The press conference ends.
Scott Morrison: You haven’t had a question.
Q: Are you tired? You seem tired. I saw a frown earlier.
Q: And what role does the Lord play in this election? And do you pray to him?
I pray every day. That’s been my practice over a very long time in my life and I can assure you I’m fighting fit, full of beans and looking forward as the next 10 days because Australians are going to face a very big choice at this election and it has very real consequences for people at home, perhaps watching this or maybe seeing it later.
How you vote at this election is going to have a big impact on the future of the Australian economy that you live in.
The economy your job depends on – your income, your retirement, how your children will be able to buy a house, indeed how you’ll be able to buy a house.
All of this will be impacted by the strength of the Australian economy in the years to come.
I was making this point last night to vote for a strong economy vote Liberal-National. To vote for the responsible choice in a time of great uncertainty vote Liberal-National.
A vote for Labor means a weaker economy. It means more uncertainty. It means a party and a leader you don’t know what they’re capable of and they don’t know what they’ll do and they don’t know how much it will cost.
Thanks very much, everyone.
Q: Are the comments from China’s ambassador to Australia – he said in an opinion piece in the Fin today that Beijing’s growing cooperation with the South Pacific is not a security threat to Australia. How does that rhetoric fit with China’s foreign minister visiting the Solomons on the eve of the election next week. Were you aware of this? Did you have advance warning of this?
I don’t have … You won’t be surprised to know that I don’t agree with the Chinese ambassador to Australia who is writing in the Australian Financial Review today that Chinese government interference in the Pacific is of no consequence. I think it’s of great consequence.
I think it’s of great consequence. I don’t want to give any amplification for the views of the Chinese government. I support the Australian national interests, not the Chinese government’s view of what national interests are, whether it be in Australia or across the Pacific and that’s why I’ve always taken a very strong stance on this, a stance that I’ve been criticised for right across the country. I’ve even been criticised by the Labor party for the strong position that I have had in standing up to the coercion of the Chinese government.
Q: He’s visiting the Solomons next week. Are you worried about that?
Morrison doesn’t answer.
Q: On superannuation, will you guarantee it goes up to 12% under a government you lead? And what will that do to business as soon as we haven’t made any changes to the legislation?
We stand by the changes as we set out.
Q: You said in recent weeks there is no magic pen to raise wages, that Labor’s policies to raise wages are make-believe. But now you’re arguing that Labor can raise wages and that it would be too high, that it would be dangerous. Can government raise wages? Or can it not?
No, no, I think you’ve misunderstood my point. My point is the Fair Work Commission is an important institution in how our economy is run and the fact that decisions about wages are made by such a body like the Reserve Bank makes decisions on interest rates, that provide stability in the economy. It provides certainty in the economy.
So if you were a small business person, you can have confidence. If you’re a prime minister or a treasurer, and you’re just careless about these things, you’re loose with things and run off at the mouth about where you think wages should or should not be, that can precondition inflationary expectations in the economy and it can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy and that’s why – my issue is we all want to see wages increase but I don’t want to see reckless behaviour in how the process should work and this is where Mr Albanese has failed.
He has had three positions on the one thing on one day. He knows he got that wrong. He knows he acted recklessly, and he’s been trying to cover his tracks ever since.
What I know is the way that he would be running the economy is that not only would you see inflationary pressures which means that you would be paying more than you otherwise would have to – we’ve got global forces putting up inflation – but any potential support you might have got in wages would be clawed back in even higher interest rates and even higher inflation. See, that’s not how you manage an economy. He doesn’t understand the moving parts.
He doesn’t understand the complexity to the global economy. That’s why he is a great risk.
And that’s why a vote for Labor could make things far worse. We’re facing serious challenges in this space and he just does not have the comprehension of these issues to handle them.
(The Fair Work Commission makes the decision. Governments, including the Howard government, have in the past put figures on what it thinks the minimum wage should be.)
Q: I have a question regarding childcare. Labor has a policy that will help more families. Doesn’t better childcare support boost productivity? And what’s wrong with spending money to get women back into the workforce sooner?
As I set out last night, 1.1 million women have come into the workforce under the strong economic policies that we have put in place. Workforce participation of women has risen to record levels under the economic policies that our government has put in place.
The gender pay gap has fallen from 7.4% to 13.8%, which means – no, no, these are important … These are really important points because the question is about participation and I’m saying the policies our government has put in place which has strengthened our economy means the gender pay gap has come from 17.8% down to 13.4% and what – sorry, 17.4% to 13.8% – and that means that women today in the workforce are $70 a week better off on average than before we came to government.
Now. These policies are working. Now, when I was social services minister, we redesigned the childcare system, which ensured that we ensured that those who were on lower numbers were getting up to 85% rebates on their childcare.
Now, that’s a place where you’re not making choices about whether you’re going to work or not. You’ve got no choice.
Everybody’s having to work in every single way they can and often taking more than one job. And when I redesigned the childcare system, I made sure that those who needed it most got the most support.
And I can tell you after that happened, the childcare out-of-pocket expenses increasing costs ran at 1.2%.
Now, under Labor, it was running at 3.1% growth. So after we put our changes in place, it actually decelerated the rate of increase in out-of-pocket expenses.
