Staying with the prime minister’s visit to the NSW South Coast, and Scott Morrison says he’s happy to have past critics on his team who “call it how it is”.
As you might remember, former NSW minister Andrew Constance previously said the PM got the “welcome he probably deserved” after visiting bushfire-affected communities in early 2020.
Today, the pair fronted the cameras together now that Constance is the federal Liberal candidate for Gilmore.
Morrison said he and Constance have known each other for more than 20 years.
“Andrew, I love it that he’s on my team. He calls it. And he calls it straight,” Morrison said.
“And he did on that day [in 2020]. What did we do after that? We got together. We worked out what the challenges were. We put together a completely revised small business package and we’ve continued to work together since then.
“So, you know, I have people on my team who are upfront with me. I’m not afraid of that. I’m happy for them to say, ‘We need this … now.’ My members do that and my candidates do that right across the country. That is one of the strengths of my team.”
Meanwhile, Constance had the following to say:
We can’t reverse history here.
But the reality is, to the PM’s point, I am going to be fierce in my representation for the people of Gilmore. I’m not going to be a wallflower.
We’ve [also] got to make this election a positive experience for a community that’s gone through so much.
That’s our focus. We’ll stay the course. We won’t be distracted. We’ve got a job to do. The community’s our number one priority in Gilmore and we’re going to run a positive campaign.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has seized on Anthony Albanese’s blunder this morning over official unemployment and cash rate figures.
“Zero point one per cent is the cash rate, it’s been there for some time,” Morrison said this morning when asked if he knew what the cash rate was.
“The unemployment rate, I’m happy to tell you, is 4 per cent and [it] is falling to a 50-year low.
“And it’s come down from 5.7 per cent when we were first elected. But, more importantly than that, as we went into the pandemic we were facing unemployment rates up around 15 per cent. And now it’s 4 per cent.”
The PM made the comments during a press conference in the marginal NSW south coast seat of Gilmore, alongside Liberal candidate Andrew Constance (the former NSW state transport minister).
Former Labor MP Ross Hart fronted the media this morning alongside Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
Hart is contesting the marginal Tasmanian seat of Bass at the upcoming election, which is currently held by moderate Liberal Bridget Archer on a margin of less than 1 per cent.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Archer crossed the floor last year as part of a failed bid to bring on parliamentary debate regarding independent MP Helen Haines’ preferred model for a federal integrity commission.
During this morning’s press conference, Hart was asked whether he can guarantee to the people of Bass that he will “[vote] against the government” and “[risk] a career in doing so” – as Archer has done – if it’s in his electorate’s best interests.
Here’s his response:
I have an absolute commitment to the people of this electorate.
And [that is that] it would be unnecessary for me to cross the floor [under an Albanese government].
I have a strong commitment towards jobs in northern Tasmania, a strong commitment to manufacturing jobs and the health sector. There is nothing in the [Coalition’s] budget for northern Tasmania.
A vote for [current Liberal member] Bridget Archer is a vote for Scott Morrison. You must elect an Albanese Labor government.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has conceded he doesn’t know the unemployment rate or the Reserve Bank’s official interest rate as he seeks to talk up the opposition’s superior credentials when it comes to easing cost-of-living pressures.
During a press conference in Launceston, Albanese was repeatedly asked to cite the two measures that affect everyday cost of living.
“The national unemployment rate at the moment is… I think it’s 5.4. Sorry, I’m not sure what it is,” Albanese said.
He then walked off camera, leaving Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher to correctly answer the question.
Unemployment is at 4 per cent, and the RBA cash rate is at a historic low of 0.1 per cent – and has not changed since November 2020. It is widely predicted the Reserve Bank will start lifting interest rates in June, adding to financial pressures on homeowners.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has visited a canning company in NSW.
He spoke to the media after a tour with local Liberal candidate Andrew Constance. We’ll have the playback version with you shortly.
Both Labor and Liberal leaders conducted a media blitz this morning (eight interviews and counting from the prime minister and almost as many from Albanese).
