Just reminded of this exchange in the first half of the campaign between Scott Morrison and Sky political editor, Andrew Clennell:
Clennell: We’re nearly out of time. You’re a PM known to rely heavily on focus groups and polling, perhaps more than any other PM.
Based on what, Andrew?
Clennell: Well, I’m aware in the formulation of Budgets, you often test some of the ideas.
That’s an assertion, which I don’t share.
Twenty-one days later, down in the polls, with focus groups running overtime and reporting back the prime minister is too negative, Scott Morrison says he ‘needs to change’.
The prime minister spoke in that press conference about “living with Covid”. NSW has reported 13 deaths and Victoria has reported 18 Covid deaths.
Labor has committed $7.5m for a national anti-racism plan to include a “Racism: It Stops with Me” style ad-campaign.
The shadow multicultural affairs minister, Andrew Giles, revealed the pledge in comments to Guardian Australia backing calls from multicultural groups and the race discrimination commissioner to fund an anti-racism framework.
In March 2021 the commissioner, Chin Tan, argued the plan would help Australia respond to the legacy of Islamophobia in the wake of the Christchurch massacre and anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Giles said the Australian Human Rights Commission’s work against racism had “not been effectively supported by the Morrison government”.
He also took aim at the Coalition’s record including voting for One Nation’s infamous “it’s OK to be white” Senate motion and former attorney general George Brandis’ defence of the “right to be a bigot” during attempts to repeal section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act, which bans speech that offends, insults or humiliates people based on race.
“In celebrating the great achievements of Australian multiculturalism we can’t take it for granted,” Giles said.
In addition to seeking funding for an anti-racism plan, the AHRC has warned that it lacks sufficient base funding to perform its statutory functions, which include handling racial discrimination complaints.
In March the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, also criticised the AHRC funding gap but declined to make a specific commitment to redress it.
The aged care sector says none of the three major parties have announced election policies for “effectively tackling the sector’s urgent funding and workforce gaps in the short-term”.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration, an alliance of industry peak groups, on Friday released its election scorecard assessing the aged care policies of Labor, the Coalition, and the Greens.
The Coalition was easily marked the worst of any party, receiving a tick only for fully committing to fund 200 minutes of care for each aged care resident from next year. Both Labor and the Greens were applauded for making the same commitment, but going much further, by fully committing to funding 215 minutes of care from 2024, funding any aged care staff pay rise decided on by the Fair Work Commission, and funding 24/7 nursing for aged care facilities. The Greens were the only of the three parties to make a partial commitment to provide funding for “current gaps in staffing and Covid-19 prevention costs”, the AACC said.
In a statement, the AACC said:
Recent surveys from the Australian National University and the ABC’s Vote Compass have confirmed that aged care ranks as a top issue of concern for Australians as they consider their vote.None of the parties are effectively tackling the sector’s urgent funding and workforce gaps in the short-term. There are also no comprehensive commitments on allied health for aged care. Addressing these issues are fundamental to improving the quality of care.Labor and The Greens have said they would fund a wage increase for workers and further increases in care minutes and nursing coverage, the Government has stated that it also supports these policies, but has avoided making a clear funding commitment.The AACC will continue to push for a supplement for wages, training, and nursing costs. We are also calling on the Government to fully fund a minimum wage increase for aged care workers.Australians have made it clear – they expect quality aged care for everyone who needs it and they see this as a priority for any incoming GovernmentThe AACC is calling on the next federal government to act on aged care reform in its first 100 days.It’s time to ensure that older Australians get the care they need and deserve, once and for all.
Truly, that was an extraordinary press conference. Murph will bring you her view very soon.
What we have heard from the prime minister, in the final minutes of the campaign is “I will change”.
That is different from “you may not like me, but I am good for you”.
Morrison has been in parliament since 2007. He has has held several senior portfolios before he was prime minister. He has held the same approach to the job the entire time he has been in parliament – not just through the pandemic.
But now Morrison says, he will change.
