The federal election campaign rolls on, with Labor and the Coalition announcing big-ticket policies today.
Here’s your live, rolling coverage of what’s happening on the trail.
HOWARD TRIES HIS HAND AT COMEDY
John Howard has roasted Bill Shorten in an impromptu comedy set while introducing Scott Morrison at a rally in western Sydney today, James Weir writes
The 79-year-old whipped out his tight five, which included an impression of the Labor leader, while addressing about 400 supporters on stage at Olympic Park.
“Bill Shorten thought this campaign was going to be a coronation,” Mr Howard mocked.
“He thought all he’d have to do was wave with one hand and get through a few set piece presentations … and he’d have a very easy victory. But something has happened along the way … and people started asking questions!“
Supporters laughed at Mr Howard’s mock shock and the encouragement spurred him on to pull a Tina Fey and show off his best impersonation of Mr Shorten.
“‘That was not meant to happen! I thought I’d just turn up and everyone would cheer and I would be ejected’,” he stammered, pretending to be the Labor leader.
Laughs filtered around the hall as enthusiastic supporters cheered. It was exactly like Amy Schumer’s Netflix special at Madison Square Garden, but also not.
It was a warm up act to fire up supporters before ScoMo made a rock star entrance in the hall to promote today’s announcement that he’ll cap Australia’s immigration intake if re-elected.
It was a return to the seat of Reid for Mr Howard — who last week copped an awkward grilling about his lack of familiarity with candidate Fiona Martin, who was selected at the last minute to run against Labor’s Sam Crosby in the key seat.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP)
But Ms Martin made sure to show just how fast her bond with Mr Howard has grown since last week’s awkward admission.
As she introduced the former PM, she joked about how his fitness has come in handy while the pair have hit the streets.
CHLOE’S UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP
Election campaigns are long, hard and unforgiving, but occasionally, something good comes of them.
Chloe Shorten discovered that in 2016, when she met Labor candidate Libby Coker and quickly formed a friendship with her.
Ms Shorten was in the ultra-marginal Victorian seat Corangamite yesterday, supporting Ms Coker in her attempt to unseat incumbent Liberal MP Sarah Henderson. Labor needs a swing of just 0.03 per cent.
She told news.com.au why she felt so strongly about Ms Coker’s candidacy.
“Libby is the very understated grassroots community girl, and that’s what I just love about her,” Ms Shorten said.
“Her kids are the same age as my kids, she’s got a girl in VCE at the moment, snap bang in between Rupert and Gigi, being in first year uni and year 11.”
She said Ms Coker’s previous career as a teacher was particularly important.
“She works so hard and has done so many different jobs. You look at her background, it’s so impressive,” she said.
“Libby was a teacher. And Bill and I love teachers. The kids say, ‘You know, the teachers again, and when they meet teachers, they get very emotional.’ We do because Bill’s mum was a teacher, my grandma was a teacher. It’s a big part of our lives. And we think they are unsung heroes — and that’s really what Libby is to me.
“I just wanted to come down and give her some support and a hug really, and then we went for a walk. It was amazing talking to so many locals and seeing how they respond to her.
“She’s so warm and utterly committed to her community and knows everyone. I was just deeply impressed by her. I think she’s a lovely human being.”
Ms Shorten is playing an active role in the election. She also appeared at a joint campaign launch for four of Labor’s female candidates in Queensland — Susan Lamb, Annika Wells, Corinne Mulholland and Ali France.
She and her husband drew a standing ovation when they arrived at Box Hill town hall earlier today, where Mr Shorten addressed a room teeming with 500 enthusiastic Labor volunteers.
BUSKER VIDEO GOES VIRAL
Is Bill Shorten a bit of a cheapskate?
Social media is abuzz after vision emerged that appears to show the Labor leader popping a five-dollar note in a young busker’s kitty and taking some change in coins.
But what really went down?
Mr Shorten was in Tasmania yesterday when he paid a visit to the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, sampling the local wares on offer, including oysters and homemade butter chicken.
He announced a $120 million commitment towards tourist attractions in the Apple Isle, including $50 million for the huge visitor drawcard Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA.
But on the way out, television cameras captured Mr Shorten throwing a fiver into a young busker’s collection.
A clip of the encounter has been shared widely on Twitter and saw the aspirant Prime Minister cop a lot of flack.
But all is not as it seems, Labor tells news.com.au.
The social media video, which rather conveniently ends abruptly, does not show what Mr Shorten was actually doing — grab some coins to weigh down the note so it didn’t blow away.
