Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.
The Guardian - AU

Morrison pledges $20m for tourism; Shorten tests positive as 44 Covid deaths recorded – as it happened

Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Sandalford Winery in Western Australia
Scott Morrison announces a $20m tourism funding package to support wineries, breweries and distilleries at Sandalford Winery in West Swan, WA. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

What we learned today, Saturday 7 May

That is where we will leave the live blog for Saturday. Here’s what made the news today:

We will be back again tomorrow for day 28 of the federal election. Until then, stay safe.

Updated

Here is NSW Labor’s response to the grants review report via AAP:

Labor pounced on what it deemed is the government’s “culture of pork-barrelling” saying the review “confirms the grants process in NSW is broken”.

“This is ... an opportunity for Dominic Perrottet to end the historic culture of pork-barrelling in the Liberal-National government,” leader Chris Minns said on Saturday.

“His failure to act in light of this report would be a betrayal of the taxpayers who trust the government to fairly distribute government funds.”

Labor has called for an overhaul of the grants process, proposing a bill that would impose new reporting requirements on ministers and agencies as well as confer new powers on the auditor-general to follow the money.

You can read our full story below.

Asked whether the government would make amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect gay teachers and students from discrimination at the same time as the proposed religious discrimination bill, Morrison says the religious discrimination bill will go first, regardless of calls from Liberals such as Senator Andrew Bragg for the two to go together.

He says:

We will deal with the RDA first.

When asked on a timeline on when it would happen, Morrison said it would depend on what happens at the election.

Updated

Morrison is quite keen to show being across the detail of the government’s NDIS policy.

He says it needs to be fully funded, with improved participant experience through better participant advocacy, and earlier intervention.

He says there is also a need to “protect the taxpayer” from “getting ripped off” because he says “not everyone has the best of intentions”.

Finally, he says it is about building up the workforce in the sector.

Asked whether he would like to see New Zealand take more action to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific and on Solomon Islands, Morrison says Australia and New Zealand are different:

Very different countries, and we had very different types of abilities. And I’ve worked very closely with the prime minister level on these issues, including on issues that have been very front of mind lately. And we share the same concerns and I must say we share the same passion for the Pacific region. And we both have spent a lot of time in the region. And so I would say that we’ve been good partners on this. And when we engage in our Pacific step-up, they are engaged in a very similar program in New Zealand and we work closely to ensure that they harmonise together and particularly when they’re putting new missions in now we have new missions in every single one of foreign countries. So Australia has been in a position to do quite a lot when it comes to air defence and other activities. But I must say I think Zealand has been very positive in working with them, particularly in the diplomatic and overseas development assistance area.

Updated

Scott Morrison holds press conference in Perth

Scott Morrison at a press conference at Sandalford Winery in Perth
Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Sandalford Winery at West Swan in Perth, in the seat of Hasluck. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is holding a press conference in Perth announcing the $20m tourism funding package we reported earlier.

The package is designed to support wineries, breweries and distilleries so they can update their infrastructure and lure more people through their doors.

It includes $15m for wineries, distilleries and breweries, with $100,000 grants to build or upgrade on-site facilities such as restaurants and tour areas.

A further $5m would go to tourism and local governments to help bring more visitors to the sites.

Following the announcement Morrison argues against people voting for independent candidates, saying it will be difficult for a government to have to negotiate for every single whim of the independents.

He claims the agenda of the independents would “destroy the economy”.

He is then asked about why there are so many soft voters at the moment. Morrison then repeats it is not a reality show contest, and people can go and vote on The Voice.

He claims Labor leader Anthony Albanese has not been announcing policy in the week since Sunday (which given he announced five policies at the Labor party launch last weekend seems to be a bit misleading).

Mr Albanese came out and seems to have done less when it comes to policy, since he’s been out of isolation, than when he was in isolation, and then not one policy and out since last Sunday, and the policies he has announced, he can’t even explain. And what that says is, you don’t know this guy.

Updated

And with that, I am going to hand you over to my colleague Josh Taylor, who will take you through the afternoon.

Thank you – as always – for spending the day with me!

From AAP:

More than 300 frontline workers in Victoria have been honoured for their heroic efforts during the Black Summer bushfires.

Volunteer firefighters and CFA staff were presented with National Emergency Medals (NEM) in East Gippsland on Friday and Saturday, three years after the deadly fires.

Governor-General David Hurley presented the awards during a ceremony hosted by the Country Fire Authority.

“The National Emergency Medal acknowledges the efforts that have been made during some of our country’s most challenging periods,” Mr Hurley said.

