Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has “fessed up” after stumbling through his opening press conference on the first full day of election campaigning, being unable to give the official cash rate or national unemployment figures.
Mr Albanese was campaigning in the seat of Bass in northern Tasmania, one of the most marginal seats in the country, where he outlined funding for care for children with hearing loss.
However, when asked in a press conference about the official interest rate and the national jobless data, he was unable to answer.
“The national unemployment rate at the moment is, I think it’s 5.4 [per cent], sorry, I’m not sure what it is,” he said in Launceston.
The latest unemployment figure is 4 per cent, while the official interest rate is 0.1 per cent and has not changed since November 2020.
Labor’s campaign spokeswoman, Senator Katy Gallagher, did provide the correct figures when asked moments later.
Earlier, Mr Albanese attempted to sidestep the question.
“We can do the old Q and A stuff over 50 different figures,” he said.
“The truth is that … the Reserve Bank have said that there’ll be multiple interest rate increases, regardless of who’s in government.”
Later on Monday, Mr Albanese addressed the bungle.
“Earlier today I made a mistake, I’m human. But when I make a mistake, I will fess up to it and I will set about correcting that mistake – I won’t blame someone else, I will accept responsibility. That’s what leaders do,” he said.
He told a journalist he knew the cash rate was 0.1 – “very different from the interest rate that people pay [on their mortgages], of course, and 4 per cent is the unemployment rate”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was campaigning in Gilmore on the NSW south coast, spruiking his government’s economic credentials.
Despite being behind in the polls for much of the parliamentary term, Mr Morrison said the Coalition’s results spoke for themselves.
“The character of our government has been proven in the results we’ve achieved, coming through this pandemic saving thousands of lives,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.
“Not everybody agrees with everything I’ve done, and not everybody will necessarily like me, but what they will know is that when we faced this crisis, we ploughed through with the right plan.”
Mr Morrison started the day campaigning at a cannery in Gilmore alongside Liberal candidate Andrew Constance, the former NSW transport minister.
Quizzed on the interest rate and jobless figures after Mr Albanese’s blunder, he was quick to provide the right figures.
He was also asked about campaigning with Mr Constance, who clashed repeatedly with Mr Morrison following the disastrous Black Summer bushfires. Mr Constance said the PM “got the welcome he deserved” when he was famously confronted by angry locals in Cobargo, and also tried to shake the hand of an unwilling volunteer firefighter, in the days after the fires.
“That was a difficult day. As I moved through that community, it was in trauma, it was shell-shocked. There were those exchanges that day, but there were many other exchanges that day which were very different,” Mr Morrison said on Monday.
Mr Constance said only that he wanted to run a “positive campaign” in Gilmore.
“We’ve got to make the election a positive experience for a community that’s gone through so much. That’s our focus,” he said.
Mr Morrison and Mr Constance were greeted by protesters carrying ukuleles and holding “doesn’t hold a hose” signs on Monday’s visit to the NSW south coast.
Earlier, the latest Newspoll showed the Coalition narrowing the gap with Labor on two-party preferred, but the opposition is still ahead 53-47.
The Coalition’s primary vote remains on 36 per cent, while Labor’s has dropped by one point to 37 per cent.
Mr Morrison has also pulled ahead of Mr Albanese as preferred prime minister.
Also on Monday, Mr Morrison confirmed Alan Tudge, who stepped aside from cabinet amid allegations he had an abusive relationship with a former staffer with whom he had an affair, would return to the frontbench should the government win the election.
Mr Tudge has strenuously denied the allegation, and an investigation found insufficient evidence he breached the ministerial standards.
Mr Morrison said Mr Tudge had stood aside for “health and family reasons” and was welcome to rejoin cabinet when he was ready.
“Should Mr Tudge wish to return, I know he will. I look forward to him doing that,” he said.