back businesses just like this.
That’s how you grow your economy, that’s how you support higher wages, that’s how you support Australians deal with the economic pressures – by managing money well and all I know from Labor is –every time they say, “It will be OK, we won’t really do anything that will hurt you,” and then they come in, blow the budget, they put up taxes and you always end up paying for it.
Q: Prime minister, you have a Coalition ad running on all platforms saying it won’t be easy under Albanese. The opposition leader says you’re making fun of his name. The migrants have been poked fun at for having unusual names all their lives. What do you say to those who have been offended?
Well, I don’t accept Anthony’s accusation. I mean, at the last election, we had a campaign that said, “The Bill you can’t afford with Labor.” I mean, Mr Albanese, frankly, has spent the last three years, and most recently, he made a tax on Zed Seselja’s name. He’s being a bit of a hypocrite.
In politics, if you can’t stump-up, he’s quite happy to dish out criticism and abuse of me, as he has done over the last three years, I’m big enough to take that. Mr Albanese is that precious, if he’s that precious, and he can’t hack a campaign, then how on earth is he going to handle running this country?
Q: [He was talking about] migrants that have been offended.
I don’t accept that.
Scott Morrison press conference
As Paul Karp has said, Scott Morrison is campaigning in Lyons, and has visited a Tasmanian business which recycles glass into bricks. He uses his stump speech to lay out his main points. He mentions the “hole in your bucket” line, which he has to because thankfully the advertising blackout came in at midnight.
Anthony Albanese’s press conference ends.
Q: Mr Albanese, you have been mentioning about how you want to address the gap in wages compared to inflation and the wages data that came out yesterday. But if you get in office, what will you do to address the gap in wages between men and women? What tangible steps will you take to address that?
We will have reform in terms of the Fair Work Commission that looks at those issues, including making gender pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act. We’ll also look towards making cases ...
There’s been 21 cases taken on the basis of gender pay equity to the Fair Work Commission over a number of years. The only one that’s been successful was in 2012 with the social and community services award.
That was, of course, under the Gillard government and that made an enormous difference. That led to an increase in pay, that led to more secure work, that led to community service workers being more secure. In areas, including aged care is a big one, we would make a submission to the Fair Work Commission, pointing the commission towards a recommendation to the aged care royal commission. What they have said is that, unless we deal with aged care pay, then people will continue to leave the industry.
A whole lot of aged care workers earn around about $22 an hour. It’s a really tough job. It’s a tough job physically but it’s also an even tougher job, I think, mentally. Aged care workers for their residents aren’t just people who work – a bit like the early learning workers here. These little kids here – hello! –
Hello! Are you a Parramatta supporter?
Yes, I am!
Oh, good on you. I’m a Rabbitoh myself. Is that OK? Thank you.
Very good. You’re having a good season. The people who work in early learning – largely a feminine workforce – are also undervalued. People who work in aged care are undervalued and underpaid. There’s a link. There’s a structural link. When you look at those industries which are feminised, which have lower wages, then I think that that is something that has to be addressed. We’ll address it.
Q: I’m from New Zealand.
Q: Thank you. How would you describe Australia’s relationship with New Zealand at the moment? And will you stop deporting 501s if elected?
Well, section 501 applies for breaches of people who are on visas, and if people commit serious offences then action should be taken in Australia’s national interest.
Q: Should the law should be changed?
Action should be taken in Australia’s national interest. But can I say this – that Jacinda Ardern is someone who I’ve met with here in Australia and also in Wellington and in Auckland. I think she is an outstanding prime minister and I’m sure that we would have a very warm and cordial relationship. Last one.
Q: Mr Albanese, would you agree ... agree that people in well-to-do, inner-city electorates are perhaps considering voting for independents because they are insulated from the economic hardships that the rest of the country is feeling? And, conversely, do you think that the voters in suburban seats who are feeling those economic hardships, do you think that they feel as strongly on climate? Will they buy your policies that you’ll be stronger on climate? Does it actually matter to them?
If you go to a local municipality like Blacktown, you’ll see they have more – a greater percentage of solar panels on their roof than my former council of Marrickville does.
Why do they do that? Because it reduces their power bills.
People understand that. The second thing that’s happened is that people in regional Australia are increasingly more and more aware of the impact on climate change. You don’t have to go to Brisbane or the areas that have been impacted by the floods in the northern rivers – you don’t have to talk about whether climate change is real in Cobargo.
You can go there, and if you actually understand how real it is, you can shake people’s hands and have good conversations with them. That’s what you can do. It is real. The reason why people are walking away from the Liberal party is that the Liberal party has walked away from them.
The Liberal larty used to be a party that embraced small-L liberal values and the rights of individuals and respect for people. It didn’t engage in the sort of wedges that we’ve seen attempted. It was a government – whatever criticisms ... I said this at the press club yesterday.
Whatever criticisms that I had of the Howard government – and they were substantial – there wasn’t a stench around it. There was far greater ministerial accountability than we see from the current government. And people feel as though the Liberal party has left them.
So, people, if you look at the crossbenches, they’re full of people who used to be members of either the Liberal or the National parties. And whether it’s Bob Katter or Rebekha Sharkie or others in the past.