“The NEM is a means of saying thank you to recipients, and that Australia recognises the service they have given.”

More than 5500 medals will be awarded in the coming months to those who served during the crisis.

The Black Summer bushfires occurred in various parts of Australia and resulted in nearly 450 deaths from smoke inhalation. An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said recovery efforts were ongoing.

We’ve got more here from AAP about the opposition leader’s visit to Launceston:

Anthony Albanese has attacked the prime minister’s “stick with the devil you know” plea to Australians, pledging to create a lasting legacy if he wins office on May 21.

Addressing a Labor rally in Launceston an energised Mr Albanese sought to pick apart the Liberals’ postulation that the re-election of the incumbent government would result in greater economic stability.

“This government have been in office for almost a decade and they’re saying just give us three more years and we’ll get around to it,” he told a room of 300 supporters.

“People know all about Scott Morrison. They’ve worked him out.

“The truth is, only the Rolling Stones ever got away with asking us to have sympathy for the devil and he is certainly no Jagger or Richards.”

Mr Albanese also said he wanted to inspire Australians during his time in office.

Mr Morrison has previously stated he doesn’t think about leaving a legacy, but rather focused on the tasks ahead.

Updated

We’ve got more here from Josh Taylor on the review of the New South Wales government’s grants spending:

Updated

National Covid summary – 44 Covid deaths recorded across the country and 42,421 new cases

Here is a breakdown of the daily numbers by state and territory:

NSW

Deaths – 19
Cases – 11,671
Hospitalisations – 1,481 (54 in ICU)

Victoria

Deaths – 9
Cases – 9,365
Hospitalisations – 494 (35 in ICU)

Queensland

Deaths – 5
Cases – 6,662
Hospitalisations – 41,097 (12 in ICU)

ACT

Deaths – 0
Cases – 975
Hospitalisations – 63 (4 in ICU)

SA

Deaths – 2
Cases – 3,304
Hospitalisations – 214 (13 in ICU)

WA

Deaths – 6
Cases – 9,243
Hospitalisations – 275 (11 in ICU)

Tasmania

Deaths – 2
Cases – 903
Hospitalisations – 48 (1 in ICU)

NT

Deaths – 1
Cases – 298
Hospitalisations – 36 (3 in ICU)

Reported Covid infection rates in Australia are already among the highest in the world.

As of data from 2 May, Australia’s average daily infection rate is 1,515 cases per million people – the second-highest in the world for countries with a population greater than 1 million, after New Zealand (1,566 cases per million).

Why are reported infection rates in Australia so high compared with other countries – and despite sustained transmission of the virus, why do many now feel apathetic about Covid? Donna Lu has the answers:

Updated

ACT records 975 new cases

The ACT has recorded 975 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 69 cases in hospital, and of those four are in ICU.

Albanese is pouring beer ...

While Morrison is asked if he would have a cold one with Trump ...

From AAP:

A grants system responsible for distributing about $4 billion a year across NSW should be subject to a raft of changes, including a focus on public transparency.

A review led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and released on Saturday makes 19 recommendations, including more open and honest communication around the distribution of grants following claims of pork-barrelling.

Last year, Premier Dominic Perrottet ordered a review of grants programs across the state after controversy surrounding his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian’s appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Among the review recommendations are that all new grants have published guidelines stating “the purpose of the grant, clear selection criteria, and details of the application and assessment process”.

Grant information should be made available on a publicly accessible website and in addition, all grants “must have a funding agreement” making grantees accountable for how they spend public funds.

Mr Perrottet said the government is “carefully considering” the proposed changes, which were established in partnership with NSW Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat.

The Greens have announced an artists funding pilot program that would see 10,000 established or emerging artists and arts workers create while they are paid $772.60 per week for one year.

Australian Greens spokesperson for the arts Senator Sarah Hanson-Young joined NSW Senate candidate David Shoebridge in Sydney to launch the creative funding initiative on Saturday.

Senator Hanson-Young said it’s critical Australia would not lose a generation of creatives due to the pandemic and the ongoing failure to support the sector by the federal government:

Ensuring artists receive a living wage will bring stability to a sector that has been left behind by the Morrison government. The arts are a core part of Australian culture and contribute so much to our economy. We must do everything we can to make sure our artists can continue creating.

The Morrison government has treated the arts sector and creative workers with contempt, like a bunch of philistines who dismiss the public good of the arts but love belting out tunes from their favourite artists.

