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Federal election: Penny Wong, Marise Payne clash over relationship with Solomon Islands, China — as it happened

Watch ABC News Channel's comprehensive coverage of the 2022 Federal Election.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Labor's Foreign Affairs Shadow Minister Penny Wong clash in a debate at the National Press Club.

Look back on all of Friday's updates as they happened in our blog. 

Key events

Live updates

By Jessica Riga

We're going to wrap up our live coverage here

Thank you for your company today. We'll be back on Sunday to live blog the Liberal Party campaign launch.

And then after that ... we're into the final week of the election campaign! Can you believe it? 

You can continue to stay up to date here on our Australia Votes website.

Until next time, stay well! And if you're in Queensland, I hope you're able to stay safe during this severe weather. 

By Jessica Riga

The Liberal Party campaign launch is happening in Brisbane this Sunday

Mark your calendars. We'll be live blogging the whole thing right here on the ABC News website. 

By Jessica Riga

Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls himself a 'bulldozer' when it comes to policy.

By Jessica Riga

Election watchdog investigates use of 'dead air' delay in National Party robocall

A Nationals' robocall attacking an independent challenger is being investigated by authorities, over a lengthy silence inserted between the ad and its authorisation.

The improperly authorised message, targeted at voters in the Victorian seat of Nicholls, attacks independent candidate Rob Priestly.

"You've heard a lot about Rob Priestly, but have you heard where he stands on really important issues," the advertisement begins.

"Issues like the defence of our nation, like our relationship with China and issues like border protection and whether he supports higher taxes?"

"And why won't Rob Priestly say who he will support in the event of a hung parliament? What's he got to hide?"

After the voice message concludes, the call contains 10 seconds of "dead air", before finally running the authorisation message which reveals the advertisement is from the National Party.

By Jessica Riga

We looked into the conservative lobby group taking on former rugby star David Pocock. Here's what we found

Conservative lobby group Advance Australia has independent ACT Senate candidate David Pocock in its sights, with Facebook advertising data revealing that the group's offensive against the former rugby star is disproportionate to its campaigning against any other candidate.

By Jessica Riga

Chinese spy ship monitored off WA coast near Harold E Holt Naval Base

A high-tech Chinese surveillance ship has been tracked off the Western Australian coast, close to a secretive naval facility that supports American and other allied submarines.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has revealed the auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel was closely monitored by the ADF over the past week as it sailed south past the Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station at Exmouth.

“It’s come into the Australian exclusive economic zone, its intention its to collect intelligence,” Mr Dutton said.

Reporting by defence correspondent Andrew Greene

By Jessica Riga

Live in a marginal or unwinnable seat? It's likely your Labor or Coalition candidate is a woman

Described as "glass cliff candidates", women standing for both major parties still face a greater battle to get into parliament, with new analysis showing they are more likely to be running in a marginal or unwinnable seat than male counterparts. 

The report by the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at the Australian National University (ANU) showed while the number of women in parliament has grown, female candidates continue to be under-represented in safe, winnable, seats. 

It describes "glass cliff candidates" as women who are given opportunities at leadership and politics in times of crisis or when things are risky.

"That is, women are allowed to step in when men aren't interested," the report said.

The analysis looked at how many female candidates were standing for either the Coalition or Labor in the election in safe seats and compared it to the number standing in marginal seats or those considered unwinnable in the House of Representatives.

The researchers focused on the 137 seats where the main competition is between Labor and a Coalition — Liberal or National — candidate, and used the Australian Electoral Commission's definition of marginal and safe seat.

By Jessica Riga

When you have to campaign on your birthday

Scott Morrison turns 54 today. 

By Jessica Riga

Analysis: A dentist, a bulldozer or a leopard? Scott Morrison promises to change his spots

The Prime Minister’s appeal for voters to stick with a known quantity has been re-cast as a vow to transform anew. Scott Morrison is promising the last three years will be different to the Scott Morrison in the years ahead. In campaign terms, it is a tectonic shift, writes political reporter Melissa Clarke.

By Jessica Riga

Paddle boarders and politicians in paradise

Here's the latest from political reporter Matthew Doran, who is on the campaign trail with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. 

Picture this. You're on a tropical island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

Beginner scuba divers are bobbing around in the clear blue waters, as a pair of paddle boarders float by slowly.

"I'm having the time of my life," one proclaimed.

All you can hear is the lapping of waves on the shell covered beach, and the chatter of people lounging in the Autumnal sun.

Then, boom.

The serenity is pierced by a politician, their posse and pack of about two dozen media.

Welcome to paradise, in a marginal seat.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese made the trip to Fitzroy Island to spruik his green policies and, particularly, extra funding for the Great Barrier Reef.

