It is time to ask yourself who you want to wake up with, again. Three years ago, we faced this decision with the disastrous reigns of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull still fresh in our memories.
While our elections are about individual members in individual electorates, the system has gradually become more presidential. The result may be that people vote for the local candidate if they like the leader of his or her party.
Scott Morrison was relatively new then, known to us only through his leadership of the Immigration portfolio. He had set off some red flags through his refusal to account for his department’s actions at sea, and his propensity for using men and women dressed in military uniforms as props. This was the first indication of his ‘Scotty from Marketing’ persona.
He is damaged goods now, seen as a pathological liar by many, but he does have the advantage of being the incumbent. That still carries a lot of weight in this country. Some older voters, and many in regional areas, still innately respect the office of prime minister. This is a valuable commodity to hold, because it is only in more recent years that institutions and titles, world-wide, have become more ‘democratised’, so that ordinary citizens have felt more freedom in questioning power.
If you are unfortunate enough to live in an area with a heavy Murdoch media presence, you may not have even heard about his problems with the truth. His main strength has been his ability to come back, day after day, from drubbings to embarrassments, with a fresh re-set, and a new attack line.
Instead of setting out policies, he appears to be entirely reactive, struck silent unless he can find a perceived gaffe, or a mis-spoken opinion, on which to pounce. When Anthony Albanese was isolating because he had Covid-19, Morrison was reduced to accusing the opposition leader of working less hard during his enforced break from campaigning.
Morrison has a series of spectacular fails on his cv; we know them all, but he has moved on. The big question about this election is, has the electorate moved on?
Each failure during a natural disaster has been exceeded by the next. The “holiday in Hawaii” while the country burned, to his abject failure on Lismore and the floods affected northern rivers. Of course that brings to mind the people of Mallacoota, and his “I brought in the Navy to help you” rhetoric. These are now the stuff of popular myth, with “I don’t hold a hose” perhaps the most memorable.
His next task was to combat the pandemic. He was relatively successful in the first phase, although his eagerness to re-open the economy was kept in check by the state premiers. His failure was in the initial lack of vaccines, and once ordered, their chaotic rollout to the country. He was seen as being unable to organise anything properly, and his it is “not a race” remark, followed by vehement denials he ever said it, was both inaccurate and proof he could not be trusted.
Morrison compounds his failures by deflecting blame, usually to a state premier, or by lying outright to cover himself. His propensity for claiming innocence is often easily overturned by video evidence, and yet his ability to re-set his world on a daily basis speaks to some form of undefinable quirk.
The list of failures is long. Women feel let down by him, and his government. Christine Holgate, Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins are conspicuous victims of his seemingly unconscious misogyny.
His standing by his disgraced ministers, with never a question that he believes the men every time, has led to a $500,000 settlement to Rachelle Miller. She has accused a Liberal minister of physical abuse, and Morrison has still denied any wrong-doing on the part of Alan Tudge. There is another un-named current minister who is also a part of the compensation.
Hardly appropriate that there is a settlement, and yet no adverse finding against Tudge, or the other minister. Morrison has invited Tudge to resume as Education Minister, which puts him in charge of educational and cultural standards in our country. That means a person who has had a half million dollars in compensation paid to his alleged victim. A smoking gun?
The worst thing Morrison has said about Albanese is that he is unknown, and rather interestingly, inexperienced. He has been in parliament since 1996, so he has been in a variety of senior positions, in government and in opposition, for 26 years.
He has obviously learned from the 2019 election loss, and so, to the dismay of many Labor voters, he is presenting a ‘small target’. This strategy has worked a treat so far, and it does serve to de-fang Morrison, who needs someone, or something, to attack.
There is a valid argument that getting into power is the main game, and worry about reform once you have got your hands on the levers of power. Morrison has run the line that we don’t know Albanese, so don’t take the risk. This makes it difficult to portray Albanese in any depth, because if he is unknown, we know nothing ill of him. Morrison is asking us to vote for him, because he is not Albanese.
Morrison’s campaign rests on Morrison, bright and relentless every day. He appears to be waiting for the fatal mishap from Albanese, but the press pack is so ill-disciplined, and light on knowledge, that such a moment is unlikely. Many are armed with lists of ‘gotcha’ questions, which merely highlight the vacuous nature of the pack.
Morrison’s team has been reduced to Simon Birmingham, the only Liberal who does not invite drawn pitchforks, and Darren Chester in Victoria. The rest are either invisible, in hiding, or in protective custody.
Morrison has made the pitch – trust me, I will lead you to victory. He has also effectively dumped his inner city ‘wets’, so they are relying on distancing themselves from the Liberals. His choice of candidates in N.S.W. is imploding, as he is suspected of pursuing the transphobic vote. Some think he is trying to re-create the Liberals as the light version of the (U.S.) Republicans.
As for Labor, there is a powerful team. The likes of Penny Wong, Jim Chalmers, Kristina Keneally, Tanya Plibersek, and the find of the election, Jason Clare are all showing what they can do. It appears impressive.
On current tracking, Labor seem to have this in the bag. They must not choke, but nor must they be triumphalist. As many have said in the past, elections change the country. The current government has had close to ten years. Time’s up, perhaps?
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