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Morrison hails close ties with India and Albanese pledges $970m for Medicare – as it happened | Australia news

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What we learned today, Saturday 14 May

We’re going to wrap things up for the evening. Here’s a recap of the day’s main events:

  • Scott Morrison reiterated his new pitch to voters, promising a “gear change” if re-elected next weekend.
  • Anthony Albanese accused Morrison of breaking “faith and trust” with the US following a report in Nine Newspapers that the prime minister delayed consulting Labor about the Aukus deal for fourth-and-a-half months.
  • The Coalition announced $20m to expand its high school sports program Sporting Schools and $4.8m for surf life saving clubs.
  • Rain eased in Queensland but moderate to major flood warnings remained in place for part’s of the state’s south-east.

Thanks again for joining us. We will see you tomorrow as we enter the final week of the 2022 federal election campaign.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

At the Hindu Council of Australia event, Scott and Jenny Morrison, ministers Alex Hawke and Ben Morton and various candidates including for Parramatta, Maria Kovacic, were presented with orange scarves.

As eagle-eyed readers in my Twitter feed have noted, these are symbols of the Hindu nationalist organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad.

Scott and Jenny Morrison at the Hindu Council of Australia meet and greet in Parramatta
Scott and Jenny Morrison at the Hindu Council of Australia meet and greet in Parramatta. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Scott Morrison and Liberal party colleagues at the Hindu Council of Australia event on Saturday
Scott Morrison and Liberal party colleagues at the Hindu Council of Australia event on Saturday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Anthony Albanese and Kristina Keneally did the same when they visited the Hindu Council on Friday, prompting controversy because of the VHP’s connection to rightwing Hindu organisations blamed for violence against other religious minorites in India:

These are Australian MPs @AlboMP (left)⁩ & ⁦@KKeneally (right). They are both wearing the scarf of the VHP.

The VHP is the religious wing of the RSS. RSS is a Nazi-inspired paramilitary dedicated to eradicating minorities from India. Why are Australian MPs endorsing it? pic.twitter.com/WrBt5PxRLg

— Pieter Friedrich (@FriedrichPieter) May 9, 2022

Nevertheless, as the pictures show, neither Liberal nor Labor leaders saw any problem donning the scarves.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Scott Morrison was asked one final set of questions about defusion of tensions within the Indian community in Australia.

He delivered a monologue about “why Australia works” because “when people come from other parts of the world, they enjoy the freedoms and protections of our laws, of democracy and the rule of law”.

Everyone wass “treated the same way” whatever the colour of their skin, ethnicity, religion, or political views.

He said:

Whatever conflicts they have in their home countries have no place in Australia … We don’t have transfer of hatreds. They can stay away, they have no part in the Australia I lead.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

At the Hindu council, Scott Morrison was asked whether the religious discrimination bill would allow workplace discrimination and discrimination in the provision of services to Hindus.

Morrison replied: “No.” He explained that the bill would add religion as an attribute that is protected in the same way that race, sex and other attributes are protected.

Morrison did not address the issue about whether Christian institutions could preference their own adherents in hiring, and thereby discriminate against minority religions. Still, he got a round of applause after the answer, so it seems some concerns were addressed.

Morrison was also asked about culturally appropriate Hindu-specific aged care. He answered about the $19bn invested to implement recommendations of the aged care royal commission, and a program to gather data about aged care demand that he says will benefit the Hindu community.

Morrison implicitly criticised Labor promises in aged care:

It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something. You hear a lot of that in elections. But the real test is: Do you know how to do it? Can you implement it? Can you fund it? Is it costed properly? Will you consult with the community?

Morrison also spoke about the $22bn invested to achieve the net zero by 2050 target, and the clean energy aspects of the trade partnership with India.

He said:

If we can solve climate change for India, we solve it for the world. It’s not enough to solve it in Australia. We could reduce our emissions to zero. They’ve said the same in the US. They could reduce to zero. But if in many other countries emissions continue to rise, we’ll make no progress.

