Campaign catchup 2019: Morrison dodges questions on Palmer preferences | Australia news

In a nutshell

I’ll be honest: you didn’t miss much. Ahead of Thursday’s Anzac Day campaign truce, both leaders took a very low-key approach to campaigning on Wednesday, holding fire until after this week’s flurry of public holidays is over. Many Australians are still on holidays and are not yet plugged in to the election campaign.

Nevertheless, the show went on and Scott Morrison took his campaign north to the Northern Territory. From this we learnt that the Gunner Territory Labor government is on the nose and the Liberals are hoping this might help them out at a federal level. Morrison was announcing a veterans package, which included the establishment of wellbeing centres for veterans in the key marginal seats of Soloman, Indi and Gilmore. Morrison dodged questions about how he could justify doing a preference deal with Clive Palmer after the billionaire dudded workers at Queensland Nickel, saying negotiations were up to the federal executive.

Bill Shorten remained in Queensland in the seat of Herbert, where he continued to face questions about whether he would review federal approvals for the Adani coalmine. His holding line at the moment is he has “no plans” to reconsider the approvals signed off by the environment minister, Melissa Price, before caretaker period. Labor has been trying to keep the focus on wages, announcing its plans to make it easier for casuals to convert to full-time work, but the opposition leader was also forced to mop up a minor gaffe after he told a Gladstone worker that he would look at reducing the tax rate for those earning more than $250,000 a year. Labor’s policy is to reintroduce the deficit levy for those earning more than $180,000 a year, but he denied misleading the worker. “We’ve said that when we can afford to lower income taxes in this country we will.”

After several days of politicking over the issue of water buybacks, both major parties seemed to stop talking about it. Labor has announced it would establish an independent commission of inquiry with coercive powers to look at the 2017 sales overseen by Barnaby Joyce, while the Liberals have asked the auditor general to bring forward his inquiry into all water sales since 2008.

Elsewhere on the trail

In what was described as a Deidre Chambers-style coincidence, the former foreign minister Julie Bishop bumped into the Liberal defector Julia Banks in the key electorate of Flinders, which Banks is attempting to win off Greg Hunt. The Herald Sun reported that the pair met at a restaurant on the Mornington Peninsula, fuelling Liberal fears that Bishop was unofficially helping the Banks campaign.

Picture of the day

Did Bill Shorten just win the crucial marginal seat of Herbert? The opposition leader kickstarted the day with a run along the foreshore in Townsville with the retired rugby league superstar Johnathan Thurston. Let’s call it the rugby league equivalent of a slam dunk, whatever that may be.

Bill Shorten goes for a run with retired rugby league player Johnathan Thurston. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Required reading

There will be many interesting seats to watch on 18 May, and the three-cornered contest of Gilmore on the New South Wales south coast will be one of them. This comprehensive seat profile in the Sydney Morning Herald was a great read and outlines some of the key issues in what is shaping as a tight four-horse race.

Tweet of the day

This wins for me today. The issue of water buybacks has been fiercely political for most of the week, with Labor demanding the government explain the “scandal”. But after Labor announced its own inquiry into the issue, the party’s water spokesman, Tony Burke, suggested it was time for a truce.

Kath Sullivan

When asked why Labor wouldn’t commit to a royal commission of wider Murray Darling Basin management, Tony Burke said he didn’t want to politicise the issue. #AUSVote2019

April 24, 2019

What’s next?

Thursday is Anzac Day and both parties have agreed to suspend campaign activities. The Morrison bus is leaving the NT and expected to head to Townsville, while the Shorten camp is set to travel to Darwin.

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