What we learned from the final leaders' debate of the election campaign
The main point is that you should stay tuned for Sarah Martin and Katharine Murphy’s takes. See you here tomorrow for more considered news and analysis.
We did learn, though, that:
- It’s possible to have a more considered, civil conversation.
- The main contrast between prime minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s perspectives is that Morrison says Australians are the answer, while government is the “shield”. Albanese says “we can do better”.
- Morrison says government can’t pay for everything, where Albanese says childcare (for example) is an investment, not a payout.
- Both leaders ruled out carbon and mining taxes (Morrison insists Labor’s strengthening of a Coalition policy is a stealth tax).
- Morrison will stick with his exposure draft for an integrity commission – Labor says it will have one with more teeth.
- Albanese says “disillusionment” is what’s turning voters towards independents; Morrison says it’s been a tough couple of years.
- Stopping the boats is still an issue.
- And on cost of living issues, Morrison says a strong economy will fix it, while Albanese says lifting wages and productivity is the answer. Morrison says you can’t mess with the Fair Work Commission on minimum wages; Albanese says you can suggest they lift them. Albanese wants a guaranteed minimum wage; Morrison says sure, but not for people in small businesses.
Again, tomorrow will bring less tired brains to the conversation. See you then! Amy Remeikis will bring you all the news you need to know.
From eminent psephologist Kevin Bonham:
Scarr says the polling in the West Australian tomorrow shows 53% to 47% of voters see Albanese as a better economic manager.
The states varied quite wildly in how they voted – but to be honest, the small number in each pub makes such an analysis about as scientific as ... well, listening to Bazza in Boothby.
Albanese wins the 'pub test'
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is the overall winner of the “pub test”. 34% for prime minister Scott Morrison, 50% for Albanese, with 16% left undecided.
I endorse this.
They’re doing some individual pub results now, but it seems a little pointless to bombard you with numbers from the tiny ballot boxes. We’ll get an overall result soon. I hope.
Samantha Maiden from news.com.au points out that Morrison’s new favourite phrase is “loose unit”. He’s walking a fine line to not look like a “nasty pastie”, she says.
For me, the favourite stand-out moment was when [Morrison] was asked to say something nice about Anthony Albanese. He started recounting the little log cabin story and then he pivoted to say he was a flaming idiot.
NB: I originally wrote “nasty pasty”, then changed it to “nasty pastie”. Now I am an undecided voter on the spelling.
After another little break we’re set to hear the results of the “pub test”. Always love hearing people talk about “who came out on top”. Just me?
Up to the Northern Territory now, and the Labor-held seat of Solomon.
Oh wait, we’ve whooshed to Boothby, the Liberal-held marginal seat in South Australia. Not sure what happened there.
Alex says he hasn’t “necessarily” changed his mind. There are issues that weren’t addressed, like housing, he says. If pushed, though, he’d say Albanese won the debate. “It was a character issue,” he says. “He seemed more in touch.”
James was more swayed by Labor on climate change and a federal integrity commission. He’s not ruling out a vote for an independent though.
Jeanette says she wasn’t convinced by other side on cost of living.
THIS IS THE FASTEST PUB CRAWL I’VE EVER BEEN ON. My head is spinning.
Also the most sober. Also a bit like speed dating.
We’re in WA now, in Liberal MP Ken Wyatt’s seat – Hasluck.
Ron is still undecided. He thinks Albanese came across as “genuine”, and was disappointed with Morrison for taking any opportunity to have “a dig”. Actually he is “a bit clearer”. He also reflects on the “issues” with the former attorney general Christian Porter.
Kirsty likes Albanese. “I like how he said ‘we can do better’,” she says.
To Lilley in Brisbane. Oh, they actually have little Final Showdown ballot boxes!
Simon’s made up his mind (but doesn’t say who). Cheryl’s equally coy.
Kurt, though, is more explicit. He’s on Team Albo. “He used the word ‘we’,” he says.
To Chisholm in Victoria, a marginal Liberal seat.
Taylor doesn’t really like either of them. If she had to choose, it would be Albanese because of his focus on the “working class”. Morrison belittles people, she says, and she’d like more emphasis on climate change. She’ll probably vote Greens, she says.
Pep (I think that was his name) is still undecided because the “devil is in the detail”.
The people in the pubs speak
Seven’s Michael Usher is now giving us a glimpse of the “pub test”, where undecided voters are set up in pubs across the country.
To the Labor-held seat of Macquarie, first, in Sydney.
Susan says she’ll go for “Albo” over “Scotty from marketing”.
“He dodged questions,” she says.
Dave is still undecided, but leaning towards Morrison because, he says, Labor’s policies are uncosted and “we know” what Morrison has done.
Sarah is also heading more towards Morrison. Again, because of funding questions.
We can do better, Albanese says:
I have a plan for a better future, a plan to make sure we can grow the economy in a sustainable way by investing in infrastructure, by investing in climate policy, by making sure that no one is left behind and no one is held back.
We can do better. We have a range of challenges facing us as a nation. We have childcare costs that are spiralling, that stop women working that fourth or fifth day. We can do better than that. We have had 22 attempts at climate policy and we have issues, floods and bushfires, we have seen the impact. We can do better than just continuing to drift there. We have pressure where so many people can’t see a doctor when they need one. We can do better than that. We have young Australians who can’t get the skills and training that they need for the jobs of the future. And we can do better than that. This election is a choice.
It’s a choice over whether we seize the opportunities which are before us. We have a government that’s asking for three more years of more of the same. They don’t really have a plan or a policy for the future, because they struggle with the present. That’s why at this election we have got constructive plans and processes in place that we are putting forward to the Australian people. If we don’t elect a new government we will miss out on the opportunity to increase women’s economic participation through cheaper childcare. We will miss out on the opportunity to end the climate wars. We will miss out on the opportunity to deal with cost of living and stop everything going up except for people’s wages.
If we can’t even get consensus here about a $1 increase for the minimum wage then I think that this country isn’t able to go forward. I firmly believe that we have a great future but in order to do that we need a better government.
Leaders deliver closing statements
We’re on to closing statements now. Morrison sneaks in a plug for having “called” for the aged care commission. He says:
There are great opportunities ahead, Australia, and I’m really excited about them. Over the last couple of years we have come through the most difficult times that we could have ever imagined and couldn’t have contemplated through years ago, but here we are. We have stuck together.
As a government we have backed you in. This is one of the big differences, I think, in what we have heard tonight. We believe in you, we believe a strong economy is based on you. We don’t believe the government is the answer, we believe you are the answer and that’s what our policies are designed to do. That’s why we believe a strong economy is the best way to enable you to fulfil your aspirations for you and your family. To shield you against the pressures that are going to come in the years ahead on our economy, putting upward pressure on interest rates and the cost of living. To shield that job, to shield that income and that business and that retirement saving that you have. It’s also going to guarantee those essential services so we can tackle the big problems in aged care.
$19.1bn dollars to support our response to the aged care royal commission that I called. These are tough challenges. Continuing to support Medicare at record levels. Bulk billing at 88.8%, it’s up from 82.2% when we first came to government. To ensure we keep building those roads and infrastructure that keep you safer and get you home safe and on time to be with your family or to get to work. And to ensure that we continue to invest in our defence forces as we go forward, and our security and intelligence agencies. This election is a choice about who can manage and deliver that strong economy, because that’s what your future depends on.
And now is not a time to risk that on an unproven opposition and Labor leader who don’t have a plan for our economy and haven’t got the experience with the challenges that we face. A vote for the Liberals and the Nationals on May 21 is the strong, responsible and safe choice for a strong economy, for a stronger future.
The two leaders are asked to nominate something they respect about the other, and a weakness. (The exact wording is “What is the one strength [that you find in your opponent] that you admire but that also worries you?”)
The thing about Anthony I’ve always admired he has never forgot where he has come from. He grew up in housing commission and I have no doubt that the other day on Mother’s Day is always probably the toughest day of each year, it is for him.
And he has shown the ability to rise to be the leader of one of the oldest parties in this country, and he should be commended for that. He has shown a great deal of determination over that period of determination over that period of time to rise from very humble beginnings. I admire that in Australians and I admire that in Anthony. That’s great.
But Morrison reckons Albanese isn’t across the detail.
Albanese doesn’t bring up any negatives. He says:
The job of prime minister is one that is obviously a difficult one to do. Scott’s absolutely committed to his nation. And I admire that. And on a range of issues, to name one, mental health in terms of young people. We have seen increased funding for mental health but in particular increased funding for Headspace and those issues.
Mental health is something that when we were all a bit younger wasn’t spoken about. It’s a good thing it’s being spoken about, it’s a good thing the prime minister speaks about it as well.
From Scarr, to Morrison:
It has been reported that an MP in your party room suggested that childcare and women accessing childcare was outsourcing parenting. Do you agree, and is this an issue you ever talk to Jenny about?
It’s not something I agree with. And we talk about childcare and many issues all the time. Our children themselves went through childcare and we went through that with other parents and their families. We have a responsible and affordable policy on childcare. What we don’t do is go and promise the world when you know you can’t pay for it. If you go to 90% childcare for everybody that is a policy that all Australians are going to have to pay for.
Where Scott, I think, is wrong on this issue is to see it as just a cost. It is an investment in women, it’s an investment in families, it’s an investment in our economy because it will grow, all the analysis shows that every time you spend a dollar on childcare more than $2 comes back.
Albanese: childcare is economic reform, not welfare
Scarr asks both leaders about the possibility of free childcare.
We have a plan for more affordable childcare where 96% of families will be better off and 4% will be the same. We have also said that what we will do is have the Productivity Commission in our first term look towards whether you would move to a universal system of affordable childcare. What are the economic implications of that?
Why do we do cheaper childcare? It’s not welfare, it’s economic reform. It will boost productivity, help business, help women’s retirement incomes. That’s just one element that we have.
We also want to make gender pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act. We want to make sure that we deliver on safe workplaces as well, which is why we will adopt all 55 recommendations of the Jenkins Review into safety in the workplace, including the obligations on employers to do what they can to make every workplace safe.
Morrison says things have got better for women:
The gender pay gap has fallen from 17.4% under Labor to 13.8% where it is now, and it even went down to 13.4%. What does that mean? It means women today because of the closing of the gender pay gap under our government are better off. There are 1.1 million more women in work than when we came to government. Female participation in the workforce is at record levels
Opportunities have been provided for women into get into the workforce and we have been championing women’s entrepreneurship and championing women in non-traditional trades and skills ...
We have got $3.8 billion invested in the skills of our country providing record numbers of apprenticeships right now and women are taking up more and more of those jobs.
Albanese says renewables are the cheapest way to provide electricity. Morrison says you invest in businesses to make changes. There’s more to and fro, I’ll check later if there was anything new in it.
Scarr points out that economists say putting a price on carbon is the way to go to meet emissions targets.
We have got a better system. We are using the Abbott government system that it created, the safeguard mechanism, but also what we have is a plan to fix transmission, what that’s about is making sure that renewables can plug into the grid. At the moment that’s one of the weaknesses that will stabilise the grid. We also have a plan for electric vehicles. At the last campaign Scott Morrison said that electric vehicles would end the weekend. We want to encourage the take-up by reducing taxes on electric vehicles.
Morrison says Labor wants a stealth carbon tax (through that previously mentioned Abbott government initiative) and that Labor will drive up electricity prices (he brings up some debunked modelling – check out our factcheck).
Both leaders rule out carbon tax
We’re back. Riley is joined by the West Australian’s political editor, Lanai Scarr. She asks both sides to categorically rule out a carbon or a mining tax. (Is this the question that Riley said could stump them both?)
Both rule them out. And now it’s all about the battle for WA seats.
We never have, never will have a mining or a carbon tax. Under our government our taxes will always be lower, because right now if you’re earning $90,000 at home there today, you are paying $50 a week less in tax every single week because of the tax cuts we have already legislated and delivered, and there’s more to follow in the next term, where between $45,000 and $200,000 you will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar. We are the party of lower taxes. We have always delivered lower taxes.
One of the reasons WA was able to achieve that surplus was the GST deal that we were able to ensure that WA got their fair share of the GST. As treasurer and as prime minister I fought for it, I delivered it, and Western Australia has got the benefit of that. Their fair share because it was in the national interest.
Yes, we will certainly rule them out and have done so. But when we talk about the success of Western Australia, one of the things I’ll be doing is working with Mark McGowan. Scott Morrison when he had a choice between Mark McGowan and Clive Palmer he chose Clive Palmer. He went to court as part of that, with the solicitor general, he spent taxpayers’ money backing up Clive Palmer’s legal case to open up WA’s borders.
Now, WA has been successful under Mark McGowan because they have made tough decisions, which has helped tough decisions, which has helped to boost not just the WA economy but our entire national economy.
That was quite polite, Riley says, and now we’re having a short break.
Riley says the previous discussion shows we need an independent integrity commission.
Morrison says he has a bill for one, and has hundreds of pages to prove it. (He’s talking about an exposure draft, which he never put to parliament). He says:
A body of this nature is important and you’ve got to get the design right and it can’t be driven by the whims of politics. It needs to be developed by good design where the rule of law applies.
It applies to criminal conduct and we don’t see a situation where we have agencies that can go and convict people, before they have even heard the case, in the media. That is not a good way to run a country. That is not a good way to uphold integrity. I think it only undermines the process.
(It sounds like he’s continuing his critique of the NSW Icac).
We do need to clean up politics and we need a national anti-corruption commission and one with teeth. Under the model put forward by Mr Morrison, ministers would decide – have a decision to make – whether something was referred to an anti-corruption commission.
It needs to be independent of politics. That’s the whole point of an independent national anti-corruption commission.
The idea that somehow the opposition’s responsible for the government not even introducing legislation ... that, taken to its logical conclusion, why would you vote for Scott Morrison on Saturday week? Because what he says is, unless the opposition supports legislation, it won’t even come before the parliament.
Albanese says the structure the Labor party has in place is that there would be an investigation if any complaint was made. Morrison says he didn’t wait for anyone to write to him to start an inquiry. “I acted swiftly,” he says.
Riley asks about a reported payout to education minister Alan Tudge’s former press secretary. He asks: “Haven’t taxpayers got a right to know why they have paid half a million dollars in this?”
Morrison says he held an independent inquiry into the matter, and adds that he’s been advised the matter hasn’t even been settled. He tries to switch the conversation to bullying allegations raised after the death of Labor senator Kimberley Kitching.
