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Q: Are you satisfied with the prime minister’s commitment to prioritise religious discrimination ahead of protections for LGBTQI students through the Sexual Discrimination Act, sequentially, as he’s described it, given there will be a gap between the RDA passing and protections for these incredibly vulnerable students?

Bridget Archer:

Well, as the prime minister has already said, our views are well known and we will continue to work through those issues in the party room, not just myself, but others.

Updated at 21.33 EDT

Q: This is obviously a very important topic for you. Thank you for sharing with us what you have been going through as well. When it comes to the mental health of transgender communities here in Australia, are you worried about the mental health of the transgender community when you have got Katherine Deves, a Liberal candidate making her views very clear, then you have got a prime minister that is standing behind her. What are your concerns for that community when it comes to their mental health combo?

Bridget Archer:

My concern is with the mental health of all Australian. We know and I have spoken previously that LGBTIQ community members are some 15 times more likely to suffer mental health challenges and a risk of suicide.

I think we all should be very mindful of that. There are discussions that are important and can be had.

I am not to say that we should not have those discussions but I have always said and I will continue to state is when we talk about people, whether whoever they are, that we should do so with kindness that we should do so understanding that people are vulnerable and marginalised and I don’t think it matters who people are we can who people are. We can all do better.

Updated at 21.32 EDT

Q: There is no doubt that your government has invested in this space. Mental health experts are telling me it is still not changing things enough. We know that self-harm rates, hospitalisations as a result, going up, suicide rates are not going down. When you are ready to invest $100bn in submarines that won’t hit the water for decades. Why are we not seeing that level of investment in mental health? ?

Scott Morrison:

This is a difficult challenge, there is no doubt about that. That is why we have doubled our investment to over $6bn a year, which is what we invest in mental health every year. It was around $3bn when we came to government …

It is the work we have seen with Headspace it has led to world-leading work done on early youth psychosis. The finish line keeps proceeding from you when you are dealing with these challenges. That is the hard part of government. You have to keep growing your economy, to keep being able to invest in the services that can completely change people ‘s lives.

On suicide deaths, one of the most remarkable things during the pandemic – and we have to be careful with these statistics and I appreciate that – but in 2019, we lost 3,318 people to death by suicide. In 2020, we lost 3,139. That was a fall of 179. That was in a year of pandemic.

One of the things that we did during the pandemic was address the physical health needs around what was necessary to combat Covid. We were one of the countries that actually did more than any other to address the mental health needs of the country as it was going through this incredible trial.

We will see ultimate figures come out for the 2020 year, but I can tell you at the start of the pandemic one of the things concerning Greg and I greatly, was we would see a soaring in those rates. A soaring in those rates. And we didn’t.

I think that is an extraordinary testimony to the many services whether they be Lifeline or Kids Helpline or Beyond Blue, or the many other services that we invested heavily in, including Headspace, to get Australians through that incredibly difficult period. We have great tools here and great services in Australia. World-class.

They can help people live with mental health challenges, overcome mental health challenges or to prevent finding themselves in the situation. Some of the best in the world and is a government we have been investing, developing and pioneering them. My government will always do that. That is the dividend of the strong economy that we have put in place.

Updated at 21.31 EDT

Of this $55m announcement, $45.6m is federal money and $9.4m is coming from Tasmania.

Of those funds, $24.7m will be spent on existing services and building three additional head to health satellite clinics, including specialised treatment for children.

The partnership on mental health funding will be rolled out with every state.

Updated at 21.18 EDT

Amanda Meade

Seven’s The Great Debate: The Final Showdown had an average audience of 527,000 metro viewers, building a significant audience after Big Brother despite finishing after 10.10pm.

The audience was lower than Channel Nine’s 641,000 on Sunday night, which had a stronger lead-in from Lego Masters.

But Seven’s leaders’ debate built on the small Big Brother audience of 379,000 and ensured Seven won the night.

Aired on Wednesday at 9.10pm, Seven’s debate format with Mark Riley as a single moderator was more sober and controlled than the one on Sunday night on Nine.
Anthony Albanese was declared the winner of the final leaders’ debate by about 150 undecided voters watching the debate live from pubs in seven marginal seats.

Updated at 21.16 EDT

Scott Morrison makes new mental health announcements

Scott Morrison is announcing a $55m mental health partnership with the Tasmanian government in the marginal seat of Bass:

When I became prime minister about three and a half years ago, ensuring that mental health was getting the support it needed and that we would make greater strides across the country with people living with mental health challenges every day, those challenges that come from the disruptive things that can happen in your life or those who have just struggled with it from a very young age. It’s real. It’s debilitating.

It can rob people of their quality of life. And this is one of the most tangible things we can do to help people improve their quality of life, is by ensuring that they have mental health services that they can access, that we’re destigmatising issues of mental health. Our government has been on a mission for this for many years, as we sought to continue and build support services available.

Updated at 21.17 EDT

Peter Hannam

We know Scott Morrison is not keen on the minimum wage keeping pace with inflation and Anthony Albanese is wavering a bit too by not saying it would be in a post-election submission by his government to the Fair Work Commission.