There is another question on immigration, but there is nothing new in the answer and Scott Morrison pivots it to finish with this:
That’s exactly what our economic policies are designed to do. They work together. Twenty-seven policies, I’ve announced during the course of this campaign. Every single one of them submitted for the approval of costings, in it the Parliamentary Budget Office and finance.
Labor party have not submitted one policy for costing during the course of this campaign. That should raise a question in people’s mind.
You can’t afford a loose unit in the Lodge, but what you can afford is to have a government that knows how to run the economy and is setting those opportunities up for the future. We have learnt a lot during this pandemic, and we are going to apply those lessons in the years ahead so we can continue to do better, to be better, and assure that better future which is a stronger future.
Q: You have said you have been one of the most forthright governments, going into this election, Gladys is here in Chisholm, Reid, Bennelong have large Chinese-Australian populations which may not have an affinity with the Chinese government but are proud of their heritage. Are you concerned if you lose some of the seats at the election they have failed to understand or you have failed to communicate the difference between your rhetoric on the Chinese government and Chinese people?
You make a good point, because I am always very careful to make this distinction.
I talk about the assertive and aggressive nature of the Chinese government. Not the Chinese people. You know, Chinese-Australians are the greatest patriots you could hope for in this country. I remember being with Gladys, early on in the pandemic.
You remember we were down at Box Hill, it was February of 2020. I mean the pandemic at that stage had not yet hit the rapid escalation in this country we were seeing in others but, you know, as Chinese-Australians who were coming back out of Wuhan and coming back out of China, and returning, they saved Australia as much as anyone else in the way they came home and the way that they took precautions.
Whether it was here in Melbourne, or up in Hurstville or up there in Ryde or other parts of the country, I’m enormously grateful to the way the Chinese community leaders in Australia worked with the government so carefully during the course of the pandemic and played such an important role in those early phases of the pandemic.
So, I agree with you. I mean, Chinese-Australians, they are Australians, they are Australians and they are proud about being Australians and I’m proud of them. I’m proud of what they have done for our country, I’m proud of what they have achieved for our country.
And so that’s why I draw a sharp and distinct line between the actions of an authoritarian government that is seeking to be cohesive against Australia and to interfere in our region, and the wonderful Chinese people. Chinese-Australians here have family in China, they know what it’s like to live under authoritarian government. That’s why so many of them have come to Australia in the first place. Gladys herself understands and grieves terribly for what we are seeing in Hong Kong. And that’s why the Australian government has stood up for the people of Hong Kong, stood up for the people of Xinjiang.
Stood up for those oppressed in China and stood up for human rights and there is no group of people in Australia more passionate about standing up for their fellow Chinese heritage in China who live under that regime.
Q: Are you concerned, do you share concerns about the rise of China?
Well, the way I look at it is I have come to the country 37 years and I became an Australian citizen 30 years ago. I’ve got my children born and raised here. And I understand now I’m an elected member of the Australian parliament, my job is to help to make this country a better country. For anyone to suggest that Chinese-Australians are not Australians … and still have the loyalty and want to do things that is bad for Australia I think that is offensive, divisive and un-Australian.
Q: We are not saying that. We are specifically asking about the rise of China. I spent some time in your electorate in weeks and I spoke to Chinese-Australian voters there, many said they were concerned about the rhetoric from your government directed at China and they said it was making them less likely to vote for you. So what do you say to them? I mean, how can you reassure those voters?
I have been at the pre-poll for four solid days. And I can tell you when you talk to Chinese people in Australia you don’t start by asking whether they are holding a Chinese passport, visiting this place, or come to help their children to look after their children.
Because we do have a lot of Chinese people living in Australia at the moment but they still hold a Chinese passport.
And I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about those who pledged loyalty to the country. I have seen a lot of people throughout my three years as a member of parliament, at citizenship ceremonies and I hear them pledge loyalty to Australia. So if anyone suggests Chinese-Australians are any different from all other Australians, whether they were born here or not, I think this is offensive, divisive and un-Australian.
Very well said.
No one was saying what Liu was talking about.
Wow this press conference has been a journey.
Forget the last 3.5 years and the time as social services minister, immigration minister and treasurer before that and the time in parliament since 2007 – Scott Morrison, a week out from the 2022 election, now knows he needs to change how he does things.
