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The Guardian - AU

Government claims of 7% real wage rise since in office disputed – as it happened

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg
Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks to voters at a prepolling centre in Hawthorn as he battles to retain the seat of Kooyong on day 38 of the 2022 Australian federal election campaign. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

What we learned today, Wednesday 18 May

Two more days of campaigning left. The broadcast media blackout curtain is lowering, the window for undecided voters is closing, the democracy sausages are being defrosted. Here are today’s headlines:

Amy Remeikis and the team will be back with you bright and early, for more shuffles, scuffles and kerfuffles. I’ll see you back here in the afternoon. Hang loose!

Updated

Kristina Keneally has denied she’s in trouble in the western Sydney seat of Fowler, as polls emerge that she may face a stiff challenge in the seat she has been “parachuted” into.

Labor’s shadow home affairs minister is trying to move from the Senate to the House of Representatives, hoping to represent the multicultural and diverse seat in Sydney’s western suburbs. Until recently living on the city’s northern beaches, she has moved to Liverpool to contest the seat.

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, is in her electorate tonight, speaking at an Italian cultural event. Fowler is a safe Labor seat, so Albanese’s presence in the electorate – giving up precious time just days from the election – raised some eyebrows, especially in the wake of polls showing popular independent Dai Le would have a strong showing. But Keneally said she was confident of winning. She told reporters:

This is a great opportunity for Fowler to have something they’ve never had before, and that’s a senior minister.

Kristina Keneally speaks to the media during an Italian community event at Club Marconi in western Sydney
Kristina Keneally speaks to the media during an Italian community event at Club Marconi in western Sydney. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

She denied Albanese’s presence was to shore up her support, saying the Labor leader – of Italian heritage – had long been booked to appear at the event.

Keneally also said she had been enrolled to vote in Fowler “for some time”, contradicting a story published by 2GB radio that she was not eligible to vote in Fowler.

She wouldn’t entertain questions on whether she would move back out of Fowler if she lost, and also rubbished a question on whether she would seek the Labor deputy leadership upon moving to the lower house.

Updated

An unmissable Insiders this weekend:

Paul Karp was on the scene for that critical campaign moment (yes, that’s what happens when campaigns are media managed within an inch of their lives, the unscripted comes to the fore):

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, says Australians want to put the pandemic in the “rear vision mirror”, but the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, says it’s still a major issue. Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Sarah Martin on post-election pandemic politics:

Updated

A lot of people have already voted. But they should have waited to hear from Snitty the Psephological Cassowary. First Dog on the Moon is here for you:

More than a quarter of eligible Australians have already voted:

Daniel Hurst, Paul Karp and Josh Butler are here with today’s election briefing. Scott Morrison in bulldozer mode, Anthony Albanese’s steak dinner, and all the big stories of the day.

And please appreciate the lengths Karp will go to in order to ask a question:

Updated

AAP has some great pictures from Scott Morrison’s day on the campaign trail. There’s one of Morrison with some French goodies (it’s not clear if he rejected them), giving a speech, and just one more image of that crash tackle:

Prime minister Scott Morrison crash tackles a child at the Devonport Strikers Soccer Ground in Devonport, Tasmania.
Scott Morrison tackles a child at the Devonport Strikers soccer ground in Devonport, Tasmania. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Prime minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
The PM speaks at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Prime minister Scott Morrison at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong, in the seat of Corangamite.
Scott Morrison at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong, in the seat of Corangamite. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

An update, in case you were worried:

Australia’s Covid death toll is rapidly approaching 8,000 people. Here are today’s statistics:

And a frame-by-frame recap of that crunching tackle:

Updated

In today’s Campaign catchup, Katharine Murphy talks to Jane Lee about those tightening polls:

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is now on Sky News, accusing Labor leader Anthony Albanese (whom he calls Albanayyyz) of “measuring up the drapes” and asking who the acting PM would be if Albanese is elected and goes to the Quad.

The ABC reported that role would automatically fall to deputy leader Richard Marles.

Campaign staples: Hi-vis, helmets, kissing babies, playing with balls, knocking kids over:

Boris Johnson flattens 10-year-old in rugby match – video

Next minute:

Scott “Chicken Curry” Morrison can nutmeg:

Scott Morrison is attending the Devonport Strikers soccer club in the Liberal-held marginal seat of Braddon.

The MP Gavin Pearce yesterday announced a $3.5m grant for the soccer club to undertake a substantial redevelopment of the Valley Road soccer grounds, including lighting and pitch upgrades, the construction of a new grandstand, and refurbishment of existing clubroom and kitchen facilities.

My colleague Sarah Martin revealed last week that the major parties have made $40m of commitments to clubs that already benefited from the community sport infrastructure grant program (of sports rorts fame).

It appears the Devonport City Soccer Club was one of those, receiving $385,000 in the program’s first round, before the 2019 election. At that time, its grant proposal received a score of 77.5, which was just above the cutoff which the ANAO found meant it did merit funding (74).

Morrison is attending a training night with players and parents from the club’s skills acquisition programme (SAP) and members of the senior women’s state league team.

Updated

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is talking to the ABC’s Fran Kelly.

She asks him about Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement he would cut $350m in uncommitted funding from the Community Development Grants Program, and return the $400m Regionalisation Fund to the budget.

Joyce is talking up programs funded under those funds, and ducks a question about the money diverted for the “sports rorts” before diving into those comments mentioned below about Albanese’s plan to be sworn in quickly.

Kelly points out that the regional fund gave $10m to a Sydney swimming pool. Joyce says the Nationals made a deal to support the regions. Kelly then asks him about the “Barnaby line”, which is not a term Joyce seems to approve of, and whether he’s a drag on the Nationals vote.

And her final question is whether he would recontest the party leadership if the Coalition loses on Saturday. Joyce says:

That’s hypothetical and I will make sure that I will only worry about one job. I would worry about regional jobs, and focus on that, not myself.

Real wage rises under Coalition 'more like 0.7%': Katy Gallagher

Gallagher says the Coalition claim that minimum wages have gone up 7% on their watch is also dodgy. “It’s more like 0.7%,” she says.

And on her battle for an ACT Senate seat, she says independent MP David Pocock is moving some “progressive votes” from her column to his.

Updated

Labor’s finance spokeswoman, Katy Gallagher, is on the ABC rubbishing finance minister Simon Birmingham’s claim that Labor’s policies will cost something like $440bn.

It’s “dodgy costing”, she says, but hints that Labor’s projected deficit will be bigger than the Coalition’s when it’s released tomorrow. Their spending will be on “quality investments” like child care and aged care, she says.

And Morrison and Wilson ended with some chatter about the Cronulla Sharks.

Morrison says it’s not polling, but talking to people around the country, that led him to believe he needs to be more sensitive.

Now he’s listing interest rates in a range of countries that are higher than Australia’s because (you guessed it) we have his economic “shield”.

Wilson is bringing up a conspiracy theory about the World Health Organisation that United Australia Party’s Craig Kelly has been pushing.

It’s rubbish, Morrison says.

Morrison says it’s “very presumptuous” that Labor leader Anthony Albanese says he’d get sworn in swiftly if he wins. Albanese says he would do that in order to get to a critical Quad meeting on Tuesday.

Wilson gives Morrison a Dorothy dixer on Labor’s costings, which will be released tomorrow. “We’ve paid for our promises. The Labor party – who knows?”.

(In opposition, the Liberal party was known to release costings late in the campaign).

Prime minister Scott Morrison is talking to Jim Wilson on 2GB, who asks if he’s confident of electoral victory. “I believe we’ve put forward a very strong case,” Morrison says, before going into the well-worn spiel about the Coalition’s economic plans and the low unemployment rate.

Q: Do you still think Labor’s support of a 5.1% wage increase is “loose”?

Morrison says it “should be determined by the Fair Work Commission”. He says the minimum wage has gone up by 7% in real terms under his government.

Here’s Greg Jericho again:

Updated

Here’s the video of prime minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese discussing their respective approaches to Covid:

A journalist asks Deves: “Have you met a transgender person in your life?”. Deves says:

I have gay and lesbian and trans people ... trans women and trans men in my friendship group.

Updated

Former prime minister John Howard says he doesn’t think Warringah candidate Katherine Deves’ comments have harmed her campaign. “They’re in the past,” he says, and:

The idea that young girls should have to compete in sport with biological males is absurd.

Liberal focus groups must be showing that they’re on a winner with the divisive and hurtful issue.

Marvellous Mike Bowers was at Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s speech at the National Press Club today:

Labor leader Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Advance Australia are paying call centre workers to phone voters in Canberra, warning them against voting for independent candidate David Pocock because he’s “an extreme Green at heart”.

The Australian Electoral Commission has already warned Advance Australia about signage portraying Pocock as a member of the Greens party, threatening court action.

Advance Australia removed the signs, but its calls to voters on Wednesday aired a similar theme. The call centre workers warned that Pocock is running as an independent but is “really an extreme Green at heart”, citing his well-known climate activism.

The callers also insist Advance Australia is “not a political party” and is just “standing up for Australian values”.

The Senate race in the ACT is being closely watched.

The territory’s two Senate seats have long been held by Labor’s Katy Gallagher and Liberal senator Zed Seselja. In the past, well-organised and well-funded campaigns, including the 2013 campaign by high-profile Greens candidate Simon Sheikh, have failed to dislodge the major parties.

But Pocock, a former rugby union great, is attracting progressive votes, including from those disillusioned with two-party politics. The trend was significant enough for former prime minister Julia Gillard to stage a rare intervention on behalf of Gallagher, urging Labor voters to stick with the senator and former ACT chief minister.

GetUp says an announcement from the Australian Electoral Commission that it was struggling to get enough workers for all voting booths is “voter suppression”:

The AEC says it’s pulling out all the stops to open as many booths as possible:

The former Liberal prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott have been campaigning with controversial Warringah candidate Katherine Deves.

She said earlier people in the electorate want to talk about cost of living pressures, and that the trans issues exist, but are not “the most important” issues. Deves said she feels “very confident” about winning on Saturday and claims that the incumbent, the independent MP Zali Steggall, somehow took credit for action on climate change that was actually Abbott’s work. Parse that, if you can.

Updated

Finance minister (and Liberal campaign spokesman) Simon Birmingham is on Sky News, and has seamlessly moved from talking up the Coalition’s stage three tax cuts (worth billions) to saying Labor’s spending will push up inflation.

And now to Warringah...

Greg Jericho with some terrifying insights on the wage figures:

By the way, I was asked by someone yesterday why I don’t faithfully put every word a politician says here. The answer is – particularly at this point in an election campaign – politicians of all stripes start repeating the same talking points over and over. And it a) does my head in, b) is boring, and c) would be giving them way too many free kicks.

That (short) Birmingham press conference below was a case in point. Every answer was followed by identical attacks on Albanese.

So there you go. I try to get all the important bits in!

The Morrison government is doing all it possibly can to put “downward pressure” on inflation, Birmingham says. He says:

We made sure that budget we did not add to pressure across the economy, but banked a $103bn reduction in the government’s deficits to make sure that we were doing all we possibly could to put downward pressure on inflation, to ensure that we had a strong and growing economy providing dividends to the budget.

Birmingham is asked about the wage figures out today. He says there are “real challenges” that Australia is withstanding “better than most countries in the world”. He says:

The Reserve Bank and Treasury point to other measures of wages that are showing even faster growth occurring across the economy. The challenge Australia is facing, and the whole world is facing, are the inflationary pressures from right around the world. Particularly those inflationary pressures that have spiked following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Because it’s the tail end of the election campaign, Birmingham is hitting all the talking points on Albanese, saying he’s “making it up as he goes along”, that he doesn’t understand economic management, and that he’s hiding Labor’s costings.

Finance minister Simon Birmingham is responding to Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s National Press Club appearance. He’s criticising him for not having revealed Labor’s costings yet. “There isn’t just a hole in Labor’s budget, there’s a gaping chasm,” he says.