As it often the case, the markets were a fairly gusty affair yesterday, we’re informed.
Mr Shorten wanted to make sure his tip for the young guitarist wasn’t lost in the breeze, rather than something more sinister, as the questionable social media editing tried to imply.
— 🎀кєℓℓιє🎀🇦🇺☔️ (@kelliekelly23)
Case closed. Back to the important issues of the day.
ROCK STAR RECEPTION FOR SHORTEN
Bill Shorten has splashed the cash on a couple of big announcements at Box Hill town hall in Victoria, where he addressed a room full of enthusiastic Labor volunteers.
Box Hill is in the electorate of Chisholm, which is currently kind of, sort of vacant.
The incumbent MP, former Liberal Julia Banks, abandoned the seat at this election to run in Flinders instead. Labor needs a 2.9 per cent swing to reclaim it.
Mr Shorten was joined at today’s event by several members of his frontbench, the most high profile of whom was Penny Wong.
All 500 Labor volunteers in attendance received a text message urging them to commit to doorknocking 30 homes on candidate Jennifer Yang’s behalf.
If they all follow through, that will be a massive total of 15,000 homes.
Boos echoed around the room as Ms Wong said re-electing the Coalition would consign Australia to “another three years with Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson”.
But there were only cheers when Mr Shorten took the stage, entering alongside his wife Chloe.
The Labor Leader announced he would expand Medicare to cover dental care for about three million seniors and pensioners.
The significant $2.4 announcement would see anyone on the Age Pension or who holds a Seniors Health Care eligible for the scheme.
“The first $1000 of dental work you get in a two-year period will be free,” Mr Shorten said.
Shorten announces new $2.4 billion promise to expand Medicare to cover dental care for about three million seniors and pensioners: ‘The first $1000 of dental work you get in a two-year period will be free.’ #auspol pic.twitter.com/zNQ6DLaoZg— Sam Clench (@SamClench)
Mr Shorten said 185,000 older Australians skip going to the dentist each year because they can’t afford it.
On top of that, funding cuts from the Coalition government has seen public dental wait times “blow out” to up to 820 days on average, he said.
Mr Shorten also promised a 20 per cent pay rise, spread over eight years, for early childhood educators.
The average wage increase would be $11,300, on top of any increase in the award rate.
That’s on top of this morning’s $4 billion child care subsidy announcement, which would see parents save considerably each year — or in many cases, pay nothing.
More broadly, Mr Shorten sought to paint a stark contrast between his leadership style and that of Scott Morrison.
He mockingly referred to Scott Morrison’s assertion that he “doesn’t need anybody to prop me up”.
“It is fundamentally two different views about leadership,” Mr Shorten said. “He thinks it’s all about him. And I’m proud to lead my stable, united team.”
He called out several ministers by name, suggesting Mr Morrison had no one he could rely on.
“Even if he wanted to, the other bloke can’t do it, can he?” Mr Shorten said.
“His best people either quit parliament or have left the party. The others are either in exile or witness protection.
“Peter Dutton disgraced himself on day two of this campaign, even by his own standards.”
That was a reference to Mr Dutton suggesting his opponent in Dickson, Ali France, had used her disability as an “excuse” not to move to the electorate.
Mr Dutton later apologised.
Mr Shorten said Energy Minister Angus Taylor “hadn’t been sighted” since questions emerged about an $80 million water buyback deal.
And he reserved particular mockery for Environment Minister Melissa Price, who “has been in hiding so long, I’m not sure she even knows the election has been called”.
SHORTEN BRUSHES OFF PROTEST
It was a warm reception for Bill Shorten at a lively rally of Labor volunteers — all but one person, who stormed the stage in protest.
While giving a wide-ranging speech, Mr Shorten was briefly interrupted by a climate change protester who attempted to hold up a handwritten sign.
The man then moved to take off a jumper to reveal an anti-Adani shirt, before being dragged away by security.
“If you want action on climate change, don’t protest against Labor — vote the government out,” Mr Shorten said.
CLIVE PALMER BRANDED ‘LAZY’
Labor is continuing its attack on the Liberal Party’s controversial preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
Speaking on Insiders on ABC this morning, the Opposition’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek described the Queensland businessman as “lazy” and questioned what he gets out of the arrangement with Scott Morrison.
“The problem is not Clive Palmer, we have always known that he is lazy, that he only turned up to 25 votes out of the 400 last time he was in parliament, that he fell asleep in parliament,” Ms Plibersek said.
