This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Political parties usually treat their election campaign launches like rock concerts. Unfortunately they often end up more closely resembling a convention of accountants jumping rapturously to their feet every few minutes to applaud the release of another new range of HB pencils.
But for a few moments yesterday it seemed Labor had decided a stand-up comedy routine should be the theme for its official campaign launch in Perth. Scott Morrison was all "smirk and mirrors." He was "all tinsel, no tree". And just in case you missed the point, it was time to make sure corrupt politicians no longer escaped "Scott-free" thanks to a prime minister who "thinks climate change is what happens when you check out the April Sun in Cuba."
While this litany of one-liners drew predictable laughs - campaign spokesman Jason Clare pulled out one his favourite gags about Morrison's cabinet having "more smoking guns than a Clint Eastwood movie" - the biggest reaction among the Labor faithful was surely relief. Anthony Albanese, after a nervous, gaffe-prone start to the campaign before being sidelined for a week with COVID-19, made a rousing, passionate speech with barely a spicy cough - or new policy - to be heard.
What we did learn was that Labor would cut the cost of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by $12.50 and that no-one would pay more than $30 for a prescription (the Coalition tried to pre-empt this announcement on Saturday by saying it would cut medicine costs by $10). Albanese also said a Labor government would contribute up to 40 per cent toward the price of a new home and 30 per cent for an existing dwelling that would cut the cost of a mortgage by almost $400,000 in some parts of the country. But the $329 million scheme - modest compared to the size of the current housing and rental crisis - would be limited to 10,000 households a year and cover workers with annual incomes of up to $90,000 or $120,000 for a couple.
With Morrison polling poorly among female voters, Albanese promised to make gender equity a key plank of the Fair Work Act and also claimed he would return manufacturing to Australia by boosting the production of technology supporting electric vehicles. But with three weeks of the campaign left, and with polls showing the Labor leader is an unknown quantity for many undecided voters, Albanese was mostly keen to point out that he is everything Scott Morrison isn't.
"To call him a people person would be underselling it," said Senator Penny Wong, trying to paint a richer portrait of the man. "There's nothing quite like turning Albo loose in a full room and seeing just how much he thrives on the energy." That might be the case but Albanese is no gifted public speaker. He can sometimes appear stilted and nervous when caught off guard whereas Morrison is a chronic campaigner who probably emerged from the womb with an outstretched hand for the midwife and a reminder that her hospital was the fortunate recipient of Liberal government funding.
Hopefully we'll have learned more about the differences between Albanese and Morrison and their policies by this time next week after both men agreed over the weekend to stage a second debate on the Nine network next Sunday night. What a gift to the nation on Mother's Day...
HAVE YOUR SAY: Is the promise of cheaper medicines likely to change your vote? What is the one key issue that will decide the election for you? And do you plan to vote early this year (pre-poll voting opens next Monday). Send us your views: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
THEY SAID IT: "If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner." - H. L. Mencken.
YOU SAID IT: "When will we have some sort of long-term vision for this country from our politicians? I have been a voter for the last 50 years and have never felt so disinterested in an election. Maybe a hung parliament would be the best result all round. I'm seriously considering the minor parties and independents." - Margaret.
"How do we lift falling levels of trust in politics? An independent integrity commission, adequate funding for the Auditor-General, return policy development to the public service, reform political donation practices and greater transparency and accountability in how public funds are spent." - David.
"I am sure my request to party leaders to show respect, stop throwing mud, to be realistic when condemning the government for not fulfilling spending commitments, to not promise the impossible and to just tell me your policies and how you will fulfil them will fall on deaf ears, and I will once again have cast my vote for the party I hope will do the least harm." - Nikki.
"The Greens speak common sense in my book and sense is important. Surely given a go they could do no worse than either of the two major parties. We need more politicians who are not career-motivated. They may be good at debating but not at living experience." - Sandra.
"When you are in an electorate with Barnaby Joyce standing, what choice do you have but search for alternatives?" - Susan.
"If I had acted like our pollies do during my working life I would have been sacked. Unfortunately the only way we can sack our pollies is at the ballot box and that's not always successful. Our work mantra was always 'under promise and over deliver.' Our pollies operate in reverse." - Bob.
"In AD56 Pliny the Elder said "All politicians lie". In 1967 De Gaulle said "All politicians handle the truth carelessly". Khrushchev stated: "A politician is someone who promises to build a bridge even when there is no river" and more recently Steve Young remarked: "You can tell when a politician is lying. You can see their lips moving". Anyone who believes any politician's promise or commitment is a nave fool who deserves to be deceived." - Ross.
"Inflation has affected me - I am now eating and drinking only half the amount as normal. I have been forced to pull back on my lifestyle. Those campaigning for our votes cannot be believed or trusted as all is pure political speak and we have heard it all before!" - Elizabeth.
"Inflation in the 1970s turned a modest retirement for my grandparents into a struggle against penury. No wonder ScoMo won't talk about, let alone say what he will do about it. Mr Morrison, you might try holding a hose. Just like you, it won't serve any purpose." - Alan
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