So, the Liberal party, I think, has as well a big divide within it. The Liberal party spends a lot of time fighting each other, and that’s a handbrake to climate change. Climate change is not a controversial issue in most countries. The Boris Johnson government is taking serious action.
You know who one of the first world leaders was to bell the cat on climate change? Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher was out there saying that climate change was real and that we needed to act. Why is it that the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Industry Group, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have all been supportive of our climate policies? Why? Because we’re so far ahead of the government. But so is business.
They want business certainty. It’s holding back their investment. It’s holding back their profits. We need a government for this century. So much of Scott Morrison’s government is just stuck in last century.
Q: Mr Albanese, a question about the Quad. You have been speaking about how you would get sworn in quite quickly if you are successful on Saturday, along with your foreign minister, Penny Wong. Would you also have to swear in Richard Marles to be acting prime minister in your absence in Japan? And how long would that sort of arrangement be in place? A couple of ministers holding all the responsibility? Are we looking at a Whitlam-esque scenario here of weeks?
No, we’re not looking at weeks at all. We’re looking at, I would envisage that, in an interview with the Australian, I’ve indicated the timetable that’s been published today. We’d be looking at a caucus meeting and processes being established the week after next. Mr Marles, if we are successful, would also be sworn in. I met with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet yesterday. There are various briefings taking place as well, OK, over days. Some of those you know about. There are obviously other briefings that have been held, as are appropriate, as I’m sure government ministers are as well, given we’re in caretaker period.
Pauline Hanson tests positive for Covid
And she has not been vaccinated:
I am happy for the travelling party to go wherever you want to go.
The offer was made if you want to go to the costings because people felt like you would want to go to the costings announcement with Jim and Katy.
If you want to go to where we’re headed in Brisbane and see me hand out how-to-votes with the Queensland premier and our candidates, that’s fine too, absolutely fine.
I have spent every time with you over a long period of what is a six-week campaign, except for the one week after I came here last time with this bloke and I had Covid, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Look ... in terms of accountability, I’ll make a couple of points.
One is, I spoke at the National Press Club yesterday. The prime minister is the first prime minister for five decades to duck that accountability.
I have been completely accountable to you.
And I have – I don’t think there’s anyone here ... I’ll tell you what happened a couple of days ago. I did a West Australian breakfast, I answered questions from Lanai on stage, I then did a one-on-one interview with Jonathan Kearsley from Nine, because he asked.
I did a number of interviews with the Australian, the Telegraph, the ABC, the Herald, Sky, Seven News and Channel 10, one-on-one. I’ve done Insiders, I’ve done Q+A, I’ve done 7.30 once and I’ll be doing it again tomorrow night, because I gave a commitment for two events.
I did three debates that were determined, essentially a decision by the prime minister, because I would have done a debate on the national broadcaster, and I was happy to do that in addition, in addition. I was happy to do that as well.
I’ll put what I’ve done in accountability up against this prime minister every single day. Of what I’ve done during this campaign. During this campaign.
[A different journalist interrupts]
During this campaign. I have been completely accountable. I’ve just – if you actually get out a calculator, I’ve just told you what the costings are, just …
Q: A billion dollars difference ...
[Journalist: “Say the figure!”]
No, because ... And here’s the hypocrisy. Quite frankly ...
[“Do you know the figure, Mr Albanese?”]
Quite frankly, of the interview that you gave on Sky earlier on, whereby – whereby, you know, I’m supposed to do ... I’m supposed to do the costings but Scott Morrison isn’t. The treasurer and the finance people...
[Original journalist: “You’re saying you’re better than him!”]
The treasurer and the finance minister ... And I have been more accountable, more accountable than this government throughout this campaign.
Q: What’s the figure?
Q: Do you know the figure, Mr Albanese?
Q: With the greatest of respect, Mr Albanese, Mr Morrison did do a press conference after the costings were released ...
I’ll be doing press conferences ...
Q: Will you do that this afternoon in the same way that Mr Morrison did?
I am travelling around five states – five states.
One of the journalists who chased Anthony Albanese after his press conference on Tuesday to ask about Labor’s costings then asks this:
Just to return to what Greg, and I think Clare, was asking earlier, in regards to your costing: you’re right, the opposition previously, or the government previously, has done what you’ve done in 2010. I think the difference is we’ve now got 6 million people who have prepolled because people are encouraged, not turned away, from prepolling. Those 6 million people in many regards have been denied in knowing more about your costings.
Your strategy, or the Labor party’s strategy today, was for us to have this press conference with you, and not know the costings, and then go and get them from the ... No, this is what we have been told, so I’m just telling you. So, we have this press conference with you, then we go to Canberra and we get given the press conference from Jim Chalmers, and we didn’t get the opportunity to ask you questions.
There’s a frustration, and that has now been changed, we’re being told. We will not stay in Canberra and we will go with you. Now, you know, because you have been in parliament for 26 years, our job is to follow you around the country during the campaign so we can ask you questions. Is it not you distancing yourself from your costings by taking the travelling media pack away from you ... ?
[Drinks water] Keep going
Q: That’s the question. In taking the media pack away from you, is it not you distancing yourself from your own policies, so we get a chance to ask you those questions legitimately?
