As expected, Australia’s share market opened lower, losing more than 2% in early trading.
Wall Street set the tone, with falls of 3% to 5% for the main indexes. Bloomberg cited one trader as describing the rout as “the great puking” (though it does make you wonder how that trader will describe the market if it bounces back on Friday, US time).
But, what’s clear is markets are lately becoming more volatile, with the main gauge for such panicky sentiment up more than 13% so far today, and about one third for the past month.
(For six months, it’s closer to 40%.)
Now asset prices go up and down, and our sense of wealth (if we have assets) fluctuates with it. But food prices are something we can perhaps feel a bit more viscerally.
Here’s a view of what’s been happening to a bunch of food commodity prices from ANZ Research today:
Oils are the big riser, presumably after Indonesia’s palm oil export controls, but most others are heading in a direction that is going to make a lot of people a lot hungrier.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has written to the prime minister. Paul Karp will have more for you in just a moment, but here is the letter released to the media:
An Expert Panel of the Fair Work Commission conducts an Annual Wage Review every financial year. This is an important and uniquely Australian process designed to ensure that wages keep up with the cost of living and nobody gets left behind.
One in four workers relies on the annual wage review for their only pay rise
this year. Your Government has so far refused to endorse a pay rise in submissions to the Review. In fact, your submission dedicated an entire chapter to the importance of low paid work.
All submissions, including your own, seek to influence the decision of the Commission.
In an extraordinary and highly inappropriate intervention, Mark Wooden, who is part of the Expert Panel conducting this year’s Annual Wage Review, has inserted himself into the political debate about low wages growth and the skyrocketing cost of living by appearing in today’s media to back in the Government’s position.
Mr Wooden’s intervention undermines the independence and impartiality of the entire Annual Wage Review process.
Working Australians can have no trust in this process when a member of the Expert Panel makes such an extraordinary political intervention right in the middle of the Federal election campaign.
It is akin to a Member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia intervening in the political debate about interest rates, which I am sure you would condemn.
The ACTU has deep concerns about his independence and ask you to commence an immediate investigation into today’s intervention to consider disciplinary action against him, including removal from the panel.
The AEC has put out another statement after questions were raised about a candidate’s eligibility:
On Friday 22 April 2022 candidates for the federal election were formally declared at public events held across Australia, in accordance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).
Ms Despi O’Connor was among those candidates declared – as an Independent candidate for the Division of Flinders (VIC).
The AEC is aware of comments made in the media recently by Ms O’Connor about her eligibility under section 44 (iv) of the Australian Constitution at the time of nomination.
Under section 44(iv) of the Constitution, any person who holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth, at the time of nomination, shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a Senator or a Member of the House of Representatives.
The election in the seat of Flinders will proceed including all candidates as declared and Ms O’Connor’s name will appear on the ballot paper for the Division of Flinders. Ballot papers have been printed and distributed across the country for early voting to begin on Monday and many postal voters have already received their postal voting packs.
If Ms O’Connor is elected, her eligibility to serve as the Member for Flinders must be determined by the Court of Disputed Returns.
Q: Mr Albanese, there have been moments during this press conference where you have clearly gotten agitated. Why are you not able to answer our questions? If you were making funding announcements, for instance, we would have a lot more questions. The focus is now becoming but and your blunders. When will you make a funding announcement?
I have made announcements on a regular basis during this campaign and I will continue to do so. I will continue to make policy announcements.
Yesterday I gave a 30-minute speech. I haven’t got a question about it here this morning – a 30 minute speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the presence of 130 business leaders. They could have fitted 300, they tell me if they had enough room, in front of former prime minister Paul Keating.
It was a serious speech about economic productivity, about the way forward, about women’s economic participation.
I haven’t got a question here today about it, but I look forward to you reading the speech and maybe asking me a question tomorrow.
And the press conference ends.
