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The Prime Minister’s first speech after the calling the election revealed the type of campaign he wants to run over the next six weeks.
He knows Labor will relentlessly attack his character during what promises to be a brutal and gruelling battle that could go down to the wire.
But he will trumpet the rapid economic recovery after Covid-19 and paint Labor as an ‘unknown’ risk to the nation.
The Prime Minister’s first speech after the calling the election revealed the type of campaign he wants to run over the next six weeks
With neither major party proposing a radical agenda, a large part of the fight will be about the personality traits of Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
Mr Morrison has been called a ‘bully’ by several members of his own party – and Gladys Berejikian even labelled him a ‘horrible, horrible person’ in a leaked text message.
Meanwhile, his opponents brand him a liar and point to concrete examples where he has been dishonest, including a false claim he told Mr Albanese he was going to Hawaii before his secret holiday during the 2019 bushfires.
Labor also claims the Prime Minister failed to listen to medical experts, contributing to the woefully slow Covid vaccine rollout and the crippling rapid test shortage over summer.
Anthony Albanese (centre) watched his beloved Rabbitohs against the Dragons in the NRL on Saturday
The Labor leader stroked a chick with partner Jodie Haydon at the Royal Easter Show on Sunday
In a sign that he knows the personal attacks will ramp up, Mr Morrison admitted ‘you may see some flaws’.
But he urged Australians to stick with the devil they know.
‘Our government is not perfect – we’ve never claimed to be… but you can also see what we have achieved for Australia,’ he said.
Mr Morrison spruiked Australia’s low Covid death rate and rapid economic bounce-back which has seen unemployment drop to 4 per cent, the lowest rate since 2008.
These are statistics he will repeat endlessly in pubs and factories and across the nation.
Labor wants the election to be a referendum on Mr Morrison’s leadership. But the PM insists it’s a choice.
‘It’s a choice between a strong economy and a Labor Opposition that would weaken it,’ he claimed.
However, as Labor cleverly runs a ‘small target’ campaign on a platform of ‘safe change’ it remains to be seen whether the scare tactic will work or if the PM’s personal unpopularity will be his undoing.
Scott Morrison smiles as he gets in his car following a meeting with the Governor-General
What are the key issues at this election?
COVID-19: Scott Morrison has been labelled ‘SloMo’ over delays in the vaccine rollout, and the ‘prime minister for NSW’ over his attitude towards the states’ handling of the pandemic. But will voters credit him for Australia’s internationally-low rate of severe illness and death? Or will voters hand Anthony Albanese the job of leading the post-pandemic health and economic recovery?
BUDGET AND ECONOMY: The jobless rate has remained low despite the pandemic and the economy is on a sound footing. But under-employment is high and the rate of casual and insecure work is of concern to many Australians. And government debt is at unprecedented levels with no prospect of being repaid any time soon. Inflation has many concerned, with an interest rate hike looming.
TAXES: Scott Morrison insists he will drive down taxes on workers and businesses and the coalition is best placed to keep taxes low over the long term. Labor’s immediate priority is dealing with multinational tax avoidance, but the coalition is seeking to convince voters a Labor budget would contain hidden nasties.
CLIMATE: The coalition and Labor are committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Labor has a more ambitious medium-term target than the coalition. The issue has effectively been neutralised as a debating point, but a coalition campaign over Labor pushing up power prices can be expected. Independent candidates backed by Climate 200 are campaigning on doing more than either of the major parties.
BORDERS: The coalition says Labor’s soft stance on border protection will reopen the people smuggling trade and result in deaths at sea and a major cost blowout on detention centres. Labor says it supports boat turnbacks and offshore processing but will do so in a more humane way.
HEALTH: The coalition has boosted hospital funding for the states and territories. Labor says it will restore funding to the system and the coalition can’t be trusted with Medicare.
EDUCATION: The school funding debate seems to have settled. But Labor argues universities have been left to die by the coalition, especially as the international student market dried up during the pandemic.
NATIONAL SECURITY: The coalition says it is best placed to handle terrorism, China and other threats to national security and is more willing than Labor to enact laws to give greater powers to police and intelligence agencies. Labor says national security is a bipartisan priority, but wants to ensure there are proper checks and balances in any new powers.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: The coalition is taking a hands-off approach when it comes to the Fair Work Commission’s decision-making, which now has more employer-focused personnel. It also warns of Labor being dictated to by the unions. Labor says the existing system needs reform as workers are not benefiting from economic growth, in terms of higher wages, and casuals are being exploited.
INTEGRITY: The government has long-promised a Commonwealth Integrity Commission but argues Labor stood in its way. Labor says a national integrity commission with teeth is needed. The debate has given impetus to independent candidates targeting Liberal seats.
WOMEN: Scott Morrison was forced into doing more to address women’s safety when Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation of being raped in a minister’s office, and Christian Porter defended an accusation of historic assault which he firmly denies. Labor argues it is best placed to deal with women’s safety and empowerment and is more committed than the coalition to running female candidates in winnable seats.