The Politics    Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Let sleeping underdogs lie

By Rachel Withers

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking to the media last week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking to the media last week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

The Opposition leader is pushing back against the PM’s lies, but it’s going to be a long election campaign

The major parties’ election campaigns (for a yet-to-be-announced federal election) are trudging on amid fresh claims and counterclaims, competing tech pledges and, of course, low-grade side-by-side graphics. Labor today launched its NBN policy, pledging $2.4 billion to upgrade more homes to fibre-to-the-premises connections, in a bid to make internet frustrations an election issue. The Coalition, meanwhile, unveiled its “critical technology” strategy, citing 63 rapidly developing technologies to receive additional national security focus, and a $70 million investment in quantum research to boot. It seems unlikely that “home internet speeds” made the list of critical tech. During a morning media blitz, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese tried to push back against some of Scott Morrison’s more outrageous recent claims, including that the PM was the underdog in the election. (Morrison, who is still yet to condemn the highly condemnable Melbourne protests, did not front the media for a second day running.) Speaking on Sunrise, Albanese insisted that it was he, and not the PM, who was the long shot. “We are always struggling to get into government,” he said, sounding altogether too convincing. Morrison, he added, will “say anything” to stay in power. You know it’s an inspiring set of options when both leaders are angling for underdog status.

Indeed, over the past week, an increasingly desperate Morrison has said several outrageous things. Asked in interviews about the prime minister’s claim that everything from petrol prices to interest rates would rise under Labor, Albanese labelled them “nonsense”. “The Reserve Bank governor has said himself that interest rates won’t increase in 2022,” Albanese told AM, referring to yesterday’s speech from Philip Lowe, in which he hosed down the PM’s claim, saying the cash rate was likely to remain at 0.1 per cent until 2024. “The Reserve Bank sets interest rates, not the government,” Albanese added. Not that that seems to matter to Morrison. “When it comes to petrol prices,” the Opposition leader went on, “Scott Morrison hasn’t filled up for a long period of time, because petrol is rising under his watch.” It was a line he was obviously quite proud of, repeating it on Sunrise. But it’s not clear whether that fact (or any facts, really) carries much weight with the PM – nor does being (quietly) corrected by papers such as the Australian Financial Review or The Australian. All that matters for Morrison, of course, is that voters are made to feel wary of Labor.

Rates and petrol aren’t the only areas in which the government has been twisting the truth. Even as various media outlets note the hidden “carbon price” in the government’s belatedly released net-zero modelling (as both the AFR and The New Daily have done this week), Energy Minister Angus Taylor has continued his carbon-tax scare campaign. In a speech to an energy conference today, Taylor claimed that reducing the safeguard mechanism threshold – something Labor is still considering – would be a “sneaky carbon tax”, or a “carbon tax by stealth”. Never mind that, as the AFR’s Jacob Greber notes, the government’s own modelling acknowledges that Australia cannot get to net zero by 2050 without a carbon price “of some form”, and is predicated on a (Gillard-era) price of $24 a tonne. “Aside from the hypocrisy embedded in the Coalition’s climate plan,” he writes, “the only other question is why Labor has been so silent.”

Much of what the Coalition is currently campaigning on, and will no doubt continue to campaign on for the next six months, bears only a tangential relation to the truth. We’ve known about the prime minister’s slipperiness for some time – since long before French President Emmanuel Macron wounded him with his cutting accusation of lying. The past few weeks, however, have sent Morrison into something of a trust spiral, while his likeability has also taken a dive. As The Australian reported yesterday, Morrison now trails Albanese on trust, likeability, and how well he is seen to care about and understand the concerns of Australians. This, surely, isn’t the kind of underdog Morrison is hoping to be.













Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

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