Scott Morrison is campaigning in Parramatta.
That interview continued:
Q: At the same time, it’s fair to say you all need to raise money. You’ve attended fundraising events. I think Brunswick was the most recent one you went to, well outside the city of Kooyong.
Oh, OK. I have not attended fundraising events in Brunswick. Mr Frydenberg keeps trying to smear me with some attendance at a private function held by some friends of mine as a fundraiser last week. I was not there.
I have not attended fundraisers when I’ve been invited to community forums where the people of Kooyong want to talk about things that matter. In this case, it was climate. Mr Frydenberg was invited to that forum and declined to attend. He needs to be more accountable to the people of Kooyong and this is one of the frustrations people here have with him.
Q: It will clearly be a close contest there on May 21. One of your key platforms is greater accountability, greater transparency. You want a strong federal anti-corruption commission, but in terms of accountability, aren’t you … Are you not being accountable in not telling the voters of Kooyong in the event of a hung parliament which side of politics you’d support if you win?
Not at all. I’ve been extremely clear about this. I have said who I would support in terms of the major parties where there’s a hung parliament.
I would support whichever of the major parties was willing to come to the table on what the people of Kooyong want, which is effective action on climate change in the next 10 to 15 years and a strong federal Icac. If Mr Frydenberg was really serious about action on climate change, he would be talking to the independents rather than smearing us in the way that he has.
He can’t control his own party. He can’t control Barnaby Joyce. He can’t give us any sense of how his government is going to take action on climate change. That’s something that I can give the people of Kooyong.
Dr Monique Ryan, the independent challenger to Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong, has been asked about the campaign for the seat once held by Robert Menzies, given how personal Frydenberg is making the campaign.
ABC News showed this clip of Frydenberg launching his campaign:
The other day Amy [his wife] and I were walking down to Porgies + Mr Jones for dinner and a very nice lady, in her 70s I think, came up to me and said, “Josh, I’m voting for you.” I said, “That’s very nice for you.”
And she goes, “I’m Monique Ryan’s mother-in-law.”
(There is laughter in the room.)
I said, “Why are you voting for me?” She said, “Because you know what you’re doing and you’re a nice person.” I said thank you very much.
Q: Firstly, did that happen?
Look, I have to agree with Mr Frydenberg in that my mother-in-law is a very nice lady and she did have a conversation with Mr Frydenberg recently. She believes that she was misquoted in some of that conversation. She did say that she was intending to vote for him but she does not recall the rest of that conversation.
Q: The treasurer says hand on heart that she said that words he recounted to the Liberal Party faithful yesterday.
Right, well, that’s a difference between two adult people. My issue is this, Michael, I don’t see why the treasurer feels it’s appropriate to bring other family members into political discourse.
My mother-in-law is not a part of this campaign. She is not someone who should be made fun of at Liberal party events, which Mr Frydenberg has done twice in the last week. Where does this end?
At the start of this campaign, I signed a code of conduct where I pledged not to make personal attacks on Mr Frydenberg and not to approach or attack his family in any way. I’d like to know where he joins the line. I don’t want him coming after my parents and I don’t want him coming after my children.
I’d like to talk about the things that matter to the people of Kooyong, not to have sly, nasty digs at each other’s family members.
Q: You say twice. When was the other occasion when, as you say, the treasurer made fun of your mother-in-law?
He told that story last week while the rest of the candidates for Kooyong were at the Kooyong candidates’ forum at the Hawthorn Town Hall. Mr Frydenberg told that story, which he obviously finds amusing, at the Glenferrie hotel 100 metres down the road. He didn’t attend the candidates’ forum but attended a private function, donors’ function, I don’t know what it was, only 100 metres away.
Our rural and regional editor, Gabrielle Chan, has taken a look at the seat of Nicholls and the “Barnaby line” – the areas where the National leader is popular and one of the reasons he was brought back to the leadership:
The Goyder Line marks the line of reliable rainfall in South Australia. The Brisbane Line marks the apocryphal plan to abandon northern Australia during the second world war. The Barnaby Line, then, could mark the boundary of Barnaby Joyce’s appeal to rural voters.