Q: A parliamentary inquiry that is chaired by your Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher recommended there would be a royal commission into the pandemic. That isn’t yet Labor policy, but what is your personal position on that? If Labor were to support the royal commission, how important is it done relatively quickly when the lessons are fresh in our mind?
Look, it is very important. This was a recommendation by the committee that Katy Gallagher chaired and that Katy Gallagher did a great job on, it must be said, and other members participated.
I cannot envisage a situation in which whoever wins government wouldn’t want to examine the once-in-a-century pandemic and the response. We have to examine it so that we learn the lessons, not as a political exercise, although some of it undoubtedly would be political.
You would want to understand how it is that even though the government was being warned that some companies were getting jobkeeper who were increasing their profits, they chose not to change any of that and we saw tens of billions of dollars go to companies that were increasing their profits at the same time, as we’ve seen here today, volunteers are coming down and packing food, some of which is to give credit where credit is due, some of this food comes from local businesses as well. There is an arrangement to give a free ad here, with Marrickville Metro.
Q: Will you give that commitment?
I agree, it is a serious question and I’m addressing it seriously. What I am saying is that we will examine it, but I support looking at it through a measure like a royal commission.
We haven’t finalised what the structure would be. We are still in the pandemic. I think – I found that out in the last weeks I have had Covid and on the day, one of the days that I was in isolation, 50 people died. This is still having an impact, this pandemic. This is real, the impact that it is having. We need to examine it.
We need to make sure that we learn the lessons which are there because this is a once-in-a-century impact. I think the pandemic also has shown – I mean, some of it is fed into our policy development. It has shown the strength of Australian society. The sacrifices that people have made.
The volunteers down here -– I mean, you know, Addy Road have – I am not sure how many staff they’ve got down here. Not enough. By and large they are just vollies. Craig Foster has brought in incredible people.
Those young women – I volunteer here without cameras, by the way, just so you know. In terms of those Afghani teenagers, young women, I mean, they are heroes. They escaped Kabul. They are right – there they are!
[He addresses the women]
You are heroes! And you will make great Australians, great Australians, and here you are, you haven’t been in the country for a year …
[The crowd applauds]
And you are here helping people. Helping people. You know, one of the things that strikes me and it is something that – a value that I have from the people I grew up with, the most generous people in this country, I have found, are those who have less – are those who have less, and this is an incredible example of that, and I thank you for what you are doing here. I am glad you are safe here in Australia.
One of the women:
Please watch our documentary: Die or Die Trying, escaping from the Taliban.
It is a remarkable story how they got out of Afghanistan, by the way – a remarkable story of courage and resilience and that is why we have supported the Australian government increasing the number of refugees from Afghanistan. We need to do our bit. Last one.
Q: Mr Albanese, last June Stephen Jones said paying super on parental leave has to be done. In April he called on the Morrison government to do it, saying it was Labor policy. Why have you backflipped? Can you please explain why?
We’ve just had questions about the economy, fiscal costs and policy. We are being very measured. Would this be a good thing to do? Yes, it would be. It is something that we will examine in government, but in a range of areas. What we are doing is being responsible. What we are not doing is saying one thing, to go to the last question as well – what we are doing is not doing is saying one thing before the election and saying something else afterwards, so that …
Q: You were saying it was your policy as recently as last year.
No, policies are when I announce them or when they have been announced during this campaign.
Q: Just on the economy, leading economists are warning that neither you nor Mr Morrison has a plan to address Australia’s structural deficit and that spending forecasts have ramped up markedly over the last three years. Can you give a guarantee that Labor would not make any cuts to health, education or the NDIS?
Labor will always be better on health, education and NDIS.
Q: That is not a guarantee you won’t cut it though, Mr Albanese?
Labor governments will always be better on health, education and the NDIS. We have programs that are put in, committed to – committed to – additional funding in health, education and NDIS and we will stand by that additional funding.
