Australia politics live news: Pacific situation ‘is a hose you have to hold’, Turnbull tells Coalition; 33 Covid deaths

Executive director of Micah Australia, Reverend Tim Costello has welcomed Labor’s commitment to increase foreign aid spending in the Pacific, as well as include extra funding for climate change adaption – and wants the Coalition to lift its own funding commitments:

We have always condemned cuts to aid as both morally and strategically wrong and we have unfortunately seen the consequences of this in both Afghanistan and Solomon Islands,” said Costello.

Last year, Australia’s aid reached a historic low of 0.21% of gross national income and it is set to fall even further this year, before dropping to just 0.18% in 2023-24.

When compared to other wealthy donor nations of the OECD, this ranks Australia 21st out of 29 countries.

This was at the same time as the Covid pandemic hit low-income countries even harder, he said.

Extreme poverty has risen by 150 million people. This year, 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection.

It is clear we must return to the bi-partisan commitment that once existed from both parties, reaching an aid investment level of 0.5 per cent of our income in development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.

Reverend Tim Costello. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Costello wants to see “50 cents of each $100 of Australia’s national income spent on international development”.

That target is a relatively modest investment and should be enshrined in legislation so we can build true long-term partnerships in our region and help tackle the tremendous global issues of our time, including rising conflict and climate change.

Further, we call on both parties to commit to creating a safer world for all by restoring Australia’s refugee program to 20,000 places per year and increasing emergency life-saving humanitarian aid to conflict and hunger hotspots.”

Zoe Daniel is responding to claims she is a “fake” independent.

Victoria reports 15 Covid deaths and 9,265 new cases

Victoria has also reported its last 24 hours.

NSW reports 18 Covid deaths and 9,849 new infections

NSW Health has reported its covid numbers for the last 24 hours.

COVID-19 update – Tuesday 26 April 2022

In the 24-hour reporting period to 4pm yesterday:

– 96.2% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
– 94.7% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) April 25, 2022

Tony Abbott is still in India

It was an honour to interact with former PM of Australia Hon’ble @HonTonyAbbott and Former PM of Canada Hon’ble @stephenharper in Delhi.

Exchanged views on strengthening the bonds of friendship and progress between India🇮🇳, Australia🇦🇺 and Canada🇨🇦

— Naveen Jindal (@MPNaveenJindal) April 25, 2022

This is a little awkward, given the last three days of Coalition attacks.

From Daniel Hurst:

A Coalition MP praised a now contentious trip to China featuring Labor’s deputy leader, Richard Marles, as “an invaluable opportunity to have open and candid dialogue”.

The Morrison government has attempted to discredit the opposition’s claim that the major parties are united on China policy by highlighting Marles’ trip to China in 2019 and his speech to a Beijing university. Marles said at the time it would be a “profound mistake” to define China as an enemy.

But it has emerged that the Liberal National party backbencher Ted O’Brien – who joined Marles and Labor’s Tanya Plibersek on the three-day study tour organised by the China Matters thinktank – praised the 2019 trip.

‘This is a hose you have to hold,’ Turnbull tells government

Over on ABC radio RN, Malcom Turnbull has been unloading on the man he made home affairs minister, Peter Dutton.

I’ll bring you some more of that interview in just a moment.

Labor’s Kristina Keneally spoke to ABC News Breakfast from Brisbane, where she is asked what Labor could do differently when it comes to the Pacific:

We can’t outspend China and we can’t pretend we can. But we have natural advantages. Our shared people-to-people connections, our shared interests. We have squandered that under over the Liberals. We have stepped back. It’s not been a Pacific step-up, it’s been a Pacific stuff-up. Through the institutional support, climate infrastructure support, deepening our defence relationships, through our people-to-people relationships, through our economic support, we see this as an opportunity now to strengthen our Pacific family – for Australia to be the natural partner of choice for Pacific neighbours.

Kristina Keneally looks on as Jason Clare addresses media during a press conference in Sydney on 19 April.
Kristina Keneally looks on as Jason Clare addresses media during a press conference in Sydney on 19 April. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Scott Morrison is in Townsville (north Queensland) today where he will be making announcements on energy.

Given what we just heard from Scott Morrison there, it’s worth your time having a listen to climate and environment editor Adam Morton on today’s Full Story podcast examining if the policy differences between the Coalition and Labor and ultimately asking: is either party preparing enough for the transformational change ahead?

As Adam says:

Economic modelling should be used as a guide. Both sides of politics lean on it more as a forecast that will be fact … I don’t think anybody can tell us exactly what our power bills will be in 2025, 2030, 2050 but no one disagrees that more solar and wind is good in terms of lowering prices because it is much, much cheaper to generate what’s in place.

You’ll find that here:

Scott Morrison is once again trying to bring back the past, claiming Labor has a “climate tax” when asked about Anthony Albanese coming back to the campaign trail after having Covid.