Sarah Martin has written about the costings’ release here:

Breaking news from the long-running, complex and compelling story about Kathleen Folbigg, from Michael McGowan:

What’s really going on with cuts to the public service? John Quiggin’s taken a look at the history – and effect – of the “efficiency dividend”:

Prime minister Scott Morrison has ruled out further lockdowns, and says we’re living with Covid. Meanwhile, Australia has a growing death toll and one of the highest transmission rates in the world (Paul Karp has the details here). Now this:

Tip top job, Amy Remeikis! Meanwhile, I’ve been watching election ads all morning and my brain is on the fritz (do they say ‘on the Devon’ in Sydney?). But the end is nigh, so let’s squeeze out these last few days. Onwards!

Updated

The campaigns are once again on the move (there is no rest this close to the polling day) but we will continue to bring you updates.

Tory Shepherd will take you through the afternoon and evening and check back for the team’s work outside the blog as well.

I will be back with you for the last Thursday of the campaign. Thursdays, as long time blog followers know, are always what I consider the worst day of the week, so make sure you get your rest and stay hydrated!

Take care of you Ax

Updated

Academics from Australian universities have looked at the major parties policies about combining work and family:

The Work + Family Policy Roundtable, made up of 31 academics from 18 Australian universities, has developed a scorecard which rates the major parties’ policies in relation to how they enhance the capacity of all households to combine work and care responsibilities and take care work seriously.

You can find the report card here

Updated

The minister for finance, Simon Birmingham, will be responding to the wages data at 2:45pm (Scott Morrison held an early press conference before the data was released).

Updated

NSW attorney general orders new inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg conviction

The New South Wales attorney general has ordered a second public inquiry into the conviction of Kathleen Folbigg over the deaths of her four children.

Mark Speakman announced on Wednesday that he had ordered an inquiry, after months of petitions from Folbigg’s lawyers.

Folbigg was convicted in 2003 over the deaths of three of her children, and the manslaughter of a fourth.

But after months of petitioning from Folbigg’s lawyers and dozens of leading scientists over what they say is new evidence which they say raises questions about her conviction, Speakman said he had ordered a second public inquiry into the case.

He said the recently retired chief justice of the NSW supreme court, Tom Bathurst, would lead the inquiry.

Folbigg’s lawyers had been seeking a pardon, but Speakman said he formed the view that would not be appropriate given her previous conviction, and the result of a separate inquiry in 2018 which found no evidence to overturn it.

Updated

National Covid summary

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 53 deaths from Covid-19:

ACT

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 1,098
  • In hospital: 74 (with 4 people in ICU)

NSW

  • Deaths: 14
  • Cases: 12,297
  • In hospital: 1,395 (with 57 people in ICU)

Northern Territory

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 349
  • In hospital: 25 (with 2 people in ICU)

Queensland

  • Deaths: 7
  • Cases: 7,082
  • In hospital: 511 (with 16 people in ICU)

South Australia

  • Deaths: 6
  • Cases: 4,072
  • In hospital: 247 (with 10 people in ICU)

Tasmania

  • Deaths: 1
  • Cases: 1,179
  • In hospital: 45 (with 1 person in ICU)

Victoria

  • Deaths: 22
  • Cases: 14,220
  • In hospital: 510 (with 31 people in ICU)

Western Australia

  • Deaths: 3
  • Cases: 16,253
  • In hospital: 327 (with 12 people in ICU)

Updated

'We're over the power of government,' says Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison, despite reciting figures at his earlier press conference that 65 people died with Covid in the last 24 hours, is back to claiming the pandemic can be put behind us.

He told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce:

You know, during the course of this pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about the power of government. And I think we’re over that. And we want to put that in the rear-vision mirror. We’re putting this pandemic behind us and all the intervention of government in our lives ... there are some who see that as an invitation to take the role of government into our lives.

I’ve seen it in other left-wing governments in other places of the world, they see it as a reason to keep government at the centre of our ... We know when to step up, and we did to support Australians get through one of the most difficult times in Australia’s history but we also know when to step back.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison speaks at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) address at Crown Casino, Melbourne. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

The only three questions from the audience are about labour shortages, supporting domestic manufacturing, and improving security - all of which drew stump speeches.

Morrison said that domestic manufacturers are now paying one quarter to one third of the international gas price due to negotiations with gas companies backed up by the trigger for domestic gas reservation.

He attacked teal independents for wanting 60% emissions reduction by 2030.

Let’s just turn the lights off and go home now.

Updated

So what are they doing about it?

The AEC:

Direct liaison, advertising and third-party outreach has been happening for more than a year in an effort to recruit the 105,000 polling staff required across Australia.

We estimate that our staff have made well over 1m phone calls, they’ve sent more than half a million emails and we’ve had 1.8m unique page views on our election jobs webpages since February.

Short of handing out blank cheques for work, or accommodating thousands of single-day workers in interstate locations, there is not much more we could have done so far.

We’re calling on other organisations to assist as a final push, and investigating all possible staffing models including amalgamating venues.

We’re also continuing to engage with local residents in the hope they’ll put their hand up. For some people it may mean that if you want to vote at a polling place in your town on election day, you may have to sign up to work as well.

Voters voting pre-poll at an early voting centre.
Voters cast their ballots ahead of the national election at an Australian Electoral Commission early voting centre. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Want a job? The AEC says:

We’re urging people in the areas listed in the attached document to register today so that polling places can open on Saturday.

Simply visit aec.gov.au/electionjobs and fill out the registration form. It is quick to complete, polling official positions are paid, you don’t need any experience to register, and we’ll provide you with the training you need.

Updated

Here is a bit more on the AEC’s recruitment issues and what that will mean for voting booths:

The AEC is today alerting voters in identified areas that recruitment difficulties may lead to a relatively small number of planned polling places being unable to open on election day.

Areas that are a cause for current concern are in the following divisions, with localities listed within this media release.

· Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy and Leichhardt (Queensland)

· Barker and Grey (SA)

· Durack and O’Connor (WA)

The electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, said the vast majority of the nation’s planned 7,000 polling places will be in operation.

While the impact will likely be limited, and limited to certain areas, voters in identified regional locations who have not accessed an early voting centre, or postal vote, may not have a polling venue in their town on election day.

The list of affected areas will reduce as we get closer to Saturday and many local residents will have already accessed the alternative forms of voting available in the Australian system.

Recruitment difficulty is exactly what we advised could occur, both earlier in the pandemic and in the early stages of the election period, and why we’ve been urging people to assess all voting options.

Current labour shortages in regional areas have been well documented. No frontline service has been immune to resourcing difficulties and we’re running the nation’s biggest in-person, manual event.

Updated

Anthony Albanese responded to that earlier in his speech:

Real wages have gone backwards yet again. A fall of 2.7%. What a hit! This delivers the biggest cuts to real wages in more than 20 years. Under Scott Morrison, real wages are plummeting as the costs of living are skyrocketing. Australian workers are pay the price for a ticket of bad policy and failures.

While Scott Morrison says he should be rewarded for another three years because he’s just getting started. The choice Australians have to make this Saturday is: which party can be trusted to solve these problems?

The Liberal government that created them, a prime minister who denied them and then blamed them on someone else? Or a Labor party, driven by a determination to learn the lessons of a pandemic, to face up to the big challenges confronting our country and to bring people together to build a better future.

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

'Inflation is the challenge': PM

At the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Morrison has also put a spin on the latest abysmal wages figure.
He said:

Today, we have seen the wage price index figures come out which shows a 2.4% increase through the year, 0.7% this quarter. Now that’s slightly above the 10 year average. We’ve seen those wages, start to rise again. But the challenge is inflation.

Morrison then likened global inflationary pressures to rain to argue, essentially, that the government couldn’t do anything about it and nor would a change of government.
He said:

Inflation is the challenge. And that’s why when you’re dealing with things like that you have to know the things you can’t control, global events, global forces, oil prices, wars in Europe, disruptions of supply chains and the pandemic shutdowns in China. All that’s happening after May 21. One way or the other. That’s not going to change when trying to go outside and still get with election won’t change whether it’s raining or not.

Updated

Scott Morrison addresses Australia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce

Scott Morrison is addressing the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, discussing the philosophical difference between the Coalition and Labor through the frame of pandemic management.

Morrison said:

There’s always a choice ... When you peel it back, and you think about the last few years, where we’ve been, I think there’s a bigger choice. There really [are] two different views. The Liberals and Nationals believe in the power of Australians. The Labor Party believes in the power of government.”

Morrison is now quoting the New York Times claim that if their Covid policies had been the same as Australia’s, 900,000 Americans would’ve been saved; and his own claim that Australia saved 40,000 of its own citizens. While true of the first two years – this ignores that Australia’s transmission rate is rising and so are fatalities.

Morrison said that the Coalition knows “when to step in and when to step out”. He is trying to reclaim jobkeeper as “not just an initiative of government” but a payment done in partnership with employers.

He said jobkeeper was “income support”, and although some describe it as a “wage subsidy” he doesn’t see it that way.

He’s talking about trusting employers to work out who qualified for the payment and who they could keep on. Funny he hasn’t mentioned the $40bn that went to employers that didn’t reach the required downturn threshold to qualify for the payment.

He said:

My point is, it’s because our partnership understood that government worked together, not to control the economy or put itself at the centre of the economy, but to do its bit where it had to back to enliven and back up the individual businesses the individual employees judgments that were being made about how they could see themselves through.

Updated

The press club address ends.

Updated

Q: You’ve been advocating for a rise in wages to help to keep up with the rising cost of living. Yet you’ve only promised a review to increase pensions. So don’t welfare recipients and those on those payments deserve an increase? Do they deserve the same level of advocacy from Labor?

Anthony Albanese:

What I have said consistently is that you actually do not need a review to know that someone who is on the pension is doing it tough at the moment. We know that and every time a budget is handed down, we will consider what we can do for pensioners and for people on jobSeeker as well. I make this point: the largest increase in the pensions Australia’s history happened last time we were in government, with Jenny Macklin as the minister and Wayne Swan as the treasurer. I was very proud of that.

We will do what we can within the fiscal constraints. One of the things we have, though, in the fiscal circumstances we will inherit, is $1tn of debt whereby people who are on minimum wages are going backwards and today we saw a thud in the gap between wages and inflation, today. So we do need to address that and when asked, would I support the Fair Work Commission if it comes out with the finding that someone on $20.33 deserves an extra dollar, absolutely.

I could have added some adjectives but I did not because I know how tough people are doing it and it stands in stark contrast with the other bloke. They have stop talking about it, have you noticed that? Now they are trying to talk about other issues as well. They want to raid people’s wages and now they want to rate people’s super. People who are doing it tough do need a government who is on their side. I will be on their side. Scott Morrison is on his own side.

Updated

Q: If you become prime minister, you’ll head off to Tokyo for the Quad meeting pretty soon afterwards and you’ve spoken today about the three pillars for foreign policy. Something else that you mentioned is that if it wasn’t for Japan, your first visit overseas would be to Indonesia. Now, obviously, these first visits can be quite symbolic. I was interested – what in particular would you be looking to get through your first Indonesia? What specific changes are you looking to make in the relationship? And would you want a closer security partnership with Indonesia?

Anthony Albanese:

Indonesia is a really important partner for Australia. That has been the case for a number of decades and as a minister in the former government, I went to Indonesia more than any other country.

We developed a program called Itsap - the Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package. I think that we need to develop much closer relationships with many of the partners in our region and Penny Wong, as our foreign shadow, has made some significant announcements about how we would deal with countries to our north.

I would intend for Indonesia to be the next visit after the Quad leaders’ meeting. And for that to happen as soon as possible to be organised. Indonesia will grow to be an economy that’s substantial in the world. We live in a region whereby in the future, we will have China, India and Indonesia as giants.

We need to strengthen that economic partnership. And one way that we can do that is by strengthening people-to-people relations as well. Indonesia is an important nation for our economy, for those social relationships as well. I want to see more engagement and cross work, and assisting in areas that they need.

I did that as a minister in government and I know that it was really appreciated. There would be, in areas like maritime safety for example, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have done extraordinary work and indeed have brought Indonesian maritime safety experts to here in Canberra.