Countries like France and Ireland are successfully running programs to give artists a living wage. Australia should do the same. The arts helped us all get through lockdowns and now it’s time we are there for them.

The Artists Wage is part of the Greens’ comprehensive Creative Australia policy to revive and secure our arts and creative industry, including an Artists in Residence program which will see an artist in every school and library across the country to also drive arts jobs and mentorship.

Updated

Lanai Scarr is the federal political reporter at the West Australian. She’s at a morning tea with the PM:

Updated

WA records six deaths and 9,243 new cases

WA has recorded six more historical deaths to Covid - dating back to April 28.

They are two women in their 90s, a woman in her 100s, a man and woman in their 80s and a woman in her 70s.

There are now 51,860 active known cases in the state.

There are now 275 cases currently in hospital, and 11 of those are in the ICU.

SA records two Covid deaths

South Australia has reported two Covid deaths overnight, with 3,304 new cases. There are 214 people in hospital with Covid-19, 13 in ICU and one ventilated.

Reporter: Marise Payne has met with her counterpart from the Solomon Islands in Brisbane. Are you pleased about this? And are you concerned that Labor didn’t have a seat at the table?

Albanese:

I think it would have been appropriate. I don’t know the circumstances of whether Marise Payne invited the shadow foreign minister, given we are in caretaker mode. They would have been appropriate.

Updated

Reporter: I know costings will be released, but will the deficit be bigger than that of the Coalition?

Albanese:

All of our costings will be released. But can I say that report, that report that I did see in the paper, I don’t know what it is based on, it certainly isn’t based upon comments from the finance shadow minister or the shadow treasurer.

Updated

Reporter: Studies suggest up to 50% of women or more, after giving birth, experience incontinence. It is a major issue amongst women. How is it appropriate for your member for Lyons, Brian Mitchell, to tweet about “if this debate not wrapping up soon, we will need mops, women can’t hold on”?

Albanese:

Where is that tweet from?

Reporter: A few years ago – 2011 – but still not appropriate, right?

Albanese:

Of course it is inappropriate, but that is at a time well before he was a member of parliament. I’m sure that Mr Mitchell regrets saying that and it isn’t appropriate.

Updated

Reporter: There are reports that there will be increased deficits over the next four years with Labor. Is that in the plan, and how can you speak about responsible economic management when you want to blow out the already strained budget?

Albanese:

That is in the plan. We will release all of our costings, in the usual way that oppositions have done for a long time.

Updated

And now we are on to questions – it was a short statement because Albanese is also about to address a rally.

First up he is asked, if he becomes PM will RATs be free – an initiative he has publically supported in the past:

The times have changed and what we would do is consider the health advice at the time. At the time there was an urgent need to get RATs out to people.

People were struggling and one of the things that happened at that time as well was that the government said go to your local pharmacy and you can get a free RAT if you are a concession cardholder, but when they went to their local pharmacies, they were told they were not for everyone, you’ve got to pay - [for] everyone [it] is unavailable.

Now, of course, with supply, it is like the supply, as well, vaccines. The government was too slow. The government was too slow to order vaccines, and it was too slow to organise rapid antigen tests.

Updated

Albanese says Labor will also support a feasibility study and early development costs for the proposed west coast renewable energy park.

This has the potential for hundreds of jobs to be created. Tasmania, of course, understands the importance of renewables. And this will be important.

And I know that this week as well we announced funding to support Waverley Mills textiles here in Tasmania.

All of these measures are consistent with our plan to shape the future because if you don’t shape the future, the future will shape you.

Updated

Albanese says he is announcing key commitments to the area:

The fact that Australia ranks last in the OECD for manufacturing and self-sufficiency. When we look at the Harvard index of economic complexity, Australia ranks 86, in between Paraguay and Uzbekistan. We need to do better.

And the commitments are:

Firstly to kickstart the hydrogen project using co-located solar panels to produce green hydrogen to replace diesel in Tasmania’s trucks and buses. The intended thought of this as well is this would have benefits for the whole of Tasmania, as you have at least five delivery spots here in Tasmania down the track.

Secondly, support for expanding the Devonport distribution centre. This can support as many as 140 jobs year round – a practical program reminiscent of some of the measures we put in place when I was regional development minister to support salmon and other industries. Tasmania is known for its produce. We need to commercialise it and take advantage of it for domestic and exports.

Thirdly, we will partner with Inghams to implement a carbon-zero certified business model. This will provide a great example for how businesses can transition to carbon zero, protecting more than 120 local jobs, but pioneering sustainable manufacturing throughout Australia.