You know, in the last quarter, Mr Albanese said this last night saying it was going up. In the last quarter, in the March quarter, out-of-pocket expenses for childcare flatlined. It didn’t go up. They flatlined.
Now, that was in a quarter where we saw inflation go up by 5.1%. Admittedly less than it is in New Zealand, United States and UK and many other countries, but our policies are designed affordably to give support where those who need it most get that support. And on top of that we provide those services in block funding grants to disadvantaged communities.
What I learned when I was social services minister is that’s one of the most important ways to turn around the lives, particularly of young Indigenous children, and that’s where so much of our block funding has gone, into those Indigenous communities, to support that early childhood education. So these issues aren’t about just spending lots and lots of money.
I mean, 90% childcare rebates for everybody costs around $18bn over forward estimates and it costs $63bn over a decade and my only question to Anthony Albanese on this, on everything, is where’s the money going to come from?
And what we know is in this election, he can’t answer that question. He has all sorts of thought bubbles lying out there with no costings. He doesn’t know how to pay for it.
He doesn’t know how to run an economy. He doesn’t even understand the economy and he doesn’t know how to manage money. That’s why Anthony Albanese in charge of the economy can make things worse, not better.
Q: Do you think the prime minister is being hypocritical when it comes to repeatedly announcing mental health support but then supporting Ms Deves’ comments on trans, and also thank you for sharing your own experiences. How are you finding the pressures of the campaign?
Look, I think a campaign is, you know, an additional layer of pressure that, you know, anybody would be feeling. All of you, I reckon, are feeling it as well, just quietly.
So, I think, yeah, it definitely adds to the challenge. I was talking to my friend Rick before from Relationships Australia, and he was saying, you know, that generally in our days anybody that experiences those challenges, you work out strategies and you have tools in place and they usually involve things like exercise and sleep and, you know, maybe finding some time to meditate.
And of course some of those things go out the window in a campaign so that adds to a bit of pressure but I’m holding up OK. Thanks very much. In relation to the other question that you asked, I’d refer to what I said earlier …
Q: But is it hypocritical of him?
Look, I think there is a place for having the conversations that we are having and I don’t think that we should necessarily seek to censor people. But what I would say, as I’ve said before, is and – and I think that the prime minister understands this as well – is that when we’re talking about people, whoever they might be, we should always seek to do that in a way that is respectful and is not damaging to people’s mental health.
(An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the quotes to Scott Morrison)
Q: Your colleague Fiona Martin appears to have confused her challenger with another Asian Australian. Is it fair for Asian Australians to be stereotyped or generalised in this way and do you think Sally Sitou deserves an apology?
Dr Martin has already made statements on that issue today and, no, that wasn’t the case.
Q: Her defence doesn’t make sense.
I’m sorry. I don’t accept that. She’s made that statement clear! She didn’t run in Cabramatta. She’s made a statement and I refer you to the statement. She’s made it clear.
Q: Polls today showed that Labor looks like it would win the election if it was held today. Is this where you expected to be nine days from the election?
The election is in the hands of the Australian people. It’s not in the hands of pollsters or modellers or anyone else. It’s in Australians’ hands. And I set out very clearly last night the risk that is there.
I said, rightly, that the Liberals and Nationals, the Liberals here, particularly in the seat where we are today in Bass with Bridget Archer, is the strong, responsible, and safe choice because Australia is facing some of the most difficult challenges and uncertainty that we have seen since any time since the second world war.
And in our government, you have a known quantity. You have a government that understands the economy, that isn’t loose with the economy, that isn’t loose with how the various elements of the economy work. Yesterday, we had Mr Albanese on the issue of wages be yes, no and maybe.
Now, that is not someone who knows what’s going on in the economy or how you manage an economy, and he would be the prime minister.
Now, we need someone who is up to the job, not someone the job is too big for them. We need someone who understands how the economy works and knows how to manage money.
And today you’ve heard from the treasurer and the finance minister and they said it very clearly – not one policy during this election campaign has been committed by the Labor party and Mr Albanese for costing. Not one. Not one.
And so he can make all sorts of claims but you know the ability to do things in government like what we’re talking about here – doubling mental health funding – you can only do that if you know how to manage money …
And let’s not forget there’s never been a Labor leader in the past that has trusted Mr Albanese with the financial portfolio when they were leader.
They haven’t let him anywhere near the till and my view to Australians is, don’t let him near the till. He don’t know how much things cost. He doesn’t know how the economy runs. He didn’t even know what the unemployment rate was and the cash rate and he’s loose with the economy.
Q: Prime minister, do you stand by your claim that the $500,000 compensation claim being negotiated for Rachelle Miller does not involve claims against Alan Tudge? And if the cabinet minister was involved in such a claim, you would be told?
Well, that was the advice that I received from the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Q: Are you being briefed on the contents of the claim?
Well, I can’t be.
Q: It does name Alan Tudge and it also names Michaelia Cash.
I can’t be briefed on that. My only advice was that it hadn’t been settled. That was my last advice. If there was any matter there that went to the conduct of any minister, any minister at all, that related to the ministry or standards, then I would be advised of that, and I have been advised of no such matters that would require my attention in relation to the ministerial standards. We had an independent inquiry into those matters and that independent inquiry did not find any basis for any action in relation to the ministerial standards.