I would miss you dearly and I’ll miss you dearly when this campaign is over. I’m happy for you to come with me wherever, wherever you want ...
Q: That’s changed ... You know the policy has been changed.
When you’re finished ...
Q: I just want you to be honest with us too!
When you’re finished, I will answer the question. I am happy to answer.
Q: Mr Albanese, on the childcare proposal, you’ve said a number of times today it will give a return to government – would universal childcare similarly give a return to government? And where does that fit in your priorities, perhaps considering something like increase to the Newstart allowance?
That’s what we’ll examine through the Productivity Commission … That’s why you have an inquiry. If we knew the answer, we wouldn’t have an inquiry. That’s our plan. Our plan will assist 96% of families right now.
Q: Unemployment figures – they’re expected to have a three in front of it. In the minds of voters, won’t this be seen as a huge tick for the government?
I reckon what a whole lot of voters are thinking about at the moment is, yes, we always welcome, of course, unemployment figures, we want to be as low as possible. But they’re thinking to themselves, “How do I pay my bills? How do I pay my rent? How do I afford food and the essentials of life?”
And yesterday’s figure of a 2.7% real wage cut, at a time when a government is saying, “If we dare to say that a Fair Work Commission decision to say that those on the minimum wage of $20.33 a week get an extra dollar in their pay packet, then the sky will fall in,” then I reckon that this government has real issues in terms of the gap that is there between people’s reality.
The other thing I said about the slogan of the government is that their whole implication here is that life’s easy now. You know, I don’t know who sat in the Liberal party headquarters and said, “Righto! Life’s easy right now, and it won’t be so if the government, you know – if people make a different decision.” Life isn’t easy for people right now. People in this electorate of Bennelong are doing it really tough. I have been here four occasions, I think, since I convinced Jerome to run for the seat. And people are doing it really tough.
That’s what I’m hearing. That’s what I’m hearing when people come and engage with me. And I think that will be front and centre, is how do we have a better future, how do I reduce my childcare bills, how do I reduce my electricity bills, how do we have more secure work, how do we have a government that has a plan for the future? The problem for this government is that it doesn’t learn from the mistakes of the past and it struggles with the present – it has no plan for the future.
Q: New South Wales looks set to pass voluntary assisted dying. In the last few days, we have been – not Northern Territory and ACT, two jurisdictions that don’t have the right to make that decision for themselves – will you commit within the first hundred days to introducing legislation that would change that? And what do you say to your New South Wales colleagues who are mulling this decision?
That it’s a matter for them. It’s a matter for their conscience. And voluntary euthanasia and these matters, I’m a big supporter of conscience votes. I think there should be more, not less, conscience votes.
Q: But will there be a conscience vote within the first hundred days?
No. I’ll set the priorities according to the priorities I’ve put out during the campaign, not according to a press conference two days beforehand.
Q: But, I mean, you said a federal Icac would happen by the end of the year, so you do set some time frames ...
Yeah, what I haven’t done is do the hundred-day game. That happened in the lead-up to the last campaign, a whole lot of things within a hundred days. I’ve established what we would do as our priorities. I have said my view is well-known about territories and about territories’ right to determine their own legislation. I’ve spoken about that in parliament and I’ve spoken about that in interviews.
Q: Mr Albanese, if you won’t tell us now whether Labor’s deficits will be higher than ones projected under the Coalition, how can Australians trust you to be upfront with them when there are tough decisions to have? Do you not stand by your policies? Why can’t you say now, hours before that document is coming out, if those deficits will be higher under Labor?
I stand by our policies and I stand by what we will be releasing today. What we’ll be releasing today will be ... I was asked in the past, was the figures that were published, I think, in an article by Greg, whether they were ... whether they were correct, and I said then that they weren’t, and they aren’t …
... correct in terms of that number.
.... Hang on. So, that’s ...
... OK. But it’s just easier – we did it at the National Press Club yesterday. We had a question, then an answer, and it worked really well.
... Well, because three of you are asking questions at once. OK?
[Journalist interrupts: “Because it is not an answer.”]
There are three of you are asking at once. Can we ... ? Can I say that if you look at our figures, if you want the big tip, here’s the big tip: if you look at our commitments for economy-boosting reforms, in childcare, in skills, and in our powering Australia plan, that adds up to the difference which will be released later today.
So, it is less than the figure that was published, as I indicated. That’s the difference.
We make no apologies for the fact that ...
... We make no apologies for the fact that we are investing in things that will produce a return. We’re investing in skilling up Australians, we’re investing in childcare for our youngest Australians, and we’re investing in our powering Australia plan. All of those measures, all of those measures will produce a return to government.
Q: Could I ask you one on climate? Your 2030 target is 43%. You said in Perth that you wanted your legacy to be acting on climate change. Would you hope to significantly, I guess, overachieve on that 43% target? Or would you sort of keep the handbrake on a little bit just to keep it at 43%?
No. Well, what we didn’t do is to set a target and then work out how to get there …
.What we’ve done is to put in place mechanisms and policies, including our EV policy, our community batteries, our plan using the safeguard mechanism and other measures that we have announced, and that’s come out at 43%, is what the figures show. Our intention is to absolutely stick to that plan.