It has long been assumed that Joyce is a Coalition plus in the regions and a minus in the cities, but his regional appeal may be changing in the southern states. If it is, that would mirror the challenges of all major parties, trying to straddle the divide between what voters want in the north compared with the desires in the south-east.
Other letters though, Anne Ruston has no idea about.
Asked about this story from the ABC (headline: Aspen Medical was given more than $1 billion in government PPE contracts despite no experience in large-scale procurement), she draws a blank:
Q: Finally, if the Coalition wins, you’ll be health minister. I want to ask you about a Four Corners story tonight which has the current health minister Greg Hunt sign a glowing letter of recommendation for a healthcare-connected company whilst it was in the midst of negotiations with his department for a lucrative multimillion-dollar PPE deal. That company, Aspen Medical, would win contracts without a public tender worth more than $1.1bn. Does that sound right to you?
Well, obviously, the details of which you’re referring to, I am unaware. But I would say that the health response that we have put in place, particularly through the pandemic, has been second to none around the world. And we, obviously, I think, can be very proud as a nation, collectively, all Australians, about the way that we’ve come through the pandemic and it has been our health services that have underpinned that success.
Q: But the question that I was asking, you don’t really need to know much about the issue. But according to Four Corners, health minister Greg Hunt wrote a letter supporting it in the midst of the tender negotiations. Is that the right thing for any minister to do?
I’m unaware of the details you’re referring to. But as I said, the necessity for the support that we received right across the board in our health response during the pandemic was the absolute underlying reasons why so many tens of thousands of Australian lives were saved during the pandemic and I think that all Australians can be tremendously proud of the health response to have the economic response and the strong economy that we are today and the envy of the rest of the world.
Anne Ruston, who would be the health minister in a re-elected Morrison government, was asked why, given that the head of Uniting Care backed a 25% pay increased for aged care workers – which Labor has pledged to support – the Coalition does not:
Well, we absolutely acknowledge the need that people who work in the aged care need to be paid appropriately, but we also believe that the Fair Work Commission is the appropriate independent body to make a decision about what that should be. We are absolutely committed and have been on the record as saying that the decision of the Fair Work Commission will be honoured by the government. But we are not going to intervene in the Fair Work Commission. It is independent. Mr Albanese has made comments, but I mean, what he’s so far said is that his action on the basis of the comments is that he’s going to write a letter to the Fair Work Commission. We will honour the Fair Work Commission but we also honour the hardworking staff in the aged care facilities.
This “write a letter” line the Coalition keeps using, seems to imply that it doesn’t believe prime ministers have much influence. Curious.
Welcome to day 22 of the election campaign. There are now three weeks to go.
Absolutely every day counts now too. Pre-polls open next week and voters who haven’t been paying attention will begin turning their mind towards who to vote for, meaning the parties are going to be slogging it out each and every day.
According to the latest Newspoll, there’s been no shift in the two-party-preferred for the second week in a row.
After launching Labor’s campaign in Western Australia on Sunday, Anthony Albanese has headed back east, to Brisbane. Scott Morrison spent last night at home and will begin his campaign day in Sydney.
While the main campaigns are under way, inner-city Liberals, including Josh Frydenberg, are fighting off strong independent challengers to keep what are usually safe Liberal seats. Frydenberg, who has been accusing his challenger, Monique Ryan, of being nothing more than a slogan and a billboard, has erected a billboard with a new “keep Josh” slogan and appeared on the front page of the Herald Sun with his family and dog, pleading for his job.
If any of those seats fall, Morrison will need to offset those losses and he’s looking at western Sydney and outer suburban seats for possible gains.
And both sides are waiting on the RBA to meet to decide what it is doing with the cash rate target tomorrow, with cost of living dominating the campaign whether the government wants it to or not.
We’ll bring you all the days events as they happen. Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin, Paul Karp, Daniel Hurst and Josh Butler will explain the day, as well as ferret out what’s happening behind the campaigns, with the entire Guardian brains trust at your disposal. You have me, Amy Remeikis, with you for most the day. It seems we’ve the entered espresso-martini-for-breakfast side of the campaign, but alas there are rules about that. So four coffees it is. Grab yours and let’s get into it.