We’ve seen from from those would step up into Anthony Albanese’s position an absolute muddle. I mean, the position on on our traditional industries. I mean, we’ve heard Pat Conroy and Meryl Swanson – they’re the members up in the Hunter – saying no Australian coalmine will be impacted by their safeguards mechanism, which is effectively their carbon tax. And then we have Chris Bowen saying they will but it’s not just the coalmining industry, what they increase in prices. They’re increasing costs on traditional industries under their kind of policy is on mining, gas, oil, rail freight cement production, refinery, and sectors of that nature.

At this election, there’s a clear choice between us saying we’ll meet our commitments not through higher taxes, and not by imposing choices on people and the Labor party who want to put taxes on these activities that mean real jobs, and up there in the Hunter there are 10,000 jobs at risk from what Labor is proposing when it comes to their carbon credit scheme, which is just another carbon tax.

Here is what Jim Chalmers had to say about the carbon credit policy yesterday:

We’re not forcing any company to buy a credit. As I’ve said before, businesses and entities have options under the safeguard mechanism. The same options that they have under the government now, they will have under us. They can choose to buy a credit or they can choose to reduce their emissions below the baseline determined by the Clean Energy Regulator. Our preference is for the latter. We’ve said that repeatedly. Thanks very much.

Asked if he thinks he will win the election, Scott Morrison launches into his “it’s a choice” stump speech, and it is now so by rote, it almost sounds as though he is reading it.

He then seems to remember what he wanted to talk about and throws in, right at the end:

Just coming back from that issue on the Solomon Islands and this gives you a good idea. What they’re putting out today, the Labour party, is basically a continuation of all the things that we’re currently doing with one exception.

They think the way to solve the problem the Solomon Islands is to send in the ABC.

I mean, it’s farcical when their answer to solving the Solomon Islands problem is they have to Q + A in Honiara.

I don’t think that’s a true reflection or an understanding of the challenges that we face there. And we’ve been very focused on your investments in the Pacific to keep Australians safe. And what we’ve done around the world has been acknowledged. And when I was in the United States when I was there talking to the houses of Congress, and Covid, and their leadership.

They were amazed at the strength that our government has shown in standing up to the coercion and threats that we’ve seen from the Chinese government. No Australian government has stood up more firmly to the Chinese government’s coercion of our region and Australia than our government. And we will keep doing that with a great team in that, of course, with Peter Dutton and Marise Payne and the whole team that continues to stand up for Australia every single day.

Morrison is talking about Labor’s desire to have the ABC once again run the Australia Channel, which is seen as a key part of Australia’s “soft power” tool kit. The contract was given to Sky News, which has led to criticism over whether the channel is being used as well as it could be.

Ben Fordham points out Christine Holgate was cleared of any wrongdoing and had the authority to award the $5,000 Cartier watches as bonuses and asks Morrison to confirm that in his eyes, she didn’t do anything wrong.

Morrison does not:

I’m not going to go back over the issue other than to say this now, I still don’t think it’s a good idea for taxpayers’ money, which is what is in a government company, to be used to buy Cartier watches. I don’t agree with that the board didn’t agree with that either.

Asked about the giant bonuses Australia Post executives have received under the new CEO, which equate Fordham says, to “100 Cartier watches” in some cases, Morrison says:

Well, there are remuneration arrangements that apply to bonuses. But what we’re talking about here is taxpayers’ money being used to buy Cartier watches and I just don’t think that passes the pub test. I never thought it did.

I was simply saying at the time was there should be an inquiry into this and Ms Holgate should have stood aside while that was done and if she was cleared by that then she could have continued on in a job. That was always my position. And if that had occurred, she’d probably still be there now.

But anyway, she’s gone on to other things. I wish her well in all of that. But when you’re running a company that is owned by the government, which is all taxpayers’ money, then I think you know there are, there are judgments that you need to make about those things which also have to survive public scrutiny.

Asked if he thinks he could have toned it down, Morrison says:

Well, that’s what I’ve already said that to you, Ben.

Ben Fordham moves on to Scott Morrison’s treatment of former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate and asks if Morrison, with hindsight, would have handled anything differently. Morrison says:

I mean, it was a very heated day in the parliament. On that occasion, we were being accused of being complicit in having taxpayers’ money used to buy Cartier watches now, I can imagine the sort of questions I would have got from you had you thought that.

And so I responded to that. And I already said that my tone on that day and the way I responded was in the heat of the parliament, and I should have been more measured on that day.

The principle though hasn’t changed. And the point about if you’re running a government company, it’s not running a private company and there are different standards that apply there. And that’s the point I was making at the time and I’m pleased to Ms Holgate has gone on to a very successful career. She’s a very capable woman, and she’s doing something she loves now and I’m quite sure she’s doing even better than she was before. So I wish her all the best.

But when you’re involved in running a government-owned company, then the scrutiny that’s applied there, that is applied to ministers of the government every day and ministers have stood aside when I’ve had inquiries put in place for them.

And that was a standard I have applied to my own ministers and and those who run government companies sign up to the same type of scrutiny.

Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate
Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

PM says he is ‘certainly not’ blocking Katherine Deves from radio interview

Asked about Katherine Deves not being allowed to appear on Sydney radio 2GB (host Ben Fordham says he has invited her, but it appears to be Liberal HQ that has stopped her).

