When this election campaign is done and dusted, the PM should give the MP in his most marginal seat in Tasmania, Bridget Archer, a call to thank her for enduring the most frequent number of awkward press conferences of the campaign.
Archer has had to stand by the PM and take difficult questions on his failure to act on an integrity commission and today it got worse when she stood by him at a mental health announcement.
The announcement in Tasmania was important. More than $55 million will be invested into mental health and suicide prevention support and services across Tasmania over the next five years, following the signing of a bilateral agreement between the Morrison and Tasmanian Liberal governments. Mental health has been an area of priority for the Morrison government so much so that Albanese gave Scott Morrison a compliment about it at the end of the last leader’s debate of the campaign.
But the announcement also came in the very same week the mental health of some of the most vulnerable Australians — trans kids — were under attack again by the PM’s hand-picked candidate in Warringah.
The irony wasn’t lost on the press pack. They asked questions of Bridget Archer — who famously crossed the floor to protect trans kids — on how she squares mental health issues with comments by Liberal candidate Katherine Deves that gender affirming surgery was akin to “mutilation”.
The Member of Bass began her answer by saying that we should be mindful that people in the LGBTQI community are around “15 times more likely to suffer mental health challenges”. Just think about that stat.
“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 [that] when we talk about people, whoever they are, that we should do so with kindness. That we should do so understanding that people are vulnerable and marginalized and I don’t think it matters who people are we can all do better.”
It comes as it was revealed that former prime minister Tony Abbott has begged Liberals in his old seat of Warringah to “get behind” You should in an attempt to stop volunteers abandoning her campaign to help Liberal campaigns elsewhere.
“The more I see of Katherine Deves the more impressed I am with her courage, with her common sense, with her decency and with quite frankly her capacity to win this seat back for the Liberal Party,” Abbott said in a video sent to members by the Liberal Party’s Warringah federal electorate conference on Thursday.
Now, given the former PM actually lost the blue-ribbon seat to an independent intervention because he was seen to be out of step with the views of his community, I’m not sure his will have the consequence he would have hoped for.
You must keep causing headaches for the Liberal Party — so much so that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg distanced himself from Morrison’s handling of the controversial Liberal candidate after the Prime Minister repeated his defense of the polarizing candidate’s views.
Asked whether he would have backed Deves if he were prime minister, Frydenberg told me on ABC Radio National on Thursday morning, “I would use different language to what the Prime Minister has used, and I’ve been pretty outspoken and strong in my criticism Katherine Deves has approached this issue.”
This is the second time that Frydenberg has told us he would use a different language to the PM — last week it was about ICAC being a so-called “kangaroo court.”
As polling day gets closer and the polls show moderate seats like Kooyong could fall, the product differentiation with the PM seems to be getting more pronounced. Watch this space.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean warned of the dangers of a Trump-like shift to the right within the Liberal party, pleading with voters not to sack moderate MPs in favor of “teal” independents on May 21.
Speaking alongside Wentworth MP Dave Sharma, Kean warned that unseating moderate Liberals would leave the party lacking important perspectives, drawing parallels to the Republican party in the US.
In the middle of a chain reaction
Morrison really doubled down on his claim that Anthony Albanese’s position on a rise to the minimum wage could cause an economic chain reaction.
“[If] 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,” Morrison said in Launceston.
The PM said he wants to see wage rises but he doesn’t want to see “reckless behavior in how the process should work, and this is where Mr Albanese has failed”.
The debate over the extent to which wages should grow has dominated the final key days of the campaign but it’s still not clear how Albanese can lack a “magic pen” on wages AND be about to cause a Diana Ross style “chain reaction” in the economy.
Albanese says he has been “consistent” on the wages policy but Labor continues to not reveal if this 5.1 per cent rate would be in a post-election submission by a Labor government to the Fair Work Commission.
Albanian did arrive in Gladstone where he was making another announcement with a gold coin he held up to demonstrate his political point that the wage rise he is advocating for minimum wage earners is modest.
Speaking of mysteries…
Morrison also came under pressure on his claim a $500,000 compensation payment negotiated for a former staffer doesn’t involve claims against his stood-aside education minister Alan Tudge.
He has previously said he “wo have been told” if the negotiations had to pay to former staffer Rachelle Miller involved a cabinet minister.
News.com.au has reported today that the negotiations mentioned the stood-aside education minister Alan Tudge and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.
When pressed on this report, Morrison said he stands by his initial claim.
“That was the advice that I received from the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet,” he said.
“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 [ministerial] 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.”
Italians. And Madonna’s T-Shirt “Italians Do it better.”
Albanese was questioned on whether he had thought about being the first Italian-Australian Prime Minister and how that would “change the country”, as he appealed to multicultural Australians.
“I have, absolutely, and I am heartened by the response that I have, particularly from the Italian community,” he said.
“We’re a diverse country.”
The ABC, which continues to have many programs on the PM’s list of places he won’t do interviews, so much so that the Opposition Leader reckons he is allergic.
Albanese — who himself has refused to go ABC’s AM program — said it was like the PM has an allergy to the ABC: “No debate on the ABC. No appearance on Q+A. No appearance on RN Breakfast. No appearance on ABC Breakfast . No interviews on Insiders, on the major programs, and no appearance yet at the National Press Club.”
I’m getting my antihistamines.
What to watch out for tomorrow
Just when you thought you were all debated out, Marise Payne and Penny Wong will meet at the National Press Club to debate foreign affairs tomorrow from 12.30pm.
posted , updated