Members of the Chinese Australian community have expressed disappointment after the Liberal MP for the seat of Chisholm, Gladys Liu, cancelled an appearance at a community forum.
Liu, who holds the Victorian seat by just 0.5%, was invited to the event hosted by the Chinese Interpreters and Translators Association of Australia on Sunday.
It was supposed to be a chance for the local Chinese-Australian community to question both Liu and the Labor candidate, Carina Garland, with translations provided.
Prof Charles Qin, president of CITAA, told the Guardian Liu’s manager “apologised profusely”, but said she had an urgent meeting that meant she couldn’t attend.
“When we started the event, I explained to the audience members what happened, and some people did express their disappointment.”
Qin said up to 80 people turned up and grilled Garland for an hour about a wide variety of topics. He said the event provided an opportunity for first generation migrants to engage with the candidates.
“It’s very important that the Chinese community and people who are interested in this are exposed to their policies and opinions as much as possible, so people can make an informed decision when they vote,” Qin said.
Prof Haiqing Yu, who attended the event, said Liu’s failure to appear at this and other events, such as one organised by the Chisholm Climate Forum, had been discussed on WeChat and “the overwhelming response has been disappointment”.
Liu did not respond to a request for comment.
There’s better news from Queensland today
A Sydney man has been jailed for at least eight years, three decades after murdering a US mathematician at a Sydney gay beat, AAP reports.
The jail sentence was handed down Tuesday by justice Helen Wilson, who found that in a hostile act Scott White had punched Scott Johnson at North Head in Manly, causing the doctor to fall to his death.
“[White] did a violent act and that act is the direct cause of Dr Johnson leaving the clifftop in terror,” the judge said.
The fatal assault was done with reckless indifference to human life, with White throwing the punch near the unguarded edge of a high coastal cliff and then fleeing the scene without notifying the police after Johnson disappeared over the edge.
Justice Wilson found there was not enough evidence to show that the murder was a gay hate crime, however, because White had met Johnson at the Brighton Hotel and the pair had willingly gone to the gay beat together.
The outcome ends a long-running ordeal for Johnson’s family who pursued justice for more than three decades, refusing to believe an initial police inquest which found the death was a suicide.
White’s sentence follows an emotional NSW supreme court hearing on Monday where Johnson’s family members described the tragedy and heartbreak that the death and following 33 years had brought.
After the hearing, brother Steve Johnson told reporters that speaking in court was a chance to look White right in the eyes.
“I got to tell [White] what my brother was like. I got to tell him how it felt to hear that he was dead … I have to think it sunk in. He watched and listened,” he said.
An appeal of White’s conviction has already been filed after his defence team failed to overturn his guilty plea in January.
White was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in jail, and will be eligible for parole after eight years and three months.
While the initial 1989 inquest found Johnson’s death was a suicide, the case was reopened in 2012. Another inquest returned an open finding in 2012, but a third in 2017 found Johnson fell from Manly’s North Head clifftops because of violence by an unidentified attacker who perceived him to be gay.
This is happening in Melbourne at the moment:
Q: Prime minister, do you think that a rate rise today would have been a bit of a blow to your campaign, interesting you are campaigning on economic management? And considering the last rate rise in 2007 saw John Howard lose?
Well, I’ve made this point a couple of times. At that time in 2007, the cash rate was 6.5%. Today, it’s 0.1%. At that time, there was not a war in Europe.
At that time, we had not just been through a global pandemic. And we weren’t seeing the massive supply chain disruptions that we’re seeing and continue to this day including up in China, which has significantly locked down which is putting further pressure on prices. And the transport and logistics issues in terms of international sea freight which is pushing up prices, and of course the impact of floods and natural disasters which has a particular impact on fruit and vegetable prices.
So I think those situations are very different. So what are these pressures about that are impacting on interest rates? The Labor party’s argument seems to be that it has been the government. Well, what is the spending that they disagree with that is putting pressure on interest rates?
Do they think we shouldn’t have cut the petrol tax by half? Do they think would shouldn’t have given pensioners $250? Do they think we shouldn’t have allowed Australians to keep $420 more of what they earn in tax cuts?