Earlier, Morrison announced if re-elected the government would provide the Hindu council with $250,000 for upgrades to their kitchen and dining hall, which would help to expand their Karma Kitchen program. That went down well with the hosts. As did the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, talking about expanding access to parent visas.

The Liberal candidate Maria Kovacic took to the stage to say what the government would do for Parramatta. She mentioned the Karma Kitchen again, then promised to act in line with Narendra Modi’s dictum “the world is a family”.

Scott Morrison hails close ties with India at Hindu council event

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Scott Morrison has spoken at length about Australia’s free trade agreement with India, and his personal friendship with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Morrison described Modi as a “great leader” and was exceptionally chummy, claiming Modi refers to him as “Scomo” and together they are “Scomodi” – the crowd is lapping it up, and one interjected a comment about “scomosas”.

Morrison said:

We share a view about a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the rules-based order. Together with free people in India and Japan and elsewhere we need to ensure that freedom prevails. We’re strong about it. We’re working closely – economic, Covid, humanitarian support and on security issues. We want to see the Australian and Indian economies become very successful and more entrenched with one and other. That presents enormous opportunities.

Morrison also addressed the controversy about the swastika, which is a Hindu cultural symbol but has been banned in Victoria as a hate symbol because of its Nazi connotations.

Morrison said he “understands how hurtful it is to see cultural symbols used by extremists as symbols of hate”.

“We know some state governments have taken actions to ban the use of hate symbols, we support that, however it must be sensible,” he said, noting that the Victorian ban has “appropriate exemptions” for Hindus and other cultural groups that use the symbol.

Scott Morrison at the Hindu Council of Australia event i Parramatta
Scott Morrison at the Hindu Council of Australia event in the Parramatta electorate in Sydney. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Liberal party to seek electoral commission investigation into Labor’s Andrew Charlton

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Following revelations today about the Labor candidate in Parramatta Andrew Charlton’s alleged failure to update his address, a Coalition campaign spokesman says: “This afternoon, the Liberal party will write to the AEC, requesting an investigation into potential electoral law breaches by Mr Charlton.”

Scott Morrison has just arrived at the Hindu Council of Australia event in Parramatta, his sixth visit to the electorate so far this campaign.

Peter Dutton hits back at Labor over Aukus briefing claims

The defence minister, Peter Dutton, has attacked the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, amid reports the federal government delayed briefing the opposition on the US submarine deal, AAP reports:

Senior members of the Biden administration told the Morrison government four-and-a-half months before the announcement it would only pursue the Aukus project if it had bipartisan support, Nine Newspapers reported on Saturday.

Federal Labor were only briefed on the deal the day before the 16 September announcement, Albanese said, which was “extraordinary”.

“The fact the United States had made a request to Australia that was ignored for four-and-a-half months shows that this is a prime minister who always plays short-term politics (and) isn’t interested in the national interest,” Albanese told reporters on Saturday.

Dutton hit back, saying it was the Labor leader who was playing politics.

“If Mr Albanese had a problem with the way in which the briefings were conducted and the way in which the information was provided to him, he’s had ample opportunity … to raise it publicly,” Dutton told reporters on Saturday.

“I think his comments today are quite reckless. If the United States had conditioned the Aukus agreement on there being a briefing for the Australian Labor party, then clearly the deal would not have gone ahead. So the United States didn’t condition that.

“I think Mr Albanese frankly owes the Australian public an apology because he’s misled the public today.”

Peter Dutton speaks to the media during a press conference at the commonwealth parliament offices in Brisbane
Peter Dutton speaks to the media during a press conference at the commonwealth parliament offices in Brisbane. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

China has urged Australian politicians to stop being alarmist after the defence minister, Peter Dutton, said a Chinese warship sighted off the Western Australian coast was an “act of aggression”, AAP reports:

Dutton on Friday claimed the ship, which had intelligence-gathering capabilities, crossed into Australia’s exclusive economic zone in an “aggressive act” from China.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, later clarified the ship was only sighted about 250 nautical miles off the WA coastline and it did not enter Australian waters.

But Morrison reiterated the incident was unusual and Australia was “keeping a close eye” on China.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, responded to the claims, telling Reuters news agency China always followed international law and Australian politicians should “refrain from alarmism”.