Albanese says he wants to work with First Nations people on timetable for a referendum
Q: Mr Albanese, I want to take you to something that you have spoken a lot about during this campaign. That’s the Uluru statement from the heart, and enshrining a First Nations voice to parliament. This question has come to me from an Indigenous Australian, and they said: “Only eight of the past 44 referendums have been successful. What makes you believe Labor can be successful in the next term with such an important referendum? And what happens if it fails?”
Thanks for the question.
It is a really important one. And I want to maximise the opportunity that’s there for success in a referendum. I can indicate that one of the things that I have raised with the people who you work for – in terms of editors, et cetera, around the country as well – is getting media organisations on board for the Uluru statement for constitutional recognition.
I think Australians are ready for it. It’s interesting that, when I’ve spoken – including at the West Australian on Friday - that was a pretty broad group, 600, I believe, were there at that breakfast.
The interventions in terms of applause at that event were all around recognition of First Nations people. It is absolutely vital that we’re successful. I want to work with First Nations people on the timetable for a referendum.
I also want to reach out across the aisle. I made the offer in the first meeting I had with Scott Morrison, when he was prime minister – as the Labor leader, I made the offer to support whatever we could to get it done this term. It’s now been a considerable time since the Uluru statement was given.
It’s a generous statement. It’s not a third chamber of parliament, as Malcolm Turnbull and others [claimed] ... [All the voice is is consultation], whereby something I do will impact you as a human being, that you ask someone about that impact and you listen to their response.
That’s what a voice to parliament is, nothing more, nothing less. And constitutionally enshrining it is important as a part of recognising that our history didn’t begin in 1788. In my mind, that’s a pretty easy proposition. I know there’s overwhelming support amongst whole sections of the community. I know it’s not uniform.
I know it’s not uniform because of some of the misinformation that is out there. But I’m very confident that people in senior positions in the business community, in the media, across the parliament – and I acknowledge the support of people like Senator Bragg and others who have been very strong on this issue on the other side.
Unfortunately, there are some people who aren’t. Some of the Greens don’t support moving to a voice to parliament as the first step. I do. I think the coalition of peaks would play a very important role, and Indigenous leaders are saying to me they’re impatient for this to happen. They don’t want the momentum to stop. I want the momentum to build. And I’m confident that we can work towards a good thing for Australia that will be a bringing-together.
Q: Mr Albanese, on childcare you say it’s all about productivity, but surely returns really diminish when you start giving money and subsidies to people on half a million dollars a year. Why don’t you bite the bullet and put an income ceiling on this thing?
We will increase the subsidy, it’s true. There used to be – there used to be another political party who spoke about class warfare.
You know, I make no apologies for saying that we should give increased support. And, indeed, one of the things that we will do, one of the things that we will do – because it’s on the family income ... And a woman who wants to work full-time should not be judged just based upon the income of their partner.
And that is one of the factors that we’ve considered here. We will mean that the subsidy will phase out at $520,000. But we’re also going to look at, through the Productivity Commission, a review of how that’s working in practice and whether we would move to a universal subsidy.
I’ll give you the big tip. When Kerry Packer had a heart attack, he went to Royal Prince Alfred hospital emergency department, the same place that I went to as someone who’s relatively well-off, but by comparison with Kerry Packer, not so much.
And it’s the same place that my mum went to as an invalid pensioner when she never, unfortunately, was able to return home. We were in the same ... I literally was in the same room. I was very conscious of it, when I got taken there.
Public services which are universal make a difference to strengthen our society. They do. Our medical system is a public universal service. And I have said quite clearly that childcare is something that we should consider as a service that benefits the entire society.
Q: On ABC Radio, you said Australia’s borders are closed. They’re not closed. What do you mean by that?
The borders were closed. The borders were closed. And I was asked a question about skills shortages, and one of things that business say is that they were impacted by the fact that the borders were closed. And, indeed, people who were here on temporary visas were told to leave. That’s had an impact on our labour market.
Q: Mr Albanese, you’ve had several of your own personal mistakes during this campaign. If you win on Saturday, how will you cope with the pressure of government?
I hope that I have the opportunity to form a government on Saturday. At the end of the last government, at various times – on two occasions I acted at prime minister. But at the end of the last government, I was deputy prime minister, minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, minister for communications and the digital economy, and leader of the government in the House of Representatives in a minority parliament. I did OK. We’ve been through a six-week campaign. There hasn’t been a single criticism raised by the government of anything I did in those positions.
Q: You’ve campaigned a lot and you have been very critical of the government for lacking transparency – things like Friday-night announcements.
Q: You said this is what you were gonna bring back into politics. You’ve waited until the last day to release your costings. You’re holding a press conference before these costings are released, so it’s also late in the last day. And you spent weeks either denying – initially denying that deficits would be higher under Labor, and then just not commenting on it. Doesn’t this ... ? Can you now confirm that deficits will be higher under Labor? And doesn’t this show that you’re just another politician?
Not at all. Our policy costings are being released at exactly the same time as the Coalition, when in opposition, released their costings. At the same time, in the same time frame, they’ll be released ...
Q: That’s been your campaign – you said you’ll be better.