Disillusionment with major parties leaving door open for independents, Albanese says
We’re on to why the independents are proving so popular this election. Albanese says there’s disillusionment with both major parties, in part because of the leadership “revolving doors”. He says:
The level of corrupt practices that we have seen in recent times has led to that as well. That’s one of the reasons why we need a strong national anti-corruption commission. We need to restore faith in politics.
The people who are putting themselves forward at this election, regardless of what party [they do it] for all the right reasons. But the truth is there is a lack of faith out there ... we need to restore faith in politics.
Morrison says it was the pandemic what done it, and:
Because the challenges that we face are very real and who can best run that economy, who best understands that economy? That is what will impact on your life and the ambitions you have for you and your family.
I say to those thinking about independents, Australia doesn’t need a weak government that has to negotiate for its existence every single day. It needs a strong government like we have been over the last three years where we could make the strong decisions to get Australia through this difficult time. A vote for the independents may be well-meaning, but it would be a vote to weaken or parliament and weaken Australia.
Riley says the difference is that Labor will abolish temporary protection visas. (You can read a factcheck on that here).
Morrison says Albanese doesn’t know what it’ll be like if he gets into government:
I just don’t believe he has got the stomach for it if he were to become prime minister.
I believe Australia can do better. I believe we must do better.
Albanese says that where Labor sees a good idea, they will support it. He says:
The key to keeping our borders strong are the elements of the plan that would turn back boats, which we support, offshore processing which we support, and settlement in third countries, which we support. Anyone who comes by boat will not get any visa here in Australia, they won’t be allowed to settle here in Australia. We have the same position on all of those issues.
Riley asks Morrison about boat turnbacks, and asks him to justify claims that under Labor the boats will start arriving again. Morrison says:
We have fixed that with three clear policies. Turn the boats back where it’s safe to do so, offshore processing, and temporary protection visas. Mr Albanese has said if he is elected he will abolish temporary protection visas, that means permanent visas for people who have come on a boat.
“I know how to keep them stopped, because I stopped them,” Morrison says.
Morrison accuses Albanese of being an “armchair critic”, who is “wise in hindsight”.
He says he’s not saying he’s always got things right but (in summary), we’ve done all right.
Riley opens the floor for character assassinations on both sides. Morrison says:
This is a Labor leader who comes from the far left of the party and has been very loose, he is a loose unit when it comes to the economy. He makes things up as he goes along.
Albanese gets a chance to rebut that, and outlines his experience. Then he gets his own chance to have a crack:
All we see from this government, that is now seeking a fourth term in office, they don’t have an agenda for today, let alone an agenda for the next term. All they have is abuse and scare campaigns and fear campaigns, no policies for the future. We can do better than that.
And he brings up the “I don’t hold a hose” comment, and criticises the vaccine strollout, and so on.
Quite the skirmish over submarines. Albanese has a crack at the $5-odd billion spent on the cancelled French contract. Morrison asks if he doesn’t support the submarines.
You don’t either, Albanese says, you tore it up. The Aukus deal, Morrison says.
So Albanese goes at him on waste on rorts.
Albanese’s turn. He says:
The truth is that people are just doing it really tough out there. Our measures on childcare, for example, will make it – how crazy is it, that in 2022, that some women, if they want to work a fourth or fifth day, it costs their family money. Everyone knows out there that when your youngest child goes into kindergarten all of a sudden families are better off.
That makes no sense. No makes no sense. It’s a disincentive to work and to participate in the work force that really penalises families for having children. We need to do much better. Our energy policy will reduce electricity prices by $275 for households by 2025. We will have cheaper medicines, lowering the cost to $30. These are all practical steps that we will make.
Riley asks about making sport available on free to air channel. Morrison takes the non sequitur as an opportunity to start the first barney of the debate.
What can you do to turn things around for families, Mark Riley asks.
Morrison says “we got the budget back into balance” before spending on the pandemic stimulus measures. He says:
We didn’t want Australians to get hit down by the rising costs of living caused by the war in Europe, and issues in China, and the floods pushing up fruit and vegetable prices. So we cut fuel tax in half, [gave] $250 to pensioners and others on fixed incomes from the government and increased tax relief from 1 July, where families up to $126,000 a year will get an extra $420 they will keep of money they earned. But the tax cuts we provided continue into the future because they should keep more of what they earn and we have always delivered lower taxes.
Geez, you’re smashing out the talking points, Riley says.
Albanese says the AAA credit rating was achieved under Labor, and that Labor’s policies will boost productivity (he mentions child care, renewable energy, etc.).
Morrison says increasing productivity is about investing in skills, and building infrastructure.
Albanese says that’s just coming back from cuts, and that “we’ve seen infrastructure prioritised based upon colour-coded spreadsheets, not based upon productivity”.
On those rising interest rates, Morrison says his government have kept “downward pressure” on them, and compares Australia to international examples. He says:
We have got employment outcomes that are 50% better. That’s what a good economic plan looks like. That’s what good economic management looks like ... Now, we know that Australians through the pandemic have been taking good decisions, they have switched to fixed interest rates, they’ve got ahead of their mortgage. As a government, we’ve been showing the same responsibility.
Wage increase would put jobs at risk, Morrison says
Riley says a dollar an hour seems “pretty reasonable”. Morrison says a wage increase would put jobs at risk:
If Mr Albanese thinks small businesses around the country can have a 5% increase in their wages bill on top of all the other things they’re facing, and see their ability to come through, then people won’t be worrying about what their wages are, they will be worrying about whether they have a job.
Albanese refers to the last debate, where Morrison prevaricated on the idea that everyone should get the minimum wage. Morrison distinguishes between employees and small business owners. He says:
People who run small businesses, Anthony, they don’t get guaranteed anything. They risk their businesses and their own incomes and their houses every single day, and they need the support to help employ Australians.
Morrison says it’s the FWC that will make the decision. And he says a rise would feed into inflation, and interest rates, and therefore affect cost of living. He says you can’t “jawbone” the FWC:
That’s why we think the most sensible way is to look at all of the evidence, not just run off at the mouth and come up with things on the run, but to consider these sorts of economic questions very carefully.
Albanese says the minimum wage is $20.33 an hour or “two cups of coffee a day”. The idea that would damage the economy is “not the case”, he says.
Riley is grilling Albanese on whether he can actually influence what the Fair Work Commission does. Albanese says:
We are advocating publicly that people not get left behind.
Morrison says (and this may come as a surprise to some) that wages have gone up. He says the minimum wage has increased by 7% over the course of his government (this needs a comparison to inflation). He says:
Small businesses are doing it incredibly tough. They’re the ones who employ people and we want to ensure that they can keep employing people. And by having a sensible approach to wages policy they can employ people and pay them better wages.
'People are doing it tough': Albanese supports 5.1% wage increase
The first question is on Albanese’s promise to support a 5.1% wage increase. He says it’s up to the Fair Work Commission, which “makes a decision independent of government”. But he’d welcome a rise, because “people are doing it tough out there”. He says:
The idea that those heroes of the pandemic, those low-wage workers – people on the minimum wage are cleaners, they’re people working in the care sector, they’re people who work in retail, they are people who helped get us through the pandemic. They deserve more than our thanks. They don’t deserve a wage cut.
Albanese is talking up the opportunities that dealing with climate change offers, along with child care and aged care improvements. He says people have “conflict fatigue” and that he wants to bring them together:
I want a better future where we deal with the cost of living crisis where everything is going up except for people’s wages. A better future where people, if they need to see a doctor, can see one; where we make Medicare better; where childcare is more affordable and women can participate in the economy and we can build productivity at the same time.
A better future where dealing with climate change means taking up the opportunity to grow the economy with renewables and new industries, training people for those jobs with fee-free Tafe and additional university places, and a better future where we deal with the aged care crisis. Older Australians deserve to live in dignity and with respect in their later years. But it’s also important how they get there.
I want us to bring together big business and unions, to bring together small business and their employees, to bring together the commonwealth, states and territories to work on a common interest. Australians have conflict fatigue. They want solutions, not arguments, and that’s what I want to deliver in delivering a better future, one where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.
We have “big challenges and uncertainties” to face, Morrison says, adding that a strong economy will make everything possible, and a weaker economy will make it harder.
Now it’s Albanese’s turn. He begins with:
I believe that good government can change people’s lives for the better.
The economic “shield” gets an early airing from Morrison:
As we all know the last few years have been very tough for Australians and I’ve never been more proud of my fellow Australians. As a government we have sought to back Australians every step of the way through the most difficult time we have seen since the second world war.
Of course we haven’t got everything right but we have stood there with Australians, and right now Australia is one of the most successful economies to come out of this pandemic amongst the advanced economies of the world. We know that a strong economy is so important to everything that we hope to achieve as a nation, and will be into the future with the challenges and the uncertainties we face.
A strong economy provides that economic shield for jobs, for incomes, for the businesses you run, to keep taxes low and to put downward pressure on the global forces that are pushing up interest rates and cost of living.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese won the coin toss, and chose to go second, so prime minister Scott Morrison is up first. Cue stump speech.
The final leaders' debate begins
“We won’t cut the mics,” Riley says, which may turn out to be a mistake. But he’s promised to wield a whip if the leaders bang on.
A small group of protestors has gathered at Seven’s network studios in Sydney:
For Sunday’s debate, some of us were treated to our first taste of Lego Masters while we waited for it to begin. Tonight it’s Big Brother... I’m watching online from Adelaide and all I have for now is a still of a woman with an enormous deep fried chicken drumstick in her mouth.
It appears to be frozen (the feed, not the drumstick).
Today has all been about wages: about whether a government can do anything to increase your wages, and whether a wage increase will just fuel the inflation that we kinda got a bit used to having at very low levels.
Wages are, of course, a key part of tackling the cost-of-living pressures that so many voters are worried about. But expect Albanese to talk about other factors, including childcare and Medicare. And Morrison will spruik his government’s handling of the economy through the pandemic. Housing could be a flashpoint, too.
But there are so many other policy fronts that are important for the politicians to discuss, because they’re important to our lives. Will climate change feature? It hasn’t been a large part of the to-and-fro so far.
National security almost certainly will, after the Solomon Islands – China security debate introduced new, and more immediate, uncertainty. Defence spending will tie into this.
An integrity commission is front of mind for many, particularly as the “teal” candidates are focussing on it. Morrison will insist he’s got a good plan, Labor will say theirs will have more teeth.
Personally, I’m hoping for a few curveballs as well.
Albanese and Morrison prepare to square off in third election debate
The countdown is on. Ten days left until the election – although people have been voting in rather large numbers since Monday.
Prime minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese are set to go another few rounds – and we all hope it will be less shouty and more intelligible. And intelligent.
As I mentioned below, the Seven News political editor, Mark Riley, will moderate. There’ll be a “pub test” with undecided voters in so-called battleground electorates, having their say on how it’s going.
Watch it live on Seven, or don’t – follow it here. It all kicks off at 9.10pm AEST.
Team, let’s take a break before the leaders’ debate begins.
It’s a chance for you (and me) to take a nap, pop the corn, don the slippers, pour the whiskey ... or scrub up on the economics of inflation (not really).
Tonight’s Great Debate: The Final Showdown begins at 9.10pm, but I’ll be back before that to get things rolling.
Amanda Meade wrote today that Seven News political editor, Mark Riley, says he’ll use “a chair and a whip” to control prime minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese in the third and final leaders’ debate – and that he will avoid a repeat of Sunday night’s “spectacle”.
Here are all the details of tonight’s shenanigans, including how to watch:
AAP reports that a Melbourne hospital will be reviewed after an eight-year-old girl reportedly died 21 hours after attending the emergency department with stomach pain.
Amrita Varshini Lanka attended the Monash Children’s hospital on 29 April after initially seeing a GP for symptoms including vomiting and a fever, according to the ABC.
Initial assessments ruled out appendicitis with nurses instead believing Amrita had gastroenteritis. She developed breathing issues and went into cardiac arrest a few hours later, the ABC reported.
The eight-year-old died on the morning of 30 April about 21 hours after she initially presented.
Amrita’s death will be examined by the coroner and Safe Care Victoria, the Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said on Wednesday. Foley said:
Until that process is complete it would be terrible for me to say more, other than our deepest sympathies to the family and all those who are involved in what is really a tragic set of circumstances.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, said there would also be a full review of Monash Health.
Monash Health said it was common practice for a facility to be reviewed if a person dies while in the hospital’s care. It has contacted Amrita’s family to provide support, with her exact cause of death still unknown. A Monash Health official said:
This is a very upsetting time for the family, and we offer our sincere condolences to the child’s family and friends.
Embattled Liberal MP Fiona Martin (the one who denies mixing up Asian-Australian Labor candidates) is in more strife. According to the ABC, mental health advocate professor Patrick McGorry says she used him for an “endorsement” without his permission. The former Australian of the Year says Martin selectively used some words from an email he sent her before the election.
Some more context on that polling from The Australian, from Katharine Murphy:
The former partner of swimming champion Ian Thorpe, Ryan Channing, has died in Bali.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Sydney-based 32-year-old, who dated Thorpe for four years to 2019, had Covid eight weeks ago. The paper quotes a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, who said they were “providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian citizen who died in Bali”.
News Corp papers are reporting Channing had been “battling health issues” for some time.
Call for fresh restrictions as WA Covid cases surge
“It scares me greatly,” Australian Medical Association WA president, Mark Duncan-Smith, says of the latest surge in Covid infections.
AAP reports that the surge in Western Australia has prompted calls for the reintroduction of restrictions amid fears the state’s health system “may get smashed”.
WA reported 17,033 new cases on Wednesday, easily the highest number in any state or territory, and a jump of more than 4,600 on the 12,390 reported on Tuesday.
It took active cases across the state to almost 69,000, although the number of people in hospital actually fell slightly to 275.
Duncan-Smith said the state’s current infection rates were the equivalent of NSW having more than 50,000 cases a day.
He also warned that hospital numbers were likely to rise, given they generally lagged a week behind any spike in infections:
Just as it has taken a week for the numbers to go up significantly following the reduced restrictions and dropping the mask mandate, any new public health initiatives will take a week before they have any effect.
In that week there is a danger that our medical system may get smashed.
“I can see where this is going and it scares me greatly.
