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The Guardian - AU

Australian election briefing: Scott Morrison bulldozes a kid while Anthony Albanese takes the stage

Scott Morrison crash tackles a child at the Devonport Strikers Soccer Ground.
Scott Morrison crash tackles a child at the Devonport Strikers Soccer Ground. Photograph: MICK TSIKisitingS/AAP

We’ve heard of doorstop press conferences, but today Scott Morrison got window-stopped. Anthony Albanese made a pitch to voters with a set-piece address to the National Press Club in Canberra. And the latest wages data fuelled the debate about real pay cuts.

Three sleeps to go: here’s how Wednesday unfolded.

Postcard from the Morrison campaign

By Paul Karp

Morrison’s first event on Wednesday was another new home-build, this time in Armstrong Creek south of Geelong, in the Labor-held marginal seat of Corangamite in Victoria.

It’s a familiar formula now: new homes, carefully selected first-homebuyers or those aspiring to be, some chit chat in the kitchen about fixing your interest rates and getting your hands on your super for a deposit.

At the presser, Morrison confirmed that the petrol tax of 22 cents a litre will go back to 44 cents after six months despite prices nudging $2 a litre again; and conceded that the Reserve Bank of Australia doesn’t project real wage growth (where wages outpace inflation) until the end of 2023.

After dodging one pandemic question from the Saturday Paper, Morrison took one from Guardian Australia, delivered from out the home’s window.

The unexpected location was necessary because Morrison had begun by taking questions from his right but skipped the Guardian. A mid-press conference move to the window gave me the element of surprise by bobbing up on Morrison’s left.

In response to the window question, Morrison consulted notes to rattle off Covid statistics – he was prepared, apparently, for a gotcha question.

In the afternoon, Morrison addressed the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, continuing his theme that the government is “putting this pandemic behind us”.

It was at his last stop that he produced one of the most memorable campaign moments.

In the evening, Morrison attended Devonport Strikers football club in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, promoting a $3.5m grant and accidentally bowling over a small child.

Postcard from the Albanese campaign

By Josh Butler

About 24 hours after his last public appointment ended on Tuesday morning – with the click of a door closing behind him as he left a press conference in Perth, tailed by TV cameras – Albanese took the stage for an 80-minute set-piece speech, and questions and answers at the Press Club in Canberra.

The venue’s chef, famous for tailoring menus to the speaker, referenced an Albanese social media deep cut with his main course, calling back to his lockdown dinner of steak, peas and corn.

A missed opportunity for an Albanese favourite Viennetta dessert, but you can’t win them all.

The Press Club president, Laura Tingle, noted the (so far) absence of Morrison, as she pointedly said at the speech’s commencement that “prime minister Scott Morrison becomes the first prime minister in over 50 years to not give” a traditional pre-election speech to the venue.

Albanese took questions across a range of topics, and brushed off the costings saga of the previous day (Labor will be releasing the costings on Thursday – the same timing as Tony Abbott’s opposition before the Coalition won the 2013 election).

He argued he would not take lectures from “a desperate government” that had “spent $1bn on advertising themselves, including how good they are on climate”.

“All of this nonsense about costings – we will be fair dinkum, as we have been the whole way through,” Albanese said. “But what you won’t see from us is the waste and the rorts. It’s got to end. It’s got to end and we’ve got to prioritise growing the economy and productivity.”

The Albanese campaign headed to Sydney, before a speech he will give tonight to the Marconi club in the city’s west.

Today’s big stories

Covid strategy: Morrison brushed off the need for further measures to curtail Australia’s ongoing high rates of Covid-19 transmission and deaths, and suggested many Australians are dying with, not of, Covid. Morrison said on Wednesday that medical advice does not currently support a fourth Covid vaccine for the general population and asserted, without evidence, that Labor under Albanese may return to lockdowns to combat Covid.

Reset? China will seek talks with whichever party wins Saturday’s Australian federal election, with diplomats saying they see “a good opportunity” to ease tensions in the period after the vote. A Chinese diplomatic source, who did not wish to be named, said China was “genuine in our wish to improve the relationship” with Australia – although to date it has not publicly detailed any specific actions it is willing to take.

Icac warning: A group of 31 retired judges have issued a pre-election plea to Australia’s political leaders to urgently establish a strong anti-corruption commission, warning it is critical in reversing the “serious erosion of our shared democratic principles”. In a letter sent to Morrison, Albanese and the leaders of the Greens, One Nation and the United Australia party on Wednesday, the judges say the case for an effective national integrity commission “remains impregnable”.

Sport grants: A rural sporting club that missed out on funding amid the infamous 2019 “sports rorts” grants now fears it is “being used” for political gain after Nationals MP Anne Webster promised it funding if the Coalition is re-elected. A federal grant application for Nhill and District Sporting Club, in the Wimmera region of western Victoria, had scored a high level 82 out of 100. Yet their community was passed over by the Coalition in favour of lower scoring applications, some of which were in marginal metropolitan seats.

Quote of the day

Governments don’t employ people, businesses do.

– The agriculture minister, David Littleproud, on ABC TV, forgetting the public servants employed in his own department.

By the numbers: 0.7%

The increase in the seasonally adjusted wage price index (WPI) in the March quarter, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

How social media saw it

The big picture

Labor leader Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese reappears at the National Press Club 24 hours after his last public appointment. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Watch: Covid policy questions

Listen: Full Story’s campaign catchup

Political editor, Katharine Murphy, joins Jane Lee to discuss the final Guardian Essential poll results before the election and why every vote will be critical this weekend.