That’s one of the things I’ve had the opportunity to learn when travelling as an Australian representative ... I was in India ... leading a delegation just a few years ago in 2018 and we launched there the Australia-India Alumni Association. That’s strong. Indonesia is so close. About to be a superpower in the world. We need to strengthen the relationship with Indonesia and that would be a priority for me.

Updated

Q: Mr Albanese, thank you for your speech. Generally in Australia, a woman is murdered by her current or former partner every nine days. We’ve seen a woman murdered every week during the election campaign, so it wouldn’t be surprising if before we know the result of the election, another woman is dead.

The draft national plan on women’s safety has a target of halving that number of deaths. When will see that number halved? Or reduced even more than that, if you’re elected prime minister on Saturday?

Anthony Albanese:

I think from memory, the number of women who died last year was 43. So one every nine days. That’s almost one a week.

We want that to be reduced to zero is the ideal, obviously. It is a tragedy that too many women and their children live with domestic and family violence, and that tragically ... can lead to murder, call it for what it is, by a partner or by a former partner.

We need, I think, to really put the whole nation ... government can’t do this alone, of course. Government needs to work with civil society to call this out for what it is. We’ve put forward some really practical options as well.

One of them is, and I announced today ... again reiterating our view that ten days’ family and domestic violence leave should be law in this country. If women are faced with having to continue to work, are worried about putting food on the table, then it leaves them more vulnerable.

The other thing that we need to do is to make sure that women and children escaping domestic violence have somewhere to go. And that’s where our Housing Australia Future Plan has 4,000 of those homes – 20,000 – reserved for women and children escaping domestic violence. It’s why we have $100m allocated for emergency housing.

Tonight – we know, because every night it happens – a woman, and perhaps a woman with children, will be turned away from a shelter because there simply isn’t room. They’ll be forced to sleep in their car or they’ll sleep in a park or they’ll sleep on a friend’s couch. Worse still, they’ll return to a violent situation.

We need to do much better than that.

I am committed and I believe a government ... that I lead will be absolutely committed to doing what we can to reduce the numbers of women in terms of fatalities, murders. But also to reduce domestic and family violence across the board.

Updated

Laura Tingle: We have time for more questions but nobody has asked you about costings, so I’m going to intervene here!

Anthony Albanese:

They’ll wait to chase. I got 18 questions here [on costings yesterday] but they’ll wait to chase!

Q: My question is - you’ve said you’re just doing what the Coalition did in 2010 and 2013, which was basically pretty low-grade. But more importantly, back in the day, politicians for a while, political parties for a while, actually released costings of individual policies as they went.

Which we have.

Q: Really detailed policies over four years, number by number ... That seems to have declined. You’re talking about greater accountability and transparency. Are you committing also to bringing some of those standards back?

Has the Charter of Budget Honesty become a bit of an excuse for not being more transparent?

Albanese:

We have released with every policy, with every single policy, we’ve released how much it would cost over the forward estimates as we’ve gone on. Every day I have stood up and in the media releases, there has been costings.

This is a government that spent $70bn between Myefo [Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook] in December and March. $70bn without a single offset. This is a government that made a $60bn error in the costing of its JobKeeper program.

This is a government that is the most wasteful government in Australian political history. And that is why we have said upfront that the Department of Treasury and the Department of Finance will go through their accounts lineally line and try to find where some of this waste and rorts are.

Laura, this is a government that have previously... All governments have had very small amounts in the contingency reserve.

Contingency reserve is there because it is a contingency.

What this government have used is a creation of multiple funds, multiple funds, in order to just rort taxpayers’ money. They treat taxpayer money like Liberal party money.

They have ... Barnaby Joyce, who knows what he has promised around the country out of some secret deal.

You know, when we go to transparency, there is a deal between the Coalition, a written deal between the Liberal party and the National party on the basis of the formation of the government of Australia that no one is allowed to know what’s in it. No one is allowed to know what’s in it.

We have been transparent the whole way along. We are releasing our costings tomorrow. I had had some detail today which I flagged yesterday in one of the 18 questions I took at a media conference yesterday. I flagged that I would have more to say today about our costings. Because I respect the National Press Club and always have a couple of announcements here.

And today’s return to budget of three-quarters of a billion dollars is a costing announcement that we scheduled to make today. So we’ll have all of our costings out there tomorrow. But we have been extraordinarily transparent the whole way through. You know what the government’s been after?

A desperate government that doesn’t want to discuss the fact that wages are going back by record levels. A desperate government that doesn’t want to discuss - they’re not talking about this any more.

The $1, if you increase wages by $1, the sky will fall in! Last time around, if you had electric vehicles it would end the weekend. And if you acted on climate change, the sky would fall in.

This government ... are the least transparent, least open, least fair dinkum government in Australian political history. They’ve spent $1bn on advertising themselves, including how good they are on climate. There’s a savings for you as well.

And $3bn that we’ve put out there. $3bn on labour hire, on contracting out. And you know what they did yesterday?

Yesterday, they stood up and said, we’re going to cut the public service even more. You know what that leads to - Robodebt. It doesn’t save money. It costs money, because you take humans out of human services and it has devastating consequences. For real people! It costs lives.

Lives! As well as over $1bn to taxpayers.

So all of this nonsense about costings - we will be fair dunkum, as we have been the whole way through. 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.

Updated

Daniel Hurst has that story:

The new questioner picks up the baton quickly for a laugh.

Q: No new taxes?

Anthony Albanese:

We’ll do exactly what I have said we will do. And one of those, Andrew must have missed it, is the multinational tax!

Q: The prime minister says that you would be a weak leader on the international stage. And SBS has spoken to Chinese diplomatic sources who say that whichever party is elected, they will seek fresh talks on some level. So, is China to be trusted? Or is China the enemy? And if you are elected, will you pick up the phone to President Xi?

Albanese:

China has changed its position under Xi. Xi, of course, came and addressed the national Parliament, welcomed by Tony Abbott with some rather effusive comments at that time. Australia has had to adjust to that. And I think that the relationship and China will remain a challenging one regardless of who wins the election.

But I’ll tell you what I will do if I have the great honour of leading this country – I will cherish relationships that I build, including reacquainting myself with President Biden next week if we’re successful. What we’ve seen is a whole series of Australia’s international relations being damaged.

You know what weak is?

Weak is leaking a private text message with an ally. That’s weak. That’s what that is. Because you’re under pressure. You’ve got a bad headline – oh, well, just chuck this out and then say – oh, I don’t know where that came from. I’ll tell you what weak is – being asked to consult across the Parliament and ensure that there’s bipartisan support for Aukus with the party, my party, that is responsible for the foundations of the US alliance forged under John Curtin. And then misleading that ally about whether that consultation has taken place. That’s weak.

Q: Would you pick up the phone, Mr Albanese.

Albanese:

That’s weak, that’s weak. That’s weak. What I’ll do – the first thing that I will be doing is meeting with our allies. That’s what I’ll be doing. Meeting with president Biden, meeting with prime minister Kushida, meeting with Narendra Modi.

Updated

AEC warns of closed booths because of recruitment difficulties

Make sure you check your voting booth is open before you vote –

Each journalist gets one question under the NPC rules, which is why Laura Tingle kiboshed that second one there.

Q: Mr Albanese, you speak extensively about being the young man from the council flat, and this is not an invitation to repeat that story–

Anthony Albanese:

I might anyway!

Q: Please don’t!

Albanese:

I’ll answer that part! I’ll answer that part of the question!

Q: From this, at least initially, you became an unreconstructed socialist. Would the young man in the council flat approve of the man here endorsing stage three tax cuts which give people on more than $200,000 a tax cut of more than $10,000? Or would the young man in the council flat approve of a family on $500,000 getting a $26,000 childcare subsidy?

Aren’t you just endorsing this tax cuts policy to win the election? And won’t you change your mind afterwards blaming economic circumstances? And what can we see in your October budget? Could we see an aged care levy? Could we see an increase in the Medicare levy?

Albanese:

The young lad in the council flat ... and I’ll begin there ... had a mum who told that young man that he could be anything he wanted to be.

When I speak about no one left behind and no one left back: no one left behind is about protecting the disadvantaged. That’s why I don’t support a real wages cut for people on minimum wages. That’s why. Simple as that. That’s why I say that each and every budget, the treasurer and the finance minister sitting here – I’ll say to them, what can we do for people who are doing it tough, each and every budget? ...

That is a part of my mantra I’ve held my whole life. But the other thing about no one held back is people aspiring to a better life. That’s what Labor does. One of the things about this campaign is that some people say that there’s a change in the political dynamic out there. One of the reasons why there’s a change in political dynamic out there compared with when I was a young man, is that Labor governments mean that ... hands up here, my colleagues who are the first person in their family to go to university!

That’s what’s happened. Labor governments give people the opportunity to get ahead. I want businesses to be successful. I want people to have the certainty of knowing what their income will be which is why I argued for, and Labor supported ... we had amendments there, but once they were not successful ... we voted for the legislation of the tax cuts and we said clearly and explicitly, we would keep those legislated tax cuts.

Because people deserve that certainty going forward. But what we’ll also do is craft a whole agenda for how you grow the economy. We’re missing out at the moment, and in today’s globalised world, if you’re standing still, the rest of the world is just going past you.

We’re in the fastest-growing region of the world in human history to our north. We have incredible opportunities. If you look at what I’ve done, and some of my views, of course, have changed – when facts change, change your views. As you learn each and every day in this job.

I’ve developed, I believe, I have as good a relationship with the business community as anyone in the parliament. At least as good. I challenge anyone to say that they have more.

Does that mean that I always agree with them? No. But what it means is – when I say something, I deliver it. And if you ask anyone who has dealt with me, and one of the reasons I think why that young lad from the council flat became the leader of the Australian Labor party unopposed, is because my entire political career has been built on my word.

Q: Just quickly...

Laura Tingle (moderator)

No, no.

Q: No new taxes, is that what you’re saying.

Tingle:

Sorry, Andrew [Clennell], sit down.

Updated

Q: You’ve spoken a lot in this campaign about growing the manufacturing sector. Spot prices in the wholesale gas market are soaring at the moment. And local businesses are saying that the energy costs could force them to close.

Last year, you backed a call from unions to urge Scott Morrison to invoke the Australian Domestic Gas Security mechanism, which would effectively limit the amount of gas that we send overseas to lower prices for our local firms. If you win on Saturday ...

Anthony Albanese:

Some of that has occurred.

Q: Will you pull the trigger on that mechanism?

Albanese:

What we know is that if you look at a state that has made sure that its businesses have access to gas – go to WA where we were yesterday. It’s been very successful. It’s been very successful in WA. We will work with industry, constructively, to make sure that they can continue to thrive.

We think that in terms of manufacturing, there are enormous opportunities. If you look at where this debate has gone in terms of power for industry - remember that there was a fellow called Josh Frydenberg who used to stand up and give speeches in parliament about saving Liddell and Liddell staying open. Doesn’t do it any more and Liddell is closing on their watch.

The changes that are occurring through are the energy market that are occurring, that are driven by prices and by the market, and where the cheapest form of new energies are.

[They] need to be channelled, we need to work with them, and that’s what we will do with businesses. I’ve sat down with businesses, whether it be a company like Rio for example, with their alumina manufacturing. What are Rio doing just outside of Gladstone? They’re looking at hydrogen. There are businesses that are responding. The truth is that business is so far ahead of this government that they can’t see where the government is.

Q: But for short-term prices, do you support pulling the trigger on the mechanism.

Albanese:

If you’re asking what I might do down the track. We would take advice down the track. What we would do is work with business to provide investment certainty to make sure that we reduce energy costs for business. That is what we would do. And we would be, in terms of mode neutral – our policy in terms of powering Australia is mode neutral in terms of where the market is going. This government have been like swimming against the tide. And that is why they haven’t been successful.

Updated

Q: We’ve seen seismic changes in parliament as a workplace after the Women’s March for Justice. If elected prime minister and you were made aware of a complaint about the behaviour of a member of your team, what would you do?