The AMA boss said the government should reverse its decision to drop indoor mask mandates and should reimpose other restrictions which could flatten the curve.
It should also consider delays to elective surgery.
Premier Mark McGowan said the government was monitoring the situation:
At the moment we have a high case load, but the reality is since yesterday our hospitalisation and intensive care numbers went down,” he told reporters.
“We are expecting they will climb, but they are way below what was predicted.
Because too many polls are barely enough ... A YouGov poll predicts Labor will win 80 seats, according to The Australian.
The Australian calls it “the most sophisticated poll conducted across Australia”, based on a sample size of almost 19,000 voters.
The results, if replicated, would mean Labor governing with a majority of five seats, the Coalition left with 63 seats, and one Greens and seven independents making up the rest of the 151 House of Representatives seats.
From the nosebleed section at deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s National Press Club speech, to the barney over wages, and a guy called Gugu Plan. Josh Butler brings you today’s election briefing:
Peter Hannam also took a look at wages – and at the idea paying people a bit more will fuel inflation:
Football Australia has deleted a Facebook post that appeared to endorse the Liberal party, after numerous critical comments.
On Wednesday the sport’s national governing body uncritically shared a Facebook post from ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja promoting a $4.5m pledge of funding for sporting infrastructure in Canberra. The post, a verbatim reproduction of Seselja’s original post said:
A re-elected Liberal Government will deliver $4.5 million to support Capital Football - Official’s Home of Football. The Home of Football in Throsby will support Canberra’s 30,000 strong football community, as well as indoor courts for futsal and basketball.
The post was deleted just after 5pm on Wednesday, after attracting more than 80 comments that described it as – among other things – “shocking political advertising”, “deeply disappointing” and “disgraceful”.
Football Australia declined to comment.
There have been 7,613 Covid deaths in Australia:
Seeing even more footage of prime minister Scott Morrison saying “not my job” might not work the way the Liberal Party would like it to:
Idea goes up. Idea comes down. Royce Kurmelovs on the congestion tax that was not to be (not right now, anyway):
Seven’s moderator for tonight’s debate, Mark Riley, says he’ll use “a chair and a whip” to control Labor leader Anthony Albanese and prime minister Scott Morrison. Amanda Meade has the run down:
Wages are set to be a chunky part of tonight’s leaders’ debate. Paul Karp digs deep to explain to Jane Lee (and us) what will happen if the minimum wage is increased in the latest Campaign catchup:
Another crash on Melbourne’s Montague Street Bridge:
Sneaky First Dog on the Moon’s been sniffing around the government’s secrets (here’s the original story, in case you missed it):
Disability advocates have ranked major parties and independents on their election commitments. The Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie are leading the pack. AAP reports:
Peak rights and advocacy organisation People with Disability Australia scored them on their election pledges, after sending its election platform a month ago and asking participants to clarify policy positions across seven issues affecting Australians living with disability.
The Liberal-National coalition, Labor, the Greens, One Nation, Centre Alliance and independent candidates Andrew Wilkie and Zali Steggall responded.
The responses have been used to develop a survey report and scorecard intended to be an easy reference guide for voters.
PWDA president, Samantha Connor, says the Greens and independent Andrew Wilkie “get the most thumbs up from us” as they have “demonstrated clear and worthwhile support of pretty much all the issues”. She said:
Their positions in relation to increasing financial security for people with disability and extending the NDIS to people over 65 years of age are of key interest.
Labor and independent MP for Mayo, Rebekah Sharkie, came in second.
PWDA will continue to advocate on a range of issues affecting people with disability in the lead-up to the election on May 21.
Jennett points out that even the government’s own numbers show inflation will keep rising, and asks Ruston is that makes a pay increase of about 4% “almost inevitable”.
Ruston says it’s up to the Fair Work Commission to make an informed and independent decision.
The Liberal campaign spokesperson, Anne Ruston, is on the ABC now.
Greg Jennett asks her if she’d be comfortable having some of the lowest paid workers get an effective wage cut. She says:
Well, of course we want to see all Australian workers get fair pay and we also are happy to see and would like to see Australian – some of our lowest paid workers paid more. But what we won’t do is interfere with the independent processes through which those wage levels are determined.
She’s now criticising Albanese for talking about that wage rise, at which point I’ll direct you (again) to Paul Karp’s factcheck on whether it’s “unprecedented” for governments to make submissions to the Fair Work Commission:
Kelly asks: When does a wage rise become inflationary?
Chalmers says: “What matters here is how much productivity you get with these wage increases.” Growing the economy without inflationary pressures and getting the economy going again is the aim, he says.
He says businesses who say they’ll have to pass on costs to customers is not good for the local economy.
The ABC’s Fran Kelly is quizzing Chalmers on why that wages figure won’t be put in a formal position. Chalmers says Labor’s position is clear:
We made that clear and what that means is $1 an hour for Australia’s lowest paid workers. That’s not too much to ask.
Many of the workers are the heroes of the pandemic, it’s not too much to ask they get a $1 an hour extra. If the prime minister wants to say an extra $1 an hour for Australia’s low paid workers will break the economy, then the economy is not in the condition he pretends it to be.
Labor’s treasury spokesperson, Jim Chalmers, is talking about leader Anthony Albanese’s pledge to support a 5.1% pay rise. He supports it, he says:
That’s because it’s entirely consistent with what we have been arguing for some time now. Which is [that] Australian workers, lowest paid workers in our economy shouldn’t be going backwards during Scott Morrison’s cost-of-living crisis.
But he says Labor hasn’t determined a “final position” and won’t commit to putting the figure in a submission to the Fair Work Commission.
The latest from Labor candidate Sally Sitou, in relation to this story from Paul Karp about Liberal MP Fiona Martin:
Donna Lu reports on new research into our car-centric cities – including Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide:
Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan has been asked on Sky News if he stands by his previous comments that the net zero emissions target is “dead”. He says he doesn’t support the Morrison government’s target but that he was speaking about the target being “dead” on a global scale:
I’ve repeated that a number of times, I’m happy to repeat it again.
The independent MP for Kennedy, Bob Katter, warns Labor not to ban the live animal trade, AAP reports.
I warn the ALP that the last time they closed the live animal trade I got rid of their leader Julia Gillard.
(Not quite how I remember it, Bob.)
Dr Kirstin Ferguson, from the Queensland University of Technology’s business school, has analysed Labor leader Anthony Albanese and prime minister Scott Morrison’s words over the past month. Here’s just one of the things she found:
Here’s Paul Karp’s report on Liberal MP Fiona Martin denying she had mixed up her Labor opponent, Sally Sitou, with another candidate:
The Australia Institute’s chief economist, Richard Denniss, says:
There are no easy choices facing Australian policy makers at the moment, but cutting the real wages of millions of Australians would have to be one of the worse ones.
Does this mean I have to catch up on Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce’s performance at the National Press Club? I will, I promise, when I find the time.
Hello all, welcome to the part of the afternoon where we try to imagine the two leaders limbering up for tonight’s debate, while their staffers fire practice questions at them:
Forget the lettuce! How much is the wage rise they want?
And now I’ll hand you over to the fantastic Tory Shepherd for the remainder of your afternoon.
NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, has ruled out a London-style congestion tax for drivers in Sydney’s city centre, AAP reports.
He was responding to a confidential leaked draft transport strategy from February, advising that transport pricing needs to reflect the true cost of using the state’s roads.
“Charging for road use at certain locations or times can encourage customers who have flexibility to choose other options,” the document, reported by Nine, says.
Perrottet dismissed suggestions of such a tax. He said on Wednesday:
There is no plan for a congestion tax and and we can rule it out completely.
A congestion tax was introduced in London in 2003, with drivers paying about $25 over a 20km sq radius of the city.
Perrottet said the government encouraged its public servants to come up with new ideas and think broadly and ambitiously.
Another suggestion was to change public transport fares, which are subsidised, to reflect “the true cost of trips”.
The government receives advice yearly from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal on public transport fares.
The premier said:
We weigh that up and we make the decision, but I’m a big believer in subsidised public transport ... it’s a great social good.
The opposition leader, Chris Minns, is not convinced. He said:
I don’t believe that for a second. When it comes to this government’s track record on privatisation, user pays and toll roads you should never believe it when they suggest a congestion charge is not on the way.
Labor has been arguing for months that the price of everything has been going up, except your wages.
But the debate over the minimum wage really took off on Tuesday when Anthony Albanese endorsed a specific pay rise: 5.1%, to keep up with inflation.
Now the government is accusing Labor of policy on the run and an “unprecedented” intervention in an independent wage-setting process. Is that true?
Find the answers here:
Some nasty weather involving lots of water in NSW and risk of flooding rising in Queensland. Please look after yourselves if you’re in any of these regions and keep an eye on conditions.
Hello mates, it’s Stephanie Convery here to take care of all your mid-afternoon blogging needs. Thank you Amy Remeikis for your tireless efforts this morning!
And on that note, I shall hand the blog over for the afternoon – I’ll back early tomorrow morning (if I survive watching tonight’s debate) – take care of you Ax
Maritime Industry Australia Limited has welcomed the announcement in the deputy prime minister’s speech, with chief executive, Teresa Lloyd, noting there is now “bipartisan support”:
Ms Lloyd said for first time in Australian shipping history, we now have bi-partisan support on adjusting tax settings equal to those in other countries which will mean a level playing field for Australian ship owners.
This finally makes it commercially viable for local ship owners to own and operate Australian flagged ships. It means more jobs, a stronger economy, and a safer Australia.
The changes announced are equally beneficial for both the primary and international shipping registers. This combination is critical for a country like Australia who is utterly reliant on maritime trade. Maximising the number of Australian ships is in our national interest to ensure we survive and thrive.
Labor’s Catherine King was paying attention to Barnaby Joyce’s speech:
National Covid summary
Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 53 deaths from Covid-19:
- Deaths: 2
- Cases: 1,242
- In hospital: 76 (with 4 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 11
- Cases: 12,265
- In hospital: 1,452 (with 48 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 340
- In hospital: 27 (with no people in ICU)
- Deaths: 10
- Cases: 7,427
- In hospital: 459 (with 14 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 8
- Cases: 4,299
- In hospital: 232 (with 7 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 1,058
- In hospital: 48 (with 1 person in ICU)
- Deaths: 17
- Cases: 13,973
- In hospital: 533 (with 33 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 3
- Cases: 17,033
- In hospital: 275 (with 7 people in ICU)
Thoughts and prayers to anyone who has to make sense of the points the deputy prime minister was attempting to make.
Barnaby Joyce finishes on wages, but there are a lot of words and not all of them seem to be in an easily understood order, so the short version is; he is against Anthony Albanese’s argument.
Joyce says China will respect strength
Q: On the wages increase we know that regional seats incomes are much lower, you probably have more – people more reliant on minimum and award wages in those environments. What is a reasonable wage increase for those people to expect this year, particularly given cost pressures in regional Australia through housing?
And secondly, just in your speech you’ve said about China wanting to encircle Australia being the biggest issue, its militarisation being the biggest issue on the ballot paper. You also say we need to understand as a nation how we generate wealth in this country. We do that by selling a heap of iron ore to China. Which gets turned into things like ... warships, submarines. How do you reconcile the tension there between on one hand effectively taking Chinese money for our goods, at the same time potentially arming China, helping arm China?
Well, it’s a vexed issue isn’t it. The thing is, what China will respect is strength. That’s why I say we have to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible. And respecting strength means you have to be strong across all facets of what you do.
You have to be strong in agriculture, you have to be strong in mining. You have to be strong in education.
You have to understand that people are going to assess the strength of Australia in a holistic form, not just your military. That’s just one section of it. You can’t have a strong military if you don’t have a strong economy.
... You can’t pay for it. So yeah, this is something and that is we believed in the past in a rules based order, we believed in the past that countries just didn’t arbitrarily invade other countries. We believed in the past that people were basically peaceful and won’t be a threat to one another ...
And right now – I remember talking to one of the large miners, this goes to show you, the salutary lesson about what’s happening in the world, we were talking about iron ore exports and China, I said we have a big new customer. Big new customer. And I was trying to pick it. I went, Germany. Germany is a big new customer. And I imagine Germany is using the iron ore for a whole range of things and of course one the other Germany is redoing, rearming. That’s the world we live in. Who thought we will be standing in a podium in a press club and talk about this is such as that.
Q: The Coalition is said to have a woman problem not just a lack of female representation but a slew of incidents involving Coalition men. Why should the women of Australia vote for the Coalition?
Let’s look at our party. If we had a quota system in the Senate we would need more blokes because it’s 80% women.
I’m looking at Kay Hull president of our party and she’s a woman.
In the positions that we have – like government positions that we go through the process of selection at cabinet – it’s about 50-50 now in women. We are making sure all the time we do a better job.
We had the Jenkins review, to look into these issues regards women and regards bullying. And we have seen issues that all of us can be better.
Obviously we have had some unsavoury incidents, and they have to be dealt with. So they don’t happen again. And the Labor party got theirs too. With the Kimberley Kitching issues and things that surround them.
All these things, all of us can do better. But we did – and I’ve for my part and trying to make sure we fought so that – so people who had some serious issues in the Parliament could get access to a proper process of investigation of records, so they could prosecute their case.
And doing that quietly from the backbench, and then having that unfortunate thing that one of my emails got – one of my emails was leaked by a third person. I can never work out why that’s been utilised for a political point when it was done for such a personal reason to try to help a person.
These issues we will continue to work on. And right now with going around with candidates such as Jacinta Price, you know, brilliant Indigenous woman who will add so much to bring forward issues, especially from bush communities, and how we can do a better job there and how we can – we haven’t reached any point where we stop. We have further to go and we continue on.
Q: Following a similar theme, would reserve the right to renege on a coalition deal with the Liberal party depending of what guarantees have to be given in a hung parliament, or alternatively, would you seek to have in that coalition agreement a veto over those deals with the crossbench?
These things are hypothetical and I think you open a can of worms when you go down that process. The Nationals obviously, because we are a different party, we negotiate our Coalition agreement with the Liberal, if – and other negotiations I don’t know of, I have no party to, and I will let other people make the decision about it.
Q: I want to pick you up on negotiating with independents because the idea put forward is that would lead to chaos in the parliament. I want to go back to February when your own aside were holding up the government’s agenda because of vaccine mandates and your own side, basically, toppled at the religious discrimination bill, so when you are talking about chaos in a parliament, I mean, we have already got it.