Do they think we shouldn’t have tax rates that mean if you’re on $90,000 a day, that you’re paying $50 a week less tax than you would have been on Labor’s? Do they think we shouldn’t have done jobkeeper? Or shouldn’t have had the cashflow boost? Or the instant asset write-off which kept all these businesses in place?
If they think those policies were wrong and have put pressure on interest rates, they should say so. They should be honest with Australians, because Australians know the pressures that we’re facing here in Australia are real.
They are overwhelmingly being determined by things beyond Australia. And what they do know is our government has put up an economic shield for Australians, Australian businesses, Australian jobs, Australian incomes, to get us through one of the worst crises we’ve seen in generations. Thanks very much, everyone.
(Labor has been pointing to the lack of wage rises, not the pandemic spending).
Q: Do you acknowledge there are pressures that will be coming to bear on households as a result of even a small rise in the cash rate today? What do you say to those people? The government has policy levers. Haven’t you failed to use them appropriately to make sure people aren’t under pressure?
Yes, I do acknowledge that any movement in rates is of covers going to put pressure on those who are paying extra. For an average mortgage, for a 25 basis point increase, what you’re looking at there is just over 80 bucks a month. But what I’m encouraged by is Australians have been aware of the pressures and that’s why they have switched from variable mortgages to fixed-rate mortgages.
Q: Not everyone, though.
No, but it’s gone from 20% to 40%. The other thing they’ve done is, if they’ve been on variable rates, is the amount of getting ahead of their mortgage has also doubled during the pandemic. My point about that is Australians have been taking wise decisions as the government has.
We’ve been doing what they have been doing.
Now, on top of that, the other thing we did working with Apra was to ensure that the lending practices of banks was making decisions on loans where they had to be sure that they could be meeting mortgage payments 300 basis points higher than the rate they were being offered. So there’s been prudent lending practices.
Australians, I think, have prepared themselves as best as they can for the pressures that are real and that we will face, the inflation pressures which, while strong here, are far greater in other advanced economies where that shield has not worked for them in the same way as it worked here.
So yes, it is real, and what I’m saying is we need to do everything we can, and are, to continue to shield Australia from these increasing pressures and there’s a very real question. Do you think Mr Albanese, who has never done a budget, who has never held a finance portfolio, is going to be more effective in doing that? Or myself and Josh Frydenberg and our team? I’ve done eight budgets and our economic plan has seen Australia through one of the worst if not the worst economic crisis we have seen since the great depression.
Q: Are you happy to leave this issue with AGL’s demerger to the market, given Mike Cannon-Brookes’ recent acquisition of shares in the company? Or do you favour AGL being able to proceed with its plan and decouple the retail and generation parts of the business?
Well, firstly, that will be in the first instance, a matter for the company to resolve. It’s a matter for the company. But what we have been very clear about in how we’ve been managing these issues is we want to ensure that there is a reliable and affordable energy in the market.
And where we’ve had to make interventions like the Koori Koori gas plant, we have. And we ensure that we take those actions. Why do we do that? Because if you allow electricity prices to rise by having unbalanced emissions reduction targets, then the price of all of this goes up. It just all goes up. I mean that’s the very conversation we’re having.
We’re talking about the cost of living and if you don’t support reliable, affordable energy and don’t have balanced targets on these things, then you’re going to put more pressure on families and households and small businesses.
Now, we’re doing the opposite. We’ve actually seen electricity prices fall under our … under my government in particular, fall by around 10%, because we did take on the big electricity retailers and big companies. We did put the big-stick regulations in place. We did get rid of those sneaky default deals that forced up people’s prices when they went to the default market offer.
We did do all these things and that happened keep prices down and with the gas security mechanism we ensured we had a memorandum of understanding which guaranteed the supply of gas in Australia, which means that we’re paying about a third to a quarter of the international price on gas now, which is also keeping electricity prices down. Now, these are the things we can do about price increases and it’s the same when it comes to managing the pressures on interest rates.