Scott Morrison says he knows he needs to change how he does things and blames the pandemic for how he has governed, saying it has been why people haven’t seen him in “other gears”.
Q: You keep saying that what Australians know is part of your problem that you keep telling them what they should know rather than listening to them as with yesterday?
It’s very important to be listening to Australians and I have done that all across my political career.
And, you know, over the last three years and particularly the last two what Australians have needed from me going through this pandemic has been strength and resilience.
Now, I admit that hasn’t enabled Australians to see a lot of other gears in the way I work. And I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer when it comes to issues and I suspect you guys know that too.
But, you know, over the last few years that’s been pretty important, to ensure we’ve been able to get through some of the most important things that we’ve had to do and land some really big security agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom.
But also I would say with the Japanese government, in the defence agreement, it took me three years to land that agreement and you worked with three prime ministers.
You’ve got to be pretty determined to be able to land those sorts of things but that doesn’t mean – because as we go into this next period on the other side of this election, I know there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things. Because we are moving into a different time.
We are moving into a time of opportunity and working from the strong platform of strength that we’ve built and saved in our economy in the last three years we can now take advantage of those opportunities in the future.
Resilience and strength is what we needed and that will continue to be needed but it’s also about ensuring the dividend of what we’ve done gets to fix those problems in aged care. Gets to ensure that we are supporting people with disabilities.
That we are investing in the hospitals and the schools. You asked me about Mark McGowan, look, I’ve worked closely with Mark to ensure that they have got the GST that they needed, that they weren’t getting getting their fair share.
I want to see that invested in schools and hospitals and infrastructure in Western Australia because it’s a growing state.
You go up to the north of Perth, I was a talking to a lot of residents in north Perth last night and they want to see roads, they want to see the community infrastructure and that’s why we’ve invested in the new community recreation infrastructure in that part of the country.
Q: Mark McGowan yesterday was quite forceful about Peter Dutton that he finds his talk about war quite frightening. Is his rhetoric going over the top? Is it damaging relations even further with Beijing?
Our objectives ensure a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific. That’s what our policies are designed to achieve and that is what Peter is working to achieve.
That is exactly why we have entered into things like the Aukus agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.
It’s why we have restored defence funding from the lowest level we have seen since before the second world war under Labor because they couldn’t control the borders and they couldn’t control the budget.
It wasn’t just that Labor couldn’t control the budget and they had to cut defence, they also couldn’t put important medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. That’s what happens when you have a party that’s loose with finances, loose with the economy.
You can’t afford a loose unit in the Lodge. And because the impact on you is very serious. It impacts on the medicines you can get access to, it impacts on your security as a nation when they can’t fund defence forces.
So we have rebuilt that up to over 2%. We have put in place the partnerships with our allies and our like-minded partners in the region. The Quad arrangement, now this is significant, under our involvement and with a lot of our driving, the Quad which is Australia, India, Japan and the United States, has been taken to a leaders’ level dialogue.
What’s the relevance of that? It was Kevin Rudd who put an end to that at the behest of the Chinese government. Now, he was wrong about that.
We have fixed that by restoring the Quad, by working with Japan, working with India, working with the United States. What that does is it implies an important counter-balance in our region for peace and stability. Our defence policies are all about ensuring peace and stability in our region, not the opposite.
Q: Just some clarity on yesterday. Was that any way to treat someone that has served the country? And also if you could clarify – is it the job of your security detail to protect you from physical danger or to protect you from political embarrassment?
Well, they know what their responsibilities are and I follow [the protocols].
…I mean, in this job, it’s very important to follow protocols in relation to matters of that nature and I just follow those protocols.
…I have great faith in the team that protects me every single day and you’ll know that it was only a few weeks ago about 200 metres from the very site we were at yesterday where two of my protection detail were involved in a very serious car accident only a few hundred metres from that very site … I follow their protocols and do that on each occasion and I don’t question it.
Q: You today announced new border protection policies which do include charging foreign criminals, if they’re in immigration detention. You had several years to announce that policy as either immigration minister or prime minister. Why are you doing it now just with a week left to go before the election campaign? Is this more politics than policy?
