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Numbers gaffe mars Labor campaign's opening day

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The Morrison Government has seized on an early stumble by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who was unable to state the official interest rate or national unemployment figures on the first full day of election campaigning.

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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 unemployment figures, 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 told reporters in Launceston.

The latest unemployment figure is four 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 after the Opposition leader was questioned.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was able to state what both economic figures were when he was asked at a press conference while campaigning in the seat of Gilmore on the NSW south coast.

“0.1 per cent is the cash rate, it’s been there for some time. The unemployment rate, I’m happy to say is four per cent, falling to a 50-year low,” he said.

“It came down from 5.7 per cent when we were first elected.”

Earlier, Albanese attempted to sidestep the question when asked by reporters.

“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.”

Liberal campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham pounced on the slip-up by Mr Albanese.

“If you don’t know what the interest rate is, you can’t be trusted to put the right policies in place to keep them low,” he said.

“If you don’t know what the unemployment rate is, you can’t be trusted to keep Australians in jobs.”

The campaign stumble was similar to an incident earlier this year during a speech by the prime minister at the National Press Club, when Morrison could not state the cost of a litre of petrol or a loaf of bread.

Albanese said on Monday he was across the cost of household items.

“The last time I filled up, petrol was $2.20. I know how much the price of bread is, I know how much a litre of milk is,” he said.

“I know about those things that affect ordinary people.”

While campaigning in Gilmore, Morrison has been attempting to spruik the government’s economic credentials.

Despite being behind in the polls for much of the parliamentary term, Morrison said the coalition’s results spoke for themselves.

“This election on May 21 is all about a choice, elections are always about choices,” he said.

“It’s a choice between the strong economic management and the strong financial management that has ensured Australia has been able to come through this pandemic … that contrasts to a Labor opposition who Australians know can’t be trusted to manage money”

It comes as the latest Newspoll shows the coalition narrowing the gap with Labor on two-party preferred, but the opposition are still ahead 53-47.

The coalition’s primary vote remains on 36 per cent, while Labor’s primary vote has dropped by one point to 37 per cent.

Morrison has also pulled ahead of Albanese as preferred prime minister.

-with AAP

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