The nephew of slain gangland figure Mahmoud “Brownie” Ahmad has been shot dead at his Sydney home in what police are calling a “war” around drug supply and organised crime in the city’s south-west.

It is the third fatal shooting in recent weeks, and the second this week, in what police have dubbed a spate of “tit-for-tat” incidents, starting with the murder of Ahmad in late April.

Read more here:

This piece, by my colleague Luke Henriques-Gomes, on the case for a royal commission into robodebt is well worth a read.

The federal and Queensland governments say disaster assistance is now available for the 12 local government areas affected by the latest rainfall and flood event in south-east Queensland.

Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded commonwealth-state Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

The two governments said hardship disaster assistance was available for flood-affected residents in the Lockyer Valley and Southern Downs to cover the costs of immediate essential needs.

Flood waters continue to cut off roads in and around Ipswich, west of Brisbane
Flood waters continue to cut off roads in and around Ipswich, west of Brisbane. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

Assistance is also available for the Brisbane, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Gympie, Lockyer Valley, Logan, Moreton Bay, North Burnett, South Burnett, Southern Downs and Toowoomba LGAs to cover the costs of the immediate clean-up efforts.

Queensland’s minister for fire and emergency services, Mark Ryan, said it had been yet another far-reaching weather system.

These grants of up to $180 per person, to a maximum of $900 for a family of five or more, are available to those eligible who are still experiencing financial hardship because of the unfolding severe weather.

Wounds Australia has welcomed Labor’s almost $1bn Medicare pledge, saying the policy could dramatically reduce the physical and financial suffering of more than 420,000 chronic wound patients – but only if wound prevention and treatment is specifically factored into its implementation.

The organisation’s chief executive, Helen Jentz, said the peak body had been calling on all parties and candidates to commit to delivering real solutions for Australia’s “hidden epidemic” of chronic wounds.

She said more than 420,000 Australians develop chronic wounds each year that affected their quality of life and mental health.

Over $3bn from health and aged care budgets is spent on chronic wounds, and average out-of-pocket costs are around $4,000 – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

She said wound care needed to be a cornerstone of health and aged care qualifications.

Wounds Australia supports Labor’s announcement to focus on chronic conditions in their Strengthening Medicare Fund, but it will only be a meaningful policy if it includes the diagnosis, treatment and healing of wounds.

Our wildlife is suffering. Australia needs a comprehensive plan to protect our environment and look after our native species.
Today @SenatorSurfer and I pledged to fight for the Tassie Devil.
Our Green Australia plan will restore habitat and save our wildlife from extinction. pic.twitter.com/dzdlmsuYPl

— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) May 14, 2022

And with that, I will now hand over the blog for the rest of the day to the always brilliant Lisa Cox. Thanks for reading.

Lisa Cox

Lisa Cox

The Greens have been at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary outside Hobart today to spruik their environmental policies.

The party has promised a $24.4bn fund over a decade for habitat restoration and urban green space and is the first party federally to set a zero extinction target.

The Tasmanian senator Peter Whish-Wilson described a Coalition proposal to scrap a recovery plan for Tasmanian devils, and nearly 200 other species and habitats, as “frighteningly shortsighted”.

Australia is in an extinction crisis and recovery plans are one of the key instruments that we have to help threatened species recover.

Abandoning the Tasmanian devil now, after so much time and money and love has been poured into keeping the treasured species alive and healthy, is a cruel death sentence.

The Greens environment spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said the party would push for independent environmental oversight – which was a key recommendation of the review of national environmental laws – in the form of an independent environment regulator.

In balance of power, we will push the next government to adopt a zero extinction by 2030 target, create thousands of jobs to restore habitat and put in place an environmental watchdog to hold governments and corporations to account.

Over 300,000 people cast their ballots on the first day of pre-polling this year, almost three times the number of people who voted on the first day of pre-poll in 2019. By Friday, over 1.2 million voters had already cast their ballot.

Caitlin Cassidy and I spoke to some voters about why they are choosing pre-polling this year:



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