Anthony Albanese:

We have processes in place to ensure that our workplace in terms of the Labor party is a safe workplace. We have those processes which were established by Bill Shorten, to give credit where credit is due.

But we also strengthened them, and we did that with the process led by the women in our caucus, Sharon Clay in particular, our caucus chair. The involvement of every person in the caucus and also through the national executive.

So that is a very clear process that we have in place that ensures confidentiality, that ensures that people can have the confidence to come forward. In addition to that, in terms of the parliament, we have supported the parliamentary processes that have been established and which have ensured ... they have got the support of the entire parliament. Those changes that have been made are good and positive.

In addition to that as well, we need to recognise that every workplace needs to be a safer workplace. That’s why we’ll adopt the 55 recommendations from the Respect at Work report from Kate Jenkins. The government responded to some of those, but they left out a critical one as well which is the obligation on employers to do what they can to have a safe work place.

Q: But with respect ... What would you do, though? Would you refer someone to that process? Is that your answer?

Albanese:

Well, we have processes in place. Yes, absolutely.

Updated

Q: Do you promise to govern under the same set of standards you have set for the government in opposition? And if so, how would you achieve that?

Anthony Albanese:

By being upfront. By being upfront. By putting in place for a start, a national Anti-Corruption Commission would be a good idea.

We have, I think, less confidence that I feel from the Australian public in the national government than has been there for a long period of time. John Howard I had criticisms of. I had a lot of criticisms. But they didn’t have the stench and the taint that this government has around it.

John Howard, when ministers did the wrong thing, [he] stood them down and stood them aside. These guys are a revolving door, where they step down, like Stuart Robert or Sussan Ley and they’re back before you know it. Barnaby Joyce is back as deputy prime minister.

The truth is that we need to build confidence in government, and in the integrity of government. To do that, you need a national Anti-Corruption Commission, but you also want to govern in a way that is far more transparent, far more open, one that accepts responsibility for the high office that the prime minister and other ministers hold.

Q: Just on the first part of the question. Do you promise to govern under the same standards you have set in opposition?

Albanese;

I promise to govern with integrity. To always be upfront. To be honest with people, is what I do.

Updated

This one’s from our own Katherine Murphy.

Q: Australia has recorded 5,633 Covid-related deaths this year. That’s equating to a 7-day average of 45 deaths a day. Scott Morrison said this morning that the pandemic had passed. He said, and this is a quote: “We’re living with Covid and not going back to the daily press conferences of people talking about Covid every day and putting the threat of shutdowns and lockdowns in people’s lives again.”

So my question is - what would an Albanese Labor government do to curb the death rate from Covid, by way of a national strategy, that Scott Morrison once prided himself on delivering?

Anthony Albanese:

Thank you. We do need to step up the national strategy. We need to look at not just the number of deaths, but also the number of people who are in hospital and the number of infections that are there as well. Because of the people going out and getting vaccinated, the impact on many people is less than it would have been if people were unvaccinated. But it’s still a major issue.

And I have raised, as one of the things that I’ll be seeking to do very early on, as in next week, providing a comprehensive briefing where I have asked, as part of incoming briefs, that there be exactly that – a national strategy. How do we get the information out there so people get their booster shots? What can we do to minimise the impact of Covid, which is continuing to have an ongoing impact on people?

Sometimes too with not just vulnerable people ... there’s a lot of younger people where it can have an impact as well and are in hospital. We need to continue to be vigilant and recognise that this pandemic is still having a real human impact.

Updated

Q: You spoke about productivity, you spoke about industrial relations, small business and the enterprise bargaining system. The Morrison government had a go at this, a year or so ago, [they] brought together unions, business, interested parties and for reasons too extensive to mention now, it didn’t really go far.

But one of the constants you get from business groups about [the] enterprise bargaining system is to remove the “better off overall” test and go back to Paul Keating’s “no disadvantage” test. And the Keating [industrial relations] reforms were one of the great productivity drivers of the modern era.

You’ve been quite critical of any moves to touch the test during the campaign. Will you be flexible on that? And prepared to entertain a more Keating-like reform program if that’s what it takes to get a result that the Morrison government couldn’t?

Anthony Albanese:

Paul Keating made workers better off, not worse off. And you only remove the “better off overall” test if you don’t want people to be better off overall. It’s pretty simple, really.

What you can have is, through genuine negotiation, improvements that increase both business profitability and wages. That’s the Keating model. That’s the Keating model, including through the social wage that he did as well that made people better off.

Our childcare plan is an example of something that will make families better off. But what occurred, to be clear about the government’s system, was that they had negotiations that were very constructive. They had negotiations with big business and unions, they had negotiations with small business, and I refer you to the elements of my speech today about small business and unions and flexibility.

There was great progress made and then the government came out with legislation that didn’t reflect any of the negotiations that had taken place.

I’ve had direct discussions with small business and with the Business Council of Australia and other businesses, as well as with unions about the prospect of sincere, real change that provides win-win. I think we can get win-win with small business, but we can also get wins with larger businesses and unions as well. We have common interests.

This has been a thing well back – I’ve been speaking about it for a very long period of time. You can’t have union members if you don’t have successful employers. And we have common interests here. Business recognises it. Unions recognise it. What they haven’t had is a partner to bring people together. They’ll have it under a Labor government I lead.

Updated

Q: If Albanese, if you’re elected on Saturday, you’ll be at the Quad meeting on Tuesday. Could you tell us as precisely as possible whether your message to the other leaders there would be one of Australian foreign policy being a matter of continuity, or would it be one of the changes that would come about under your government? And to the extent that there are changes, or would be changes, can you tell us the areas?

Anthony Albanese:

We will have, under a government I lead, three pillars of our foreign policy. The first is our alliance with the United States.

The second is: more intense and deepened our regional relationships [sic]. And the third is support for multilateral forums, as well. So there’s an element of continuity throughout that.

But it’s also a matter of having trust as well. I won’t leak text messages to international leaders. I will engage in an upfront way, in a mature way, and I look forward in particular to some of the policy changes that we’re putting forward increasing our standing globally.

We are in the naughty corner at UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences. That’s the truth. That’s the truth. We were there under Howard. We’re there now.

One of the ways that we increase our standing in the region, and in particular in the Pacific, is by taking climate change seriously, and the Biden administration and Australia, I think, will have a strengthened relationship in our common view about climate change and the opportunity that it represents.

But a lot of our foreign policy, in terms of the challenges, will remain completely consistent over areas like the strategic competition we’re seeing in the region with the more aggressive response of China. We will maintain an absolute consistency in that position of standing up for Australia’s values.

Updated

Q: You’ve spoken about the vision that you have for the next term of parliament under a Labor government, and a lot of that is about building thing in Australia and about local jobs. The key policy mechanism is the national reconstruction fund, which you want to build up with $15bn, I take it, of borrowed money.

That’s a lot of money for ministers and yourself to allocate. You’re also running on a platform about integrity. So, what can you tell Australians about the safeguards over that $15bn? Will we see independent oversight that money? Will we see the public release of any advice to you and your ministers about how that money is spent? Will they reveal reasons for allocating money to various projects around the country? And will there will be a process to review the grants or the loans that this new entity would issue?

Anthony Albanese:

We’ll be completely transparent. And what we’re doing, what we’ll establish is essentially the model that has worked really effectively with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation model. So arms-length.

They won’t be political decisions. They’ll be decisions based upon a proper analysis of ... if you’re a business, like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation as operated very effectively, in spite of the fact that this government tried to abolish it, at least a couple of times.

If you have a business that’s crying out for some support in order to be able to mitigate risk, in order to ensure that it can grow and have new industries, then that will be a priority. But they won’t be political decisions.

We’ve also said in areas, including half a billion of that will be allocated for agriculture. Others for new hi-tech. $1bn. Advanced manufacturing – $3 billion. Looking at green steel and green metals, manufacturing connected with renewables as well. And $1bn from the resources sector.

So take a practical example here. We produce lithium, nickel, copper - everything that goes into a battery that’s going to power not just cars, but homes and businesses into the future in terms of battery storage.

That is the game changer. That is something that we should be investing in. There’s a little company you’ve probably heard of called Tesla in the United States. Little company, going OK. Began with, essentially what gave it the kickstart was support from the US government. And a government that I lead will back Australians businesses to become powerhouses just as Tesla has become a global powerhouse.

Updated

Q: Scott Morrison said at the beginning of the campaign ... “This shouldn’t be an election that’s a referendum on the government, it’s got to be a choice.”

You’ve locked yourself in, in the interests of minimising wedges, on a whole range of issues – from foreign policy to climate. But particularly on tax, you’ve endorsed the stage 3 tax cuts which will be worth billions and billions and billions of dollars in couple of years.

So my question to you is – have you locked yourself in so significantly on a wide range of policies that you actually aren’t in a position where you can deliver on what you say, which is that you want to change the country by changing the government?

Anthony Albanese:

We will deliver on exactly what we are committing to over our first term. And one of the things that I’ve said consistently is that I’ve been focused on the election day, but importantly, the election day after next.

Why do I say that? Because I’m focused on what we will do in government.

Not just trying to get there, to change who lives in the ministerial wing. But focused on achievable, ambitious projects going forward. That’s why we have been responsible in the commitments that we put forward, given the extraordinary amount of debt that we will inherit if we’re successful on Saturday. So all of the measures ... we have, and Katy and Jim, as I said in the speech, outlined our plans for growth and how you do that.

Our Powering Australia Plan. Our better infrastructure investment, including the NBN. Investment in skills. Investment in childcare. Investment in making more things here. That will all grow the economy. They’re all investments that will produce returns.

And that is why we have concentrated on that agenda. The tax cuts are legislated. And one of the things also we’ve concentrated on is providing certainty about what the agenda looks like going forward.

Because whether it is in climate, or whether it be the decisions that businesses will make about where their investments go, or whether they be individual family budgets – that certainty will provide a ballast going forward, and we have been very clear that we will do exactly what I’m saying that we will do over the next term. We do have a changed tax measure on multinationals, which will return a little under $1.9bn.

But that is a responsible commitment that we have made.

Updated

Anthony Albanese is wrapping up:

I know the difference a good government can make to people’s aspirations. Good government changed my life.

A good government helps people put a roof over their head. It supports young people who want to learn a trade, or get a degree.

A good government ensures older Australians can live out their later years with dignity and respect.

A good government creates opportunities for families to get ahead and stay ahead, and makes sure they can get the health care and child care they need, when they need it.

A good government gets wages rising.

A good government backs businesses who are innovating and growing.

A good government makes it possible for Australia to make things here again.

A good government protects and defends our national security, and strengthens our relationships with our allies.

A good government protects the natural wonders of our environment, treasures we hold in trust for our grandchildren.

And it invests and cherishes our universities and our artists and sport and music, and the multicultural miracle of modern Australia, celebrating the diversity that gives us strength.

A good government will grasp the opportunity for healing and truth and reconciliation offered by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, celebrating the fact that we share a continent with the world’s oldest continuous civilisation. That hand that is just asking to be grasped and asking for good manners to be implemented.

Good manners tell you – when something you do has an impact on someone else – talk to them. That’s all a Voice is. Ask them. And hear them. And listen to them. And given our history since 1788, is that too much to ask? We need to celebrate the fact that we share a continent with the oldest continuous civilisation.

This is the Labor government I want to lead.

Updated

Anthony Albanese:

The prime minister finished the week by saying that working people should raid their super to fix Australia’s housing crisis. So the Liberals believe you should lose one key asset in order to get another. With Labor and our plans, you keep both.

The prime minister’s most remarkable statement, though, was that his biggest flaw is that he’s too quick to solve problems.

I’ll just leave that hanging there for a bit.

So you think about it. The bloke who said, when Australia was burning down, “I don’t hold a hose, mate!” The bloke who said – when we were way back in the queue in the developed world, somewhere in the 90s, about the rollout of vaccines – what was his response? “It’s not a race!” And on every issue that you can think of - what’s his response? “That’s not my job.” His four favourite words.