Updated

Anthony Albanese speaks to media in Tasmania

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, is speaking in Launceston, Tasmania, in the seat of Bass:

Can I say that building a future starts here in Launceston. It starts here in Tasmania but it goes throughout the whole country.

We have put forward a constructive plan for a better future, which stands in stark contrast to the government’s approach, another three years of more of the same.

This morning I will be making some specific commitments here in Tasmania. Commitments consistent with the need to have a future made right here in Australia.

Updated

Bill Shorten has Covid

Bill Shorten has tested positive for Covid:

Updated

NT records one Covid death and 298 new cases

The NT has recorded one new death, a woman in her 60s, and 298 new cases. It brings the total number of cases in the state to 2,312 known active cases.

There are 36 cases in hospital, and three of them are on ventilators.

Updated

Tapa, a tattooed fabric, has been worn in Papua New Guinea for centuries but there are concerns it has been commercialised, Leanne Jorari writes.

Tasmania records two Covid deaths and 903 cases

Tasmania has recorded two more deaths and 903 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours.

It brings the state’s total to 6,197 active cases.

There are 48 cases in hospital, with 16 patients being treated specifically for the virus, and one person in ICU.

Updated

QLD has recorded five Covid deaths and 6,662 new cases.

Queensland has recorded five Covid deaths and 6,662 new cases, bringing the state’s total to 41,097 in the last 24 hours.

There are 454 people in hospital and of those 12 are in ICU.

Updated

The PM is in Perth today:

Until now, the contest between Liberal MP Jason Falinski and former middle distance runner and local GP Dr Sophie Scamps for Sydney’s northern beaches seat of Mackellar has been dismissed as a case study in optimism over hard facts, writes Anne Davies.

The community movement trying to unseat Hume MP Angus Taylor has been ordered to remove election signage ...

From AAP:

In NSW, pharmacies will join a reinvigorated plan for adolescent immunisations for the nearly 80,000 students who missed out on shots when schools were closed during the pandemic.

Authorities will offer human papillomavirus and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shots for people 12 and up, as well as meningococcal jabs to those aged 14 and over.

It comes as NSW and Victoria report 21,035 new cases of Covid-19, with 11,671 in the northern state.

The vaccine push in NSW is on top of a call by health experts for Australians to get their flu jabs as hospitals prepare for a winter influx of flu and Covid patients.

Authorities have been predicting a particularly bad flu season after two years of the virus being suppressed by restrictions on international travel and social distancing measures to combat the Covid pandemic.

Updated

Katharine Murphy’s profile of the Labor leader

Updated

The group of women are finally back where they belong on a pitch and enjoying their football after resettling in Melbourne, write Joey Lynch and Shadi Khan Saif.

Coalition and Labor have so far pledged billions for local projects. But not all sides of the electoral fence are reaping the benefits, write Elias Visontay and Nick Evershed.

Marise Payne meets with Solomon Islands foreign minister

Last night Marise Payne met with the foreign minister of Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele, in Brisbane. The pair discussed the rising tensions between the two countries.

Afterwards, Payne issued this statement:

Australia has been consistent and clear in stating our respect for Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision-making, however we have reiterated our deep concerns about the security agreement with China, including the lack of transparency. I again reinforced this in my meeting tonight. We agreed that Australia remains Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice.

I again welcomed Prime Minister Sogavare’s assurance that Solomon Islands will not be used for a foreign military base.

Australia will always work constructively and respectfully with our Pacific family.

Updated

NSW records 19 Covid deaths and 11,671 new cases

In the last 24 hours, NSW has recorded 19 Covid deaths. There are 11,671 new cases, 1,481 hospitalised, with 54 in ICU.

Updated

VIC records nine Covid deaths and 9,365 new cases

Vicotria has recorded nine deaths related to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours. There are 9,365 new cases and 494 people are in hospital, with 35 of those in ICU.

Updated

As three new Omicron subvariants – BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 – begin to spread in Australia, health authorities are warning of winter surges in both Covid and the flu.

Michelle Rowland is the Labor member for Greenway in western Sydney – she was just being interviewed on the ABC.

She was asked about Labor’s strong polling:

We want to ensure that every Australian has the best opportunities to succeed, that in an environment where wages growth has flatlined, and the cost of living has gone through the roof, and here in Greenway it is very personal.

We have the second-highest rate of mortgage stress in the entire country and people have a diversity of lifestyles here, a diversity of means, but they all want the same thing at the end of the day – a government that has a plan for the future and has their best interests always at heart to make the place better.