“We know all about that for Clive Palmer. The real problem is why Scott Morrison is doing a deal with him. Why isn’t Scott Morrison saying that Clive Palmer should pay back his workforce and pay back the taxpayers that had to bail out his workforce?”
Mr Palmer’s collapsed Queensland Nickel refinery in Townsville still owes workers millions in lost entitlements.
Labor has attacked Mr Morrison’s decision to get into bed with someone who left employees in the lurch.
“What’s in it?” Ms Plibersek asked of the preference deal.
“You know Clive Palmer is only ever about Clive Palmer. What has he extracted from Scott Morrison to get this deal?”
— Jessica van Vonderen (@jessvanvonderen)
‘DIRTIEST ELECTION IN DECADES’
Tanya Plibersek was on Insiders on ABC this morning and launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who she accused of “lying” and being “desperate”.
The deputy Labor leader accused Mr Morrison of going on the negative attack because “he’s got nothing positive to say”.
“I’ve been really worried that this campaign is probably the dirtiest and most negative in my 20 years of politic,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Given we’ve still got three weeks to go, I’m worried about how much lower Scott Morrison will go.”
The start of the Coalition’s campaign had been punctuated by “cuts and chaos”, deals with Clive Palmer’s party from the Liberals and One Nation by the National Party, and “negativity”, she said.
“They’re focused on running a negative line on us because they’ve got nothing positive to say,” Ms Plibersek said.
On the issue of Labor’s tax policy, which has formed a central part of the Coalition’s “new taxes” attack on Mr Shorten, she said that the Opposition had made “tough choices”.
Its plan to dramatically scale back negative gearing provisions and scrap franking tax credits benefits for retirees are proving particularly troublesome to voters, polls indicate.
Ms Plibersek defended the decisions.
“It means we can have the same tax cuts or bigger tax cuts for 10 million Australians and invest in schools and hospitals … we can do all of that, we can pay down debt sooner, because we’re not going to pay for these tax loopholes.”
DUTTON’S WIFE SLAMS DEATH THREATS
The wife of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at the “demented and perverted” death threats her family has received.
Kirilly Dutton told The Sunday Mail newspaper that the alarming threats received mentioned her children by name.
“They are personal attacks, death threats, threats of injury, threatening our children by name. It makes me angry and really upsets me,” Ms Dutton said.
In a profile piece of the Liberal frontbencher, who is facing a fierce challenge in his Brisbane seat of Dickson from Labor candidate Ali France, she said the common public perception of her husband was wrong.
“You’ve got to bear in mind he’s the Minister for Home Affairs. It’s not a light and bubbly subject.
“Anybody who knows him well gets quite riled up about the things people say about him, because they say, ‘that’s not him’.”
She revealed that among the hate mail were photoshopped images of Mr Dutton being killed or injured. They were sent to childcare centres that the family own and operate, she said.
CAMPAIGN IS UPSIDE DOWN
This is a topsy-turvy election campaign, one which has made the unusual the norm and flipped standard practice on its ear, political editor Malcolm Farr writes.
The inverted character of the campaign can be seen in the strange leaders’ debate.
Usually the government wants to limit debates with an Opposition leader because they’re levellers that take the authority of incumbency away from a PM and elevate the standing of an Opposition leader to alternative head of government.
This time it is the other way round.
Scott Morrison gives the impression he would chat with Bill Shorten on national television every night until May 18.
And he has accused Mr Shorten of squibbing encounters, apart from the first debate on Monday night. The accusation is part of the Coalition’s claim Labor is dodging tough questions.
Or maybe the topsy-turvy element is best seen in the spectacle of Labor campaigning against an opponent who is no longer in the field.
The Labor strategy of rolling out policies for more than a year was aimed at dealing with Malcolm Turnbull who — when Coalition troublemakers allowed — was a policy warrior.
But the internal Liberal turmoil of last August changed all that.
Instead of a policy work, Labor found itself confronting a political street brawler in Scott Morrison who didn’t even have an energy policy, as Mr Turnbull helpfully pointed out recently.
Mr Morrison has exploited Labor’s openness by attacking its proposals while limiting his own policy exposure. It’s as if he was Opposition leader.
But when it comes to peak topsy-turvy, it is difficult to surmount the remarkable interest in a policy whose owners are yet to promote it.
That policy is Labor’s prescription to reduce climate change.
The Opposition has not beaten the drum on it to any great magnitude or detail, although it soon will have to.
Yet Labor sources say its voter tracking has reported the importance of measures to restrict climate change is climbing up the list of voter priorities — even nudging economic management and health at the top.