No, we have not.
Q: You have not been able to get your own agenda three.
What you are talking about is a singular issue, one issue. If you have got independents, you are going to happen every day.
You will not have small iterations, from time to rare and infrequent. It will be a daily thing ... If independents are the way to go, if that is the righteous, proper process for the government of our nation, then let’s have 151 of them. It will be total and utter chaos.
Q: Just to follow on that, they don’t know the policy, you mentioned Labor’s housing policy but some of that was incorrect ... You still have outspoken senators voting how they say they are going to vote so what is the difference between negotiating with a teal independent and negotiating with a coalition backbencher?
Well, the difference is the coalition backbencher has said they support a coalition government. When they went to the people, they said, “If you vote for me, I will be supporting the Nationals and the Liberals on supply and confidence and by doing so giving them the capacity that the prime minister elect – to go to the governor general and say, ‘I have got the numbers’. That is a big difference. What teal people do is they say, ‘I am not going to tell you the ...’
And then you say: ‘Hang on... Who am I voting for? I don’t get it. And am I voting for Mr Albanese or Mr Morrison?’
No coalition backbencher has gone to their people before an election and said: ‘Well, although I am in the National party it might be up for grabs.’
I am getting a sense you are not voting for me. There is a whole range of your question I just don’t agree with, and I think I will deal with ... them one at a time.
We have made massive investments in health. We actually negotiated for the Murray Darling Basin medical school.
That goes right back to John Andersen when we started expending a capacity in Newcastle.
I have been up to Darwin and talking about the expansion of what we are doing a Charles Darwin University.
I was in Shepparton in two weeks ago and it was investment in allied health. We have got a doctor in David Gillespie. As I said, we have a regional health minister. The Labor party have a minister for the republic so when we take you to a hospital, our idea is to get your blood pressure down. Theirs is to take a photo of the Queen down.
So, this health policy, it is about the movement of doctors in urban areas where we say to you if you work in a regional area, we will take a year off your HECS. If it is a very remote, we will take two years of your HECS. They are not Labor policies ...
... The telehealth process – I spoke to Doctor McPhee who looked after the people of Emerald for in excess of 30 years, making sure that people get access ... Gabby, we put in our negotiations with the Liberal party in excess of about $66m to get new magnetic resonance machines into regional areas so that if someone has cancer we can find out about it soon and get them the treatment and I can go on and on and on, Gabby.
We can go and show you how – the expansion of our prescriptions, so when you get prescriptions, you pay less amount of money if you are a pensioner. These are all part of our health policy. Do we have a challenge as we go forward? Yes, we do. I’ll be trying to address it? Yes, we are.
Do we have a regional health minister? Yes, we do. Have we seen an alternative from the Labor party or the Greens? No, we have not.
On the next issue, we say these things make people unpopular – so many times I read in the paper when I know the polling and I hear something and I go, ‘someone has been fed like a Chook’.
They have given them something and they have swallowed it whole. I know the polling of what they have said is not right.
Q: So, the polling is wrong?
What I acknowledge is that, yes, in certain areas where there is a soft vote, especially in urban areas, they want to understand that we have made – the Nationals – have made a commitment with the prime minister and we are sticking to it, right? And that is your answer.
Q: It is estimated that is about $4bn that Australia is missing out because of the lack of services and stuff. It is hard to get a GP in rural Australia right now. People are starting to regular book every couple of months to collect their ailments because they can’t get there when they are sick. Telecommunications has been dodgy for a long time and notwithstanding the bit of money that was thrown out in this campaign in response to the regional – rural telecommunications review there has not been a lot of that has been done over the last decade since you have been in government.
We are going into an inflationary environment, and people have high exposure to debt because it regional housing prices are running through the roof, rentals are short. I think in one of your local towns, Tamworth, it is about 0.7% is the rental vacancy.
I am with you, Gabrielle. So, a health question and a rental question?
Q: No, no. We have got those conditions, right? In the meantime, the thing that you are known for most, right across the country ...
Johnny Depp’s dogs
Q: Well, no. There is something more than that. It is the $100 roast and it is the prosecution of the climate wars, and so, while you have been off on the kind of climate frolic, these traditional services that we need in rural Australia are lost. So, given the recent intervention by your senator Matt Canavan on net zero being ...
A long question ... I have got a bleeding nose.
Q: I have got so many questions. I am told that if the Nats went backwards in all of their seats after Senator can advance intervention. So, haven’t you given those conditions failed on your key KPIs in terms of representing the bush.
Q: Can I just pull you. .. up, Labor is matching your safeguard mechanism but effectively, lowering the threshold. Isn’t it the fact that at the moment, you are not actually enforcing the safeguard mechanism so the companies involved with this?
There are exceptional circumstances defining how the baseline works. There are a number of ways you can define how the baseline lease with the point of the ceiling is that it was precisely a ceiling. To stop emissions being let off the hook and going through the roof. That is what it was about. What they have brought in is not a ceiling.
They have brought in a cave with a low roof, and this – they are going to keep winding it down and they have not put forward a policy of an alternate industry. We want to develop and alternate industry so that in the future people can make a choice.
Q: Mr Joyce, I don’t think it’s remarkable to say your job as National party leader is to win National party seats first, and government second. Some of your Liberal colleagues say they are paying a very high price for the perception that you’re not ambitious enough on climate change. What would you say to those Liberal colleagues and the Coalition voters who vote for them if they end up losing will you be overseeing a Pyrrhic defeat?
A Pyrrhic defeat. No, let’s have a look, our nation is an honourable nation. Why? Because we make agreements and we stick to them*. We have honoured every agreement, right now, Boris Johnson says he wants to take a break from his 2050 target.
(*The French would probably say something different.)
Germany, Italy are firing up the coal-fired power stations again. There was $35 billion in fossil fuels that the – 35bn euro, sorry, that the European Union bought off Russia in the first week – in the first month of the Ukraine crisis. They only euros of aid into the Ukraine.
This is the reality of the world.
... China, which produces half the coal in the world, their last two quarters were records amount. Record. Record production in coal.
What our nation does, and what’s so good about us, this is why we are so diligent we make promises and keep to them. We are doing that. So when we do this, we make sure that we nutted out as how we are going to get there, how we keep our economy stable, and right now you are seeing it. We developing an alternate industry. Not a transition, alternate. Our alternate is hydrogen. We invested more or hydrogen through the campaign than the Labor party has. They haven’t even got - our investment in renewables is massively ahead of theirs.
So, when it the truth is understood, we are a noble nation who abides by their agreements when other nations are stepping away, and through this campaign, we have invested more in an alternative industry, in the hydrogen industry than at the Labor party which, to be quite honest, I don’t know what alternative industry they are investing in.
What they have talked about is in transition and in regional areas transition is read as unemployment. The policy is to reduce the safeguard mechanism. We have a safeguard mechanism. It is like the ceiling on this. It is out of the way but it stopped going through the roof.
They are going to bring the ceiling down to about head level for tall people and that is going to be around 213, 215 of them will bolt their heads on the fans and the lights and they will be a new tax placed on them and we can’t have that. We have an honorable position and a logical position.
There is a brief interlude while Barnaby Joyce’s nose bleed is addressed.
I know you are going to get 1,001 photos of me with a Kleenex to my nose, congratulations. So the alternative is I leave.
Q: The company says it needs an extra $2.5m. To finish that.
That’s the question. You are saying are you going to allocate more money to a business case for a coal-fired power station, not whether you agree with a business case for a coal-fired pow station because there a business case that partially done on a coal-fired power station for Collinsville, now we have to come to the question do we allocate more money to that and that’s a realm much other things we need to consider.
Q: Mr Joyce in your speech you said that Labor was being deceitful for saying something in the Hunter Valley, different ...
Joyce: I’m still listening. Hold on yes. Keep going ...
(His nose is still bleeding.)
Q: To what it was saying in the cities – but what we are seeing at the moment is Nationals MPs saying that they support a coal-fired power station in central Queensland, Liberal MPs saying it is never going to happen. We are seeing you say you want more coalmines in the Galilee Basin, Scott Morrison has refused to say that when he was asked at a press conference in this campaign. And we have seen your candidates say that next zero emissions is flexible. Nationals candidates and Liberal MPs say that’s not right. So isn’t it the Coalition being more egregious talking out of both sides of your mouth, given the issues with Liberal MPs facing more climate conscious constituents, does that make the Coalition agreement between the Liberals and Nationals more vulnerable?
No, don’t you love you get a bleeding nose in a press club. Anyway. No, it doesn’t. Because what we are doing is both the Labor party and ourselves are talking about if there is – we have got to make sure our nation earns as much money as possible. We can’t do that if we shut down coal exports.
So what they are saying is completely in line where our policy is. We are saying you have to understand global demand, global demand for coal is a sign that the world is still buying it. If the world doesn’t buy it we won’t be selling in I but they are buying it and buying it in record amounts record prices.
Q: Your MPs are saying they support a coal-fired power station in central Queensland, Liberals are saying it is never going to happen. How is that an honest conversation?
We are undertaken the business case for a coal-fired power station in con That’s the process at foot. Now, whether in how that comes to a conclusion or whether it comes to a conclusion, by reason that we have basically used the money we was allocated to do it, is the discussion, so when you say are we going through the assessment of coal-fired power station and Collinsville, that is actual policy. There is a business case that will be undertaken on that.
Barnaby Joyce then starts choking on water.
No actually, I think his nose is bleeding.
Q: Your government criticised the so-called teal independents for not declaring who they would vote for or support. But if there is a hung Parliament and the teal independents are involved in negotiations with the Coalition, they might call for the Coalition agreement to be made public. Under what circumstances would the Nationals agree to such a request and shouldn’t that agreement be transparent so Australians know what’s in it?
No. Because why?
Because in my discussions to get the best deal for regional Australia I don’t want to have to ventilate every iteration, every nuance, day by day within the media. Which go to bat for regional Australia on behalf of the party I’m part of, the Nationals, I’m going to make sure that I don’t sort of fulfil other people’s desires and getting the best outcome for regional people. And so that process – and a lot of the times you find the document rather unremarkable.
Q: Why not produce it?
Well because that’s fulfilling your desire not regional Australia’s desire. So you want a straight answer, the answer is no, I won’t.
Q: You have called for teal independents to be transparent.
I tell what you you will know from me, I am going to support Mr Morrison and the Liberal party to form a government. 100%. I say to the Australian people, if you vote for the Nationals we will work with the Liberals to form government and keep this nation in safe hands. That wasn’t too hard. That was quite easy. So what happens to these independents these righteous people it’s so ridiculous, it’s so implausible, actually it’s the only thing they can tell you that they will do, because they are not actually a minister so they can’t really tell you about policy. They will announce policies but it’s patently absurd for anybody to understand the machinery of government.
They are not in cabinet, they are not in the policy construction, they are not in the expenditure review that comes for the money they are not responsible for getting access to the Parliament in how it’s debated in the agenda. So saying these things in the street which they will be doing, you know, I’m going to do this and that and something else, the reality is people got to ask them – how are you going to do that? When are you a cabinet minister, I didn’t know that.
You are not even elected and you are already a cabinet minister, congratulations, well done. Feat of brilliance. Then the obvious thing they actually can answer, the one question they can answer, people say, if there was a hung Parliament, I want to know because it’s my vote, am I voting for the Labor Party, which probably has to go to business with the Greens.
The Greens are open about it, everyone knows exactly who they are supporting. Or voting with the Nationals and Liberals. You have a right to know that. It’s the most fundamental question you should answer but they don’t.
Q: But by making the dentist analogy you are conceding that Scott Morrison’s personal standing is an issue, like everybody’s repeating this dentist analogy and I get it but I’m wondering what’s changed, why do people not like Scott Morrison after electing him three years ago? What’s happened in the past in your view?
It is kind of irrelevant. The premise – the premise is that you say it sways votes in an exceptional manner and I don’t concur with the premise, I don’t believe it does. I believe the Australian people are smarter than that ... If it’s a popularity contest I think you will find politicians in Canberra who are more popular than the prime minister, most certainly more popular than me, more popular than Mr Albanese, more popular than Senator Penny Wong or Katy Gallagher. I don’t know who will be the prime minister, I’m trying to work it out. It could be anybody, it could be George Christensen but he’s gone.
Q: I want to ask about popularity. You said it’s not an important attribute for a political leader but I would argue in an election – we are having right now, it’s a contest about character. So what voters think or voters perceive of a leader is important in this contest and it seems a lot of voters have made up their mind about Scott Morrison, the prime minister, and they don’t like him. As a person who studies the polls and gets the polls to the electorate, I’m wondering why do people not like Scott Morrison? What has changed since that miracle victory in 2019, when voters endorsed him as prime minister?
I must be endowed with the gift of proficiency because I actually put that in my speech. I came up with the analogy that you don’t have to like your dentist*. It’s not important. You just have to believe they are competent.
(*Katie Allen and numerous Coalition MPs have been using this line for more than a month.)
Because when they have got that drill in your mouth, you want to make sure they hit the right tooth. You don’t want it through your tongue or cheek, because they are your mate, competency is what matters. As an accountant I didn’t try to be mates with my clients.
I tried to be competent so they could get the best outcome and pay the least amount of tax. When I go to eye mechanic I don’t find out if he’s on one of my besties. I just want them to be able to fix the car and running a nation is more complicated than all those jobs. So the people of Australia, they are not fools. They are making a decision about competency.
They are make a decision about vision. They are making a decision about where this nation goes and it is precarious times. We are not making that up. See it on the television, Ukraine, China, inflation, cost of living pressures.
You know, people if it’s a popularity contest it will be married at first sight, or my kitchen rules or I’m a celebrity get me out of here, right. It’s not. As far as my relationship with the prime minister goes, every agreement he has honoured. Every one. We are in a business relationship and I’m an accountant. I say when I deal this man, every agreement he honours. I never have to go and relitigate it or say, you know, you are slipping away there it. And that’s what matters to me. So I say that back to the Australian people, that’s what matters to me and that’s what must matter to you.
And here is the chaser:
Gabby Chan is at the Barnaby Joyce speech, but Daniel Hurst has your defence mentions covered:
While Barnaby Joyce is talking about the dangers of “populism” (this from Australia’s “best” retail politician, who made an artform of the $100 lamb roast and claimed Australia would default on its debt) it is worth pointing out where he wants his preferences to go:
What a difference a week or so makes. Before the Reserve Bank of Australia made its decision to raise the official interest rate on 3 May, it was fine for the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to opine that the central bank should wait to see how wages were faring (on 18 May) before lifting rates. (“Disappointing” was the view of the shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers.)