The only thing that Scott Morrison actually does quickly when there’s a crisis is blame someone else. Well, the Liberals won’t change. The prime minister can’t change. And the only way to change Australia for the better is to change the government this Saturday.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Updated

Scott Morrison has become the first prime minister in five decades not to do a press club address.

Updated

Anthony Albanese addresses the National Press Club

Anthony Albanese is speaking at the National Press Club now.

An advance copy of his speech, circulated by his office, gives little hint as to Labor’s election policy costings, which he has declined to answer questions on until an announcement tomorrow – but one piece of news is a commitment to radically rein in spending on a controversial grants program which has come under scrutiny under the Coalition.

Albanese said Labor would “target the waste and rorts in the Morrison government’s budget” and that a government he leads would focus “on quality investments”.

I announce today that Labor will reduce the uncommitted funding in the Community Development Grants Program by $350m and return the $400m Regionalisation Fund back to the budget.

These two decisions alone will repair the Budget by three quarters of a billion dollars.

The community development grants program has come under fire for dramatically favouring Coalition seats over Labor ones.

Albanese’s advance speech copy gives no more detail, only promising that his treasury team Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher would “have more to say on this tomorrow.”

This announcement today is the start of repairing the budget and cleaning up the mess we stand to inherit.

Updated

Anthony Albanese is about to kick off his speech.

Katharine Murphy and Josh Butler (who is on the bus) are both in the room.

The annual pace of wage growth of 2.4% clearly disappointed the more bullish views, with the result that the odds of a big rate rise by Reserve Bank to curb inflation have diminished. Investors responded by cutting about a quarter of a US cent off the Australian dollar:


Among the earlier commentators to chime in was Sean Langcake, the head of macroeconomic forecasting for BIS Oxford Economics:

The ABS noted the average size of wage increases has picked up to a relatively fast pace of 3.4%. But only a small share of jobs received a change in wages in the quarter; this is typical in March, but was likely exacerbated by Omicron disruptions.

While these data will give the RBA some pause for concern, they will still expect faster wage growth to occur later in the year, and will raise rates at the June meeting.

Arguably the three big economic “events” have broken in favour of Labor during the election campaign:

  • First, there was the surprisingly large CPI increase that reminded everyone how quickly costs of living were rising (if they weren’t sure already).
  • That prompted the RBA to hike rates for the first time in 11 years at its 3 May meeting – based in part on expectations about wages picking up.
  • And now today we have the wage price figures that in fact show salary increases were weak ... barely above the December quarter pace.

Perhaps the Morrison government will have something to cheer about tomorrow, with the April labour market updates due out. A sub-4% jobless rate is expected, but that might also remind voters the lowest unemployment numbers in half a century are yet to translate into much higher pay.

Updated

Wages will dominate the afternoon. Labor is already saying it is a 2.7% wage cut.

Anthony Albanese’s press club speech is about to begin.

What isn’t getting attention this election?

Most of what voters say they care about. Josh Nicholas, Nick Evershed, Khaled Al Khawaldeh and Johanna Lewis have taken a look a the disconnect:

Surveys consistently show that aged care, climate change and education are among voters’ top concerns this federal election. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it by watching politicians’ press conferences or reading some media coverage.

A Guardian Australia analysis of election issues shows that while voters’ number one issue – cost of living – has been given significant political and media attention, other issues that voters care about appear to have been neglected.

Updated

The Australia Institute has taken a look at the understanding of Senate preferential voting:

The Australia Institute surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,002 Australians about their Senate voting intentions and their understanding of how Senate voting works.

The results show:

  • A significant proportion of Australians remain uncertain about important aspects of Senate preferential voting:
    • More than four in 10 (43%) respondents thought that putting a “6” beside a box made it harder for that party to be elected.
    • One in two respondents (50%) thought that you should put a “6” beside the box of the party you dislike more than any other
  • When given an example, only three in 10 respondents (29%) were correct about how to vote in the Senate to make it hardest for a party they did not like to get elected.
    • Over half (55%) chose an answer that may make it easier for a party they do not like to get elected.
  • Only 31% of Australians correctly answered that their Senate representatives are elected by the people living in their own state or territory.

Updated

I think Labor might have had this ready to go.

Updated

So wages have risen 0.7% in the March quarter (from January to March) and they have risen 2.4% from the same time last year.

Inflation is running at 5.1%.

Wages rise just 0.7% in March quarter

Australia’s wages rose 2.4% in the March quarter from a year earlier, accelerating from the 2.3% recorded during the final three months of 2021, the ABS has just reported.

The increase was always expected to trail the inflation rate but it was a question of by how much. Depending on your stat of choice, the March quarter headline consumer price index rose 5.1% while the underlying rate (that strips out the more volatile changes) was 3.7%.

Economists had pencilled in a 2.5% annual rise for the wage price index (which excludes bonuses). On a quarterly basis, they were tipping a 0.7-0.8% rise.

It’s a fine line. The higher the wage index, the happier the employees – and potentially, voters – but also the more inclined the Reserve Bank will be to stomp on any inflationary expectations by hiking the interest rates faster. Either way, today’s WPI will feed into the election campaign.

The 2.4% pace was on the lower end of expectations. While it will trim expectations of a big RBA rate rise in June, the modest increase will likely fan the debate over why workers’ salaries aren’t increasing faster despite the jobless rate running at half-century lows.

The WPI increase was the fastest in just over three years but given the underlying inflation rate for the March quarter was running at the fastest pace since 2009, today’s data will be seized on by unions and Labor leader Anthony Albanese as the latest proof that employees aren’t enjoying their fair share of a recovering economy

More to come on all of the above.

Updated

As interest rates increase (and the RBA has signalled they will) so too will the cost of government debt:

Murph also saw David Littleproud’s interview on the ABC this morning.

Littleproud doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he often makes gaffes, or says the quiet things out loud.

From Murph’s report:

The Nationals frontbencher David Littleproud has claimed that spending cuts imposed across the public sector to deliver $3.3bn in savings to pay for the Morrison government’s election commitments will not result in job losses.

Littleproud at first told the ABC erroneously on Wednesday morning that “governments don’t employ people, businesses do”.

The ABC Breakfast host Michael Rowland then pointed out to the minister that governments do employ many thousands of people “called public servants”.

Rowland then asked Littleproud whether or not the new efficiency dividend the Morrison government outlined on Tuesday would result in thousands of job losses for public servants.

Littleproud replied: “No, because this is an efficiency dividend that even a business looks at”.

“The public service shouldn’t be exempt from running the ruler over about how they’re spending money … that’s what businesses do,” he said. “That’s what the Australian public service should do”.

Littleproud characterised arguments to the contrary as “scaremongering”.

Updated

Nearly 6 million people have pre-polled or applied for a postal vote – that’s approaching half of all registered voters.

It is going to be a big hour – we have wage data coming out, then Anthony Albanese’s press club speech.

That will be in place of his daily press conference.

Updated

Viagogo loses appeal over $7m penalty

Outside of politics for a moment:

Viagogo will have to pay a $7m penalty for misleading consumers when it resold concert and sports tickets five years ago, after its appeal against a prior court decision was tossed, AAP reports:

On Wednesday, the full court dismissed Viagogo’s appeal of a 2019 judgment which found the firm had misled consumers through “a marketing and transactional web” on an industrial scale.

“Notwithstanding that Viagogo is not happy with the result, it has failed to establish error on the part of the primary judge,” the appeal judges wrote.

Viagogo failed to show any mistakes in findings it had falsely claimed it was the “official” reseller of certain tickets and that tickets were scarce, and that it had hidden significant fees of up to 28% from ticket buyers until later in the booking process.

Arguments that a $7m penalty meted out in October 2020 was “manifestly excessive” were also dismissed by the court.

The case, which was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in August 2017, focused on statements made by Viagogo between May and June that year.

During that time, Viagogo advertised headline ticket prices on its website without disclosing the total prices that people would pay.

It also failed to tell consumers that it was not a primary ticket retailer, but rather a reseller of tickets.

In October 2020, after the penalty was announced, then ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Viagogo’s business practices were “unacceptable”.

“Viagogo misled thousands of consumers into buying tickets at inflated prices when they created a false sense of urgency by suggesting tickets were scarce and when they advertised tickets at a lower price by not including unavoidable fees,” he said at the time.

Updated

Park hotel refugee Medhi Ali wins liberty prize

Refugee Mehdi Ali has been awarded the 2022 Voltaire “empty chair” award by Liberty Victoria.

Mehdi – who this year became the public face of refugees and asylum seekers detained in Melbourne’s Park hotel – arrived in Australia as a 15-year-old seeking sanctuary.

Now 24, Mehdi was detained by the Australian government both off and onshore for close to a decade.

Mehdi Ali.
Mehdi Ali. Photograph: Supplied

As reported by Guardian Australia’s Ben Doherty, Mehdi and his cousin Adnan were teenagers when their families urged them to flee Iran, where they faced systemic oppression as members of the Ahwazi Arab minority.

After four days at sea, their boat was intercepted by Australian authorities in 2013. They were then sent to Christmas Island and later, Nauru.

Mehdi has described his time in detention as “a complete trauma”. On Nauru, he watched a fellow refugee burn himself to death, he was beaten by guards and jailed without charge.

Mehdi and Adnan were brought to Australia in 2019 under short-lived medevac laws. They spent time in Brisbane detention centres before being transferred to Park hotel.

Confined to indefinite detention, Mehdi’s mental and physical health deteriorated as he watched other detainees be freed from detention or board planes to start new lives overseas.

The detention of tennis world number one Novak Djokovic in Park hotel in January thrust Mehdi into the international spotlight. He and his cousin were finally released from detention in March and afforded protection in the US.

Established in 2016, the Voltaire empty chair award is presented to a person “who is worthy to receive the Voltaire or Young Voltaire Award but cannot be present to receive the award due to the consequences of their exercise of or advocacy for human rights, free speech or civil liberties.”

Liberty Victoria said Mehdi has consistently used his Twitter platform to voice the injustices and trauma faced by refugees and people seeking asylum.

Michael Stanton, president of Liberty Victoria said:

We are honoured that Mehdi has accepted the 2022 Liberty Victoria empty chair award.

Through his tireless activism [Mehdi] brought attention to the Australian detention system from within with dignity, kindness, and optimism, an issue which received international attention during the Djokovic case.

Mehdi said humanity “knows no borders” and asylum seekers and refugees held offshore “deserve to taste the same freedom as those who were recently released in Australia”.

I welcome the Australian government’s decision to release refugees within Australia. This is a step forward, regardless of the motives, but only if our remaining friends detained offshore are included too.

Mehdi urged the Australian government to “close the chapter” on the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers.

It is time for the government to end that inhumane policy, and remove the shadow of fear, terror and uncertainty from these imprisoned people.

Updated

Tony Burke on whether it is wage growth or inflation which is the actual problem:

I heard these comments from Scott Morrison a moment ago it’s only about inflation. Let’s not forget when inflation was low, he was saying we had to keep wages low because inflation was low.

Now inflation is high, and he’s saying we need to keep wages low because inflation is high. No matter what economic statistic comes out, Scott Morrison’s answer will be the same – low wages. They promised it, it was their design feature, there’s a whole lot of commitments this government makes and Scott Morrison makes they never deliver on, low wages, they have delivered on in spades. And Australians are feeling that pain every hour of every day.

Updated

Labor’s Tony Burke is responding to Scott Morrison’s comments on wages, ahead of the ABS handing down the March quarter wage data in just over an hour:

What we made clear is the position that we would welcome would be one where people didn’t go backwards. In particular, we focussed on the people on the minimum wage and the awards closest to the minimum wage. What we’re talking about there amounts to a dollar an hour.

We’re not talking about an extraordinary amount of money. And the hysteria from Scott Morrison on this, claiming in one breath the economy is strong and in the next, it is actually so vulnerable that if the lowest paid workers in Australia got an extra dollar an hour, the sky will fall in.

Labor’s view is to get wages moving isn’t just good for in terms of resolving and helping to calm the cost of living crisis, it’s also important for people within the economy.