Scott Morrison again says:

I’m certainly not doing that

But he doesn’t address the question of whether Liberal HQ is actually stopping her from speaking:

I think it’s really important that we just bring it back to the simple point she’s making about women and girls in sport. It’s very common sense. I mean, I think parents want to have this discussion in a civil way and in a respectful way, but the point she’s making a pretty obvious and what I’m surprised about is the reaction to their comments on women and girls in sport.

Scott Morrison is on Sydney radio 2GB where he is being asked how prepared Australia is for war, given Peter Dutton’s comments yesterday.

He launches into a speech on defence spending, and comparing it with Labor’s record:

What Peter was saying yesterday I think was important. Of course no one wants to see a war and no one is believing that is about to happen. I want to reassure Australians about that. We prepare for these things to ensure we can stability and peace within our region.

It seems even 2GB listeners don’t think Australia drawing a red line in the Pacific means much when it comes to China, leading Morrison to try to explain that Aukus is more than just nuclear submarines (which we won’t get for at least 20 years).

Aukus is not just about nuclear-powered submarines, Aukus is about cybersecurity and cyber defences. The first shot in any conflict is actually in bits and bytes. It’s not in bullets.

Not sure that is quite the slogan he thinks it is.

Scott Morrison at the Anzac Day parade in Darwin yesterday
Scott Morrison at the Anzac Day parade in Darwin yesterday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Josh Butler

The campaign in Kooyong is heating up, with treasurer Josh Frydenberg and independent challenger Monique Ryan exchanging potshots over a candidates’ debate, with each accusing the other of dodging the spotlight.

A candidates’ forum is to be held on Wednesday in Kooyong, with Ryan and several other challengers slated to attend. Frydenberg has declined. On Monday Channel Nine political editor Chris Uhlmann tweeted that his network had invited Frydenberg and Ryan to a debate to be held at Melbourne’s Docklands – about 10km outside of Kooyong.

Following a request from Ch 9, I agreed to debate so-called “Independent” Monique Ryan this Thursday.

I welcome a fair debate in a non-partisan forum about important issues facing my community. Monique Ryan has declined Ch 9’s invite.

Full statement👉

— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) April 25, 2022

Uhlmann later tweeted that Ryan had declined – a post retweeted by Frydenberg.

Ryan released a statement saying she would “relish the opportunity” to debate Frydenberg but was critical that Nine’s “proposed format does not involve the people of Kooyong, or give them the chance to ask questions of me or Mr Frydenberg”.

She said she would accept Nine’s invitation if the debate were held in Kooyong, with questions from locals, and accused Frydenberg of “hiding from his constituents”.

Since @JoshFrydenberg pulled out of the ACTUAL Kooyong candidates forum, I’d relish the opportunity to debate him on Ch9.

If it’s in Kooyong (not Docklands!), in front of people of Kooyong, with Qs asked by the people of #Kooyong.

That’s why I’m running — to represent Kooyong!

— Dr Monique Ryan (@Mon4Kooyong) April 25, 2022

But Frydenberg quickly shot back in a Facebook post, claiming the Kooyong community debate was being hosted by a “climate activist group”, which he called a “front” for his opponents:

Participating in a debate hosted by Lighter Footprints would be akin to attending a campaign rally organised by my political opponents.

This is not to say that climate change is not a very important issue. It is. I have been a strong advocate for net zero emissions by 2050, to which our government has committed and has a plan to meet. However, it is not the only important issue at stake at the upcoming election and, therefore, should not be the only issue debated between candidates.

At this stage, it seems that while both candidates say they are keen to debate, they can’t agree on where and how to do it.

It’s all a bit ugly and silly but shows the tension in this race – where polls show Frydenberg could be in trouble. Kooyong is covered top to bottom with election posters, and residents are being bombarded with targeted social media ads from both sides.

Monique Ryan poses for a photo with her supporters
Monique Ryan poses for a photo with her supporters during an election campaign launch at Hawthorn Arts Centre in Melbourne on 10 April. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP

Good morning

We are almost at the halfway point of the campaign, which means things are about to get even more messy.

The latest Newspoll, first published in the Australian newspaper, shows no movement in the two-party-preferred, with Labor still leading 53 points to 47. Scott Morrison still remains the more popular leader but dissatisfaction with his leadership has also increased. The AFR Ipos poll shows an unchanged 55% to 45% two-party-preferred measure, which remains unchanged from the last poll three weeks ago. Just a reminder swings are never uniform.

Meanwhile, the “red line” the PM has declared with China (a naval base in Solomon Islands) has left people a little uncomfortable and confused, because no one knows what would actually happen if China crossed it. Red lines, combined with Peter Dutton (who claims his leadership ambitions have passed) talking about the need to prepare for war to protect peace (all on Anzac Day) has left people a little uncomfortable.

Labor has released its “how we would deal with the Pacific” policy, as Daniel Hurst maps out here.

And the election campaign rolls on. We will bring you all of it as it happens. You have Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin, Paul Karp, Daniel Hurst and Josh Butler watching the campaign and surrounds, as well as Amy Remeikis on the blog for most of the day.

This is going to need more than coffee today.

Ready? Me either. Still, let’s get into it.

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