Scott Morrison as divisive as coriander

When Scott Morrison was asked to name his favourite herb on the penultimate day of the campaign, the Prime Minister did not hesitate: Coriander. It was a divisive choice for a dawn walk through the Sydney Markets.

Up to 13 per cent of people actually have a genetic reaction to the herb. To them it tastes like soap. Another 26 per cent just don't like it, according to a survey of 50,000 people by a US genetic testing firm.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Liberal candidate for Longman Terry Young in Brisbane on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Liberal candidate for Longman Terry Young in Brisbane on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

That's 39 per cent who are opposed to coriander, curiously close to Labor's 37 per cent primary vote in the opinion polls, which if repeated on Saturday with preferences, would sweep the government out of office.

Morrison has been throwing everything to try to win over the euphemistic coriander sceptics. Hurling himself around the country from Perth to Adelaide to Tasmania in a whirlwind five-state tour over four days. On Thursday, a conga line of selfies followed him through the berry and chilli farmers at the Homebush market in the marginal electorate of Reid.

Stall holders yelled for the PM to come and try that day's produce, the baseball cap aficionado declined to wear a pineapple hat offered up to him by a local grower. When Bill Shorten wandered through the exact same marketplace 36 days ago some were heard to inquire who the Opposition Leader was.

Rising personal popularity has been Morrison's trump card in his mission to deliver an unlikely win on Saturday.

Shorten knows he does not hold the same standing and has built a campaign around a united team and a pitch for change instead of the status quo.

"These are our people," conceded one Morrison aide as we trundled between crates of figs and lemons at the markets in Sydney's west on Thursday.

If the popularity of Morrison among the small businesses owners translates to the ballot booth here, the Liberal Party stands a chance of holding on to the seat being vacated by Turnbull-loyalist Craig Laundy, a prospect Morrison himself acknowledges was written off in the aftermath of the August coup.

The seat will be vital if it is to retain government, with two losses expected in Victoria, and more under threat in Queensland.

The retreat from electoral annihilation has largely been driven by the will of the Shire man. He morphs from a message of fear on stage in Canberra to one of sincere concern in person in Tasmania - at ease with the top end of town and the midfield of the Bridgenorth Parrots AFL club.

"Front row seats for the ScoMo show," cried out 18-year-old Parrot, Jack De Wit, as the PM entered the Launceston clubhouse on Tuesday.

Morrison has averaged three electorates a day - and could yet add more in the final day of the campaign, when a 48-hour media black-out on radio and TV advertising makes effective shoe leather campaigning essential.

The lightning visits are just as much about projecting confidence as they are about actually winning. "Perception is everything," said a campaign source. "There are plenty of places we'd like to go, but we can't".

No Dickson, no Warringah, electorates held by the current Home Affairs Minister and a former prime minister that are on the line will see no love from the PM. They will have to run their own race.

Queensland, where the Coalition knows it can lose this election, will see a blitz on Friday. Herbert, held by Labor by just 0.02 per cent, will be its major target, as the Coalition looks to capitalise on community unease about Labor's internal environmental conflicts on the Adani coal mine in a region struggling with chronically high unemployment.

Morrison will no doubt stay on script: Labor will tax you to death, only the Coalition can be trusted to steer the economy through global headwinds, "now is not the time for change" - a phrase he repeated a dozen times in his final formal speech on Thursday.

The PM's relentless ability to stick to the message has meant there has been little news to be gained from unexpected hiccups, frustrating the press pack and delighting his minders. Opportunities for slip-ups from candidates have also been avoided by either pulling them away from reporters or calling time on media conferences.

The discipline has allowed the Morrison media machine to drive four days of coverage from construction sites in the western suburbs of Sydney and Perth on the basis of a last-minute $500 million first-home buyer scheme that will only benefit 10,000 voters and has been questioned by economists.

The policy, which never went to cabinet, has given the Coalition scope to personalise an otherwise abstract campaign, one predicated on $158 billion in personal income tax cuts over a decade and the risk of Labor's "big spending, big taxing agenda".

It may not be enough come Saturday, but there is some hope for Morrison. People tend to like coriander the more they eat it.

  • SMH/The Age
This story Scott Morrison as divisive as coriander first appeared on The Age.