Australian election briefing: Morrison challenged on transgender comments while Albanese pinned on wages — plus Goliath the crocodile’s pick

by Josh Butler
Tuesday: the best of Guardian Australia’s 2022 federal election coverage

Thirty days down, 11 to go.

Just as the Coalition seemed to have nearly put the Katherine Deves issue to bed, insisting she’d apologised and moved on, the controversial Warringah candidate popped up to tell Sky News that actually, she didn’t regret or reconsider her views on transgender Australians; and stood by her “mutilated” description.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, who has insisted she had apologised and that her comments were really about trans women in sport, finally had to engage on the substantive issue. Almost immediately, he appeared to claim (wrongly) that young people were undergoing gender reassignment surgery, which is actually not available to people under 18. His press conference, announcing a major infrastructure project in a key electorate, was hijacked yet again by the comments of Deves, who he yet again stood by and refused to condemn.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese found himself in some hot water of his own, pinned down in successive media appearances and forced to commit to a specific number he wanted to see the minimum wage increase – a clarification he had thus far avoided.

The leaders are set to square-off again in Sydney on Wednesday, in the final election debate.

Where the leaders were

The leaders had near-identical days, and both kept their eyes firmly on Sydney. Albanese began the day in Melbourne, making a $2.2bn commitment to the 90 kilometre Suburban Rail Loop, to “link every major rail line” in Victoria.

“GO SCOMO” a punter has yelled from the West Ryde shopping centre as the PM left a multicultural lunch he attended alongside Bennelong Liberal candidate Simon Kennedy. @sevenwestmedia @westaustralian #auspol #ausvotes pic.twitter.com/WBrkJbdsvB

— Caitlyn Rintoul (@caitlynrintoul) May 10, 2022

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“GO SCOMO” a punter has yelled from the West Ryde shopping centre as the PM left a multicultural lunch he attended alongside Bennelong Liberal candidate Simon Kennedy. @sevenwestmedia @westaustralian #auspol #ausvotes pic.twitter.com/WBrkJbdsvB

— Caitlyn Rintoul (@caitlynrintoul) May 10, 2022

Both ended the day in Sydney.

Today’s big stories

Tudge-y subject: Exiled cabinet minister Alan Tudge has been found! After weeks avoiding media questions on the campaign (and inspiring ‘Where’s Wally?’ memes), he said he is willing to return to the frontbench if the Coalition wins the election, while also claiming he is “unaware” of the reasons his former staffer Rachelle Miller is getting a taxpayer-funded payout of more than half a million dollars. “I’ve been very busy in my local electorate here,” he told Sky News.

This strategy is so disgusting by the Morrison Liberal party and should be called out. The PM is endorsing and doubling down on misinformation and targeting of a vulnerable group, with already extremely high suicide rates. It’s just wrong. #auspol https://t.co/Cb0FMMIBsW

— 🌏 Zali Steggall MP (@zalisteggall) May 10, 2022

n”,”url”:”https://twitter.com/zalisteggall/status/1523899667372986368″,”id”:”1523899667372986368″,”hasMedia”:false,”role”:”inline”,”isThirdPartyTracking”:false,”source”:”Twitter”,”elementId”:”10890d11-07ba-47d1-92f9-7b6b2dd5960b”}}’>

This strategy is so disgusting by the Morrison Liberal party and should be called out. The PM is endorsing and doubling down on misinformation and targeting of a vulnerable group, with already extremely high suicide rates. It’s just wrong. #auspol https://t.co/Cb0FMMIBsW

— 🌏 Zali Steggall MP (@zalisteggall) May 10, 2022

Housing: Standing alongside Morrison in Bennelong, NSW premier Perrottet left open the prospect of supporting federal Labor’s home equity scheme, saying he is open to “new ways of thinking” on housing affordability. Publicly contradicting the federal Coalition’s opposition to the policy, Perrottet told media it was “important that we’re open-minded” to ideas about addressing housing problems.

Maths lesson: Labor has had to clarify the details around Monday’s big-ticket teacher announcement, after the Coalition claimed Albanese “cannot count”. Outlined as part of a $146m policy for 5,000 students to get up to $12,000 a year in a bursary, the Daily Telegraph noted the bursaries only had $50m put aside – and quoted finance minister Simon Birmingham claiming the maths didn’t add up. News Corp reported the policy actually only gave 1,000 new scholarships each year, starting in 2023. Albanese, responding to the story, said his costings over the four-year forward estimates period “are completely accurate”, noting “this is two-year and four-year degrees. We’ve said 1,000 places a year. Not all of those are within the forward estimates.”

Wages: Albanese has endorsed a minimum wage rise of at least 5.1% to keep up with inflation. After talking up wage rises and cost of living issues in the election, but recently finally admitting he can’t guarantee the pay packets of Australians would go up under Labor, Albanese said on Tuesday he didn’t want to see people go “backwards” due to inflation rising. He stopped short of backing an Australian Council of Trade Unions call for a 5.5% increase.

Factcheck: are Pauline Hanson’s claims of voter fraud in Australian elections true? – video

Quote of the day

I’m not a surgeon.

– the answer given by Morrison, twice, when asked (twice) what was the “correct terminology” to refer to someone undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

By the numbers: 5.1

The percentage increase to the minimum wage that Albanese said he “absolutely” supported, to match the inflation rate. The ACTU wants 5.5%. The Coalition is already tearing into Labor for what it calls an “unprecedented” intervention into the Fair Work Commission’s deliberations on the minimum wage. Expect this to factor into Morrison’s economic attacks in coming days.

The big picture

Ah, the magic of democracy – rocking up to a polling booth, obtaining a well-earned sausage or treat from the cake stall, and having to run the gauntlet of dodging a labyrinth of A-frame signs and being greeted by the very candidates vying for your vote. Labor MP Anika Wells and Liberal member Trevor Evans were both jockeying for support at this polling booth, trying to lock in as many last-minute votes as possible.

A corflute sign for Vivian Lobo (centre), the Liberal National Party candidate for the Federal seat of Lilley is seen as people turn out to vote at the pre-polling booth at the Chermside-Kedron Community Church in the federal seat of Lilley, in Brisbane, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Whoever makes it through the corflute maze gets a snag. Photograph: Darren England/AAP
Federal member and Labor candidate for the seat of Lilley, Anika Wells (centre) and Federal member and LNP candidate for the seat of Brisbane, Trevor Evans (right) seen talking to voters at the pre-polling booth at the Chermside-Kedron Community Church in the federal seat of Lilley, in Brisbane.
Federal member and Labor candidate for the seat of Lilley, Anika Wells (centre) and federal member and LNP candidate for the seat of Brisbane, Trevor Evans (right) try to charm voters. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Watch: election tips

Betting markets are already running hot with election wagers, but a big tip of another kind was made on Tuesday – Goliath the crocodile, the massive saltwater citizen of the Cairns Zoo, picked Coalition stalwart Warren Entsch to hold his seat of Leichhardt.

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