It’s ensuring you manage your finances well, you keep a strong economy, you maintain your AAA credit rating, you get people off welfare and into work and you have the right tax environment to see businesses grow and prosper as is happening right here.
Prices have dropped – largely because renewables came into the grid.
Q: On the RBA, everyone knows the Reserve Bank is independent but you’ve made a virtue of interest rates being lower under a Coalition government. So why shouldn’t you equally be held responsible if interest rates go up?
Well, I do know that interest rates have fallen to 0.1% …
… You asked me a question. I’m saying what the facts are. I wasn’t making any conclusions about them. Interest rates are at historic lows. In the last 30 years, the average interest rate is 4.5%, so it’s obviously at a level that is well below what has been conventional and orthodox and we’ve seen that all around the world. I don’t make any great claim about that.
I remember when rates were falling back in 2019, the Labor party attacked us for rates falling and they said that was because of a weak economy. Now they want to make the argument that if rates rise that it’s because of economic management. Well, they can’t have it both ways.
We had the Labor shadow housing minister today saying rates needed to rise to improve housing affordability, so Labor is all over the place. I’m just simply saying this – I’m just saying there is serious pressure on interest rates around the world. I mean in the last 12 months, the IMF has more than doubled their estimates forecast for this year on inflation to well over 7% for this year from about the mid-3s. That’s what’s changed in the last 12 months.
That has changed massively and we know all the reasons why – war in Europe, supply chain disruptions and here for fruit and veg, we will continue to see the impacts of recent floods. We saw a bit of that in the latest inflation data but I suspect we will see more.
There is more pressure than we have seen. Those pressures are coming from those events. So the question is who do you think will be better able to manage those pressures? A government that has had an economic plan, that has taken us through the worst economic challenges since the great depression? Or Mr Albanese, who’s never had a finance portfolio in his entire time in parliament, has never done a Bbdget, and an inexperienced Labor team?
Who is going to be better able to manage those serious, significant pressures that families, households and businesses will face? That’s what this election is about.
Q: PM, pensioners and welfare recipients have just had $250 in their bank account. One lettuce alone is 2% of that pay cheque. When that money inevitably runs out, what shield is available to those people then when inflation is expected to continue and rates rise?
As you know, just this week, we’ve made major announcements which have dealt with the cost of pharmaceuticals for pensioners. We’ve changed the access to the commonwealth seniors’ health card.
We’ve changed the arrangements for the safety net for pharmaceuticals, particularly impacting on pensioners, a strong economy with Australians in work is always going to mean we’re more able to continue to provide support, whether it’s to pensioners or others across the economy.
If you don’t have a strong economy and you don’t manage money well – I’ll give you an example. During the pandemic we had to lean in more than, obviously, governments have had to in the past.
That saved the Australian economy. But we knew when to start and we knew when to stop. If Labor had their way, they would have spent an extra $81bn during the pandemic on top of what had to be spent to save the economy.
Now, that would have only put greater pressure on interest rates, greater pressure on inflation and that’s why this matters. I mean the situation that Australia faces is a situation faced all around the world and I think Australians understand that. How do I know that?
Because as they face the future, they have decided to move from variable interest rates to fixed interest rates, 20% to 40%. They’ve also during the pandemic made the wise decisions to pay as much down on their mortgages as they could and what has happened there is we’ve seen a doubling in the length of time, pre-pandemic to now, about how much further Australians have been able to get ahead of their mortgages. What does that mean?
Australians have been supporting during the pandemic so they can insulate themselves and prepare for the many challenges that are still ahead of us, so that’s why they have a very important choice to make at this election. Do they go with an economic plan that has worked and is continuing to work, which provides for strength in our economy in the future? Or a Labor party that we know can’t manage money, that doesn’t have the experience to deal with these significant challenges, and would lead to a weaker economy?
Q: Prime minister, as you fight to save many inner-city seats against teal candidates, which you’re not visiting, is it embarrassing or damaging for your government, the fact that a tech billionaire is showing more leadership on emissions reduction than you are?
I don’t agree with that at all. Our government, net zero by 2050 with a clear plan, investing $22bn to realise the technologies that are actually going to deal with climate change and to ensure at the same time we keep affordable, reliable energy in Australia which has enabled us to get electricity prices down. They’ve fallen over 10% since I became prime minister.