But some things do get indexed to consumer price inflation, such as student loans under the higher education contribution scheme.

No wonder, then, that the National Union of Students president Georgie Beatty senses “just plain hypocrisy” in the government’s argument that wage increases at the pace of inflation would be “reckless”.

Many students, of course, hold down those one-in-four jobs paid the minimum (now at $20.33 an hour) in retailing and hospo.

Beatty, who was speaking after the first of two days of strike action by staff at the University of Sydney over poor pay and conditions, said student debt itself was ballooning even before the higher CPI-linked repayments kicked in.

“It’s not just that our fees are based on a much higher rate of inflation than our wages,” says Georgie Beatty, NUS president. “Students are really feeling the brunt” of higher prices, as the cost of rents, food and other costs increase.

“It’s that Scott Morrison’s ‘job-ready graduates’ fees meant we also saw unprecedented fee hikes with arts degrees going up by 113%.

“Students are questioning how we are going to pay off these increased fees when we are facing increased cost of living, insecure work and we haven’t seen major wage growth in most of our lifetimes.”

A spokesperson for employment minister Stuart Robert says the Hecs-Help arrangements were “working to support a record number of Australian students participate in university and ensure that tertiary education does not have a cost barrier at the point of entry”:

HECS-HELP loans are only paid back when individuals meet the income threshold and these loans are free of real interest.

(“Real” interest is an interesting point because many loans are – so far – rates lower than the headline if not underlying inflation rate. When they turn positive, which they must eventually, nominal repayments will soar.)

The Greens, who are campaigning to “wipe student debt”, said the discrepancy between how student debt and wage rises was treated demonstrates the government’s priorities.

“If student debt can be automatically lifted with inflation then wages can too,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said. “The Greens want to change the law to lift the minimum wage to 60% of the median wage and to guarantee wages in female-dominated industries rise at least 0.5% faster than CPI to close the gender pay gap.”

Data from the OECD shows the minimum wage as a proportion of median pay packets has been on a long-term declined since at least 2000. The average for OECD members has increased over that time.

“It’s disappointing Labor won’t make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to require a lift to the minimum wage, something the Greens have done and will push for in the next Parliament,” Bandt said. “We need a full-court press on lifting wages now.”

Updated at 21.16 EDT

Josh Taylor

The prime minister’s office has missed deadlines to hand over text messages between Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce during Joyce’s time as drought envy, and for documents related to the Angus Taylor City of Sydney doctored document scandal.

The Office of the Australian Information Commission ruled in April that PMO must process both freedom of information requests from 2019, rejecting claims by Morrison’s office that the PM’s duties meant he was too busy to handle such requests.

The deadline for those requests was last week but neither applicant has received a response so far.

A similar request for texts between Morrison and his prominent QAnon conspiracy theory-promoting friend Tim Stewart was rejected by PMO again last month on the grounds that the texts were not documents of a minister.

Unfortunately there is no way to quickly force a decision to be made in the next nine days. Under FOI law, when a deadline is missed, a request is “deemed refused” and then it can go back to the OAIC for appeal.

Which, based on the timing of the first review, could take two more years. That’s if Morrison wins the election. If he loses, the request would then fall to the next PMO to cover, and the documents are very unlikely to be retained for the incoming government.

Updated at 21.13 EDT

Federal court dismisses James Ashby’s legal costs request

Paul Karp

The full federal court has dismissed Pauline Hanson chief of staff James Ashby’s appeal seeking a $4.5m act-of-grace payment from the commonwealth for his legal costs in his dispute with former speaker Peter Slipper.

Ashby had argued that a decision to refuse the payment constituted “adverse action” in breach of the Fair Work Act, and was unfair because Slipper’s costs were paid by the commonwealth and his were not.

After two decisions going against him in January and July 2021, Ashby appealed.

On Thursday, Justices Anna Katzmann, Wendy Abraham and Scott Goodman dismissed the appeal with costs.

They found that Ashby had sought to re-argue his case that a delegate of the finance minister did not have authority to refuse the payment but had not shown error by the primary judge.

They said there was nothing that required the decision on the act-of-grace payment to be made subject to constraints in the Fair Work Act, and that Ashby’s argument was “circular” in that it assumed the correctness of his own construction of the laws:

In summary, there is no merit in either ground of appeal.

Updated at 21.12 EDT

Alan Tudge will be the education minister if Scott Morrison wins the election, the prime minister confirmed last night.

Morrison conceded Tudge was now a “minister without a portfolio” under questioning from Mark Riley, after last year saying he was stepping away from the frontbench, and then at the beginning of the election campaign admitting he was still a minister.

So given that he is still the education minister, Daniel Hurst had a look at what contact he has had with senior education department officials.

Not a lot is the answer:

The third was a WhatsApp exchange between a senior public servant and Tudge.

“Hi Minister,” a senior departmental officer wrote on 3 December.

“Hope you are doing ok. Tough day – hope you have some support wrapped around you. Take care.”

Tudge replied three days later.

“Appreciate the message,” he said. “Yes, had better days.”

Updated at 21.10 EDT