These are the people within the economy who will then spend that money.

They’re in a situation now where they’ll be spending it on absolute basics. But an alternative to that should be unthinkable.

The thing I still find extraordinary is that when we have spoken about the most modest of pay rises, which is simply just to keep up with what is happening in inflation, for the people on the lowest rates of pay, Scott Morrison has the hysterical response which clearly shows he doesn’t want people, even those on the lowest wages, to be able to keep up.

He was willing to make nice speeches about the heroes of the pandemic. He’s willing to waste extraordinary amounts of government money. He’s not willing to push for them to get an extra dollar an hour.

Updated

Who was the reporter Scott Morrison was ignoring (she kept asking her question, but Morrison kept saying “behind you” to her)?

Shuba Krishnan from SBS:

Updated

Here is Paul Karp at work:

NSW reports 14 Covid deaths and Victoria 22

Scott Morrison went into “people are dying with Covid, not from Covid” territory today in his press conference, heavily leaning into the same sort of “freedoms” messages minor parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Clive Palmer’s UAP have been running.

Meanwhile, 36 people have died in NSW and Victoria today.

Updated

Following Anthony Albanese’s press conferences, there is a lot of commentary about what questions he didn’t answer. Yesterday the story after the presser was about how he left the press conference while journalists were still asking questions. Journalists followed him, with commentary about how he was “storming off” or “running” from questions on costings.

Scott Morrison rarely answers questions he doesn’t like. He does not accept interruptions when he strays off topic. He leaves when the questions get too tough to answer. But we have not seen the same level of commentary.

Morrison has also gone from “I need to change, I’ve been a bulldozer” to “how great are bulldozers?”

Updated

Q: Are you saying you won’t go back to governments to manage Covid. Do premiers like Mark McGowan need to stay out of people’s lives?

Scott Morrison:

I believe we need to move on from where we have been, that has always been my view.

I think it is incredibly important that we manage the pandemic and its future carefully, but we don’t go back to those days of shutdowns and lockdowns, and of course, we will monitor carefully any issues that relate to new variants, but when it comes to going forward, Australians want to move ahead, and that’s certainly what I want to do.

We are living with the pandemic, living with the virus and we are ensuring that our economy is coming back to life and people are getting back into jobs, and I am not going to crush their dreams by taking Australia backwards into that environment again. We are moving ahead, we have a big few years ahead of us, we are ready to seize the opportunities of what is ahead of us, we want to see people get to own their own homes, access to their own super so they can realise that dream, just like Sarah has here and we want to see more Australians doing that ... and only by voting Liberal and National, and Stephanie here in Corangamite, can you get access to your own superannuation to enable you to buy a home. The Labor party won’t let you do it, I will encourage you to do it so you can get the best possible start in life for you and your family, thanks for your time.

Questions are still being shouted as he leaves.

Scott Morrison holds a press conference at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong on 18 May 2022.
Scott Morrison holds a press conference at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong on 18 May 2022. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

Q: If you remain prime minister will wages keep up with inflation, even underlying inflation, and what is that?

Scott Morrison:

Wages will rise for all of the reasons that I have said, wages will rise because of unemployment coming down.

The economy will continue to strengthen, and businesses doing well so they can pay their employees more.

Q: Wages are not keeping up with inflation.

Morrison:

Inflation is the challenge when it comes to real wages, rising wages will be driven by the forces I have said, and that’s why this election is so important. The Reserve Bank says 2023, by the end of 23.

What I can tell you is it will take even longer if you have policies as the Labor party propose which means not managing money, not being able to afford the promises they are making, that only puts further pressure on inflation, and more upward pressure on interest rates. (*The debt is so large this doesn’t make a difference.)

I have been very candid with Australians about economic challenges we’re facing. You are right to highlight the problem with real wages, Labor has no magic bullet on this, and that’s exactly right, the only way you get wages is by good sensible economic policies that drive down unemployment, and that support growth in the economy which enables businesses to be able to pay their staff more.

There is no money tree that small businesses and businesses have.

Many of you will know that during the course of the pandemic you work for companies that had to go jobkeeper, you work for companies facing great global threats when it came to the forces of Google and others which meant that many of you were taking pay cuts.

You know that wages can only increase in the private sector if the businesses you work for are actually doing better, and that’s what our policies ... I’m saying wages are rising and will rise, and the challenge is inflation, so I draw your attention to the facts, let’s focus on the facts in Australia, inflation, 5.1%, in New Zealand, almost seven, in the United States, 8.5%.

Let’s talk about interest rates, in Australia, they went up 25 basis points of record lows of 0.1. In New Zealand they went up by 125 basis points... (Journalists try to interrupt) Excuse me, I am answering the question.

125 basis points they went up in New Zealand, 90 basis points, 75 basis points, they went up in the United Kingdom and in the United States, and in Canada. So whichever way you look at it, Australia under our policies has put up an economic field to protect Australians from the impact of rising inflation around the world and rising interest rates and that’s what Australians need.

If you risk Australia’s economic management and the management of our budget with the Labor leader in Anthony Albanese who is a loose unit on the economy, didn’t know what the unemployment rate was, didn’t know what the cash rate was, makes up wages policy on the run, with no thought to what it means for inflation or interest rates, a treasurer who thinks he could just have a few billion dollars loosely spreading around and it’s no big deal, well, that is a big risk to you, and that’s why this election is a choice between a stronger economy and a weaker one and a certain one and an uncertain one.

Updated

Morrison rules out fourth Covid vaccine for general population

Q: What are you doing to curtail that and will you extend the fourth booster to the whole population to protect them?

Scott Morrison:

What we will do is continue to follow the medical advice, we will continue to put in place the winter preparedness plan, which we agreed with the states and territories, and/or the chief health officers and medical offices, which has been extending those vaccination boosters, particularly into the most vulnerable population, and you will note also in the New York Times article that one of the things they referred to was the strategic way in which we prioritised vaccines for the most vulnerable and elderly in our population which is exactly our plan. That you got vaccinated first, to ensure that we could minimise the impact on those most vulnerable populations.

That has continued to be the medical advice and the medical advice has not been to extend fourth doses ... We speak regularly, as does the health minister, and there has been no change to that advice. We will continue to ensure that we follow that advice and ensure that Australia continues to have one of the most outstanding track records of managing the health impact of this pandemic. But I would stress again, as I know that premiers have on many occasions, what we’re seeing now when people are passing away ... that doesn’t mean they have passed away because of Covid, and that is a very different issue from a public health point of view in terms of how you manage it.

People getting their Covid vaccines at the Royal Exhibition building in Melbourne.
People getting their Covid vaccines at the Royal Exhibition building in Melbourne. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP

You asked me what we have done about it, well we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

The third dose rate is now just on the temp of 70% and this is one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The job is never done and that’s why on each and every day the subareas we have seen come forward, these are issues that I have been in dialogue with the chief medical officer and we watch that evidence very carefully, and if there are issues that arise, we will act on them, but the advice we have is consistent with the approach we have continued to take and there has not been a change to that. Australia has been one of the standout performers in managing Covid anywhere in the world.

And I would add this about Covid, we are living with Covid, and not going back to those daily press conferences of people talking about Covid every day, and putting the threat of shutdowns and lockdowns and interfering in people’s lives again, that is not what I’m going to do if I am re-elected on Saturday, I will not drag Australia back to those times again, and I have noticed that Anthony Albanese (*this is not true) is keen to get back into that type of approach, and that is not the approach I have taken.

I will answer every question as I have for the last two years, and convened over 60 meetings of the national cabinet to work with premiers and chief ministers around this country, which has ensured that Australia has had one of the lowest death rates of Covid anywhere in the world. That’s a record that Australians can be very proud of, and I think Australians, particularly health workers, particularly in Indigenous communities for those working in aged care settings for the amazing job they have done. What their work is done is enabled Australia to live with Covid without fear, and that’s where our government will continue to take that issue forward.

Updated

Morrison says Australians dying 'with' rather than 'because of' Covid

Q: The highest Covid transmission rate, we are approaching 6,000 deaths so far this year, was a decision taken that this is an acceptable number, and if not, what are you doing to stop 50 deaths from Covid a day in Australia?

Scott Morrison:

There has been 7,853 deaths where people have died with Covid in this country. There have been 2,376 in aged care since the pandemic started. There have been 65 deaths in the last 24 hours of people who died with Covid and 15 of those where in aged care.

In every single one of these deaths, from the outset of this pandemic is a terrible loss for the families of those who have been lost, and you will also know that as the number of case numbers has risen and that’s what was always going to happen, as part of the national plan that we put together with the states and territories, the case numbers would rise, and there were some 53,000 case numbers yesterday, and what you see when you have case numbers of that level is that people when they pass away, from many other causes, they will die with Covid, and their deaths are recorded as a Covid death but that doesn’t necessarily mean as the premiers themselves have set out, that they passed away because of Covid, that’s a very different proposition.

And it’s also the position of the chief medical officer and the other health authorities around the country, but let me make this point. You may have seen an article in the New York Times, and in the article they said very clearly if the United States had followed the path that Australia had, there would be 900,000 more people alive in the United States today. That is more than the metropolitan population of San Francisco. Australia has one of the lowest death rates from Covid anywhere in the world.

Updated

Asked if Anthony Albanese saying if he was elected, he and Penny Wong would try to go to the Quad meeting (which is just days after the election).

That is from an Australian newspaper article:

Scott Morrison ignores the context which Albanese was asked specifically and said:

We are not pre-empting the outcome [of the election] but, clearly, we have been asked by Australian officials what our ­intention would be and we have indicated that if we are successful, the intention would be to go,” Albanese said.

Morrison though, takes the question as if Albanese has declared himself the winner:

That’s for him to explain. He seems to be getting a bit presumptuous, he seems to think ... we had Bill Shorten now with the Addams family photo before the last election, all pretending they were already in their jobs. We are seeing a lot of that again from the Labor party, and when I was asked about this the other day, when it came to what we were, what the arrangements would be for the Quad meeting after the election, I said I would not be presumptuous about that, there are conventions in place to deal with those issues and I’m sure depending on the outcome of this Saturday’s elected that they will be put in place. But Mr Albanese seems to be getting a bit ahead of himself and Australians will make this decision, you don’t get to make it before the election.

Scott Morrison holds a press conference at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong on 18 May 2022.
Scott Morrison holds a press conference at Armstrong Creek housing development near Geelong on 18 May 2022. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Updated

Q: You were attacked on your character for being untrustworthy and a liar, and a week after the election you are saying you are a bulldozer. Are you worried Australians will see this as a political ploy? And also why should Australians trust that in a future crisis, you will consult with them more because you said the reason you didn’t consult was you had to make fast decisions?

Scott Morrison:

I think you misunderstood what I’m trying to say. I have been very conscious about my approach for a very long time, and I have to tell you in the roles I have had it has served the country extremely well.

You could not have been weak and stopped the boats, you could not have been weak and stood up to the Chinese government, you could not have been weak and made the decisions we had to make during the pandemic where there wasn’t time, as you say, and rightly, to be going and consulting on every decision, and in crises, that’s what you do have to do ... Australians know that when things really get down to it that I can make those calls, that I can have the confidence to make those calls and that’s what has enabled Australia to come through what has been one of the biggest challenges we faced since the second world war.

What I am talking about is we’re coming out of that period, we are putting the pandemic behind us, and the crisis and urgency of those times gives us the opportunity as a government to move into another gear. I am very optimistic about the next three to five years, Australia has great opportunities that we have worked hard to set up during the course of this pandemic, investing in skills, infrastructure, ensuring we have more apprentices and trade training, 220,000 more than any other time in Australia’s economic history, investing in advanced manufacturing capabilities which we are already seeing the dividends of, investing in our security and defence forces and defence industry. We have big opportunities ahead of us, and I am intending for Australians to realise those and we can move out of the mode where we have been in where decisions have been difficult and tough. There will be many challenges ahead, no doubt about that, and I can assure you the same strength that I have demonstrated as a prime minister over these last three and half years, you can count on that strength in the future, but what you can also count on is shifting into this new gear of realising these opportunities.