No, it’s future plans. Because you never rest when it comes to national security and border security.
…We have done it for people smugglers and we made sure it could work with people smugglers and now whether they’re drug traffickers or bikies or others who will as soon as they get out, we’ll punt them, we’ll punt them. They’ll go. Over 10,000…
(Many have been NZ born citizens who have been living in Australia since they were babies/young children who have no ties to NZ beyond it being the place of their birth. The practice has been an issue NZ has raised with Australia multiple times.)
Q: The parliamentary committees in the past have found there was more than $50m owed and about $2m was, you know, received back.
That’s $2m more than there was before, isn’t it? That’s why it’s important. It sends a very strong message. If you come and commit a crime in this country and you’re not a citizen, you’ll go to jail, and when you get out you’ll be in detention. And then you’ll be sent home and we have done that on more than 10,000 occasions. I started the process as immigration and border protection minister.
I turned around the disgraceful record where the Labor party just let people who came to Australia commit crimes and just let them back into the community and didn’t send them home. I started that process as immigration border protection minister, Peter Dutton took it to a whole new level, and Karen Andrews continues that process. We don’t even know who Anthony Albanese would have as their home affairs minister. In fact, with Kristina Keneally, she is each way and every way when it comes to border protection. On these issues she just couldn’t be trusted to follow through.
Q: How many times have you met with Chinese embassy officials since you have been prime minister? Richard Marles had met with them and other officials 10 times in the last five years. Is that a concern to you? Are Labor doing more in this Chinese relationship?
I have not met with the Chinese ambassador in any formal meeting while I have been prime minister and I note those reports about the deputy leader of the Labor party. It comes on top of the concerning reports about him running his speeches past the Chinese government and now we see a very strangely high number of meetings between an opposition member of parliament and Chinese government officials. I mean, something doesn’t sound right that to me.
Q: Prime minister, the Coalition has traditionally been seen as strong on national security and strong on the economy.
Q: We’re now heading towards a trillion dollars in debt, China signed a security pact with the Solomons. Have you lost the trust of the community when it comes to the economy and national security?
We are living at a time that is – that is unprecedented. In the last 70 or so years and Australia is facing some of the biggest economic and security challenges indeed the health challenges, a one in a 100-year pandemic and look where we are.
We have got an economy that is outperforming all of the seven largest advanced economies, democracies, in the world. We have got 400,000 more people in work today than we had before the pandemic.
We have maintained our AAA credit rating and we’re one of only nine countries to do so and our economic plan has turned around the budget by over $100bn in the last 12 months, unemployment has fallen to 4% and is falling further and youth unemployment has fallen to 8.3%.
We got 220,000 apprentices in trade training right now, the highest level since 1963. We got 1.1 million more women in work today than when we first came … No, sorry you asked me a question about economic credentials and I’m running…
Q: And national security credentials.
You asked me about economic credentials so I think it’s only fair that I’m able to set them out. 1.1 million women more in work today having achieved record levels of female participation in the workforce.
The gender pay gap has fallen from 17.4% to 13.8% which means women working today are $70 a week better off than what they were under the Labor party.
And in addition, on our tax plan, it shows that women are $60 better off today than they were previously. And, of course, we’re ensuring that young people are getting into trades and are getting those jobs. That’s what our economic plan is doing as well as investing in supply chain security and the advanced manufacturing opportunities of the future, getting energy costs down by 10% over the last 3.5 years since I have been prime minister.
That’s what our economic plan is addressing. And as a result, we got issues around the world which has got upward pressure on interest rates, it’s got upward pressure on the cost of living, and so I think Australians can make the judgement about a government that has delivered on all of that, but more importantly, has had the economic plan that has been setting us up for the future to take advantage of the opportunities that are there and realise in the years ahead and on national security you have asked me about that. We’re the first government to achieve access to nuclear-powered submarines of any government in Australia and plenty have tried.
We have landed the first agreement, the Aukus agreement, which is the most significant defence agreement that this country has entered into since Anzus.
