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Election 2019: The Morrison/Shorten report card — Week 1

Each week of the federal election campaign, Macquarie Media’s Political Editor, Michael Pachi, will assess the performance of the Labor and Liberal leaders.

SCOTT MORRISON

GRADE — B

It was an energetic start to the Prime Minister’s election campaign and his experience showed.

He has managed to effectively dominate the agenda from the moment he called the May 18 poll at 7am last Thursday and kept a laser-like focus on the economy, and I think that’s cutting through.

Mr Morrison has managed to bat away claims the government’s long-term tax cuts would lead to spending reductions in other areas.

Labor leader Bill Shorten claimed the tax policy would mean cuts to health, education and the NDIS and the PM confidently branded Mr Shorten nothing more than “a liar”.

The Liberals believe their economic narrative has credibility and they’ve used latest Treasury figures to prove it. The Pre-Election Fiscal and Ecconomic Update mirrors the April 2 budget, showing a $7 billion budget surplus is likely next year.

The government is also hitting Labor hard on the cost of its climate change policy

I think this is fair enough, but the risk for the government is over-egging the amount.

Many voters are demanding action on climate change and this is one issue the Liberals must deal with as a party

Scott Morrison looks comfortable mingling with voters and has handled news conferences well, but his campaign hasn’t been without its hiccups.

There was his gaffe while campaigning in Sydney where he greeted a Korean woman in Chinese, for example.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton faced criticism after claiming his disabled Labor rival should be living in the electorate, and another Queensland MP, George Christensen, is also under pressure over claims he may have misused his travel entitlements.

On the whole, this has been a much better start for Scott Morrison than many imagined

I’m giving the PM a B for week one because despite some personnel problems, he’s generally kept his campaign on track.

Outside the political sphere, pictures have shown him in the winners circle on two occasions

He witnessed Winx’s history making race at Randwick and then watched his beloved Cronulla Sharks score another win in the NRL.

BILL SHORTEN

GRADE – C

It was a cautious start for the Opposition Leader, holding his first news conference at a backyard in the Liberal seat of Deakin.

It provided the backdrop for Bill Shorten’s key message, that Labor is focused on families.

It’s also a sign he feels confident of winning the election; unlike the government, there’s no real reason to sandbag Labor seats. Mr Shorten can spend plenty of time campaigning in marginal seats he thinks he can snatch from the Liberals.

He did well rallying the troops, especially at a mini-campaign launch in Sydney where he channeled Labor hero Gough Whitlam — “friends, it is time for change,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Just like the Liberals have a laser-like focus on their claim to be better economic managers, Labor has doggedly stuck to its health agenda.

They know the $2 billion cancer package is playing well, and Mr Shorten has spent most of his first week drip-feeding announcements.

He also successfully batted away government claims that Labor’s policy contains a $6 billion hole, arguing that just proves cancer treatments are expensive and his package is trying to alievate some of the pressure on sufferers.

Labor also had an early campaign win when they seized on Peter Dutton’s criticism of his disabled Labor rival Ali France.

But it wasn’t Mr Shorten doing the attacking. He left that to his campaign envoy Kristina Keneally, declaring Mr Dutton a “thug”.

However, by Tuesday, cracks started appearing in Labor’s campaign.

The formulaic press conferences with Bill Shorten sprouting the talking points were wearing thin.

The Opposition Leader got into a fiery exchange with a Channel 10 reporter over the cost of Labor’s climate policy, and he also stumbled on details about his superannuation policy/

Both issues then fed into his news conference on Wednesday where he was forced to clarify the super issue by saying he “misheard” the question; it would have made more sense for Mr Shorten to say that on the day he made the mistake, rather than letting it linger for another 24 hours.

The Labor leader was also forced to admit the party’s signature negative gearing policy was removed from their website so it could be updated with new Treasury figures. I’m not sure that this really cuts the mustard.

By Thursday, figures were published in The Australian newspaper suggesting Labor’s climate policy would drain business of $25 billion.

Mr Shorten angrily disputed the claim, but still wouldn’t outline what he considers to be a more accurate number

On the whole, it’s been a steady start to Bill Shorten’s campaign with his pitch on “fairness”

I’m giving the Labor leader a C, because the stumbles on key areas have caught many people by surprise, including on his own side.

He had the momentum going into this election campaign, with opinion polls showing he will win, and the bookies are showing that will still happen.

But the government is effectively prosecuting the case that Mr Shorten is not across the detail of his own policies.

I wonder if Mr Shorten’s overly cautious approach is doing more harm than good.

He can see the eye on the prize after almost six years in Opposition, but in a bid not to make any mistakes, his rehearsed spiel could be working against him.

Macquarie National News
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