But today, it’s “reckless” according to Scott Morrison for Anthony Albanese to make known his preference that the Fair Work Commission lift the minimum wage (now $20.33 an hour) by the inflation rate (5.1% for March CPI, heading higher) to ensure workers don’t go backwards.
The seven-member panel (three of which are fair work commissioners) will release its verdict on how much it will lift the minimum wage by late May or early June.
Typically, they take into account the five minimum wage objectives of the act, and critically, both the headline and underlying inflation rate. (The latter was running at an annual 3.7% in the March quarter.)
For this fiscal year, the FWC raised the minimum wage 2.5% at a time when Covid disruptions were sending odd economic signals. Both the headline and underlying inflation figures were running at an annual rate of 1.1% for the March 2021 quarter that were the most recent figures that the FWC panel had in front of it.
Business groups such as the AiGroup and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are asking for 2.5% to 3% only for the minimum wage increase, saying that a 0.5 percentage point increase in superannuation contributions should be taken into account, and also the benefits of the extended low and middle-income tax offset (LMITO).
Jim Stanford, an economist and director of the Centre for Future Work, notes that you can’t use super increases to pay the bills, and also that the LMITO is due to run out after this year.
Will businesses call for a wage rise when that offset ends, he asks, adding: “Do we actually think it is the government’s responsibility to subsidise the failure of business to pay a living wage by handing out tax year after year.”
And it’s worth noting, from a recent ACTU report, that our minimum wage compared with the median wage has been falling steadily. Australia now back in the pack, OECD-wise:
The Australia Institute, by happenstance, has also released a timely report that looks at the key wage trends in the economy.
Barnaby Joyce speaks at the National Press Club
We know that popularity is not necessarily an attribute of good political leadership. And populism most certainly is not.
Popularity is not even indicator who people will vote for. According to the 2019 morning consult survey, Senator Mitch McConnell, a republican from Kentucky had a 15% disapproval rating with registered voters. It’s the second highest under Senator Susan Collins but Senator McConnell won his race by a margin of 20 independence points.
The reason was given people prioritise state interests over candidate favourability. Senator McConnell’s democratic challenger campaign was based around not being Senator McConnell and was said to be ineffective because it lacked a clear policy agenda.
I think it’s fair to say this election we don’t want people to vote for the Coalition because they think we are popular or I am popular. Instead we want people to vote for us because we are strong, know where we are going, can make hard decisions to get there and we can back hard decisions by showing you how we are going to pay for it.
Independents Zali Steggall and Helen Haines say establishing an integrity commission that can retrospectively look at corruption is an “incredibly important” issue for them ahead of any negotiations with the major parties in a hung parliament.
Steggall and Haines have just concluded a panel discussion organised by the Australia Institute specifically on integrity matters.
Both outlined the key features they want from a federal integrity commission - public hearings, public reporting, the ability to take public referrals, a broader definition of corrupt conduct, and retrospectivity.
All of those features were contained in the integrity commission bill Haines previously put to parliament.
Asked about whether she would insist on retrospectivity in any post-election negotiations with the major parties, Steggall said:
I think retrospectivity is incredibly important because we have to be realistic. Over the past four years there’s been some $55bn worth of public funds that have not been allocated on best public interest priorities. So I think retrospectivity has to happen if we want to raise the bar and increase trust in government. That will impact all sides, but it also creates a deterrence again for future governments so they don’t always think this is a problem for the future, that their past conduct is never up for review.
On retrospectivity, Haines said:
If we’re trying to shine a light on possible corruption, then we need to be able to look backwards, as well as forwards, to find patterns of behaviour. So it is incredibly important. Again, if we’re going to design an integrity commission, we need to design one that works, and one that has the features required.
Both independents hit out at Scott Morrison’s criticisms of the New South Wales independent commission against corruption. Haines said Morrison was in “dangerous territory” and behaving recklessly in his criticisms of the body. Both Steggall and Haines also called for Labor to give more detail on their proposal for an integrity commission, saying the two-page set of principles released so far is not enough.
Haines said she would need to see “detailed legislation” before offering support to Labor.
I don’t make decisions on a set of broad principles. Any piece of legislation, I need to see the detail and understand that and work closely with whomever is the attorney-general to ensure its model is fit for purpose.
Steggall said she was “very disappointed” with Anthony Albanese’s approach and recent comments about how Labor would proceed with an integrity commission.
In opposition, they have sided with the crossbench and they have relied on I would say Helen and I on a number of issues to really push the government to do better. Now, what he’s saying is look, ‘whilst we’ve supported those models in the past... if we form government we might just look at it and see how else we’ll do it’. With respect, it’s just not good enough. We have models ready to go.
The Australia Institute also released polling showing three in four Australians believe integrity issues are more important or equally important as they were at the last election.
Barnaby Joyce is delivering the National Press Club today.
Marise Payne and Penny Wong will debate each other this Friday.
Anthony Albanese will appear next Wednesday.
Scott Morrison has not accepted an invitation as yet.
The view from Murph
Hello good people. If you are plugged in to the hustings today you’ll know the conversation is about wages. Yesterday, Anthony Albanese said he would support a wage increase for Australia’s lowest paid workers that would keep pace with inflation.
It’s a simple message, Labor favours real wage increases, not real wage cuts – although it was strange that the Labor leader seemed to suggest in an early radio interview on Tuesday the level of increase was broadly up to the ACTU but then warmed up to an increase of 5% at a press conference later in the day.
Scott Morrison has a more complicated position on this issue.
Sorry – I should be clearer, the prime minister has a very simple political message, which is that Albanese is an idiot who will crash the economy, a message that is shared on high rotation regardless of the specifics or merits of any proposal.
But back to the substance of the thing.
Morrison says the political class shouldn’t have views about wage fixation because the Fair Work Commission (FWC) is independent from government and that independence must be respected.
But in the same breath, he also suggests a 5% increase will make the sky fall in – a point that very obviously undercuts his first argument.
If the PM genuinely believes politicians should have no views about wages and leave this all to the FWC, then best to maintain that view, lest one be seen as trying to influence a process Morrison says politicians shouldn’t influence.
Just a couple of general observations. I am old enough to remember the inflationary pressure that existed in the economy before the inflation dragon was allegedly slain.
So I remember the old debates where business and other institutional interests in the economy screamed blue murder about giving employees a wage increase because that would feed inflation and help jack up interest rates – which was a narrative Australians became conditioned to accept.
I even remember the Accord – a compact between the Hawke government and the union movement where trade unions agreed to temper wage demands in return for a full court press by the government to control inflation.
I studied these developments in high school economics, before spending the opening years of my journalism career at the Australian Financial Review, where these issues were covered minutely.
But given inflation has not been a risk for governments or central banks to manage for years, there will be many Australians who don’t remember the olden times and will not have been conditioned by those debates in the way that GenXers like myself, and the Boomers before us, were.
It’s very obvious Morrison is trying to summon an old school debate on this question, and his efforts will be backed in by the same business groups that have always preferred higher profits and dividends than employee compensation. And of course, substantively, it is important to factor in the inflationary pressure associated with wage increases otherwise better compensation becomes zero sum – what goes in one pocket comes out the other.
But I wonder whether Morrison’s political pearl-clutching about inflation has the same potency for a generation that has never experienced inflation, subsists in a gig economy with next to no employment certainty, and has zero prospect of ever owning their own home unless they have access to the bank of mum and dad. The workers of the present generation have only ever known sluggish wages growth.
I suspect a simpler Albanese message, that we favour real wages growth, is both salient, and easier to communicate.
But Morrison cranking up the inflation dragon, backed by his amplifiers and institutional interests, is obviously a real and present threat for the Labor campaign to manage.
Queensland reports 10 Covid deaths and 7,427 cases
Queensland Health has reported 10 people have died from Covid in the last 24 hours, along with 7,427 new cases in the state.
The high court has upheld a decision by immigration authorities to cancel a South Sudanese refugee’s humanitarian visa, despite fears he could be killed if sent back, AAP reports.
His global special humanitarian visa was revoked in 2017 after he was convicted of assault in Victoria.
He is now on Christmas Island seeking to avoid deportation.
His lawyers argued he should not be sent back to South Sudan because he belongs to a minority tribe that killed his father and he would be tortured or killed if he had to return.
Australia has international obligations not to endanger refugees by sending them back to countries where they could face persecution, torture or death.
Despite the refugee’s appeals, in 2018 immigration authorities refused to revoke his visa cancellation.
They ruled that he could apply for a protection visa, at which time Australia’s international obligations to refugees could be fully considered.
In a judgment on Wednesday, the high court found immigration authorities had evaluated the refugee’s concerns about being sent back to South Sudan and he had not been denied procedural fairness.
The press conference ends.
Q: On that, on that point the prime minister says you are a loose unit and that your head flips open and stuff just falls out. What do you say to that?
Well, this prime minister is loose with the truth. He’s loose with the truth about his analysis of his opponents, but he’s loose with the truth for those people who have worked closely with him as well.
This is a guy who the deputy prime minister said, the more you get to know him the less trustworthy, and the more he bends the truth.
The fact is that he thinks that – so does the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
So do so many – so many people who have worked closely with him. I tell you the difference between me and I will conclude with this – the difference between me and Scott Morrison is that those people who have worked with me the closest for the longest are my closest friends and strongest supporters.
This guy – this guy cuts people loose, is what he does.
Which is why we are here in the electorate of North Sydney, during a federal election campaign – because people who have values, who have traditionally supported the Liberal party, are walking away from the most divisive prime minister in modern history.
This is a guy who never looks to bring people together, who never looks for unity, is always just looking for wedges and always looking for division.
Australia can be better. I want to bring business and unions together, large businesses and unions.
I want to bring small business and their employees together. I want to work with all of the state premiers and chief ministers and bring them together. Australians have conflict fatigue. They have been through two really tough years and we have a prime minister whose incapable of doing what’s needed to take Australia forward. Thanks very much.
Q: Further on that question, are you saying – in response to your answer yesterday – you are saying that logically, wage increases should be tied to inflation? Because that’s what you seem to be suggesting.
No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that people on the minimum wage right now, right now – and I gave a speech last Thursday, I know some of you were at the lunch, but if you go back and have a look at the speech, what it spoke about was productivity as being the key.
What it spoke about was bringing unions and business together for common interest to work together on that common interest.
To grow productivity ... you can have wages increase and profits increase whilst not putting inflationary pressure [on] ...
And that was the centre of my speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry last Thursday, that’s my position.
But ... when people at the moment, when there is no childcare relief, when there’s nothing happening on the social wage, when there’s nothing happening at all to alleviate people’s concerns at a time when – if the Fair Work Commission, which makes these decisions independently of government, makes that decision, that people shouldn’t get a real wage cut, would I welcome it? Absolutely.
Q: But Mr Albanese, on that logic you are suggesting that OK, people right now are suffering, they are not seeing their wages increase, if there was an increase of 5.1% you would welcome that. By that logic if inflation goes up to 6% next year ...
That’s not logic.
Q: ... isn’t that the same situation.
No, we have a – I have just gone through and it I don’t think you were there last Thursday but I encourage you to go read the speech.
Q: I watched it in the office, it was a great speech.
Thank you very much. Thank you for that endorsement.
I’m glad you watched. But what it spoke about was how you get wage growth and profit growth, it is something that without putting inflationary pressure on.
And we did that - this isn’t in the absence of debates and discussions I’ve had with the business community, with the union movement, I’ve said we will convene a full employment summit.
A full employment summit. And that - part of that agenda will be about how we improve economic growth, how about we improve it in a way that deals with inflationary pressures which is there, and we get win-wins.
It’s been possible in the past. The problem for this government is they don’t have plans, all they have is arguments and criticisms.
And at the moment we have a circumstance whereby this debate specifically is about whether people who are on far less than anyone in this press conference, far less.
These are people who are earning $20.33 an hour, whether they should get $1 more.
... I’m the Labor leader but I’m amazed that this is not a bipartisan issue because this is a government that had been prepared to go back, did a budget just a short while ago, whereby they made changes to petrol, they gave a $250 handout, they did all of this cost of living relief, saying there was a cost of living crisis.
Well, there is a cost of living crisis, people are doing it tough and that is why there needs to be action.
Q: What do you think the rate of inflation will be in a year’s time under Labor?
That’s a question for economists. The idea that ...
Q: It’s a question for a prime minister.
No, the idea that anyone could predict what the rate of inflation was a year ago now is of course a triumph of hope over experience.
Albanese says Labor is 'underpromising, so that we overdeliver'
Q: Is it wrong to link ... minimum wage rises to CPI? And there was a question you were asked before by one of the women chatting about parenthood, why won’t Labor take adding superannuation to Paid Parental Leave to this election?
Because I have said I would like to do that, it’s something that would be a positive move.
But one of the things we are doing at this election is underpromising, so that we overdeliver.
We are in a position whereby we have a trillion dollars of debt, so we are not promising to do everything that we would like to do in our first term. And so I have made it clear would that be a good thing? Yes.
Are we in a position to promise things that might be difficult to deliver, no. We are being very clear and very up front. One of the things I’ve done during this campaign is that I speak about polling day, which we now know is May 21 but I also speak about the next election in three years time.
And I want to be in a position whereby I say, we said we will deliver cheaper childcare, and it’s happen we said we would address cost of living and we are doing that.
We said we would make more things here and it’s happening. We said we would be addressing climate change, and it’s happening. We are seeing that private sector investment in renewables. In renewables.
Q: On the conversation we are having right now, yesterday the question to you was would you support wage hikes of at least 5.1%. To which you said “absolutely”. So, is that – were you saying absolutely to minimum ...
That wasn’t what the question said. No, the question was – it went to, you don’t want people to go backwards, does that mean you would support a wage hike of 5% [5.1%] just to keep up with inflation. My answer ... was absolutely, and I stand by it.
Q: On the debate if I can. Are you looking forward to it? What can we expect? Do we need a whip and a chair?
I am looking forward to it.
The last debate was pretty rigorous. It’s fair to say. And it should, of course – there should be some rigour because we are talking about important issues.
It’s an opportunity for me tonight to further outline our plan for a better future. The big issue in this election campaign is cost of living. Is cost of living.