Those electricity prices is what they pay here to keep the fridges on and keep people employed. We’ve got the balance right when it comes to ensuring we have real net zero by 2050 targets, but a practical, funded plan, focusing on technology, not taxing people, and shutting down energy production which will only cost people more.
Scott Morrison is in Melbourne, and at another food market, where he is talking cost of living and economic “shields”.
These pressures are putting significant pressure on interest rates, on inflation, on the cost of living. We know that. And we know what’s causing that. And Australians know what’s causing that.
Whether it’s the business here, that was able to be got through the pandemic with jobkeeper and the instant asset write off which enabled them to keep more than 40 employees. The income support that was provided to people in the community so they could come in and get something … fruit and vegetables over the course of the pandemic.
It was the shield that we put up during the pandemic of good economic management, of well-designed policies, that ensured that Australia has come through this pandemic stronger than most of the advanced economies in the world.
It’s why today, while cost-of-living pressures are very real and families are feeling them, it’s far worse overseas. Now, what does that mean?
Those consequences overseas could have been felt right here, but it’s because of the shield of strong economic management, of a government that knows how to manage money and has been able to maintain our AAA credit rating, during an economic crisis 30 times worse than the global financial crisis of 10 years ago.
So as we’re dealing with these economic pressures and we’re weighing up the choice Australians are at this election, the question is, are you going to let that shield that has supported the Australian economy, protected your incomes, protected your jobs, ensured you’d be able to keep your homes and be able to go through this election and beyond with confidence, that is a shield which is protecting Australians even today, and the choice is to keep that shield or to let that shield drop. And if that shield drops, then what we’ve seen overseas can very much be visited upon the Australian economy and jobs and livelihoods here.
Not the biggest surprise but AGL Energy, Australia’s biggest electricity generator, has rejected the effort by billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes to derail its planned demerger.
As we reported here, Cannon-Brookes through his Grok Ventures has raided AGL’s share registry to snap up 11.28% of the company’s stock. He’s calling on other shareholders to join him in stopping the plan to split AGL into a mostly coal-fired power unit, and its customer-rich retail arm.
In a statement to the ASX this morning, AGL said its board had considered these developments, and advises shareholders to do nothing.
The board “continues to believe that AGL’s proposed demerger is in the best interests of AGL shareholders as it creates the potential to maximise growth in the value of shares”, it said.
It lists three reasons why, including that the current plan gives each of the new companies “the freedom to pursue individual strategies and growth initiatives”.
“AGL remains committed to progressing the proposed demerger with a view to achieving implementation by 30 June 2022 and a responsible transition of Australia’s energy system,” it said.
Cannon-Brookes, the cofounder of Atlassian, has billions for now to play with. For now, the target date is June 15, when the demerger is supposed to be voted on.
He has told other media this morning that AGL’s board will have to go if he’s successful. You’d have to think they probably won’t want to be hanging around anyway if he is.
In early trading, meanwhile, AGL’s shares are down 0.75% to about $8.55.
At Cannon-Brookes’s last pitch, which was rejected in early March, he was offering $8.25 a share.
That time he was bidding to take over the whole company and had Canadian asset manager Brookfield to help stump up most of the dough in a pitch that valued AGL at $8.5 billion, including debt.
By my calculations, the current value of AGL is about $8.8bn (a lucky number if you’re Chinese, but perhaps in the current environment, not a place Cannon-Brookes should go looking for help).
Big (and devastating, if not unexpected) news from the US:
Q: On interest rates, are you arguing that prime ministers simply don’t have any influence over interest rates. And just back to a question over here as well – why was negative gearing and capital tax gains breaks a bad idea in 2019 and a good idea in 2022?
Well, we’ve found a range of better ideas including this one today, including our housing Australia future fund, including our comprehensive plan on housing.
Q: Just following up on negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions, basically you pursued that, partly to raise revenue and partly to stop or try to curb this phenomenon of first home owners bidding against property investors. What does the current housing policy do to ameliorate that phenomenon?