That’s another question. The truth is that, in terms of our costings, I have said repeatedly during this campaign that we would release all of our costings in the usual way, at the usual time, and that’s what we’re doing.
Q: Mr Albanese, last night you said that “my opponent thinks it’s still OK to make fun of someone’s name in their advertising. That’s a matter for them.” Do you find that ad racist? Is that what you’re suggesting?
No. I’m suggesting that a number of people – including people who mentioned it to me last night – people who have ethnic names of my age, or perhaps a bit younger, certainly older, had people make fun of their names at school. That’s what happened. And people have raised it with me in the Italian community that they’re concerned about it.
Anthony Albanese press conference
In the lead-up to Labor’s costings release, which is expected to show Labor is spending more than the government and therefore will have a higher budget deficit (which in this age of a trillion-dollar debt and growing seems small potatoes but here we are) Anthony Albanese is continuing to lay the groundwork for Labor’s “quality” spend:
I am asking for Australians, including the ones here in Bennelong, to change the government. Change the government. Give us a crack at creating a better future. We have serious plans for cheaper childcare, cheaper electricity, cheaper medicines, and strengthening Medicare. We have a plan to end the climate wars. We have a plan to make things – more things here in Australia. It is a plan for a better future. All the government has is more scare campaigns and more fear.
The photo ops go on:
Scott Morrison is blaming inflation for Australia’s wage stagnation (in real terms).
But wages were a problem before inflation began to rise. Previously, the policy was to keep wages down to ensure inflation stayed down (despite not being an issue for a very long stretch of years).
Drilling down into yesterday’s wage data, it seems the small increase we saw in the quarter was because of about 15% of professionals in the private sector seeing an increase. Given the labour shortages in tech and IT and other industries which have traditionally relied on professionals from overseas to fill gaps, that makes sense that there would be wage increases in those areas. But that leaves the vast majority of the workforce without any serious wage growth.
NSW reports 22 Covid deaths, Victoria 14, as pandemic rolls on
NSW and Victoria have reported their Covid figures for the last 24 hours.
Scott Morrison has spoken to Triple M Hobart about the soccer mishap:
He’s pretty excited, young Luca, I spoke to him and his mum, Ali, last night. He came off better than I did. He’s a brave little kid, he told me about his hat trick he’s scored and all the scorelines of his games … He gave me a red card on Channel Nine.”
Morrison continued to spruik the super early release for housing policy, although Triple M hosts noted it could push house prices up and families in southern Tasmania are living in tents. The PM said:
This is what helps, when people are buying homes they’re buying new homes as well.
He also spoke about incentives to downsize – so that would be people who already own a house, no mention of renters or the people living in tents.
The hosts also asked about the minimum wage, which is falling behind the cost of living. Morrison said yes, people do deserve a pay rise. Which is curious because the government submission to the Fair Work Commission advocates for the “importance of low-paid work”.
How are low-paid workers supposed to save $36,000 for a deposit?
Morrison replied that the 2% of the workforce on the minimum wage had an above-inflation pay rise for seven of the last eight years. But note that it has continued to fall relative to the median wage, and that means the better paid can always outbid them when trying to buy a home.
The PM said the government didn’t “believe” the super release policy would have a price impact.
The only way to get access to your super – it’s your money – is to vote Liberal.
Morrison ruled out a deal with the Greens then said he “gets on well with Andrew Wilkie” – but the independent would “never support a Liberal government”.
Albanese campaign reverses decision to travel to Brisbane without press pack
And the Anthony Albanese campaign journalists won’t be going to Canberra but will continue to follow the leader
It’s been a morning of drama on the Albanese campaign, after media following the Labor leader were told we would be split up from the political less than 48 hours from Election Day while he campaigned without us.
Albanese had boasted of a “final sprint” in the next two days, telling morning tv he would be blitzing seats in Sydney and Brisbane today. But travelling media with Albanese - paying thousands a week in travel costs to follow the prospective Prime Minister - were told we’d be heading to Canberra, and staying overnight, while he went to Brisbane without us.
Labor said it planned to send the travelling journalists to Canberra for a Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher press conference on election costings. It’s a topic travelling media have asked Albanese about for several days, but journalists protested that senior colleagues in the Parliament House press gallery could have covered the Chalmers-Gallagher press conference instead.
It prompted a furious response from media on the campaign, after Labor advisors only gave notice of the unconventional travel plans once the bus had left for a press conference in Bennelong. Veteran reporters claimed it was an unprecedented decision, just two days from the election. Journalists called their editors, and registered complaints to senior Albanese and Labor staffers, with some reporters threatening to boycott the leader’s photo op at a childcare centre in protest.
But just moments before Albanese arrived at the childcare centre, with journalists preparing to pepper him with questions about leaving the press pack behind, Labor reversed the decision.
Instead, the press pack will go to Brisbane with Albanese.
Christopher Knaus has been following the aged care crisis throughout the campaign (and before it). It has barely featured in the actual election campaign, other than the government rubbishing Labor’s policy to implement the royal commission recommendations for a registered nurse on site 24 hours and the minimum care minutes. The Coalition wants to know where Labor will get staff. But there has been no reflection from the Coalition that, regardless of who wins, the severe staffing shortages and burnout will have to be addressed.