And whether people are left behind or whether people are held back.
But it’s about other things as well. It’s about a plan for the future. On Sunday night the prime minister put forward no plan for the present let alone one for future. We have plans like childcare reform that will boost the economy, that will boost productivity.
And I want to talk about that tonight. I want to talk about a future made here in Australia. I want to talk about more secure work. I want to talk about addressing the cost of living challenges. I want to talk about the opportunity that’s there from acting on climate change. We need more than just three more years of the same. That is what we need.
Q: On the detail of the Fair Work Commission process, you still have time to put in a submission, you said yesterday Labor won’t do that.
I think the Fair Work Commission are probably clear about what our view is on those issues.
Q: I haven’t finished. I just want to ask the –
You want a second question.
Other journalists chime in, saying: “She hasn’t finished her question.”
Q: On the detail will you put forward explicitly 5.1% in Labor’s proposal.
Well, if I was doing that, then that would be an announcement. But I think it’s very clear.
... No, it’s very clear what our view is. And I think the Commission probably have heard that.
Q: Absolutely, that was the word you used.
Yes, and I stand by that.
Q: In the last election Labor made a virtue of the fact that you announced your final costings earlier in the campaign. Didn’t keep it to the last minute. This time you appear to be doing the opposite.
Isn’t that treating voters like mugs? No detail until the very end of the campaign when a lot of people probably don’t have time to think it through carefully.
We are - we will announce all of our costings in the usual way like oppositions always have.
Q: Last time you criticised the government for leaving it too late.
Q: Labor did.
Q: Labor did. Why won’t you answer the question?
Well, I’ve answered the question. We will release our costing in the usual way as oppositions have.
Q: You said earlier today it was nonsense that a wage hike to the minimum wage to 5.1% would be inflationary or drive up interest rates. How can you make that promise, given interest rates are set by the RBA? And can you guarantee that homeowners across Australia will not be paying more on their mortgage rate?
The Reserve Bank had been saying for a long period of time that one of the handbrakes on our economy has been wages. The Reserve Bank governor has been talking about this for just about every major speech that he has been giving. For a long period of time. And my comments are perfectly consistent with that.
Q: Just on increasing the minimum wage by 5.1%, do you accept there will broader implications with that? It applies not just to those earning the lowest wages in the country, but also those on EBAs, it applies to penalty rates and could wind up costing employers a whole lot more.
Enterprise bargaining agreements of course are separate from the minimum wage. There are linkages – we do not have centralised wage fixation in country. What we have is a series of wage cases, including the minimum wage case which is under way at the moment.
Q: You say that you don’t want people going backwards, would you say that you want wages to be pinned to CPI?
When I was asked would I welcome wages for minimum wages, keeping up with the cost of living, I answered yes.
Because I would. Because that is what we’ve been arguing on. We have ads on the TV.
We have ads on the TV at the moment talking about this, we’ve had them throughout the campaign and you know what, I find it astonishing, I find it astonishing that a prime minister ... is presiding over a circumstance whereby punters who go up to the local shops here are paying extra for their meat and veggies, they are paying extra for petrol and extra for childcare, they are paying extra for all costs of living, all the costs of living.
... Those people on the minimum wage, what we are talking about here? Who are we talking about? We are talking about cleaners, we are talking about retail workers. We are talking about people really struggling to get by.
It’s not enough. It is not enough to say – it is not enough to say “thank you for what you did getting us through the pandemic”, and then saying “we want to cut your real wage”. That is what Scott Morrison is saying.
Anthony Albanese calls for order with the press pack when everyone starts talking at once.
Order! When you finish I will give someone the call.
Q: Next year, if inflation rises by 7% would you advocate for a wage hike of 7%?
What we are talking about here is a circumstance whereby people have been going backwards. During this campaign we have made it very clear that people are being left behind on this government’s watch, that the cost of everything is going up.
The cost of everything is going up but people’s wages aren’t.
Q: If you are in government will your submission to the Fair Work Commission recommend a 5.1% wage increase, and if not, have you jumped the gun on this?
Not at all. We have been running ... a campaign every day of this campaign about cost of living. And one of the themes of our campaign including at the campaign launch was – no one left behind.
What we are talking about here is the circumstances right now where people are doing it really tough, they are on $20.33 an hour. $20.33 an hour.
Those people will not benefit from any of the tax cuts that will come in. They are on $20.33 an hour.
The cost of everything that they buy is going up but their wages aren’t. Scott Morrison – Scott Morrison says that that’s OK. And when I raised – when I raised it in the debate on Channel Nine on Sunday night, I got two questions to the prime minister, I prioritised. The issue of, should Australians be paid at least the minimum wage? He couldn’t even agree to that.
Last year, the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage by 2.5% meant an increase of $0.49 an hour.
Anthony Albanese pushes back against Scott Morrison wage attack
Anthony Albanese is talking childcare with Amanda Rishworth in North Sydney – but he really wants to talk about Scott Morrison’s attacks on wage growth:
I note that Scott Morrison is once again being loose with the truth. What we are talking about here is the lowest paid workers in Australia.
Those people who are really struggling with cost of living increases.
What Scott Morrison says is that it is OK to find $30 million for a block of land that is worth $3 million.
It is OK his government can always find money for sports rorts, for commuter car park rorts, for all of this activity, but he is OK to waste those billions of dollars.
A billion dollars literally on advertising of the government itself. But backing a $1 an hour pay increase is not OK. Workers who are paid $20.33 an hour to be paid $1 extra – that is what this debate is about.
Scott Morrison has made a conscious decision over the last decade of driving down wages. They say it is a key feature of their economic architecture and they have indeed achieved that.
Childcare is the focus of Labor’s campaign this morning:
It’s not just home loan interest rates increasing – the rates on bonds are going up too:
Earlier this week we had ANZ’s weekly snapshot of consumer sentiment showing a modest drop. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute’s monthly survey, though, is revealing a sharper dive in shoppers’ moods.
The latter survey collected the views of 1200 respondents over five days that took in the RBA’s first rate rise (a surprisingly big one) in 11 years, and also the shock annual 5.1% CPI rise during the March quarter.
The WMI index slumped 5.6% to 90.4 for the month, and is at the lowest level since August 2020. Excluding the Covid distortions – which seem to have evaporated – the dive is the most since June 2015. That coincided with global market turmoil, which seems to be creeping back in now too.
Westpac blamed the recent drop on the combination of rising cost of living pressures and the prospect of rising interest rates. Still, actual spending is much more buoyant over 2022 to date, as households respond to the reopening of the economy.
While headline inflation pressures may ease from this point, consumers are aware that the Reserve Bank plans to continue increasing the cash rate for some time.
Our May survey found 77% of respondents expect mortgage interest rates to rise over the next 12 months, up from 70% last month. But it is even more significant that 52% expect rates to rise by more than 1%, up from just 34% only one month ago.
Labor’s candidate for Reid, Sally Sitou, has asked for an apology from the Liberal member for Reid, Dr Fiona Martin, over an assertion Martin made during a radio debate between the pair:
Scott Morrison has spent most of this campaign poo-pooing Anthony Albanese’s “increase wages” line by saying he “doesn’t have a magic pen/wand” to raise wages, and is making a promise he has no influence over.
Since the RBA lifted the official cash rate, Morrison has made it clear he does not believe the government has any impact on interest rate rises.
Governments make submissions to the Fair Work Commission as part of the process, about what it believes needs to happen with the minimum wage. Last year, the government submitted the FWC should “take a cautious approach” to raising the minimum wage.
According to Morrison this week, not only does Albanese’s opinion have the power to influence things Albanese writing a letter as prime minister apparently didn’t have any influence over, it will also lead to higher interest rates.
But at the same time, Morrison does not have an opinion on an independent process. Except his opinion on what Albanese’s opinion could do.
The press conference ends.
Q: Why haven’t you disendorsed your candidate for Lilley?
Those matters are – sorry, did you say the candidate for Labor? Sorry, I thought you said the candidate for Labor. I was going to say that has nothing to do with me.
Those matters are working their way through with the relevant authorities there and people are cooperating fully with those matters and I would expect them to do that.
But ultimately – and I will leave you on this – this is a choice, as I say every single day. And it’s the responsible choice, the responsible choice at a time of great upheaval globally, with our economy, with international security, the responsible choice is for the Liberals and the Nationals – I’m just finishing up – The Liberals and Nationals is the responsible choice when it comes to the economy, and national security.
With Labor you just don’t know what’s going to pop into Anthony Albanese’s head any day and what he will blurt out and what that will mean for your interest rates, for your cost of living, and indeed Australia’s national security. Thanks very much everyone.
Q: If you win government but Josh Frydenberg loses his seat, who will be the next treasurer?
That’s not something I’m speculating on because I know Josh will be returned.
Q: Isn’t it hypocritical you attack Labor for not confirming who the defence minister will be but, if the polls are accurate, Josh Frydenberg will not be treasurer [after the election]?
You know my view about the polls. Josh Frydenberg will the treasurer. I still don’t know who Anthony Albanese’s defence minister is going to be, I don’t know who his home affairs minister is going to be.
[Do you know who will be your treasurer?]
Yes, it is Josh Frydenberg.
Q: What personal would you be comfortable with then given all of the fact that you have just mentioned, or is it just no dice on a real wage rise.
The figure I have always been comfortable with, and that is what is calmly determined, sensibly, by the independent process that looks at all of these factors.
That’s - that’s what discipline is. That’s what financial discipline works. Now, as you know, we have...
Q: [ The government makes a submission to FWC, so how can ou say it is wrong for any politician to suggest any increase when you go to fair work.]
As you know that’s never been our government’s policy and nor was it the previous government’s policy as you recall.
Q: If Fair Work come up with 5.1% are they wrong?
I’m not speculating about what Fair Work is going to say. Anthony Albanese is the one who was recklessly making comments in this area, and he doesn’t seem to understand. So you know, when you’ve been a Treasurer for three years and a prime Minister for four years, you understand that careless speculation can lead to real world impacts in the economy. You don’t get - you don’t get the latitude to be loose like Mr Albanese was yesterday.
And that shows that he’s not up to the job, the job is bigger than him, he doesn’t understand the economy and if that’s not true he is seeking to take you for a ride.
Q: The RBA has said that real wages won’t increase until the end of 2023, with unemployment reaching almost full employment in that time and businesses only just starting to offer wage rises, what are Australians supposed to do in the next 18 months when the RBA is saying that real wages won’t increase in that time, how do they pay for things?
They won’t be able to pay for things if inflation goes even higher and interest rates go even higher. That is why what Anthony Albanese is speculating on and running off at the mouth on, would only make that situation worse. It would only make it worse.
Labor would make the very issues you’re highlighting worse under what they are proposing.
(A journalist repeats the question.)
Q: Is it correct to say then that you – any workers will not see a real wage increase until that inflation number comes down? And would your government do anything to ... look at trying to ease those global factors that you keep saying are causing Australia’s higher inflation level, particularly around supply chains?
... There are two things driving those inflation numbers at the moment. One is, of course, what’s happening with the – there’s a range of immediate factors. Let’s call them that. There is the war in the Ukraine, there is the shutdown in China because of Covid, and also we will continue to see, particularly this quarter, and perhaps the next quarter, the impact of the floods in Australia and what that means for fruit and veg prices and we have seen that when there is cyclones and other disasters in parts of the country in the past.
That will put pressure on prices. And they are things that occur well outside Australia’s control. The structural factors that are driving inflation are about those supply chain pressures that we are seeing which is a lag and a direct consequence of the pandemic.
And that’s why what we are talking about here, advanced manufacturing, linking up supply chain in Australia, critical supply chain work, whether it be in the critical rare earth minerals and so on – that’s what helps moving the supply chain efficiently.
On top of that, it’s ensuring that we keep getting people into jobs, keep that pressure in the system, which leads to sustainable wage rises, supported by businesses that stay in business.
I mean, this is one of the most difficult times with the pressures that are on the global economy and hence the Australian economy, that we have seen in a very long time.
And how we manage that must be sensitive, must be responsible, must be disciplined.
Now, what we saw yesterday from Mr Anthony Albanese, what we saw yesterday from Mr Albanese was loose. It was ill-considered.
It showed a lack of understanding of the relationship between wages and inflation, and interest rates. If you want your interest rates to be skyrocketing, as a result of what Anthony Albanese is suggesting, well, he’s your guy.
But what I’m saying, is Anthony Albanese will make it worse.
Q: Prime Minister, today you are quoted as saying that it is economic vandalism ...
I didn’t say that.
Q: I want to confirm that, do you think it is vandalism ...
I didn’t say that.
Q: You are not calling him a vandal?
I didn’t. That is a misquote in the paper. They were not my words.
Q: What is wrong with asking for a pay rise?
There is nothing wrong with asking for a pay rise but, obviously, it – and the Reserve Bank governor has said very clearly, that is what we are seeing in our economy, and the reason we are seeing that is because unemployment is coming down and businesses are growing and becoming stronger. That is where pay rises come from.
They come from businesses doing well*, not being shut down by reckless policy, by a Labor party that would see not only your interest rates go up more than they might otherwise do, or your cost of living go up even more, getting into a vicious spiral, going up and up and up.
What is he next proposing, if it goes to 6% they have to go by that and when that pushes it up to 7%, they go by that? That is how we ended up with 18% interest rates in this country under Labor.
That is what causes the worst of all outcomes, which is a crash in the economy. That is not responsible.
*Wage growth was stagnant before the pandemic in Australia.
Q: If you say that 5.1% for the minimum wage is a crazy pay rise and you think is a terrible idea – given the government has said it wants to see people earn more, what would be a more sensible minimum pay rise? And please don’t say the Fair Work Commission decides this or businesses determine wages. We have heard that from you before.
You are attacking Albanese for what he is saying, what is your alternative, sensible solution and that you propose is 5.1% is too high?
An independent process that carefully calibrates and considers all the things in the economy that is sustainable.
Q: You are attacking Anthony Albanese ...
I am attacking him for being thoughtless and not having a clue about the economy and not understanding how the economy works and not respecting the process of an independent setting of minimum wage conditions in this country and I will tell you why that is important, small businesses, businesses around the country have to make decisions about how they invest, how many people they employ.
They don’t want these things set by some erratic statement of a politician. They want this stuff to be carefully considered. Mr Albanese showed yesterday that he is a complete loose unit on this stuff.
