Politicians Have Spent Another Day In The Field Trying To Appear Normal Before The Election

    Healthcare spending, tax plans, and the Notre Dame cathedral fire dominated the agenda today, but no-one came up with a proper explanation for the way prime ministers sit in front of the TV.

    What you need to know:

    - Labor leader Bill Shorten has pledged $200 million for free pathology tests

    - The Coalition is still talking tax, with treasurer Josh Frydenberg doing the media rounds attacking Labor's plans

    - Shorten was in South Australia, while Scott Morrison remained in Victoria

    - Both leaders expressed their sadness over the Notre Dame cathedral fire in Paris, but the prime minister rejected the idea of making a fund to provide financial support

    - The Liberal Chisholm candidate Gladys Liu has dismissed recent reporting on a 2016 interview she gave, in which LGBTI issues were referred to as "ridiculous rubbish", as "fake news". Liu maintains she was expressing the Chinese community's views and not her own

    - Yesterday former prime minister Tony Abbott was asked about his leadership ambitions and didn't rule anything out

    Hello and welcome to another day on the campaign trail. This is what the prime minister was up to last night:

    The PM takes a break from campaigning to watch Game of Thrones. Insert 45th Parliament based gag here @politicsabc #ausvotes

    Just like every other Australian on Monday night. Sat right in front of the enormous TV.

    .@ScottMorrisonMP is a big ‘Game of Thrones’ fan and invited us along for tonight’s big episode #AUSVotes19 #auspol #GOT8 @Foxtel

    The prime minister's sister-in-law apparently introduced him to the show and he and his wife are now fans, The Australian reported.

    Who's his favourite character?

    "I think (Jon Snow’s) cool. And he had a really good dog. He had the coolest dog."

    And his reaction to the famous Red Wedding scene?

    "Everyone’s chin was on the floor and we just went 'oh dear, that’s a bit messy'.”

    Fascinating. (Game of Thrones is going to be on every week of the election campaign so expect much, much more of this type of thing.)

    BTW — what is it with Australian prime ministers and their odd sitting position when watching TV? Do they always have to sit cross-legged right near the screen? Is it the rules? Does the constitution mention this somewhere? Someone please explain.


    Anyway, on to serious matters. The main news from Labor this morning is Bill Shorten's pledge to invest $200 million towards free pathology tests.

    Bulk billing for blood tests is at breaking point - cancer patients will either have to pay, or there will be a reduction in services. That's why Labor will invest $200 million to protect pathology and keep it free for vulnerable Australians. https://t.co/QW5KX2c0sB

    "Bulk billing for blood tests is at breaking point — cancer patients will either have to pay, or there will be a reduction in services," Shorten said.

    "That's why Labor will invest $200 million to protect pathology and keep it free for vulnerable Australians."

    The investment is aimed at keeping bulk billing for cancer patients and older Australians.

    However, he was asked at a press conference why he was only focussing on health spending and when could voters hear about the party's emission reduction target.

    In a fiery exchange on the campaign trail in Boothby, @billshortenmp has avoided questioning on the cost Labor’s emission reduction target would have to the Australian economy. MORE: https://t.co/XDlvROtOqW #kennyreport

    Meanwhile, the Coalition wants everyone to stay focused on tax, with treasurer Josh Frydenberg doing the media rounds this morning attacking Labor's plans.


    The messaging remains the same as last week, namely the claims that Labor's tax plans will leave voters worse off and the Coalition will oversee a return to surplus.

    Taking with ⁦@ljayes⁩ & ⁦@Kieran_Gilbert⁩ on ⁦@SkyNewsAust⁩ now, regarding the Coalition Government’s strong budget management.

    Frydenberg was asked about previous comments made by the Liberal candidate for Chisholm, Gladys Liu, which have resurfaced in recent days.

    Liberal Chisholm candidate Gladys Liu caught disparaging LGBTI issues, blames Chinese community https://t.co/FcLAD2KCfA

    The controversy centres around an interview she gave to The Guardian in 2016 in which she was discussing her role in the campaign for Julia Banks, who has vacated the seat.

    She spoke about what she perceived to be the Chinese community's reaction to issues such as the Safe Schools program, same-sex marriage and trans issues.

    “The Chinese people come to Australia because they want good education for their children, they want good environment, they want good things for their next generation, not to be destroyed — they use the word destroyed — by these sort of concepts of same-sex, transgender, and intergender, crossgender and all this rubbish. To them this is just ridiculous rubbish," she told the Guardian.

    Asked about the remarks, Liu has described the reporting as "fake news", claiming she was discussing what she had heard in the community and that they were not her views.

    On Tuesday morning Frydenberg told the ABC: "Those comments don’t reflect my views or Scott Morrison or the party’s views."

    He added he would not disendorse Liu over the comments. Morrison told journalists he did not think Liu was phobic.

    Liu reportedly cancelled an interview with Sky News on Tuesday. In a later statement she rejected any suggestion the controversial comments were her own views.

    Interview cancelled after Sky refused request to go softly and not ask any awkward questions. Great strategy guys. https://t.co/y8BxqTx38B

    Then the former Liberal MP Julia Banks was reported to have called her comments "completely abhorrent".

    'Completely abhorrent': Julia Banks slams former Liberal colleague Gladys Liu over 'ridiculous rubbish' comments https://t.co/m3WBvbw6A4

    Banks quit the Liberal party last year following the leadership spill and is standing as an independent in the seat of Flinders.

