Election campaign kicks off

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese have made their opening pitches of the election campaign, as polls show the Coalition gaining ground on Labor.

What we know:

  • Morrison on Sunday visited Governor-General David Hurley to dissolve parliament and trigger a federal election for May 21 (Nine); 
  • Morrison then addressed the media, centring his message around his handling of crises and the risk of an unproven Labor government, before cutting the press conference short;
  • Albanese in turn appealed to Australia’s “sense of optimism and desire for a better future”, and stayed on to take extensive questioning (The Conversation); 
  • The latest Newspoll sees the Coalition closing on Labor’s lead, one point closer with Labor’s primary vote down four points, but the Opposition is still ahead on two-party preferred 53-47 (The Australian $); 
  • Five other national polls conducted since the March 29 budget show Labor on track to form majority government (The Conversation); 
  • Pundits have highlighted 20 seats likely to decide the election, with Labor needing to pick up seven seats to form majority government while the Coalition would fall into the minority with the loss of just one (SMH); 
  • Morrison will today campaign in Nowra on the NSW south coast, promising $40m in road upgrades as he strives to pick up Labor’s seat of Gilmore (ABC); 
  • Albanese meanwhile is in Launceston to announce $2.5m for new support centres for children in the region as he targets Bass, the Liberals’ most marginal seat in the country.
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ADF abuses in Timor ignored

Australian soldiers allegedly tortured detainees at a secret interrogation centre in Timor-Leste during the military intervention in 1999.

What we know:

  • Detainees and former Australian soldiers say Timorese suspected of being pro-Indonesian militia were interrogated at a secret camp (ABC); 
  • In one instance, 14 Timorese were wrongly blamed for an ambush, with 10 taken to a hot, small military tent;
  • Australian soldiers allegedly stripped and assaulted detainees, deprived them of food, water and sleep, and forcibly showed them mangled bodies of two dead militiamen;
  • In between interrogations, the men were forced to sit in a military tent in the sweltering heat, blindfolded and cross-legged with their hands tied;
  • Some of the detainees, which included three boys, farmers and a man with a disability, soiled themselves in fear;
  • “I truly was tortured. I was kicked to the point of losing consciousness … I had to sit for 24 hours, then stand up for 24 hours,” said Bartolomeus Ulu, who also claims he was groped;
  • Soldiers who raised concerns about the treatment of detainees were ignored by their superiors, with one investigation finding nothing of concern;
  • A separate New Zealand investigation said the alleged mistreatment may have constituted “a grave breach of international law”.
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Macron and Le Pen face off in France

French President Emmanuel Macron will face the far right’s Marine Le Pen in a presidential run-off, after the pair secured the top two positions in the first round of voting.

Macron was in pole position with 28.5% of the vote, ahead of Le Pen’s 23.6%, according to projections (Politico). 

Macron’s result arrested a slide in his polling in recent weeks, with the incumbent successfully appealing for voters to rally around him to stave off the threat of his anti-immigration challenger.

Both Macron and Le Pen secured more votes than they did in the 2017 first round, ahead of leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in third place with 20.3%.

The decline of the traditional parties of government was emphasised in the result, with the centre-right Les Républicains on 5% and the centre-left Socialist Party at 2%.

The defeated Socialist, Communist, Green and conservative candidates all urged their supporters to back Macron in the run-off, while far-right candidate Éric Zemmour, who secured 7% of the vote, called for his voters to support Le Pen (France 24). 

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Mass fish death in Ningaloo

The Ningaloo Coast in WA has been hit by one of the most severe mass fish kills in more than a decade.

Roughly 16,000 dead fish were counted along the coast (ABC). 

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development says initial investigations indicate the event was caused by coral spawning.

"Coral spawn itself can use up oxygen in the water and when it breaks down, more oxygen is used up as part of the breakdown process," a department representative said.

Another factor that could have contributed was local marine heatwave conditions that occurred along the Ningaloo coastline in late March.

Authorities warned people not to enter into or fish from the putrid water in some swimming spots, which contained high levels of bacteria.

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Roosters and Crows crowned champions

The Sydney Roosters produced a come-from-behind victory at the NRLW Grand Final, while the Adelaide Crows secured a third AFLW premiership.

The Roosters had to rally to beat the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-4 in the NRLW Grand Final on Sunday.

Facing a 4-0 half-time deficit, second half tries to Yasmin Meakes, Isabelle Kelly and Olivia Higgins saw the Roosters storm home to secure a maiden NRLW title (Fox Sports). 

It follows the Adelaide Crows defeating the Melbourne Demons in the AFLW decider on Saturday, 4.5 (29) to 2.4 (16) (AFL.com.au). 

The win establishes the Crows as the first dynasty in AFLW history, securing their third premiership in a competition that has only been around for six years.

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The Education Minister who stood aside apparently is still in the cabinet as the Education Minister, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on there.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese grapples with the revelation that scandal-hit Coalition MP Alan Tudge is simultaneously inside and outside cabinet. Will be fascinating to see how voters respond to the news that the school system is run by a transdimensional spectre ripping holes in space and time (SMH).

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Postscript: Morrison outsources calling of election to consultancy firm

The Prime Minister has awarded a $30 million contract to consultancy firm McKinsey to plan and implement the calling of the 2022 federal election. Under the scope of the project, McKinsey will assess all available options for travelling to Government House to advise the Governor-General of the intention to call the election ($20 million) as well as providing a suitable subject matter expert (SME) to deliver the news to the Governor-General (The Shovel).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.