Journalists try asking questions about Covid:

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, somebody, someone was asking me a question, we will get to it.

Updated

Q: Prime minister, in your own electorate of Cook, surely your constituents have a right to know whether you will serve a full term. Will you rule out today quitting politics in the event you lose?

Scott Morrison:

I am focussed on one thing, and that is the return of the Coalition government, and I have served and I have been so grateful to the people of my own community. Jenny and I are so grateful for people in my own community and I am standing for election in Cook once again and I look forward to their support.

He ignores a reporter who has been trying to ask a question for some time:

I said behind you, I said behind you.

Updated

Q: You have been to Geelong five times since December. Given the contest going on in the teal independent seats, can you realistically hold onto government without them?

Scott Morrison:

Before the last election, I remember what everyone was saying before, but Australians are making this choice, pollsters aren’t making this choice, commentators aren’t making this choice, journalists are not making this choice, except in your own vote, and however you choose. Australians are making this choice and at this election I think there is a fundamental difference, and that is in the Liberals, in the Nationals, we believe the answer to securing Australia’s future opportunity is you and that’s why our policies, particularly like what we’re talking about here, enabling you to buy your own home with your own money, it demonstrates our belief, just like jobkeeper and the cash flow boosted, enabling you to get through the tax reductions, small business, it was all about backing Australians and Labor believes the government is the answer, which is why they want the government to own your home, and when it comes to housing policies, their only answers is to put people in government homes or have the government buy your home.

We have a very different view, we believe in Australians, the Labor party believes in government and I believe Australians...

Updated

'The response we are getting from prepoll is really encouraging,' says Scott Morrison

Q: There has been a massive amount of prepoll votes cast, I think one in five voters, why do you think voters are in such a hurry to vote and think they have already made their mind up about you and want this election over and done with?

Scott Morrison is very upbeat:

The same thing happened last election, it’s just a longer time. Prepoll has gone from three weeks to two weeks, and people will be a lot of different places on polling day and we have seen about a third or thereabouts of people prepoll now before elections, and I would be expecting it to be about the same, it has just been done over a shorter period of time, and I have to tell you the response we are getting from people is really encouraging, and I thank all of our workers who are out there, having those conversations, and I tell you what, if you want to get access to your superannuation, to help you or your kids buy a home, the only way that will happen is if you vote Liberal National at this election because Labor will never ever let you do it because the unions will never let them do it.

I want you to be in charge of your money, the Labor party doesn’t think it is your money, they think it belongs to somebody else, and that they can tell you where to spend your money like Labor always does, that’s why they like higher taxes*, because they think your money is better in their pockets than it is in your own.

*This is not true. This government is the second-highest taxing government since the Howard government (which was the highest taxing).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits a housing site in the suburb of Armstrong Creek in Perth.
Prime minister Scott Morrison visits a housing site in Geelong, Victoria. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Updated

Asked about rental prices, Scott Morrison talks about policies to help people build and buy houses.

Q: Isn’t it a fact that everything is going up except for real wages?

Scott Morrison:

Wages are going up. Inflation is the challenge. Wages are going to go up because unemployment is coming down.

And unemployment has fallen to 4% in this country and we will find out later this week where it goes to the most recent data. Youth unemployment has fallen to 8.3%. There are 40,000 more people in jobs today on this side of the pandemic than there was before.

This is the strongest employment performance of any of the best economies and more importantly, we have just gone through an economic downturn because of the pandemic that was 30 times worse, globally than what the global financial crisis was when Labor was last in power. In our employment performance is 50% better than what Labor was able to achieve.

The way wages goes up is when you get unemployment down and get businesses that are able to earn more so they can afford and pay higher wages. I want to see wages go up. I want to see the minimum wage go up. Of course I do. But how that is going to have to be done carefully ... by the Fair Work Commission because they will be thinking carefully about all the forces that are there in the economy.

The economy has so many moving parts at the moment. And you have to be careful. Otherwise, all you will end up doing is pushing interest rates up even higher. Pushing the cost of living up.

... It seems from Jim Chalmers they are happy to be loose with finance because that pushes up inflation which makes that real wage challenge even more difficult.

Updated

Q: We have seen petrol prices go back past $2 a day. Can you level with Australians and confirm that if you are elected, the petrol excise will rise by around 22 cents in September?

Scott Morrison:

That is the position.

Q: So 22 cents in September if you are elected.

Morrison:

That is the position of both parties in this election. What we will watch closely over this period of time is what continues to happen with petrol prices. We put in the budget a six-month period of halving the fuel excise. We did that on the basis of treasury’s advice about what they believe would happen with fuel prices over the period of time.

Now they actually fell a lot faster than we anticipated and those savings were passed through a lot more quickly by the big petrol companies and we appreciate that. We have seen prices go up, we may well see them go down again.

Because they are all being driven by a lot of these forces that are going on in the global economy. So we’re only one month in, a month and a bit in. We will see this volatility and watch that. I tell you what, if you don’t know how to manage money, you can’t halve the fuel excise. That is what we have done because we know how to manage money. Labor doesn’t know how to manage money. It’s why they are such a risk to you and your family and the cost of living pressures you will face.

Updated

Scott Morrison is now trying out a new line: “Anthony Albanese doing the full Forrest Gump.

I take it he means running? Morrison often turns to Forrest Gump for inspiration. Movies in general.

Updated

Scott Morrison press conference

The polls might be tightening, but one thing has remained constant – women voters have not warmed up to Scott Morrison. So for the last few days, Jenny Morrison has been on the campaign trail. Mrs Morrison is on the campaign this morning as Scott Morrison does another sanitised campaign stop at a housing estate. (The pattern has been housing estate, followed by over 55s community as a quick pit stop.)

Morrison is still talking housing, and the Coalition’s super for housing policy (which on the headline detail, has proven attractive to people).

Morrison is standing up very early this morning – he is getting ahead of the wage data which is coming out at 11.30 this morning. Saves all those pesky questions on it when the actual figures come in.

Morrison is laying the groundwork for the government take on the wage data:

The shadow treasurer is running around saying a couple of billion dollars here and there over a year is not much. It’s not a big deal. Well, it is a big deal, Jim. It’s a very big deal. And that’s how we think about it. you can’t be loose with the nation’s finances. You can’t be loose with your understanding of the economy because what that does is that puts further pressure on Australian families that puts further pressure on the cost of living.

Soooooo the $5.5bn for the submarine is a big deal? Carpark rorts? An extra $27m for a piece of land worth $3m?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference during a visit to a housing site in Armstrong Creek, Perth.
Prime minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference during a visit to a housing site in Geelong. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Updated

Union boss Sally McManus also spoke to the ABC this morning, where she was asked whether Anthony Albanese, if he was elected, would have to focus on raising wages:

Absolutely he’ll need to because there’s a final opportunity to do so. Today is actually the hearing day, like the major hearing day, it’s the last opportunity to do so just before the decision.

Unfortunately most of the considerations of the Fair Work Commission have happened over the last couple of weeks and it has been Scott Morrison’s government who has put in their submission and this submission has a whole section that talks about the value of low-paid work and why it’s good because it’s a stepping stone for high-paid work. Well, tell that to an aged care worker.

Updated

Australia slaps more sanctions on Russia over Ukraine invasion

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, has slapped sanctions on additional Russian politicians, businesspeople, media figures and organisations, including the notorious Wagner private military company, over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Among those included in the new sanctions, imposed yesterday, are one of Russia’s most prominent TV personalities, Sergey Brilyov, and Aleksandr Zharov, the chief executive of the country’s biggest media group, Gazprom Media holding.

Also banned is the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, better known as Russia’s “troll farm”; the company was indicted by US authorities for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Wagner, which has operated in both Syria and Ukraine, has been linked by Guardian reporting to far-right groups including the white supremacist Russian Imperial Movement.

The RIM was itself sanctioned yesterday as part of a separate action taken against far-right terror groups. Also sanctioned under this measure were two US groups, The Base and the National Socialist Order (which is probably better known as Atomwaffen Division) and the UK’s Sonnenkrieg Division.

Updated

PM continues sanitised campaign tactics

Scott Morrison is visiting a housing estate in Armstrong Creek, south of Geelong in the Labor held marginal of Corangamite. With him is Jenny, Sarah Henderson, and Stephanie Asher, Liberal candidate for Corangamite.

In attendance are several first homebuyers and Connor North, a tradie who used the early release of super during the pandemic who has said he would support accessing his super again to purchase his own home.

This is the formula: no unknown people or samples of the general public, no street walks, nothing uncontrolled. Pre-vetted happy first homebuyers or aspirants only.

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David Littleproud, reminded of the people governments do employ, is asked about the increase to the efficiency dividend which will see the APS have to make further cuts:

Public service shouldn’t be exempt from running the ruler over about how they’re spending money over accommodation or technology. That’s what businesses do. That’s what the Australian public service should do. It’s a privilege to work for the Australian government and Australian people. It doesn’t make you exempt from running the ruler over like businesses have to do every day. To make sure they continue to provide and sell the services to the customer who is the Australian people. No reason why the Australian public service shouldn’t do that.

(To be clear the APS do do this, regularly. There is a lot of justification needed for travel and upgrades (including OH&S) already, and there was an early adaption of virtual meetings to cut down on travel.)

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David Littleproud says best way to address cost of living 'is to have a job'

David Littleproud also claimed that “government’s don’t employ people” (which might be news to the 2.1 million or so public service employees across the nation).

Littleproud:

Well, the best way to be able to attack the cost of living as an individual is to have a job and we have been able to bring that unemployment rate down now for 4% and hopefully it will have a “three” in front of it soon.

That’s put tension in the marketplace where employers have had to pay more to keep their employers or get new ones.

That’s what we have been able to do in the economy, not just shoot at the hip and put it at 5.1%. There’ll be unintended consequences for that.

You have to work with the Fair Work Commission, which the Labor party set up as the independent arbiter and they take into account much of those factors, those economic factors, around inflation, around interest rates, around unemployment rates.

You need to make sure you’re methodical around this. If you shoot from the hip you can have an unintended consequence.

We’d like to see this – we want to make sure the Fair Work Commission does that but the best way we can do that is to make sure we drive unemployment down by growing the pie, investing in businesses who employ people. Governments don’t employ people, businesses do and so what we tried to do is do that and we have done it, achieved it, over a million new jobs we have been able to create.

We’ve got more people in employment now than before the pandemic. Australians should be damn proud. And that just doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no silver bullet to this and we shouldn’t think there’s any silver bullet. It takes calm, methodical work to make sure you get the foundations right. That’s what we have done.

Real wage growth has been stagnant in Australia since before the pandemic, and lags many in the OECD.

Minister for agriculture David Littleproud.
Minister for agriculture David Littleproud. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

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Given the billions Barnaby Joyce has been spending on the Wombat trail (the Nationals campaign trail) is this an example of what we can expect the Nationals to get every time there is a climate rumble?

David Littleproud:

This is an acknowledgment from the government of what regional and rural Australia has done over the last 2.5 years and what it will continue to do.

We paid the bills for this nation. The resources and agricultural sector – while many industries sadly were put under the doona for a couple of years, agriculture and the resource sectors paid the bills.

So what our budget is about is empowering that growth of where we actually find the new frontiers of growth in our economy and invariably that’s in northern Australia where we’ll build water and dams, infrastructure to actually grow agriculture, but we’ll fill in those supply chain gaps in our infrastructure to make sure we can get our product from a pit or a paddock to port. So we can pay the bills to have those services that Australians enjoy and want to improve. And that’s what we have decided in terms of our budget is an acknowledgement of what regional and rural Australia does.

All this is is an investment in Australia’s future. Not just regional Australia’s future because that is a return on investment to the Australian taxpayer that they get back in better services.

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National party deputy leader, David Littleproud was feeling upbeat this morning while speaking to ABC Breakfast TV:

We have achieved a lot together, in fact we have done more than any other nation in the world if you look at an economic and health front. We should be proud but we need to shift gears and make sure we look after those cost of living inflation pressures and who is best to handle that and to drive the economy and to guide the economy. I think that’s where the Australian people are looking at it when the opposition won’t tell them how much of their money they’re going to spend, they’re taking them as mugs. We got to be open and honest and transparent.