He just runs off at the mouth. It is like he just unzips his head and lets everything fall on the table. That is no way to run an economy because that only leads, if you vote Labor, to having a leader who can make interest rates worse, who can make inflation worse.
Q: If you don’t support a wage increase of 5.1%, are you OK, comfortable with some of Australia’s lowest paid workers essentially getting a real wage cut?
The Fair Work Commission is the appropriate body to look at all of the economic implications for where they set the minimum wage. If we wanted politicians to make this up, that is what we would have done. That is not wise.
In the same way the Reserve Bank goes and works out what interest rates should be and looks at all the various information and all the implications for the decisions they have to make, this is a very similar process.
It provides certainty, it provides stability in the management of our economy.
It is not a place where you will see the thought bubbles we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday and they will think through because this is the end game of what Anthony Albanese says. He will say “Here is a 5.1% increase in your wages”, but then “Here is the interest rates you have to pay”, and “Here is the cost of living that it causes”. He pretends to give with one hand and then he sees interest rates and cost of living rises take it all back from you.
Q: You are comfortable with some of Australia’s lowest paid workers getting a real wage cut?
What I am saying is you need to balance all these things very carefully. That is what responsible economic management is. These are complex issues. What is the point of allowing someone to be put in a position where they are paying more and more, even more as a result of the inflationary impacts of what he was saying yesterday, let alone the impacts on interest rates which already have great pressure on them. This would only see interest rates rise even higher.
Is there any wonder that why, when Labor gets into power, that we see a deterioration around these things because they just don’t think about it. There is a reason why Anthony Albanese was never given a financial portfolio by ...
Q: But ...
I haven’t finished. Hasn’t been given a financial portfolio by any of the Labor leaders in the past. They knew he couldn’t be trusted with money. He is like someone working in a small business who they won’t let near the till, and the Australian people shouldn’t let him near the till.
It was only Monday that Scott Morrison was saying:
There’s no magic pen from Anthony Albanese that makes your wages go up.
But today apparently, Morrison believes Albanese has the power to destroy the economy with just an opinion on what the minimum wage rise should be.
We will hear a lot more about this in the answers:
What he said yesterday puts a chain reaction in place – dominoes fall that lead to higher interest rates and higher cost of living.
If he doesn’t understand that ... that tells you everything you need to know about what he doesn’t understand about the Australian economy. If he does understand it, he’s playing you for a mug.
He thinks he can run around at this election saying he can increase peoples’ wages and at the same time, see cost of living pressures fall and pressure on interest rates to remain down.
It just doesn’t work like that, you either don’t know what you are talking about and you are not up to the job, or you are taking the Australian people for a ride and I have called you out, Anthony.
'What we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday was reckless,' says Scott Morrison
But Scott Morrison really wants to talk about Anthony Albanese:
What we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday was reckless.
It was incredibly reckless. We all want to see wages go up, and indeed, the Reserve Bank governor has made it very clear that we are seeing wages starting to go up, but the way you engage in economic policy is not in the loose way we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday.
Anthony Albanese is a loose unit on the economy. We saw that right at the start of the campaign.
He didn’t know what unemployment was. He didn’t know what the cash rate was. He says his policies are costed but they’re not costed.
When it comes to what he said yesterday, ill thought through, not understanding the potential consequences of what he was saying.
Yesterday, in what he said yesterday, it is like throwing fuel on the fire of rising interest rates and rising cost of living. He has had a lot to say about cost of living.
He has got no solutions or policies to put downward pressure on it and what he did yesterday would only exacerbate it, it would only make the problem worse.
Anthony Albanese’s intervention yesterday and his thoughtlessness on this would actually make inflation worse, it would make interest rates rise even higher, it would threaten the strong growth we have had in employment and, ultimately, it would force small businesses, potentially out of business altogether.
Scott Morrison announces 'new technology' manufacturing program
We have another pamphlet – this time on manufacturing.
This is a government, in our government, that is investing in the things that ensures the Australian economy can grow, and it is investing in the people, it is investing in their ideas, it is investing in their collaboration and their partnerships because that is what turns things around, that’s what creates the opportunity.
Australia is coming out of this pandemic stronger than all of the advanced economies in the world and the G7.
We have stronger economic growth, we have an outstanding world class health system, an outstanding world class education system – and what we’re building in the collaboration here between our universities and our companies will enable them to take advantage of the economic opportunities that Australia has in the years ahead. One of the biggest beneficiaries of that will be regional Australia – regions like right here in the Hunter.
Three weeks ago, we looked here at the challenges facing the Australian Electoral Commission in trying to recruit more than 100,000 employees at a time when the jobless rate was at about a 50-year low.
We’ll get the ABS’s April labour figures on 19 May, two days before the polls close, and a day after the March quarter wage price index data drops. That will tell us a bit more about how tight the jobs market is.
The AEC tells us the recruitment for AEC temporary election staff across the country “is going extremely well”. A spokesperson said:
With approximately 105,000 staffing positions we’ve had more than 200,000 people who’ve registered their interest which is fantastic.
That said, in some regional centres the AEC is competing against other industries such as mining and presumably seasonal farm workers. And there’s the challenge of ensuring some back-up recruits are on hand in case Covid disrupts sites at the last minute:
We expect and have planned for the furloughing of some staff, but with the scale and complexity of the election in a pandemic across Australia’s vast geography, some venues could be impacted at short notice.
Anyway, if you’re interested, there are still jobs going, and you can sign up here.
Queensland woman dies in flood waters
A woman has died in flood waters in north Queensland, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament on Wednesday.
Emergency crews were frantically searching for a woman after a car washed away in Mount Ossa, north of Mackay.
“I’m advised they have recovered the body … I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and I sincerely hope that this is the last tragedy,” Palaszczuk said.
A Queensland Fire and Emergency Service spokesperson said they received a call around 5am on Wednesday about a missing woman and a vehicle washed into flood waters at Seaforth Rd and Surprise Creek Rd.
A police spokesperson told Guardian Australia they believed two people had managed to escape the vehicle.
Palaszczuk said the incident was “a stark reminder” of the dangers of weather events.
She said the SES has responded to more than 110 requests for assistance since 3pm on Tuesday.
Authorities have confirmed a woman has died in Queensland flood waters.
A woman has died after the car she was in became submerged in flood waters triggered by days of torrential rain in north Queensland.
The woman became trapped in the vehicle with two other people on Surprise Creek Rd at Mount Ossa, north of Mackay, about 5am on Wednesday.
The two others escaped from the car, but the woman’s body was found a short time later.
The Queensland Ambulance Service said one of the people who survived was treated for a cut to their head.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services received more than 90 calls for help in the state’s north as six-hour rainfall totals reached 240mm in some areas by 1am on Wednesday.
“Although rain is expected to move off the coast in the state’s north today, a large number of roads remain flooded,” QFES said in a statement.
“Please avoid unnecessary travel and don’t risk it on flooded roads and causeways.
“If it’s flooded, forget it.”
Rainfall records tumbled at the Hughenden, Richmond and Cloncurry airports on Tuesday as those inland regions recorded their highest May totals ever.
Townsville is set for totals up to 250mm on Wednesday and Thursday with the severe weather warning indicating up to 200mm in a six-hour period.
“That whole area under the severe weather warning could see flash and riverine flooding,” Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Laura Boekel said on Tuesday.
A flood watch is current for dozens of river and creek catchments across Queensland and almost 300 roads have been cut by flood waters.
In the south-east, heavy rain hit the Sunshine Coast and northern Brisbane, with 135mm falling at Mapleton and 113mm at Maleny.
“If you are on the road this morning take extra care and plan your drive. If you come across flood water, back it up and find an alternate route,” QFES said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
“With the ground already saturated and further heavy rainfall possible, there is a risk of flash flooding today and over the coming days.”
Seqwater has alerted Moreton Bay region residents it has started flood releases from North Pine Dam, with releases also set to start from Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams into the Brisbane River from 10am.
The utility expects the releases to flood Savages Crossing, Colleges Crossing, Burtons Bridge and Kholo Bridge downstream, but not Fernvale Bridge.
“If you are downstream of the dam, stay away from fast flowing or deep water near waterways and floodplains,” Seqwater said.
Scott Morrison is campaigning in Newcastle (Labor MP Pat Conroy’s seat of Shortland) this morning.
Both Morrison and Anthony Albanese will be keeping close to NSW, given the debate in Seven’s Sydney studios tonight.
Victoria to become first state to ban Nazi symbol
The Victorian government is set to become the first Australia state or territory to ban the Nazi symbol, with legislation to be introduced to state parliament today.
The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 will make it a criminal offence for a person to intentionally display the Nazi swastika, the Hakenkreuz, in public.
Once passed, anyone who intentionally displays the symbol in public faces penalties of up to almost $22,000, 12 months imprisonment or both.
The bill also recognises the cultural and historical significance of the swastika for the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faiths and does not prohibit its display in such contexts.
It comes after a parliamentary inquiry last year recommended the ban, citing a recent rise in neo-Nazi activity.
NSW is also working on similar legislation.
And in Tasmania, things are getting heated over preference suggestions.
Murph had an in-depth look at the battle for Tasmania a little earlier in the campaign:
Liberal MP Fiona Martin has denied confusing her opponent, Sally Sitou, for unsuccessful Labor aspirant in Fowler, Tu Le.
This morning, Martin accused Sitou of running in Reid because she “found an opportunity”. “And you couldn’t run in Fowler ... Kristina Keneally kicked you out of Fowler too.”
Martin told Guardian Australia:
Sally grew up in Fowler. Keneally reportedly declined Reid and went for Fowler. I think it makes sense to want to represent the area you grew up in or where you have a long association. Sally’s association with Reid is less than three years total.
So, on Martin’s version, she didn’t confuse Sitou and Tu Le, she was just speculating that Sitou might also have wanted to run in Fowler and also have been displaced by Keneally.
Earlier, Sitou told 2GB Radio:
I didn’t want to raise this, but I chose to live in this electorate because I love the community ... Now [Martin is] just making things up. That’s how ridiculous this debate has gotten. I’m sorry your listeners have had to listen to that.
Keneally only made a lower house tilt in 2021 after losing the battle for a winnable senate spot on the NSW Labor senate ticket to Deborah O’Neil.
In state news:
Liberal MP, Dr Fiona Martin, who is fighting to hold on to the Sydney electorate of Reid, debated her Labor challenger, Sally Sitou, on Sydney radio 2GB this morning.
Sitou, whose Chinese parents fled Laos after the Vietnam war, was preselected for the seat of Reid in October last year.
The debate got heated, particularly when it came to Martin not living in the electorate (she grew up in it, Sitou lives in it, but grew up in Fowler).
That led to this exchange:
You found an opportunity and you couldn’t run in Fowler. Kristina Keneally kicked you out of Fowler too.
Now she’s just making things up. I mean, that’s how ridiculous this debate has gotten. And I’m really sorry that your listeners have had to listen to that.
Tu Le, a lawyer with Vietnamese heritage, had been backed by retiring member Chris Hayes to replace him as Labor’s candidate for Fowler, but had her preselection over-ruled by the NSW Labor branch, who parachuted in Keneally.
Prepolls have only been open since Monday and more than 600,000 people have already lodged their vote.
And for those asking, yes, prepolls are counted on election night.
28 lives lost to Covid in NSW and Victoria
It has been another tragic 24 hours in Victoria in terms of the impact of Covid, with 17 lives lost.
NSW Health has reported 11 deaths.
The Liberal campaign have a new social media ad, aimed at putting the prime minister saying “that’s not my job” into context.
Peter Dutton has been sharing it this morning.
Tony Burke says Anthony Albanese was not making policy on the fly when he backed a figure for a minimum wage increase:
Q: Up until Anthony Albanese responded to that question at a media conference yesterday, Labor’s position on the Fair Work Commission case was it wasn’t going to back any figure. Was Anthony Albanese freelancing in responding that way?
Not at all. You heard all of us on many occasions for a long time now say people can’t keep going backward.
Q: Not backing a particular figure is what I’m saying.
No, the figure yesterday is the figure that, if you fall below, people are going backwards. Like, for a long time, we have been saying people can’t keep going backwards and as I say, yesterday the question was put as to the figure, which if you fall below people are – would start going backwards.
It’s unsurprising that Labor wants to make sure that wages can keep pace with the cost of living.
But as I say, he wasn’t questioned on it yesterday because he didn’t face the media scrum again after Anthony Albanese had answered that question.
But today, it’s on Scott Morrison to explain why he believes Australian workers should go backwards, because let’s not forget, in the debate the other night, it wasn’t only this – we know now his position is that real wages should fall.
When he was asked directly whether Australians should even be at least paid the minimum wage, his response was, “It depends.”
We have a prime minister here whose not only refusing to support wages keeping pace with the cost of living, he’s also refusing to back in their being a safety net for a whole lot of workers.
Q: The prime minister has responded through the Australian late yesterday where he described Anthony Albanese’s comments as “economic vandalism”. You should factor – surely you factor in any increase of that magnitude by the Fair Work Commission would have clear flow-on effects to inflation and then interest rates?
Well, have a look at both what the Treasury secretary and the RBA have said with respect to inflationary pressures where both of them have made clear that you can go to inflation plus productivity, productivity is currently running at 1%, and if wage increases are in line with inflation plus productivity, then you should not be having inflationary pressures.
Last year, for example, when inflation was forecast to run with a number with a 1 in front of it, the annual wage review still put forward a wage increase of 2.5%. It’s not unheard of at all for the annual wage review to go in front of inflation so long as you don’t go inflation plus productivity, it doesn’t have an inflationary impact.
What’s happening now is when people are finding it harder than ever; when the cost of living is, in fact, going backwards for a whole lot of wage earners across the country, it’s at this moment that Mr Morrison is refusing to say that wages should even keep up.
Q: A lot of business operators, a lot of business owners, also thought it was extraordinary as well, Tony Burke, in the sense they’re now worried how they’ll pay a potential 5.1% increase.
Look, I have got a good relationship with a lot of those business organisations that have been in the media and there’s different issues in terms of productivity that we have had very constructive conversations about.
But in terms of the annual wage review, I do have to say – some of those commentators, most of them actually, for nearly a decade have been saying, “We can’t have wage increases because inflation is low.” And now they’re saying we can’t have wage increases because inflation is high. The reality is...
