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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Australia politics live: Jenny Morrison criticises Grace Tame, first Senate estimates of 2022

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Welcome to another week of parliament. It is Valentine’s Day, and I for one feel there is no better time to delve into the minutiae of Canberra politics.

Welcome to another week of parliament. It is Valentine’s Day, and I for one feel there is no better time to delve into the minutiae of Canberra politics.

The House of Representatives is sitting this week, and Senate estimates are happening. That means the Senate won’t be passing any legislation, and there shall be no resolution to the religious discrimination debate.

Meanwhile the nation is digesting last night’s 60 Minutes feature with the Prime Minister and his family. Yes, Scott Morrison played the ukulele. Of greater interest, perhaps, were Jenny Morrison’s thoughts on former Australian of the Year Grace Tame’s “manners”.

Read on for the latest updates.

PM faces new questions over RAT shortage

As news.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden and NCA NewsWire’s Courtney Gould reported exclusively this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claim that health officials never advised his government to adopt the widespread use of rapid antigen tests has been brought into question.

The Prime Minister has defended his failure to order more rapid tests in recent weeks by arguing health officials never told him to embrace RATs before the summer of Omicron “flipped” the situation and overwhelmed standard PCR tests.

Despite the fact they were in widespread use overseas, including on the Prime Minister’s own trips to the United Kingdom, Mr Morrison said the advice remained to stick with PCR tests.

But now information provided to parliament by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has raised new questions about exactly what the Prime Minister was advised and when.

The answers, obtained by news.com.au, reveal PM&C provided multiple briefings to the Prime Minister on testing throughout the course of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, including advice about the growing reliance on RATs overseas.

Mr Morrison also received regular advice from the Secretary of the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer.

You can read the rest of that report here.

‘I agree with her’: Barnaby sides with Jenny

Those remarks from Jenny Morrison are going to come up a lot today, so here is the context for what she said.

During the Morrisons’ interview with Karl Stefanovic on 60 Minutes, the Prime Minister and his wife were asked about the awkward moment they greeted outgoing Australian of the Year Grace Tame during an event at the Lodge.

You will, I’m sure, recall the images.

“I just found it a little bit disappointing, because we were welcoming her in our home,” Mrs Morrison told Stefanovic.

“I just wish the focus had been on all the incredible people coming in. I respect people that want to change things, stand up for their beliefs and are strong, but I still think there are manners and respect.”

Ms Tame has not responded to Mrs Morrison. If you wish to be thoroughly versed in her views on the matter, I’d suggest checking out our coverage of her comments at the National Press Club last week.

We just mentioned Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s defence of Mrs Morrison (he had “no problem” with her comments and felt they were “measured”). Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce also sided with her during an appearance on Today.

“Jenny can say it but we can’t. (But) I agree with Jenny, I have to say,” said Mr Joyce.

“I just think, if you are going to see the Prime Minister, you respect the office, if nothing else.

“You understand it is a great honour to be there. The Prime Minister does not own the Lodge, he holds the office. Respect the office.”

Having watched a fair few sessions of Question Time in my 31 years on this earth, I do always find it amusing when politicians talk about respecting the office of prime minister. Or respecting anyone full stop, come to think of it. But there you go.

‘You are going to get smashed’

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been everywhere this morning: ABC radio, News Breakfast, Sunrise. Probably other places too.

His glorious purpose was to talk up ATO and Treasury data suggesting young women have been the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s tax cuts.

On the ABC, Michael Rowland asked about “lots of speculation about what you’ll do with the low to middle income tax offset”, which expires in June.

“Will you roll that over to next financial year in next month’s Budget?” he asked.

“Well Michael, that’s an $8 billion question, and I’m not about to answer it on your show today,” said Mr Frydenberg.

“There’s a lot of speculation as to what may or may not be in next month’s Budget. What we have done as a government is look to cut taxes at every turn.”

“You do realise if you don’t roll it over, it effectively represents a tax rise for all these families come next financial year?” Rowland pressed.

“Well, obviously I don’t accept that characterisation,” said the Treasurer.

“The low and middle income tax offset is not a permanent feature of the tax system. We’ve introduced it due to particular economic circumstances.”

He was also asked about Jenny Morrison’s comments to 60 Minutes, essentially accusing Grace Tame of lacking manners (specifically, at this event).

“I could understand her disappointment, and I thought her comments were very measured,” said Mr Frydenberg.

“I didn’t have any problem with what she said. I thought it was very measured and reflected her heartfelt feelings.

“I don’t think anyone has to smile, but you know, you only had to look at the camera, to look at that scene, and you could see how uncomfortable it was.”

On Channel 7, Mr Frydenberg was asked about those latest Newspoll figures, which show the government still trailing Labor 55-45.

“At this stage, you are going to get smashed,” host David Koch told him.

“There were many in the media, many political pundits who wrote us off ahead of the last election, and obviously the result was somewhat different,” said the Treasurer.

He said he understood the “frustrations” of some Australians, but the government had done a good job on managing the pandemic and the economy.

“Let’s focus on getting the big things right,” he said.

This also happened.

Newspoll shows government still struggling

The government is still heading for a significant election defeat, according to the latest Newspoll results.

On the two party preferred metric, Labor leads the Coalition 55-45. Labor’s primary vote is 41 compared to the Coalition’s 34. Among the minor parties, the Greens have registered the most noteworthy number, bleeding a handful of percentage points to sit at just 8 per cent.

Scott Morrison does still lead Anthony Albanese as preferred prime minister by a margin of 43-38, which is a small improvement from the last poll. Perhaps the ukulele thing will raise his standing even more?



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