Cash on the table to protect one of the nation's treasures is unlikely to ever be shunned, even if there's always a degree or two of scepticism about whether the money for the Reef ever actually achieves its ambitions.

But, it's another situation where Labor has to face questions about its own climate credentials, as it takes a whack at the Coalition's record.

One of the most difficult issues for Labor at the 2019 poll was the criticism it was trying to sell two messages on climate change: one in metro areas, and the other in regional parts of the country.

The message for city dwellers was that Labor would cut emissions faster than the Coalition.

But that didn't tally with the concerns of regional Australians, many working in blue collar industries, about their futures.

Where would they work, if the mines and factories were transitioning? To them, 'transition' became a synonym for 'close'.

Today. I asked the man who wants to be prime minister how he can claim he'd better protect the Reef when he also still supports the coal and gas industry in Queensland.

Was the announcement of extra funding for the Reef a treatment of the symptoms, rather than the cause of the Reef's demise?

His answer was that both can be supported at the same time — showing how it's a political tightrope still being walked in 2022.

After meeting one of the island's residents, Tommy the Turtle, the Albanese Bus — actually a boat, an opportunity for #Alboat to take off — pulled away from the wharf.

Staff of the resort on Fitzroy Island were smiling and waving to those on board.

As happy to see a commitment to protect their jobs in an industry tied to the fate of the Reef, as they were to see the serenity return.

By Jessica Riga

And that's where the debate wraps up

What were your thoughts on the foreign affairs debate between between Marise Payne and Penny Wong?

By Jessica Riga

And here is Penny Wong's closing statement

Our nation has not known such a vexing set of circumstances since the end of World War II. But I say to you this: The risks we face will simply be compounded by three more years of Mr Morrison. More of the same excuses, the same political games over national interest, the same buck-passing, whilst our problems only get bigger.

Anthony Albanese and Labor have a plan, a responsible plan for a better future. A Pacific policy to ensure we secure our region. Stepping up in South-East Asia to rebuild trust and meet challenges together, shared challenges together, including additional ODA and a special envoy for the region. And shaping the world for the better by taking action on climate, at home and abroad, and modern slavery.

What Iwould say to Australians is this: this will be a very loud, possibly quite angry last week of the election campaign. But when it comes to foreign policy, this is our commitment. If you elect Labor on 21 May, you will have a leader in Anthony Albanese who will always put Australia's national interests first. You will have a foreign minister with clout. You will have a cabinet that works together to maximise Australia's influence in the world and to secure our region. You will see more leadership, more energy, and more resources. We will take responsibility and we will act. We won't pass the buck. Thank you for your time today.

By Jessica Riga

Here is Marise Payne's closing statement

That was the last question of the debate, so it's now time for closing statements. Each speaker gets two minutes for their final pitch.

Here's Marise Payne:

I think we have agreed today that we are living in a time of great change and uncertainty. And having served this country as both Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, I've had the privilege of seeing firsthand that Australia is deeply respected and that our voice matters. There will be many tough foreign policy decisions ahead. The Morrison Government has shown that we can make those tough decisions and keep Australians safe. Whether it is on AUKUS or resisting economic coercion, or providing the significant support that was necessary for our region to recover together from the COVID pandemic, we have a clear plan focused on promoting the security and the prosperity of the Australian people. We approach this era of strategic competition with confidence in our plan, confidence in our record on foreign policy, and confidence in Australia. It is not easy and it won't be easy, but we can thrive in this era.

Our strong economy, our record in managing the pandemic, mean we are well-positioned. There are challenges but also opportunities for Australia, for our manufacturers, for our exporters, for our innovators, for our students, globally and in our region. Under a re-elected Morrison Government, Australia will continue to lead, to speak out, and to be bold in our purpose. We'll be there with other freedom-loving nations when it comes to supporting countries like Ukraine, as they defend their freedom, their democracy and sovereignty. We are always mindful that foreign policy is not detached from the lives of Australians. It is there to further the interests of our nation and improve the wellbeing, the livelihoods, the security, the prosperity of each and every person in this country.

By Jessica Riga

Why are women deserting the Liberal Party?

The responses to that last question went so overtime that Laura Tingle has decided the replies should stick to one minute from here on. 

Here's a question from Nic Stuart: 30 years ago, you were a young radical, you weren't part of the right-wing dominance of the Liberal Party. You've fought your way through, you've actually become a senator, one of the long-serving ministers. You're also Minister for Women. Why are women now deserting the Liberal Party? What can the Liberal Party do to win them back?

Marise Payne disagrees she was a radical. 

"I may have been a progressive, but I'll not necessarily claim "radical". And, Nic, I have been very strongly committed to ensuring that we have been able to deliver our two last Women's Budget Statements, which together on women's leadership, women's economic security, women's safety, deliver over $5 billion of support. And it is not just about that. It's overwhelmingly about the practical application of those, working with the states and territories on the next National Plan, ensuring that we're addressing economic security through our changes to child care in 2018 and again this year, our work on paid parental leave, and importantly on leadership and particularly participation.