Aiming for some levity, Sunrise asked the leaders the classic job interview question: “What is your biggest weakness?”
Both men naturally served up a weakness-that’s-actually-a-strength answer.
“I tend to go straight into problem-solving mode and when I do that sometimes people think I don’t understand how they’re feeling,” Morrison said.
He claims it runs in the family, pointing out his father was a police officer and his brother is a paramedic so have similar approaches.
Albanese said loyalty.
“I am very loyal to people and sometimes that makes me a bit predictable, and that sometimes can hurt politically. I make no apologies for that that is just who I am,” he said.
On the Today show, both men were asked if they had a message to deliver to their opponent.
“Good morning,” Morrison said and, following an extended pause, added: “It’s a beautiful morning here in Nowra.”
Albanese opted for a more comprehensive answer: “I wish him well in the campaign. It is a great thing that people are prepared to put themselves forward and the prime minister has been prime minister for a full term.”
Speaking from Launceston and rugged up in a thick black coat, he added: “If he comes to Launceston I send him the other message which is make sure you bring a big coat, it is a bit chilly.”
The boss of the Australian Electoral Commission, Tom Rogers, was on Radio National earlier this morning.
He was asked what happens if a voter tests positive to COVID-19 on the morning of the election but hasn’t cast a postal ballot. It’s an important question because Australia has compulsory voting.
Here’s what Rogers had to say:
If you wake up on the day and are subject to a health order on the day, we are working on a telephone voting option, which will be a first.
But I’ll just point out that it’s absolutely going to be an emergency measure. You can imagine, if not handled correctly, [it could easily go wrong]. We have to read out the Senate ballot paper … [and] it’s going to take some time. So I urge people to only use that [option] if they are subject to that health order.
It truly is a contingency measure.
NSW has reported 13,468 new cases of COVID-19 this morning and three deaths.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s daily coronavirus numbers are also in.
The state has reported 9597 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.
Scott Morrison has been asked in every interview this morning about the status of his education minister Alan Tudge, who was stood aside from the frontbench in December but is still technically a cabinet member.
This morning, News.com.au reports the government is set to give a $500,000 payout to – plus cover the legal costs of – Tudge’s former staffer, Rachelle Miller, with whom he had an affair.
Miller has alleged the relationship was emotionally and, at one time, physically abusive. But Tudge denies that.
Respected investigator Vivienne Thom was called in late last year to examine the claims, but she found no evidence of any breach of the ministerial code of conduct. Miller didn’t take part in that investigation following legal advice.
The prime minister says he can’t comment on the reported payout, saying it’s a “private matter” between Miller and the Department of Finance.
“It would be inappropriate of me to have knowledge specifically of those things because it is a private matter between the employer and employee,” he told Nine’s Today show.
In March, Tudge said he wasn’t seeking to return to the frontbench. This morning, Morrison has repeatedly said Tudge will be education minister if the Coalition wins the May 21 election.
“He technically is a member of cabinet,” Morrison told ABC TV. “He still has his warrant as a minister from the governor-general.”
Morrison says he wants Tudge back in the education portfolio in part to “make sure we get the education curriculum right”.
“I want our kids to be taught the right things at school, I don’t want them to be told not to like our country or not believe in a future, and to rewrite our history,” the PM told Seven’s Sunrise.
Tudge was negotiating with the states over a new national curriculum before he stood down. The final document was approved with acting minister Stuart Robert at the start of April.
Staying with the opposition leader, and Anthony Albanese has been asked about Scott Morrison’s jibe that Labor can’t manage money.
“He is the bloke who has led to a trillion dollars of debt,” Albanese told the Today show.
“I give him credit for chutzpah but nothing more, thanks, because we know with the trillion dollars of debt there is not a real legacy to show for it. Where is the big infrastructure project, where are the big nation-building programs?”
Albanese said Labor is offering a clear alternative, repeating his campaign slogan of a “better future” with “stronger Medicare, more secure work, cheaper childcare, cheaper energy prices, and I want to make sure that we can make more things here”.