Rates, debates and the countdown to election day

It’s been another busy week on the campaign trail for Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese as election day draws closer.

A second leader’s debate is scheduled for Sunday evening on Channel Nine after a week during which interest rates went up for the first time in more than a decade and cost of living pressures continued to dominate the news cycle.

Interest rates and inflation have been a major focus for party leaders this week.Credit:Monique WEstermann

But before we take a look at the week in review, test yourself on our week-four quiz.

The key takeaways from this week

  • The Reserve Bank lifted the official interest rate this week for the first time since November 2010. The rise from 0.1 per cent to 0.35 per cent has further fuelled discussions about how the rising cost of living and inflation, which has reached 5.1 per cent, is putting financial stress on Australians. The last time the RBA lifted the official interest rate during an election campaign was in 2007. This week’s rise, which the RBA said was triggered by inflation, prompted this response from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg: “the main driver of inflation has been international factors”.
  • Frydenberg and Chalmers faced off in a debate at the National Press Club this week. Chalmers opened by saying the election was “a choice between a stronger economy and a better future under Labor… or another three years of dysfunction and drift and waste and rorts and mistakes and buck-passing”. Frydenberg hit back by saying “the unemployment rate today is its equal lowest in 48 years at just 4 per cent”, and cited the Coalition’s implementation of JobKeeper during the pandemic as an example of “an economic plan that is working”.
  • Morrison continued to face scrutiny over calls for a national integrity commission after saying that Australia would become a “public autocracy” if such a body was given too much influence over government decisions. Morrison had criticised the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), saying it is a “kangaroo court”. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he “disagreed” with the Prime Minister’s comments while Frydenberg said he “would use different words” to describe ICAC. Labor, meanwhile, promised that a federal ICAC with “independent investigative powers” would be set up before the year’s end, if it wins government.

They said it

What you need to know about this weekend’s debate

When: The second debate between Morrison and Albanese will be on Channel Nine from 8.30pm on Sunday night.

Format: Three journalists, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s chief political correspondent David Crowe, will have the opportunity to question the party leaders for an hour. The debate will be moderated by Sarah Abo and the other two journalists will be Nine’s political editor Chris Uhlmann and 2GB’s Deb Knight.

What: The focus of this debate is likely to surround the recent increase to interest rates and what that will mean for cost of living. These economic themes will also lend themselves to talking about affordable housing, healthcare and wages.

The first debate on Sky News ended with Albanese winning the audience vote, with 40 people favouring him, 35 choosing Morrison and 25 undecided.

So, what we can expect from the campaign next week?

  • As we get closer to election day, expect discussions on the independents to become even more prevalent. Independents such as Allegra Spender in Wentworth and Monique Ryan in Kooyong have threatened to unseat Liberal candidates, which led former prime minister John Howard to call the Climate 200-backed independents “anti-Liberal groupies”. Debates between incumbent liberal politicians and independent candidates could also become more frequent closer to May 21.“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“Loading

    ”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”“”

  • Many Climate 200-backed independents, such as Dr Sophie Scamps in Mackellar and Kate Chaney in Curtin, have gained traction in their electorates because of voters seeking climate-conscious candidates. In his debate with Chalmers, Frydenberg spoke about making the transition from coal-powered energy to renewable industries smoothly, saying that it’s “a good thing for the environment but also, over time, a good thing for the economy”.
  • With all four big banks matching the RBA’s interest rate rise, housing affordability and home ownership have been firmly on the agenda. Expect the Coalition to reiterate their low-deposit scheme that was announced in the March budget which allows for first home buyers to buy new or existing homes with only a 5 per cent deposit. Labor’s “help to buy” policy would be available to 10,000 households a year and would pay for up to 40 per cent of new houses. Greens leader Adam Bandt is also set to announce that housing affordability is one of his party’s top priorities on Sunday.

Want a recap of what happened last week in the campaign? Try our week three quiz here:

Catch up on the rest of the campaign

  • Week one
  • Week two
  • Week three

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