    Commenting on Liu's remarks and the role she played in campaigning on social media during the 2016 election campaign in Chisholm, Banks is quoted by the Nine newspapers as saying: "Her comments are made by her and had nothing to do with my campaign and my WeChat campaign was not managed by Gladys Liu.

    "She was going off on her personal tangents and those posts were certainly not endorsed by me.

    "My WeChat material was by me and my team and it was just a direct copy of my Facebook posts."

    On Monday afternoon Kerryn Phelps, who is hoping to retain the seat of Wentworth, said she had referred "racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic" emails targeting her to the police.

    Thank you to all of the people who have called our office about the latest disgusting mass email with its racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic content. I have reported it to the AFP and security agencies and asked them to investigate. #WentworthVotes #auspol

    Very sad that this stuff happens — should have no place in Australia. ”Lib candidate targeted by white supremacists” https://t.co/zn1NZWEAJg

    The Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma, has also referred the emails to police, the ABC reported.

    The emails were sent out on Sunday from at least 12 different addresses, the broadcaster said.

    Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce wants Phelps to drop out of the race over reports she continued to treat patients as a GP. Phelps' team has said there is no Section 44 issue.

    EXCLUSIVE | Barnaby Joyce wants independent MP Kerryn Phelps to drop her bid for re-election after an alleged breach. #auspol #Election2019 https://t.co/uF81Qrm9qm

    Last night's Four Corners reported on the Sharrouf children reuniting with their grandmother. The orphaned children were taken to Syria by their mother Tara Nettleton, the wife of ISIS fighter Khaled Sharrouf.

    #EXCLUSIVE: See the moment Karen Nettleton is reunited with her grandchildren after they spent five years with Islamic State: https://t.co/zdD6fHt0DU Don't miss the full story tonight on #4Corners

    Morrison was asked the issue and said he would not be drawn on any final decision over whether to bring the children back to Australia.

    Scott Morrison says on Adelaide radio he's not going to be drawn into a final decision on the Sharrouf kids, but the government is working quietly behind the scenes with the Red Cross #ausvotes

    Speaking in Adelaide, Shorten said the children should not be a "political football".

    "These children shouldn’t be held responsible for what their parents did," he said.

    Both leaders were quick to respond to the news of the massive fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

    The Notre Dame Cathedral's iconic spire has collapsed in the massive fire https://t.co/6cDHHwuN96

    I fondly remember standing outside Notre Dame with Jen almost 30 years ago. So sad to see this beautiful cathedral in flames this morning. Our thoughts are with the people of France and emergency services who are fighting this fire. They will rebuild as Parisians always do.

    Notre Dame brought so much joy to so many souls. A sad day for Paris, for France and for people all around the world.

    Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested the leaders should agree to establish a fund to support the cathedral's restoration.

    PM @ScottMorrisonMP & Oppn Leader @billshortenmp should today agree to establish an Australian fund to support the restoration of Notre Dame so that Australians can show their solidarity once again with the people of France.

    Morrison later rejected this idea.

    Scott Morrison rules out any Australian government contribution to the rebuilding of Notre-Dame #auspol

    The Bad Show (Q&A) was on and it went just about as badly as you'd expect.

    How will Malcolm Roberts and James McGrath counteract the rise of white supremacy within their own parties? #QandA

    Elsewhere, former prime minister Tony Abbott did not rule out returning to the party leadership, saying his colleagues would need to put him forward.

    Tony Abbott says he would be willing to resume leadership if drafted in https://t.co/oK0bhHGsVz

    "It will be up to the party room. If they want me they will need to invite me. But I am not expecting that,” the Guardian quoted Abbott as saying.

    "I am not going to shoulder anyone aside for the top job, because for me it has never been about that."

    Speaking in Victoria, Morrison said he thought Abbott was responding to a "very hypothetical" question.

    While in Victoria, the prime minister found time to play some pool.

    The PM joins local resident Noel in a game of pool @politicsabc #ausvotes

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    And have a go at lawn bowls.

    The “have a go, get a go” PM tries his hand at bowls.. bare foot @ScottMorrisonMP impresses the crowd at Torquay #auspol @10NewsFirst

    Shorten meanwhile enjoyed some oysters in Adelaide.

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

    CAMPAIGN DAY 6 - Play of the day from @billshortenmp ... sampling SA produce in Adelaide’s marginal seat of Boothby. @7NewsCanberra #7NEWS #oysters #AusVotes2019

    He also bought some cheese.

    Say cheese 🧀 Bill Shorten visited a deli while at a shopping centre in Adelaide. He picked up a small block of Manchego, which is a Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk. #auspol #ausvotes @politicsabc

    The ABC's election analyst Antony Green played to the gallery with this tweet.

    If Mr Dutton wins, there are 40 days after the return of the writ in which his eligibility can be challenged by the public.

    And then reminded everyone that this is relevant to any candidate.

    I should point out that any candidate can be challenged in the Court of Disputed returns in the 40 days after the election. I expect a few challenges to be made on the peripheral edges of citizenship law beyond those already ruled on by the High Court.

    We also learnt that the first leaders' debate will be held on Monday April 29 in Perth.

    Although I doubt the NT News are going to get their wish here...


    I think everyone will be hoping to avoid questioning like this. 32 more days to go everyone!

    Watch the awkward exchange between @MikeSmithson7 and Adelaide Liberal candidate @ShaunOsborn1 after he sent out 10,000 flyers inviting constituents to a ‘listening post’ at a cafe, but didn’t ask the owner. Report in 7NEWS at 4pm and 6pm. https://t.co/RlScYNneh5 #ausvotes #7NEWS

    Richard James is the News Director for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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