Q: They’re saying – they want wage increases, for instance, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is making it 3% wage rise for minimum wage earners, it argues that is more realistic?
Sorry, that’s a pay cut. If, inflation is running at 5.1%, then the figure you have just nominated there is a pay cut.
The people who are most reliant on the annual wage review are the people on the lowest wages. The minimum wage in Australia is $20.33 an hour, these are the people who are the heroes of the pandemic, who have kept the economy running during a time where a whole lot of us on higher incomes were able to work from laptops, but they weren’t, turned up, put themselves in harm’s way in different ways, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, and they’re the people who find it the hardest to make ends meet.
They’re the people who are in the least capacity to draw down on savings and they’re the people who, more than anyone, need to make sure that wages can keep up with the cost of living and they don’t keep going backward.
Labor’s Tony Burke was on the same program responding to criticisms of Anthony Albanese’s support for a minimum wage increase in line with inflation:
For nearly a decade, this government has had low wages as a deliberate design feature of their economic management.
They wanted to deliberately keep wages low and they have. Labor wants to get wages moving again and we will.
We cannot have a situation when everything is going up except wages and people keep going backwards.
And that’s what Anthony Albanese made clear yesterday.
The extraordinary thing about this story is not that Labor wants to make sure that wages keep pace with the cost of living, the extraordinary thing about this story is Scott Morrison doesn’t.
He – the outrage we’re seeing from him and his ministers at the moment as though somehow it would be a terrible thing for Australians to stop going backwards really says it all, that he doesn’t understand anything about what’s happening in the household budget at the moment.
Jane Hume then seemingly defends Scott Morrison’s criticism of barristers and lawyers yesterday as being taken out of context:
Q: Where have we become, as a nation, when the Prime Minister of Australia yesterday said that he has no truck with barristers and lawyers?
Well, I don’t think he said that he has no truck with the legal system.
Q: No, no. No. He said - I’m going to read the quote here. “They disagree with me all the time. I have never had much truck with them - bars and lawyers - over the course of my entire political career.”
I’m not entirely sure of the context of that comment but I can assure you the Prime Minister upholds the rule of law and respects the legal profession.
Q: The Bar Association is very angry about this. Matt Collins QC, who you probably know, a prominent silk in Melbourne, said this is an attack on Australia’s hard-working 6,500 barristers, making the point - which really doesn’t have to be made - barristers and lawyers are a key part of the system in Australia in terms of administering justice. Again, where are we at in a country with the Prime Minister saying he has no truck with barristers and lawyers.
I don’t think this is a comment worth taking out of context.
Q: Well, the context is he was asked about the ICAC, his criticisms of the New South Wales ICAC, which he stood behind and then he pivoted to this. I’ll read the quote again. “They disagree with me all the time” - this is barristers and former judges who criticised the Prime Minister for criticising the New South Wales ICAC - “they disagree with me all the time. I’ve never had much truck with them over the course of my political career”.
In the context of the Icac, the Government wants to make sure there is a Commonwealth integrity commission introduced in the life this parliament but we want to make sure that it’s one that presumes innocence, not guilt, that it doesn’t turn into a show trial, that it isn’t simply Icac on 24/7TV. We want to make sure it delivers integrity.
Q: Do you agree that ICAC is kangaroo court?
I didn’t say that. The Prime Minister said that.
Q: What do you think of the Prime Minister describing it as a kangaroo court?
We want to make sure - I do, as the Prime Minister, and the Coalition Government - that any Commonwealth integrity commission delivers justice, it delivers a presumption of innocence and it doesn’t deliver a show trial which is exactly what the Prime Minister is objecting too.
Talking points on Katherine Deves have obviously been sent out to Coalition MPs – compare this interview with Jane Hume to the earlier post on Stuart Robert talking on the same subject.
Q: The Liberal candidate for Warringah says transgender people who transition are surgically mutilated. The prime minister has defended those comments. Do you defend those comments?
I think that Katherine Deves is fighting for an important cause, which is fairness for women in sport ...
(There are already rules in place for most sporting codes to handle trans people in sport.)
Q: Yeah, she is fighting that cause, but I will stick to the question. This has to do with her assertion that transgender people are mutilated – mutilated – when they transition. Do you, like the prime minister did yesterday, defend those comments?
I would not use those words. I wouldn’t use them on social media, and I wouldn’t use them in conversation with you or anyone. That said, Katherine Deves is fighting for an important cause.
Q: Should that have been what the prime minister said yesterday?
I’m not going to pass judgement on what the prime minister did or didn’t say. But the most important thing is Katherine Deves is fighting for an important cause, which is fairness for women being able to play in sport fairly and equally.
Q: She’s making that argument but again she goes back to her assertions on transgender people. How do you think that will play – and you’ve been campaigning in seats under threat from teal independents in Melbourne – how will that play with the campaigns of Tim Wilson in Goldstein, Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong?
I think there’s an awful lot of women in those seats that want to make sure that they and their daughters can play fairly and equally in sport. In sport.
Q: How would parents of [trans children], for argument’s sake, feel about the comments of Katherine Deves?
I’m not going to second-guess how people would feel about those comments. Suffice to say ...
Q: You don’t think they’d be, at the very least, upset?
These are sensitive issues and should be approached cautiously, making sure our language is not insensitive in the way it’s expressed, because these are important issues and we know that particularly transgender children are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
On the issue of wage growth, Paul Karp has taken a look at some of the issues:
Jim Stanford, the director of the Centre for Future Work, told Guardian Australia that ‘wages didn’t cause the current inflation’, which he blamed on “supply chains, the oil price spike, and an initial surge in post-pandemic spending”.
‘Telling workers they need to just swallow a permanent reduction in earnings, as a result of inflation they didn’t cause, in order to prevent future inflation, is neither fair nor economically justified,’ he said.
Stanford is a co-author of a report titled The Wages Crisis: Revisited that finds that since 2013, nominal wages have become locked into a trajectory of about 2% growth a year, about half the rate of before 2013.
Scott Morrison has argued during the election campaign that there is no ‘magic pen’ that can drive wages higher, and only low unemployment can do that.
But the report, also co-authored by professor Andrew Stewart and associate professor Tess Hardy, finds there is no systematic relationship between wage growth and labour demand and that Australia has had among the weakest wage growth in the OECD despite stronger macro conditions.
Q: What does it say to you – and what should voters read from the fact that you’ve been in power for eight and a half years and real wages have been anaemic at best?
We know this is not just an issue in Australia. I wouldn’t say anaemic. In fact, real wages have grown.
Q: Not by much, though.
They haven’t grown at the rate we would like to see, but that’s because of a number of issues, and it’s not just Australia that has experienced [them].
Q: But you’ve had eight and a half years in power to address this problem. Surely voters can look back at that and ask serious questions as to, what has the Coalition done to improve my lot?
I think the most important statistic that Australian voters should take to this election is that unemployment is so exceptionally low. It’s at 4% and looks like heading below that.
Of course, when there is low unemployment, employers think differently. They think what can I do to attract and retain the best employees? What do I pay them? What are my workplace standards? What is going to bring the best and the brightest to my business?
That changes the dial. We haven’t included the fact – and the RBA did in its decision-making around interest rates – that around a million people last year, and just in the last couple of months of last year, changed jobs, and they changed jobs for a pay increase of somewhere between 8% and 10%. That only happens when unemployment is exceptionally low.
That’s why the Coalition is committed to another 1.3 million jobs over the next five years, keeping that unemployment rate low – 450,000 of those in the regions as well.
But what does the Coalition think should happen, given inflation? Hume says:
The Fair Work Commission will make its decision based on all sorts of information – the cost of living and making sure wage rises are sustainable, fair and appropriate in the future, that they won’t necessarily throw the economy so out of whack that interest rates end up rising and inflation ends up rising as well.
We want to make sure the economy is sustained at a steady growth rate. Too high wage rises would disrupt that.
Jane Hume was on ABC News Breakfast making the government’s case against Anthony Albanese’s support for a minimum wage increase in line with inflation:
What’s wrong is Anthony Albanese weighing in on the independent Fair Work Commission’s decision as to what it should do with minimum wages.
That would be unprecedented. No government should weigh in on the Fair Work Commission’s decision.
The government, of course, provides the Fair Work Commission with information and data around how to make that decision, but it certainly doesn’t weigh in with a position.
The Fair Work Commission is independent, just like the RBA is independent on interest rates.
The Fair Work Commission should always remain independent on minimum wages.
Patricia Karvelas asks Stuart Robert if the government is “using trans people as political footballs”.
No, not at all. I just want people to have respectful conversations and let the words be seasoned with grace.
Some conversations are difficult, and we should just be respectful.
We should have them – we should talk through the issues as a society because they are important.
PK: 10 days out from polling day, do you really think this is a top-order issue for Australians?
My personal view is not, but it seems to be a top order issue for many journalists.
PK: You’re blaming journalists for your own candidate in Warringah?
There’s no blame. But I’m happy to have a conversation, as is anyone standing for office, that the Australian people may may raise.
If I look at my own electorate, the biggest issue that people raise is cost of living, but I won’t shy away from any other conversation that people may seek to raise.
And I’d simply say to other Australians to echo the prime minister’s words, let’s have a graceful conversation.
Robert adopted exactly the same vocal tone as the prime minister as he discussed these issues, almost down to the same vocal inflections.
Stuart Robert and RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas have had a circular conversation about Katherine Deve’s comments about trans people and Scott Morrison’s ongoing support for his handpicked candidate.
Q: The prime minister has doubled down on his defence of Katherine Deves’s comments about transgender mutilation. Do you accept that that can’t be helping these MPs, including your own treasurer, in these seats that are being challenged [by teal independents]?
It is a difficult topic. They’re not words that I would use. The prime minister made this point yesterday they are not words that he would use. The issue is about girls and sport and there are some families struggling with some real issues and identity, we understand that.
We’d like to have a civil, a gentle conversation. I think seasoned with grace would be a good way to explain it because it is a difficult issue. It is an emotive issue, but a bit more graceful words I think would go a long way.
PK: Okay, so the prime minister said gender reversal* surgery for young adolescents, you know, is something that it’s you can’t go back on but there’s no gender reversal surgery for young adolescents. That’s what the doctors have told us. They’re the facts minister. Why did the prime minister get it wrong?
[*It is gender confirmation or affirmation surgery.]
I don’t believe the prime minister did get it wrong.
PK: But there is no gender [confirmation] surgery for people under 18. Do you accept that?
I’ll leave that to the medical experts because I’m not the health minister, so I can’t comment on something I’m not across in terms of the health advice in that respect.
The key issue here is if there’s to be a national conversation, and there should be on all issues that are difficult, let’s do it respectfully, let’s use language that is gracious. Let’s lift people up, not tear them down. It’s difficult for families. So we should talk about the issues. We should talk about girls and sport. We should talk about ...
PK: You say that. You talk about this as if this kind of approach should be taken. But isn’t it your own candidate and your own government, that’s been fuelling a very, very divisive debate on this?
And again, I’ll go back to the prime minister’s comments yesterday that they’re not words he would use and certainly not words...
PK: But he’s stood by her and she’s using them.
Well, we should stand by people who stand up for what they believe in. Ms Deves is a strong ...
PK: Even if what you believe in is using divisive language, when just a moment ago, you told me that divisive language shouldn’t be used?
It shouldn’t be used.
PK: So why stand by her?
Because she’s a strong passionate woman who’s got something to say. Now, I may disagree with some of the words and terms she uses. But she is trying to stand up for something she’s passionate about and have a conversation about it.
PK: What’s the conversation you’re trying to have?
The conversation she seeking to have is about girls playing girls in sport.
PK: No – she’s made comments about mutilation, trans people being mutilated, that’s not about playing sport, minister.
And again, they’re not words that we would use.
PK: And yet she’s been backed by the prime minister.
Because it’s an important issue she’s raising about girls in sport.
PK: What is the issue?
That when it comes to sport, girls play against girls, and those that were ostensibly biologically male, who then make a choice to become a girl, that that becomes uncompetitive in sport.
That’s the conversation she’s having. That’s what she’s stood up for. That’s her sense of belief. So let’s have the conversation. But we’d encourage everyone to do it gracefully.
[It should be noted that there are already rules in place to deal with trans people playing sport.]
Stuart Robert is outraged over Anthony Albanese’s stated support for a 5.1% minimum wage increase, as he speaks to ABC radio’s RN Breakfast.
The last thing you want is political leaders providing commentary on what the independent umpire should do.
But when asked about the inflationary pressure of the government’s own spending, Robert says that is completely different.
Treasury makes the point that the cost of living adjustment package in the budget did not have a deleterious effect in terms of of inflation, and the budgetary supports we provided were designed to assist Australians because we could see the external inflationary pressures coming upon our shores.
It’s the 31st day of the election campaign and we are still talking about all the things which dominated day one – it’s all just more intense now.
The third and final debate, this time hosted by the Seven Network, will be held tonight (after Big Brother) and comes at a time when both leaders are increasingly desperate to paint the other one as the risky desperado.
Scott Morrison thinks he has an in with Anthony Albanese’s assertion yesterday he “absolutely” would support a minimum wage increase of 5.1% to match inflation. Morrison is going with the “economic vandal” line – despite inflation expected to rise to about 6%.
Stagnant wage growth over the last few years (in real terms) has meant people have less money to spend as prices increase, and without a wage increase, they’ll have even less income. Keeping wages at pace with the cost of living means people can continue to buy the same amount of goods. If prices keep going up and wages don’t, cuts have to be made somewhere, meaning businesses lose out.
Morrison has seized on the line that a wage increase in line with inflation would only increase inflationary pressures, meaning rates would continue to rise and the cycle continues. But a 5.1% pay increase in a 5.1% inflation increase world wouldn’t mean people would have extra money – they would just be able to buy the same amount as they would have before inflation rose. You’ll be hearing more and more on that, though, over the next 10 days.
Meanwhile, Albanese will continue to push Morrison on a federal integrity commission, as the prime minister triples down on his attacks on NSW’s Icac. There’s also the not small issue of a new report showing 91% of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reefs have been impacted by bleaching.
(We haven’t heard a huge amount from the environment minister this campaign.)
We will bring you all the day’s events. It’s a five-coffee minimum these days. I’m on my second and it’s barely hitting the sides.
Ready? I know the feeling. My left eye won’t stop twitching, but alas, we all have work to do.
Let’s get into it.