Aged care providers have reported more than 350 Covid deaths since the election campaign began and continue to grapple with at least 60 deaths a week, government data shows.
An analysis of government data, conducted by the United Workers Union and confirmed by the Guardian, shows that Covid deaths in aged care facilities are now occurring at rates unseen in the first two years of the pandemic.
Aged care workers are preparing to strike across the country again on Friday, furious at low pay, torrid conditions, and a lack of recognition of the huge workload and workforce pressures caused by Covid.
This article from Mostafa Rachwani is very, very good:
There have been a lot of comparisons of Anthony Albanese’s final two-day seat blitz to Kevin Rudd’s travels in 2007. But it is still shy of the 18 hours straight of campaigning former Queensland premier Anna Bligh did in her bid to reach 50 electorates in the final days of her ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Campbell Newman in 2012. She made it to 43 electorates, finally grabbing a few hours of sleep at 2am in the morning before election day.
There seems to be a bit of a situation developing on the Anthony Albanese bus – where the journalists are being sent to Canberra for Labor’s costings release, while Albanese goes to Brisbane.
It doesn’t look as though the reporters will be rejoining Albanese today, with the campaign planning on having them stay overnight in Canberra,.
Labor has spoken about its 20-seat blitz today, so this is causing a bit of a mutiny, given that journalists may not be along for the all of the ride.
Richard Marles was also on ABC radio RN this morning, where he was asked about Labor’s seat blitz:
We don’t take anything for granted. And so, you know, we’ve been campaigning in seats that have been ones we hold and seats that the government holds, but we want to change the government.
And that means that we need to be in government-held seats and get them to move. That’s how ultimately how we do change the government. And so we will be talking to as many people as possible in those seats over the coming two days to try and achieve that outcome because I think Australians do want to see a change.
I think they are sick of Scott Morrison and they’re sick of a proposition from the government, which is essentially offering nothing more than more of the same. People want to plan for a better future and we’ll be making that argument over the next two days.
I have obviously never truly been loved.
While Stuart Robert thinks Scott Morrison barrelling into a kid on a soccer field was “an error from both of them” Luca, the kid in question, tells Sydney radio 2GB that he thinks the prime minister tripped.
Luca is fine, by the way.
In case you haven’t seen all of the pieces in our Anywhere But Canberra series, Murph has summarised the vibe:
On the antepenultimate day of the election campaign (we assume Saturday will be busy until the polls close), the Morrison government may finally get an economic data break in their favour.
After triple shocks since the prime minister kicked off the formal campaign almost six weeks ago – think the CPI spike, the bigger-than-tipped RBA rate rise, and yesterday’s anemic wage growth figures – the ABS will later this morning release the April labour market numbers that will probably offer a positive for the Coalition.
The jobless rate was already below 4% in March, though it rounded up to that mark (which probably wasn’t the reason why Labor leader Anthony Albanese failed to recall it).
Economists are predicting the rate will formally have a “3” in front of it after the numbers land at 11.30am AEST. The ANZ is tipping 3.8%, while CBA and Westpac are among those predicting 3.9%. Expect 20,000 to 30,000 extra jobs added during that distant month (so it feels), given Easter and other distractions.
The CBA said:
Job advertisements have remained at very high levels and various business surveys on employment have indicated further expansion. Together with the Q1 2022 WPI data, such an outturn in our view would see the Reserve Bank increase the cash rate target by 25bps at its June meeting.”
Still, it’s a slightly tricky tale for the Coalition to tell. If the jobless figure sinks to new lows since the 1970s that sounds like a positive, since new jobs should be easy to find and voters can be pretty confident that they won’t get cut. (Unless they are in Great Barrier Reef tourism, for instance, but that’s a climate story most politicians aren’t talking about.)
But having a “3” jobless rate hasn’t yet translated into wage rises that are keeping up with the inflation. As we saw yesterday, the gap with rising prices is somewhere between 1.3 percentage points (v underlying inflation) or 2.7 ppts (v headline CPI).
Your best bet in negotiating a fatter pay packet is probably to find a new job, as the RBA has noted.
Another “but” is that a strong employment result would also increase the chances of bigger rate rises sooner. Investors got slightly less bullish after those wage price figures but they are still pretty aggressive:
And expect to hear the government spruik how well Australia has done given the jobless rate was forecast to soar during Covid. Fair call, to a degree. But other nations are in the “3s”, including the US, the UK and even dear NZ next door. Germany and Japan are even in the “2s”, as the Economist data shows.
Scott and Jenny Morrison are visiting Whitemore in the Labor-held electorate of Lyons in Tasmania this morning.
Brian Mitchell holds Lyons on a margin of 5.2%, although his buffer was inflated by the disendorsement of his Liberal opponent mid-campaign in 2019 for anti-Islamic social media posts. Morrison is still on the offence, seeking gains to offset expected losses elsewhere.
The Morrisons are joined by special minister of state Ben Morton, Liberal candidate for Lyons Susie Bower and officials and members of the Whitemore tennis club. The event is being billed as a barbecue breakfast for the community in the Meander Valley between Westbury and Longford.