Penny Wong gets some laughter when she says "well, it's a good thing that Marise is Minister for Women, because I can remember when Tony Abbott was, under the Coalition."

"So, that's an advance! I just want to make this point: I have, including when I was much younger - thank you for reminding us both of that - advocated very strongly inside my party for affirmative action targets. And I didn't just do that, we didn't just do that - the women with whom I worked - because we wanted to get more women into Parliament for its own sake. We wanted to do it because we wanted to change the focus of political parties. I can tell you, having been part of a government and now part of a shadow cabinet, it does matter, having women in the room. It matters in terms of the sorts of policies you announce, the most obvious example, but not the only one is the fact that our very first Budget Reply, Anthony Albanese, in his very first Budget Reply, Anthony Albanese announced our childcare policy."

Marise Payne gets one more comment in.

"I'm very proud to be part of a Cabinet that has more women than any other Australian Cabinet, with eight sitting around the table," she says. 

By Emily Sakzewski

Did a relationship breakdown with Australia lead to Solomon Islands' pact with China?

The questioner has asked how we fix this relationship, how the pact was able to happen, what the parties will do given Australia's aid commitments "can't seem to match China's", and how Australia would call out corruption if it was to be discovered in Solomon Islands?

Penny Wong answers first. She says Labor has put out a detailed policy on the Pacific, with some highlights:

"One is doubling the Pacific Maritime Air Surveillance Program... This is about illegal fishing, it is about protecting their fisheries, which is a source of resources as well as a source of protein.

"We want to deliver an Indo-Pacific broadcasting strategy because I think you need voices in the region. And I think it was short-sighted for the Government's cuts to the ABC, which had the effect of ending a whole range of services into the Pacific.

"And then, of course, the labour scheme, so improving the labour mobility schemes, enabling people for the longer-term scheme to bring their families."

Marise Payne takes her turn to answer and she doesn't agree with the premise of the question, saying it's an oversimplification of a "very complex set of circumstances".

"But we must continue to make the contribution that we do to the security and the stability of our region, that maintains the resilience of economies.

"That is why we are making a contribution of over $20 million in terms of budget support to the Solomon Islands.

"It's why we've delivered over 500,000 vaccines to the Solomon Islands, of 1 million, and we'll continue to do so.

"But countries ultimately - and it would be very disturbing if we were not prepared to acknowledge this in Australia - countries will ultimately make sovereign decisions for their own reasons that, occasionally, we don't and can't change, and can't influence."

By Jessica Riga

To whoever wins government, will they host a UN climate meeting?

This is the full question asked by Melissa Coade from The Mandarin:  We've had some discord about the Pacific family and climate change. Marise Payne mentioned the three Rs - resilience, relationship, rules. To that end, my question to both of you is - if you will win government after the election, will you in partnership with the Pacific, host a UN climate meeting? Or create a new ambassador for climate?

Penny Wong said "We've already said that we would reinstate the ambassador for climate change.

"And I don't necessarily include Marise in this, but some in the party appear to be allergic to the term. So we would reinstate it. And we would bid for a hosting of the conference of the parties within the UNFCC with our Pacific partners and engagement with the Pacific partners and Pacific neighbours on climate matters greatly."

Marise Payne said "We do have a very effective ambassador for the environment who covers climate change as well in that remit, and has strongly represented Australia - particularly at the last COP in Glasgow and works closely with the Pacific."

"Was part of the Our Ocean Conference in Palau in April with secretary Kerry and others. And in relation to whether or not we would host a COP - we would speak with our Pacific neighbours. Of course, as to their ambitions and their interests and determine whether it was something that they wished to pursue."

By Emily Sakzewski

Should Labor and the Coalition lift their 2030 climate targets?

Specifically, the questioner asks whether the targets both parties are taking to this election are fixed or whether they are open to listening to the calls of Pacific partners to raise our 2030 targets.

Penny Wong says Labor's 2030 target is clear in its policy.

"We haven't just plucked the number out of the air, we have actually gone through the different policy measures."

She also says while Pacific neighbours at risk of the effects of climate change want Australia to go further in its commitments, we must respect their experience.

"I'll say this - I don't think our reputation has really ever got over Mr Dutton standing next to Mr Morrison and making a joke about water lapping at your door."

Marise Payne says Australia is "dealing in outcomes, not ambitions".

I am not suggesting that they don't seek more... But our support is practical and it is helpful."

By Jessica Riga

Has the United States' response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine given Payne and Wong greater confidence in US?