Wait. Seriously. This is an example of what putting people off politics. You cannot have a clearer answer than that Labor is putting additional funding into health, education and the NDIS, and we stand by it, and you know what puts people off politics? That sort of word game – word game – that is very clear. It can’t be clearer. We stand by our additional funding that. Is not a cut. That is more funding.
Well, this is a new one.
Q: On the question of yesterday’s press conference, do you think it was unfair to hound you on specific bullet points for NDIS policy? Do you think that line of questioning was unfair? And if so, how are you going to stand up to Xi Jinping if you can’t stand up to us?
People are entitled to ask questions.
Q: Have your own colleagues told you to be across the details?
My colleagues are part of a cohesive, strong, united, experienced team that have a plan for a better future for this country and one of the things that had debate is about …
I tell you what this is about. It is about serious plans on serious issues. What we have in this country is a cost-of-living crisis. We have a gender pay gap which is there. We have too many people who are being left behind. We have people who can’t get access through opportunity for education. We have women who can’t afford to work five days a week because the costs of childcare are too much. That is holding them back. It is also holding back the businesses that they work for. We have real issues in this country. Labor has real plans to fix them.
Q: In week one of the campaign after you did not know the Reserve Bank’s cash interest rate and you did not know Australia’s unemployment rate. You said you were human, you make mistakes and you fess up. Last night on Q+A on the ABC you said you were not given the opportunity to name the six points on your National Disability Insurance Scheme policy. Did you make the mistake and not forget, or were you not given the opportunity to respond? If so, will you fess up to making a mistake today? And is asking a question about your own policy unfair?
[I think someone from the crowd cuts in and the reporter yells more of his question]
You get the question and I have the answer.
Q: And is asking the question about one of your own policies really a gotcha question?
No. Let me tell you about what the NDIS is about. We have a signature policy, with I is what I said yesterday – a signature policy to put people at the centre of the NDIS. That’s why we created the NDIS and that’s why Labor will always defend the NDIS. Now, there are a range of things that we will do to that end – stopping the cuts, stopping the waste, making it more efficient. Making sure that people in regions can be looked after, but also lifting the cap on NDIA staff so that people can get those people-to-people relations.
But we will also then – that all combines to putting people at the centre of the NDIS, and one of the ways that we will do, with I is what I said yesterday – one of the ways that we will do that is by is making sure that people with disabilities are on the NDIS board, making sure that we double funding for the advocacy groups which are there as well.
Q: [Do you think it was a gotcha question?]
Let me tell you what the NDIS is about. It is not about gotcha questions. What it is about is providing …
Hang on. You had your opportunity and now it is my turn to answer. So, just wait. What leadership is about is determining when there is a problem, identifying it, and then coming up with solutions. We did that in government. We created the NDIS. We are doing that from opposition under Bill Shorten who has had a role both in government and in opposition and he is coming up with solutions to stop the cuts and to put people back at the centre of the NDIS.
Right at the centre of the NDIS. I tell you why it is personal for me. Because where I grew up, not far from here, and will put in a bit of an appearance in a week there, I grew up with a mum who was not diagnosed properly with rheumatoid arthritis. It was a two-storey house. You have probably seen it on Channel Nine with Karl. We did an interview there.
My mum, because she wasn’t diagnosed and didn’t get the assistance for her health, couldn’t at one stage – two-storey place, the bedrooms are upstairs – she had to come down the steps, every day, every morning on her bum because she couldn’t walk down the steps. She couldn’t get the sort of support that she needed to use a knife and a fork to cut up food because her hands were crippled up.
When, as her health deteriorated, she couldn’t get – I remember the battles to try and get bars so that she had – it was an old council house that had the old bath systems and the old gas hot water. She couldn’t get bars to get in and out of a shower – those simple things that the NDIS provide to improve people’s lives.
That is what the NDIS is about. That is what a government that I lead will be about – providing real help for …
Q: Can you answer the question, Mr Albanese.
Providing real help for real people and I have answered the question.
Q: You have not answered the question.