After Tasmania the PM appears to be off to Sydney (although we’re still a bit in the dark about his movements) and, according to the West Australian newspaper, will make one final trip to Perth for the final full day of campaigning tomorrow.
Prime minister's 'crash tackle' on child 'an error from both of them', minister says
Stuart Robert is then asked about Scott Morrison’s collision with a child, Luca, during a photo op with a children’s soccer team.
Poor little boy, I think he was pretty good, there was a high five afterwards, so it was just an error from both of them – but yeah, poor little boy ...
Crash tackled by the prime minister – that’ll be a story you’ll tell for the rest of your life, isn’t it? ...
Ohhh he seems fine. I think when you you get out there and you kick a footy with the prime minister, these things can happen. I think the little boy is all great and I think he’s a rock star at school today.
Told the child’s name is Luca, Robert says: “Oh, superb!”
Stuart Robert is then asked if he has found Alan Tudge in the two weeks since he said he did not know where he was and it wasn’t his job to find out (Robert is acting in Tudge’s portfolio):
It’s not my job to look for members of parliament, Patricia. My job is to be in my electorate and exercise the authority the prime minister has given me, which is what I’m doing.
Q: OK. But the point is, he’s apparently going to come back to the ministry and yet, you know, he’s not publicly available. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it?
The prime minister has addressed those issues, Patricia. Although the question I get asked all the time is who’s going to be Labor’s defence minister if Labour indeed wins. When Mr Albanese and Ms Wong shoot off overseas, who’s gonna be running that?
Q: Yeah, but I’m asking you about your stood down and stood aside education minister.
The prime minister has already responded to that.
Q: If you win on Saturday, why does he deserve to be reinstated as a cabinet minister?
Well, that’s a question for the prime minister.
Q: But I’m asking you.
It is still a question for the prime minister. The Prime Minister alone sets the course of the ministry, in the finest of Westminster traditions.
Patricia Karvelas then pushes Stuart Robert on robodebt.
A court found the debt recovery scheme, as set up by the Coalition, where debt notices were sent out, without a human review, to people who then had to prove the debt didn’t exist or pay it (reversing the onus of proof) was unlawful. The government then settled a class action. The scheme was not shut down by the Coalition government until a court found it unlawful. The decision to automate the debts notices was made by the Coalition government.
Q: On your $3.3bn efficiency dividend across the public service, Anthony Albanese says this could literally cost lives. He cites the robodebt disaster when he says that when you take humans out of human services, it has devastating consequences for real people. You were government minister, the government services minister during robodebt. Has he got a point?
I’m not taking lectures from Mr Albanese who through his policy killed people on roofs with pink batts, and slaughtered at seas because they couldn’t actually stop illegal boats coming to Australian waters.
Q: Slaughtered at seas?
They unravelled the border protection policies, he still does not believe in them and the death and destruction at seas ... what is simply outrageous and the ides that he could lecture us about loss of life is simply unconscionable. Unconscionable.
Q: Well, I’m asking you a question about robodebt. And you were the minister responsible.
No, I wasn’t. Not at all. I was the minister who closed it down because it lacked sufficiency.
Q: Under your government robodebt led to some really, really heartbreaking stories. On the substantive question of staffing and humans doing this work, do you concede that that was a mistake of your government?
We’ve said that the use of automation or annualised tax figures to determine eligibility for fortnight by fortnight income welfare payments lacks sufficiency. It is a process that have been going on for 30 years, for 30 years, governments of all persuasions have used income averaging. Now I was the minister that said this lack of sufficiency. I was the minister that stopped it. I was the minister that then saw people repaid where their incomes had been averaged but this was not something that our government started, let’s be very clear on that. This has been a process been going on for 30 years.
It wasn’t the income averaging but the reversal of the onus of proof by making people who received the debt notices prove the debt wasn’t theirs rather than Centrelink prove the debt existed, and the lack of human review of the notices, which was found to be unlawful.
Stuart Robert won’t say what he thinks the minimum wage increase should be:
Well, we all believe that wages should go up … so there’s an expectation from the Fair Work Commission they’ll move on the minimum wage. They always have traditionally, so I fully expect that to happen.
So if they moved 5.1% would that be a disaster?
I’m simply saying let’s wait while the Fair Work Commission does their job.
I’m not going to do what Mr Albanese does and pluck out smiling emojis and loose comments to appease what is an interesting question by a journalist.
The economy is run by disciplined operators and that’s why we’re the best government to continue to lead us forward. Because we are disciplined, we are reasonable and we are sound.
Stuart Robert is on ABC Radio RN painting a rosy picture of the economy and how well Australia is going (compared with the rest of the world):
That’s the facts. And it’s also the fact that on an annualised basis, circa seven of the last eight years, wages have been higher [than inflation], unemployment now is hitting a record level. Last month, of course, 3.954 rounded up to 4% … We have hit the bar set by Labor on any level at any time, we’ve come through the pandemic better than most countries on earth. Just looking at inflation: right now, right across the world – 5.1% in Australia, inflation is the problem. UK hit over 9% overnight.
Anthony Albanese has been doing the media rounds this morning in the lead-up to Labor’s election costings being released, telling Channel Nine that his party’s “bottom line is absolutely responsible”.