This question is from debate moderator Laura Tingle:

Q: If I could just segway, or attempt it between the question and topic of Taiwan back to the US and comments that you made earlier, Senator Wong. I think that you were channelling Madeleine Albright when you described it as the indispensable partner and said that the alliance was absolutely foundational. I'd like to ask you both to comment on whether you think that US approach to Ukraine has given you greater confidence about the way that the US is engaging in the world? Less confidence? Or does it give you a materially different view about the way that the US is pursuing foreign policy?

Marise Payne answers first:

Let me affirm that what I said in my previous remark about the foundational nature of the alliance, and say how much we will welcome, warmly, the significant appointment of Caroline Kennedy as the next US Ambassador to Australia, and we expect to see her here in the next couple of months. In terms of the approach on Ukraine - we have been working very closely with the United States, with NATO more broadly, with the UK and other partners. But particularly many smaller liberal democracies in the region who see the threat that Russia's illegal, unlawful invasion of Ukraine presented to them. What the US's engage has done, and I think that it is very important, is to bring together a global Coalition of great strength to both support Ukraine and to extract a cost, a price, on Russia, for their actions that includes, in relation to providing military support for Ukraine in relation to a strong sanctions regime in which Australia is an active participant. We have sanctioned over 800 individuals and entities as part of that. It is a real global Coalition, and the US is a key leader.

And here is Penny Wong's reply:

What I'd say is that the invasion of and the unlawful war being waged against the people of Ukraine by Mr Putin has been horrific. And is. Continues to be. But what it has demonstrated is the capacity of the US and its NATO partners to be able to work together. It has demonstrated the capacity of a great many nations around the world to stand against the aggregation of the UN charter which stands before us. It has changed policy in Germany, in terms of defence budgets and their policy around provision of weapons. And, it has led Finland to say that it wants to join NATO. So there is an interesting demonstration here. One of the arguments that Mr Putin used was the expansion of NATO. Well... Now we see this. And if we think that it is matter for them, but it's a good thing.

By Emily Sakzewski

Should Australia change the way it cooperates with Taiwan?

Specifically, the question asks whether Australia needs to change, "not in its values, but in the way that it cooperates with other nations like Taiwan".

Marise Payne answers first. She says Australia has always been a supporter of Taiwan's participation in areas where statehood is not required.

"We have a strong representative office in Taipei and we will work closely with countries in the Pacific, like Nauru and Tuvalu, who continue to recognise Taiwan, as we do," she says.

"I do think that it is important to note that across the Pacific we are the only country in the world which has a diplomatic mission in every country of the Pacific Island Forum."

It's Penny Wong's turn. On Taiwan, she says Labor's position - a long-standing bipartisan position - has been to focus on ensuring "that there is no unilateral change to the status quo".

"We can do that by ensuring that we engage with Taiwan [in the way that] we are able, recognising the diplomatic situation.

"We can do that by ensuring we talk with other parties in the region about the risks to the region from any unilateral change to the status quo."

By Jessica Riga

How will Labor show it's committed to the Quad?

Here's Marise Payne's question to Penny Wong. 

Marise Payne: A couple of days after the election, about three days, the new prime minister, whoever that will be, will need to demonstrate Australia's ongoing commitment in this region. They will be attending the meeting of the Quad and I know that the Coalition has demonstrated our absolute commitment to making the Quad a major peels of our regional cooperation, as it now is. But what would Labor take to that meeting this time to demonstrate it is committed, and that won't abandon the Quad and our partners like it did in 2008?

And here's Penny Wong's reply:

We've made clear that we are committed to the Quad. I made that clear some years ago publicly, Mr Albanese has made that clear and we've already engaged, as is appropriate, in the lead-up to an election, about logistics and arrangements to ensure if elected, we would be in place in Tokyo for the commencement of the Quad. I think that one of the things that we should no doubt be speaking about is the developments that we've just been discussing, which is what is occurring in the Pacific. The fact that Solomon Islands is looking beyond Australia for security arrangements, and that is of relevance to the nations of the Quad and the countries of the Indo-Pacific.

Marise Payne has a rebuttal:

I would say that, of course, Solomon Islands in November of last year looked to Australia for security response, and Australia, with New Zealand, with Fiji, with Papua New Guinea, with therefore the Pacific family, made that response in a matter of hours and provided that support on the ground in the Solomon Islands. And I'd also reinforce that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has indicated that that is, his view, that Australia is the first security partner of the Solomon Islands. And I've reiterated that with the Foreign Minister from the Solomon Islands myself.

Penny Wong: This is inconsistency again. You're saying essentially, if I may - this isn't that big a deal. Barnaby Joyce is saying that it is like Cuba. So I'm just working out which is the position?

Marise Payne: I've never said it's not a big deal. And that is a misrepresentation of my position.