Here is Paul Karp on the “world-leading” pandemic response (the government’s claims are a little outdated).

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Household “costings” may be front and centre again for a while today when we find out how far behind headline inflation (and the underlying bit) average wages have been falling.

At 11.30am AEST, the ABS will release the wage price index figures for the March quarter, some three weeks after we learnt consumer prices rose 5.1% from a year earlier (3.7% after stripping out “rogue” movements).

Economists are expecting the WPI to come in at about 2.5% (and 0.7%-0.8% from the December quarter).

Westpac says wages “are now back to a pre-Covid pace where wages were underperforming economic activity. If there was ever a time for wages to regain some of relationship with broader labour market indicators, 2022 must be the year.”

(We looked at why the falling jobless rate has not had the same relationship with rising wages as in the past, a couple of months ago.)

Anyway, apart from informing the political debate about whether workers deserve wages that keep up with inflation (with productivity gains a bonus), the WPI “print” will also carry weight at the June Reserve Bank board meeting.

As ANZ puts it:

We think an upward surprise of 1% q/q growth in [today’s] WPI could be enough to get the RBA over the line for 40 basis points, though if it comes in at our forecast of 0.8% q/q that prospect will recede.

A 40bp increase in the cash rate to 0.75% is more than investors are currently betting on. (But it is a nice round number).

On the subject of wages, the Fair Work Commission later this morning will reveal the makeup of the panel to decide on how much minimum wages should rise this year. Labor might be secretly hoping failed Liberal MP and former frontbencher – and recent FWC appointee – Sophie Mirabella gets a gig.

As the Australia Institute noted this week, the Morrison government has ramped up the choice of political appointees to senior government posts, with Mirabella just one of quite a few:

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New budget airline Bonza delays launch date

A new ultra-low cost airline which hopes to begin flying in Australia this year has had to push off its launch date due to a delay with aircraft delivery.

Bonza, which announced its plan to enter the Australian domestic aviation market in October, issued an open letter on Tuesday warning holidaymakers that they should not expect the airline will be operational in time for August getaways.

Carly Povey, Bonza’s chief commercial officer, said the airline is “getting closer to take-off” and announcing a start date, but noted the regulatory approvals process is ongoing and the issues with aircraft delivery.

Having this locked in is key to going on sale with our first wave of flights. One key input is that we now have confirmation of when our first aircraft will touch down on Aussie shores.

This is slightly later than first expected but gives us the clarity we need to map out the in-country process that starts once they touch down. In short, we’re making good progress and in the coming weeks I will provide further updates.

I can confirm that you shouldn’t wait for us to lock in your essential July and August travel plans. Whilst we can’t wait to save you the long car ride or the need to holiday at home, we’d rather be upfront. If we have more positive news to share sooner, we will.

Bonza aims to start new routes that serve two destinations not currently serviced by an airline, and as opposed to running multiple daily services in the way more established airlines do, will only run a handful of flights each week on its routes to maximise patronage.

It has so far announced 17 destinations, and will have bases in Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast. Tickets will only be sold via its smartphone app, and the airline predicts airfares will cost customers around $50 for every hour they’re in the air.

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Anthony Albanese says he would seek to have himself and foreign minister Penny Wong sworn in almost immediately if Labor wins the election, and hinted he would leave his beloved Marrickville to live either in the Lodge or Kirribilli House as prime minister.

Albanese has given a few illuminating interviews recently which have been published this morning. In the Australian, he reiterated his previous intention to attend a meeting of the Quad with leaders of the US, Japan and India – which is scheduled for Tuesday.

That would mean Albanese would need to hop on a plane on Monday, and he said that Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet officials said he could be sworn in as PM – and Wong as foreign minister – quickly enough to get them there on time.
Albanese said he was “not pre-empting the outcome” but that “we have indicated that if we are successful, the intention would be to go”.

The Australian reported that if the election result was still not finalised by Monday, that Albanese would seek advice about sending a Labor representative with Scott Morrison, who would likely remain as PM until that time.

In a separate podcast interview with news.com.au, Albanese was asked where he would live if he won – at the PM’s Sydney residence of Kirribilli House, the Canberra residence the Lodge, or his current private home in Marrickville. All he would confirm was that his dog, Toto, would be joining him.

My neighbours might not like me staying in Marrickville due to the significant security that has had to occur ... but I’m not getting ahead of myself.

Wherever I go, Toto will be going with me ... I have not reached any conclusions on any matters that would pre-empt the result of the Australian people.

Albanese will address the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon, before he is expected to travel to Sydney to continue election campaigning in the city’s western suburbs later today.

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Asked about yesterday’s press conference, where journalists chased Anthony Albanese after he wrapped it up (Scott Morrison was also followed by a SBS reporter who was questioning him on why the Coalition had not put forward anyone for a NITV panel on First Nations’ issues, despite campaigning in the NT on the day it was held, but that isn’t getting the same attention) Jim Chalmers says this is what the government want people to think about:

I think again, the government wants people focussed on this on the minutiae of press conference. But the point I’m making is that there are many more important things at stake in this election.

You know, we will get a number out today on wages which will probably show that Australians are copping the biggest real wage cut that they’ve copped in more than 20 years.

We’ve got a full blown cost of living crisis.

We’ve got a trillion dollars in debt. And so the Australian people aren’t focused on press conferences or the timing of costings released – they’re focused on whether or not they can feed their kids under Scott Morrison, whether they can earn enough to keep up, let alone get ahead.

That’s what they’re focussed on.

If you want to talk about that press conference yesterday, Anthony took 18 or 20 questions, I think somewhere between there.

He took questions on costings, he did a speech earlier and took questions after it. I did a press conference which went for I think about 20 minutes, I took every question.

Penny Wong did a press conference. Now this is what the government wants people focussed on but Australians are focussed on the cost of living crisis and real wages going backwards and whether or not the government has enough to show for their trillion in debt.

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Scott Morrison was interviewed on A Current Affair last night, where Tracy Grimshaw gave him another hard interview.

Jim Chalmers is asked about one of the answers (that the “I don’t hold a hose” comment as one of his excuses for leaving the country during the bushfire crisis was probably unhelpful) and whether or not that shows the PM has changed (as he says he knows he has to).

Chalmers:

I think people see that for what it is, which is complete rubbish, last-minute, desperate spin and marketing from the prime minister. I thought Tracy Grimshaw absolutely slaughtered the prime minister last night pointing out all of these ways that he’s been there to take credit when things go well, but never there to take responsibility when things are difficult.

He’s got an excuse for everything but a plan for nothing. And I think people will see through this last-minute spin from the prime minister and I thought Tracy Grimshaw channeled the frustration of a nation last night with a guy that’s got all these excuses, is always buck-passing and finger-pointing, never doing his job or taking responsibility.

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'Anything's possible on Saturday,' says Jim Chalmers

Jim Chalmers is on ABC radio RN this morning, and is being asked about the tightening polls. (He sounds pretty tired, but not as exhausted as Josh Frydenberg seemed yesterday.)

I think anything’s possible on Saturday, for sure. To be honest with you, we always thought that this election would be incredibly tight, incredibly close. My message to our listeners is don’t risk another three years of Scott Morrison and all of the blame-shifting and buck-passing and waste and rorts and Australians going backwards during this cost of living crisis. It is a really important choice to be made between a better future under Anthony Albanese and Labor, or three more years of the same under Scott Morrison. Australians will take that choice very seriously, but the election will be close.

...Well, I think what we learned from the last campaign is that the polls don’t necessarily predict the outcome and I’m not sort of going to get into the details of them.

But what is thoroughly unsurprising is that the election will be tight. And we’ve said that all along. We’ve expected that all along. That’s why we take no votes for granted and no outcome for granted and why we’re working our butts off, all the way up to when polls close on Saturday.

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We get wage data today (for the March quarter).

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Postal vote applications close today

It’s the last day to apply for a postal vote, as the AEC reports (which is particularly important if you have tested positive for Covid in the last couple of days).

The AEC is today reminding any voter who tested positive to Covid-19 since Saturday 14 May that today is their last day to apply for a postal vote if they haven’t already voted.

Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said that for some Covid-19 positive voters, postal voting is the only option available to them.

Postal vote applications close at 6pm today – it’s the last chance for people who need to cast a postal vote.

Applying for a postal vote is easy, go to aec.gov.au/pva now.

If you tested positive to Covid-19 on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday – and you haven’t already voted – then I’d urge you to apply for a postal vote now. Just like any aspect of society recently, if you have Covid-19 you have to plan more carefully. An election is no different.

And for phone voting? The AEC says:

Any eligible voter who tests positive to Covid-19 after 6pm on Tuesday 17 May is eligible to access a telephone voting solution if they haven’t already voted.

There will be a telephone voting solution available but that won’t apply for people who tested positive prior to 6pm last night – it has limited eligibility criteria.

Once postal vote applications close this evening we’ll have information available on the website for people who need to, and are eligible to, register for telephone voting.

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Good morning

Three days out from election day and the polls are tightening.

The Coalition’s official campaign launch was included in this latest Essential poll, which Murph has written up. As she explains, Essential doesn’t do 2PP in the usual sense but does two-party preferred “plus” so it captures undecided voters. As Murph says, at this point of the campaign you really want to capture the undecided voters – especially as they could turn the election to either side:

Labor has a two-point lead in the poll’s two-party preferred “plus” measure with the opposition on 48% and the Coalition on 46%. Seven per cent of respondents are undecided. A fortnight ago, Labor was ahead of the Coalition 49% to 45% with 6% undecided.

The Coalition’s primary vote is on 36%, one point ahead of Labor (35%), with the Greens on 9% (down one point in a fortnight). One Nation is on 4% (up one point), with independents on 6% (up one point) and the United Australia party on 3% (down one point). All these movements are inside the poll’s margin of error which is plus or minus 3%.

Guardian Essential’s voting intention figures now express the head-to-head metric of the major party contest as two-party preferred “plus”, rather than the standard two-party preferred measure. This change in methodology, adopted after the 2019 election, highlights the proportion of undecided voters in any survey, providing readers with more accuracy on the limits of any prediction.

There is a very good chance Scott Morrison will pull off his second “miracle” election win. Anthony Albanese went into the campaign knowing the pathway to victory would be difficult – Labor need to hold everything and win at least seven more seats.

At the end of the day though, I can speculate until the vodka is poured, but I don’t know anything. This is down to individual electorates, not a national mood, and the country isn’t exactly as one at the moment. It makes it really hard to pick.

Albanese is making his final big speech for this campaign at the National Press Club today, where he will no doubt continue to be dogged by “wHeRE aRe YouR coSTiNgs” questions. From what Jim Chalmers said yesterday, the reports are correct and Labor will have a slightly larger budget deficit than what the Coalition has put forward. Chalmers has been laying the groundwork for “quality spend” which will lead to increased productivity. Albanese has been pointing to the billions in actual wasteful spending the government has been responsible for over the past nine years.

This Coalition government (Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison) is the second-highest taxing government since the Howard government. The debt was doubled before the pandemic. But Morrison and Josh Frydenberg continue to assert Labor will tax and spend more and have turned the delivery of costings into a fight. Even though the Coalition in opposition haven’t released costings before Thursday. Even though Labor releasing costings early in the 2019 campaign didn’t matter. Even though costings don’t really matter this time round, given neither side are committing to the usual budget rules (for every spend there is an offset) and the national debt is a trillion dollars and growing (higher interest rates impact government bonds too).

But here we are.

Katharine Murphy and Sarah Martin will explain all to you, as usual, while Daniel Hurst will continue to dig around the headlines for all those pesky facts. Josh Butler is travelling with Albanese’s campaign, while Paul Karp is with Morrison. You’ve got Amy Remeikis with you on the blog. It will be a five coffee day. That’s just standard at the moment.

So grab your bevvie of choice (I don’t judge) and let’s get into it.

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