Labor has come under strong questioning for deciding to wait until just 48 hours before election day to release the costings of its policies. Albanese continually explains that this is in line with other oppositions, including Tony Abbott in 2013, but the Coalition has surfaced prior quotes from Albanese at that time when he claimed that approach was “taking Australians for granted”.
This morning, Albanese told Channel Nine’s Today show:
We’re making sure that we invest in childcare. We are going to invest more money in aged care, because we can’t afford to not do that.
Asked whether Labor’s approach was transparent, he said:
We have been transparent. Every single one of our policies and commitments, we have put out the costings over the forward estimates.
On the ABC, Albanese also protested that “every opposition has tended to do it at that time at the end of a campaign. That’s when you release your costings.”
Coalition HQ pointed out this week that in 2013, Albanese said then-treasurer Joe Hockey was treating voters “like mugs” for waiting until the last moment to release costings. He said at the time:
People have every right to expect transparency in an election campaign.
Nine days before that election, Albanese claimed that the Coalition would wait until two days before polling day to “produce a whole lot of paper without time for anyone to analyse it”.
Anthony Albanese has lashed the Coalition for making “fun of someone’s name in their advertising”, criticising the government’s main attack ads in an address to an Italian community event in Sydney last night.
While stopping short of calling the ads “racist”, the Labor leader claims the rhetoric “bothers members of the community”.
Albanese visited Club Marconi, in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs, to give a short speech and gladhand with the Italian community. He spoke in accented Italian several times, talking up his family’s history and of his pride at being “the first candidate to be putting themselves forward to be prime minister of this nation with a non-Anglo Celtic surname”:
If we’re successful on Saturday, there will be an Albanese as the leader in the lower house and a Wong as the leader of the Labour party in the Senate, but we still have a bit to go.
Most people of my age and older in this room will know that at school, people made fun of your name. My opponents think it’s still OK to make fun of someone’s name in their advertising. And that is a matter for them to consider.
It seemed a reference to the Coalition’s major attack line, “It won’t be easy under Albanese.” Numerous attendees at the event said they had their own personal stories of being teased at school for their heritage or being racially abused, and agreed strongly with Albanese’s criticism.
In an interview on ABC News Breakfast on Thursday morning, Albanese said “members of the community” had “raised it with me during the campaign”.
Asked by host Lisa Millar whether he believed the ads were racist, Albanese declined to comment, only saying: “That’s a decision for them.”
Albanese is in Sydney today, ahead of what Labor is calling a “final sprint” in the last two days of the election campaign. The Labor leader and senior shadow ministers have planned to visit 20 marginal Liberal-held electorates in the next two days, including key seats Brisbane, Longman, Boothby, Bass, Braddon and Chisholm.
The Labor leader is to visit Bennelong this morning before going to Queensland later today. The party is also to release its long-awaited election policy costings later today, after sustained media pressure on Albanese to outline the cost of his plans.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has released polling from Redbridge group showing real pay cuts are unpopular after new statistics showed wages grew 2.4% over the last year, below inflation (5.1%) and therefore a real wage cut.
According to the poll, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) would be more likely to vote for a party that is committed to taking steps to ensure wages do not continue to fall behind the cost of living, and 58.7% say they are dissatisfied with the Morrison government’s performance on cost of living.
The poll also shows that more than three-quarters of voters (84%) believe that wages should keep pace with the cost of living, and more than half (52%) have seen their income go backwards in real terms.
On Wednesday Scott Morrison said wage growth was “slightly above” the 10-year average but the real problem was inflation.
The ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, said:
Working people have had enough of a government which refuses to fight for wage growth. People are going backwards thanks to the policies of this government which are designed to keep wages low.
Every prime minister has the power to generate wage growth – they can support increases in the annual wage review, they can grant real pay rises for their own workforce which is one of the biggest in the country.
Instead, Scott Morrison has told the annual wage review that keeping jobs like aged care and cleaning underpaid is important. He makes things worse by keeping caps in place that ensure his own employees can’t keep pace with the cost of living.
If you have The Final Countdown stuck in your head, I’m sorry. (At least it’s better than There’s a Hole in the Bucket.) Two sleeps to go …
Labor’s campaign is about to embark on an absolute seat blitz, with 20 seats to be visited before the polls close. Anthony Albanese has apparently learnt one of the lessons of 2019, when the Labor campaign slowed to almost a stop in the final days following Bob Hawke’s death. That apparently cost seats. So Albanese will cross-cross the country as he tries to shore up everything Labor holds, and win enough to form government.
And, of course, Labor’s costings will be announced today. Jim Chalmers will take the lead on that.
Scott Morrison, fresh from bowling over a kid (the kid says he is fine, people were just shocked at the lengths the PM was going to cement the “bulldozer” moniker) starts the day in Tasmania, where he’s working to hold on to the Coalition’s seats while trying to take Lyons from Labor. He’ll be doing his own seat blitz – if the polls are correct and he’s lost some inner-city seats to independents, then he needs to make that up with some outer suburban ones. Don’t underestimate his ability to do it.
At this point I am more caffeine and dry shampoo than human, so I’m not even going to do a coffee count. It would just be embarrassing. Let’s just say new records are being set.
Let’s get into it.