In terms of our policy, we have made it very clear now that we have a comprehensive plan to assist people to buy, we also have a comprehensive plan to increase supply through social housing, to affordable housing for essential workers. We also have a plan in terms of emergency housing – $100m to assist women and children escaping domestic violence. This is a suite of measures which taken together will take pressure off people who are struggling with housing.
And I think that it represents a comprehensive plan. And stands in stark contrast to a government which is now rejecting this plan they have advocated for so long.
Q: I’ve got a question on supply. Housing supply has come up a couple of times here during the press conference. First of all, do you accept the economic criticism of your current policy and of the government’s policy they’re going to have the effect of pushing up prices because they create those incentives for people to bid a bit higher on the property price?
Have a look at what Brendan Coates from the Grattan Institute told the ABC this morning. He doesn’t think it’s right. He made the point he thinks the existing government schemes, the guarantee schemes, probably have a bigger impact on this and he thinks that’s small. Where are the drivers.
It will go to your second question on supply.
Q: Your plan is set up a supply council. So you’re going to review the issues of supply. You have been around a long time. You know these issues have come up over many years. I’m interested in Mr Albanese’s view of whether states need to [do]. Will you say to premiers Sydney needs to release more land, Melbourne needs to release more land. You’ve got to make it easier for those homes to be built in outer areas or even in regional areas. What’s the plan on that side?
You don’t get this this down through bullying and blaming and berating the states and that’s all we’ve seen from this government over the last few years.
Go back and Google Scott Morrison or Michael Sukkar on this and you’ll see all they do is blame the states. You’ve got to do it with cooperation and coordination. You’ll be amazed, but it’s true, that the housing minister doesn’t meet with housing ministers around the country at the moment. I call it a Gordian knot. This is hard but if you’re going to fix this – release more land, improve planning rules around the country to tackle this. Then you start with getting state governments, local governments and federal government to work together. That’s what this council will do and that’s why you’ve seen this backed by the Property Council, the UDIA and the HIA. They’ve been screaming for this for years and if we win, we’ll do it.
Q: If you’re PM in a few weeks, what do you do to national cabinet?
One of the first things I will do, and I said this to various premiers is to convene a meeting with all state premiers and chief ministers and talk about how we move forward. I will involve also local government in that process, and that’s our policy.
Q: Scott Morrison says he’s been involved in delivering eight budgets and you’ve never been involved in delivering one. Are you up to the job of steering the economy?
I’m absolutely up to the job and so is my entire team.
Q: Are you better qualified than him to do this?
We have a prime minister who doesn’t actually have a plan. This is a prime minister who was elected in 2019, promising not too much, but he did promise some things, and he hasn’t delivered them.
Today, on the issue of a national integrity commission, you had an Icac commissioner come out and slam the prime minister for his outrageous comments about a kangaroo court. They’re quite extraordinary comments he made and he’s been rebuked by a member of the judiciary.
Scott Morrison has presided over a circumstance whereby our debt had doubled before the pandemic … Whereby we’ve had increased debt, increased government spending, and increased taxation as a proportion of GDP.
This is a prime minister whose economic record we’re quite happy to debate on, because we have a plan to go forward. We outlined that again in our campaign launch in Perth. I have more than 25 years’ experience in the parliament. I will lead the most experienced incoming Labor government in our history since federation. And we’re ready. We’re ready to govern. And this government are out of puff and out of time and out of ideas.
Q: On AGL… and Mike Cannon-Brookes’s attempt to disrupt that, the demerger operations. Would you stand in the way of a faster transition to renewables, as Mike Cannon-Brookes envisages? And what does it say about the state of politics when it takes a tech billionaire to show more leadership on climate change and reducing emissions than politicians?
We’ve got a plan. It’s a plan I have discussed broadly here and with the business community. Our plan for powering Australia will make a difference at reducing emissions by 43% by 2030, it will create 604,000 new jobs. It will reduce power prices by $275. It’s been fully modelled …. It will create investment on top of the government equity contribution to fix transition.
… I’m not going to comment in the middle of a commercial process.