The sources speculate they have only one person to thank — Scott Morrison.
The theory is that the Liberal estimates of the cost of Labor’s emission reduction proposals, the uproar over electric vehicles and the prominence of an Adani coal mine in Queensland have ramped up climate change concerns in the minds of voters.
In summary: Labor is winning the policy contest by not taking part.
With three weeks uncluttered by public holidays to polling day, the strangeness might get worse
‘TOSSER’ TAUNT CONTINUES
Politics is a cut and thrust game, as politicians like to remind us. But is calling a candidate a “tosser” appropriate?
Labor seems to think so. It’s the insult that Anthony Albanese used yesterday to describe colourful businessman and second-time political hopeful Clive Palmer.
Now, some of his senior colleagues are repeating it. Stephen Jones parroted his leader in a Twitter message accompanying a newspaper article about Mr Palmer.
A tosser who won’t pay his workers but brags about his wealth. This country has been run for the big end of town. It’s time to change direction. pic.twitter.com/BujVngEfzf— Stephen Jones MP (@StephenJonesMP)
CHILDCARE CASH SPLASH
It’s a form of financial torture for many families with young children and Labor today is promising to ease the pain.
The Opposition says that in government it would spend $4 billion helping nearly 900,000 families struggling to pay child care bills.
The proposal would cut annual costs for child care by up to $2100 per child for families earning up to $174,000 a year.
Read more about the big-ticket announcement here.
EARLY VOTING BEGINS TOMORROW
A record number of Australians are expected to begin voting early from tomorrow, with experts saying the numbers could dwarf the 4.5 million who pre-polled at the 2016 election.
While it’s convenient to avoid the Election Day crowds — even if it means foregoing a democracy sausage — experts have raised concerns about the impact for democracy.
Essentially, the argument goes that by making their decision before all of the policies are announced — and prior to any potential final week scandals and missteps — some voters could regret their choice.
We’ve looked at the issue in length, which you can read about here.
SHORTEN’S DIG AT JOURNALIST
Nine’s political editor Chris Uhlmann went head-to-head with Bill Shorten on Weekend Today and didn’t go easy on the Labor leader.
The reporter pressed Mr Shorten on why he had knocked back the offer of a prime-time debate with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the network.
Uhlmann brought it up during their pointed chat, asking: “Why aren’t you doing a debate head to head with the Prime Minister (on Nine)?”
Mr Shorten shot back with a not-so-subtle dig, saying that a debate was being organised via the Press Club.
“You declined (to attend) — sorry if you are busy at lunchtime,” he said.
The leaders will meet tomorrow for the first leaders’ debate, to be held in Western Australia and broadcast on 7TWO.
There will also be a debate in Brisbane hosted by Sky News. But Mr Shorten declined invitations for a similar debate on Nine.
“Why not prime time, that’s when we have most eyes and ears?” Uhlmann asked.
POLL DEMANDS CAMPAIGN SHAKE-UP
A shock new opinion poll shows voters are pretty unimpressed with the performances of Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten on the campaign trail so far.
You can hardly blame them. The most interesting highlights to date have been a reporter yelling at Mr Shorten.
A YouGov Galaxy poll published in The Sunday Telegraph today shows 60 per cent of Australians aren’t pleased with Mr Shorten and 54 per cent aren’t gelling with Mr Morrison.
Just 31 per cent were impressed by the Labor leader, while the Prime Minister fared only marginally better with a 38 per cent campaign approval rating.
However, in some good news for the government, the Coalition’s primary vote has lifted to 37 per cent, equal with Labor.
But its two-party preferred result, while lifting two points, still lags behind the Opposition 48 per cent to 52 per cent.
Support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has collapsed, in the wake of the explosive money for gun votes expose and a number of candidate scandals.
And despite a Newspoll this week showing Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party could clinch 14 per cent of the primary vote in Herbert, and eight per cent on average in marginal seats, his national first preference result sits at just four per cent.
The YouGov poll also revealed the number one issue weighing most on voters’ minds, and it’s not a huge surprise — cost of living.
MORRISON CAPS REFUGEE INTAKE
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to cap Australia’s refugee intake if he is returned to power, Alexis Carey reports.
Mr Morrison will announce the policy today as part of a proposed overhaul of the current immigration system.
Under the new plan — which the Coalition claims will help ease congestion in our major cities — female refugees would be given priority over males, and immigration levels would be frozen, with the number of migrants coming to Australia as refugees capped at 18,750.