She was also asked about Albanese failing to remember the six-point NDIS plan the other day when asked a “gotcha” question from the press pack:

I know that this will be examined closely, in terms of every minutiae of the campaign, but let me assure you that is not the frame through which the majority of Australians, certainly those here in the electorate of Greenway, view the world.

They are viewing it through the context of things getting harder, wanting to look to a better future, and wanting to know that there are policies and plans in place to make that future better for them.

I think Anthony Albanese is presenting an offering to the people of Australia that says, ‘I understand your aspirations. I understand the need to not leave anyone behind and I understand that you want Australia to do better’, and I think if Labor in the next two weeks is able to convey that message, then the Australian people will make a very informed view when they do cast their votes.

Updated

Exorbitant rent increases, no-grounds evictions only weeks after moving in, fungi and mould infestations, and scores of denied applications. Renters have shared their horror stories of the crisis in Australia’s housing market.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan was on the ABC earlier. He was asked about former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s comments in support of the rise of independents this election.

I don’t think anybody thinks it would be in at the nation’s interest going forward if we had a hung parliament, which was made up of independence, Labor and the Greens. One of the things we want to do is offer a clear choice at this election.

He was also asked about Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s allegations this week that opponents of his new security pact with China have threatened the sovereignty of the island nation:

Our Foreign Minister was able to meet with the Solomon Islands by minister, as I understand it, in Brisbane overnight and they had a very productive conversation, talking about how we respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands, but how we are very concerned about the security arrangement they have with China.

And on the PM’s rhetoric around ‘red lines’ in the Solomon Islands:

We want to present strong cases as to why it is incredibly important that we don’t see militarisation of the Pacific Islanders, and that we will be doing everything that we can to support a peaceful and prosperous Pacific region, and that is our focus.

New polling suggests possible upset in Mackellar in Sydney's northern beaches

New polling undertaken for Climate 200 shows independent Sophie Scamps has a real prospect of winning Mackellar from Liberal moderate Jason Falinski in another upset on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The polling, undertaken by Ucomms last week after Scamps’s launch, shows Falinski’s primary vote at 32% with Scamps at 31.2%. With preference flows from Labor and the Greens, Scamps, a local GP, would surge ahead of Falinski.

The poll found Labor had 15.5% of the vote in Mackellar while the Greens vote was 8.6%. It found that 81% of preferences would flow to Scamps.

On a two-party preferred basis, this would see Scamps snatch the seat, 60-40. Mackellar is directly north of Warringah, the seat which independent Zali Steggall won in 2019 on a platform of action on climate change and a federal integrity commission.

Scamps has been running on a similar platform and now has a high recognition, with four out of five Mackellar voters saying they knew she was running.

The only good news for Falinski is that 7% of voters are still undecided. But when pressed to indicate how they are leaning, the undecided vote broke fairly evenly between Falinski and Scamps.

The Ucomms poll of 834 residents of Mackellar was undertaken using automated voice polling last Wednesday on behalf of Scamps and Climate 200.

Polling in single seats has its limitations because of the challenge of getting a representative demographic mix. However, the poll indicates that Scamps has gained ground since April when Climate 200 last polled Mackellar and that it is a seat to watch on May 21.

Updated

Good morning everyone and welcome to Saturday. I am Cait Kelly and I will be with you through the morning.

Here are the big stories kicking us off today:

Scott Morrison is set to announce a $20 million package today to support wineries, breweries and distilleries so they can update their infrastructure and lure more people through their doors.

The plan would see $15 million for wineries, distilleries and breweries with $100,000 grants to build or upgrade on-site facilities such as restaurants and tour areas.

A further $5 million would go to tourism and local governments to help bring more visitors to the sites.

It comes as the PM refused to indicate if he would resign as Liberal leader should the Coalition lose the election, as the prime minister fended off attacks from his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who used a speech this week to play up the roles of independents and say moderate voices were becoming increasingly marginalised in the party.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Anthony Albanese will begin the day in Sydney, where he will showcase Labor’s policies to drive down the cost of living through childcare and energy initiatives.

The opposition has sought to turn the campaign spotlight back towards the cost of living amid rising inflation levels, low wage growth and the first official interest rate rise for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the Australian Taxation Office is cracking down on a $850 million fraud being spruiked on social media that involves people inventing fake businesses to claim GST refunds.

Operation Protego is probing potentially fraudulent payments made to about 40,000 Australians who have each claimed on average around $20,000.

With that - let’s get into it!

Updated