We have ensure that we have turned around the massive cuts to defence that we saw under Labor, the massive chaos on our borders to secure our border security for the future. It was Australia that under our government was able to stop the boats and other countries around the world come to Australia to find out how you can achieve that.
So when it comes to national security, when it comes to doing and standing up to the Chinese government, no government has been more forthright than ours whether it’s on protecting us on the security of our communication systems, where we’re one of the first to stand up in the world.
Whether it’s dealing with foreign interference, ensuring we have tight foreign investment rules that we have strengthened over time to ensure Australia’s sovereignty is not impinged. That’s our record. That what we have been doing. Australians know they can trust that, but more importantly they know they see the strength in our government and my prime ministership to stand up on those issues because they have seen me do it in the face of opposition, of critics, and on many occasions that has been from a weak opposition who you know you can’t trust with national security and is just loose on the economy.
Q: Regional security is an issue you say is important to you. Were you told at any stage yesterday that the former high commissioner to the Solomon Islands was at the event? And why didn’t you talk to him?
Well, I learned that later. When I follow protocols with my security team and when they say it’s time for me to leave, that’s what I do.
…I don’t question that. I have learnt he was there in the 1980s and I’m sure he had many opinions on that, but can I tell you one of the most important things that we have done, when I first became prime minister, [Fijian] prime minister Frank Bainimarama came to Australia and I hosted him at Kirribilli and there was the formal part of the meeting but Frank and I walked out on to the terrace and I said to Frank, ‘Frank, I know that Australia has not always done it the right way in the Pacific. You know, in the past Australia has acted a bit like a colonial overlord and stomped around and I don’t think it’s treated the Pacific peoples and families with respect.’
And he agreed with me. And he said, ‘That was one of the key issues that had been causing angst amongst Pacific leaders’.
He was grateful I acknowledged that. Frank and I have now become very good friends as I have with many of the Pacific leaders and I have sought to change the way that we deal with the Pacific.
You have heard me mention it on so many occasions – family, I think of Pacific leaders as equals and as family working together to address the national security issues which is why when these issues come up, when those threats come up, and when I engage with Pacific leaders, they know I’m doing that out of a shared concern, not just from Australia’s concern.
Q: Prime minister, you said a couple of times there this morning that we’re almost through the pandemic, we’re at the end of it. Are we really, though? 15,000 new infections in Victoria yesterday, 15 deaths, we are coming into winter. Are we really through this?
That’s why I haven’t said we’re fully through it and I have never said we are.
Because there are, of course, the winter and as you know earlier in the year working with the states and territories, we did our winter preparedness plan to go through all the issues, to support that, and that particularly meant ensuring vaccinations for older Australians, going back into the aged care facilities, and that’s what’s been done.
And that’s the plan being rolled out by the department of health and the states and the territories. And there’s always the risk of other variants.
We have been watching closely some of those variants, even over the course of this campaign as I have been in touch with the chief medical officer.
But where we’re at now is we’re living with it. I think that’s fairly clear.
Yes, there are large numbers of cases each day and sadly we are losing Australians, and as we have said many times back some months ago, when people are passing away, they may have Covid when they pass away, but we all know that that doesn’t mean that was the contributing factor to their death. But that’s how the numbers are recorded and I’m not suggesting any change to that.
So we are living with that virus. And that virus, it’s in the community, but people are getting on with their lives just as they are here and now.
And so I think as we talk about the pandemic, we’re moving into a completely different phase now and, indeed, we’re already living in it.
People don’t want what they have had to live with through the pandemic going into the future and that’s why the next three years we can look forward with optimism and we can look forward with hope because we have come through the worst of this, we believe.
Now, we can’t guarantee against any other circumstances and I wouldn’t be so foolish to suggest that, we always have to be ready and we always seek to be, but the opportunity is there now and we can’t risk that opportunity.
There is the better times that are coming, and that is because we have planned for them.
We have planned with businesses like this to ensure that they can invest in the equipment, the contracts, the technology, the training and the skills.
As a government, we just haven’t been getting us through, we have been setting Australia up and that’s why I’m optimistic.