Barring a campaign calamity, Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party will be elected in two weeks. Australians have lost faith in Scott Morrison and the Coalition, even despite all the barracking by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and other Liberal-aligned media. Michael West reports.
Highlights from the Leaders debate:
Anthony Albanese: “We were so poor, my single mum would take us to Harvey Norman to watch TV, so poor the burglars broke into my mum’s house to leave money … we even ate cereal with a fork to save milk”.
Scott Morrison: “I couldn’t be clearer, it was the Labor Party, the Labor Party. It was the Labor Party’s fault that we sold the Port of Darwin to the Chinese. This is a very important point. It was you!”.
Anthony Albanese: “We was so poor that, when a cyclone hit my single mum’s house, it did $20,000 of improvements … so poor mum would take us to KFC to lick other peoples’ fingers.
Scott Morrison: “The Solomon Islands, that’s our Pacific family, but if a comet was to hit Earth tomorrow putting the entire planet at risk of extinction, it would be Labor’s fault. I can’t be clearer than that”.
Against all odds
Okay, these quotes were made up with a little help from cartoonist Paul Zanetti’s morning email. Still, notwithstanding the myriad smears, the lies and the most strident Coalition campaigning by the Murdoch media against him – as well the deluge of public money splashed about to buy votes – Albo is heading for The Lodge on May 21.
Anthony Albanese’s poor-boy-made-good narrative, or “log cabin in the woods” as one Labor insider calls it, has worked. People like a bootstraps story, even if Albo does own four city properties these days. But it’s more about trust; and his rival Scott Morrison losing just that, trust.
In the end, the voters are not fools. The media bought and sold Scomo’s fear campaign in 2019 hook line and sinker. But now the public has figured out Morrison is an incurable bull-artist and, although Albo is prone to the odd clanger on details, at least he tries to tell the truth. He’s authentic, basically a good bloke.
And haven’t Morrison, Murdoch and co tried everything; Albo the Chinese spy, Albo the unknown, Albo the untrustworthy, Albo not up to it, Albo connected to a central Tasmanian MP who tweeted something stupid 11 years ago.
The power of fair dinkum
Even last night on Nine’s Leaders Debate, they were still dragging up negative gearing and other old policy proposals from the Shorten era to tarnish him. They tried to resurrect the Labor Mean Girls “beat-up” and the “Retiree Tax”. Four years on, and not one of these luminaries in the corporate media has bothered to bail Morrison up, to correct him on that lie.
Removing franking credits is not a *tax*. The opposite; it is removing a subsidy for mostly wealthy people. Do the media actually understand this but choose to ignore it? Probably a mix of ignorance and wilful ignorance, quite probably the same mix which had them singing the praises of the Coalition’s Budget this year for two weeks until it was released, then missing the actual story.
Yes, they still are singing about lower taxes, Rupert, Kerry and Peter’s Liberal Party a capella. While tax is actually going up, come July, for most working Australians.
It’s a shame Labor walked away from crucial reform proposals. The price of winning office, averting scare campaigns, has been to let down millions of younger Australians who will be subsidising wealthy retirees for years to come. To help those who already have a bunch of properties.
That is just a straight drag on the economy to boot, taxing the industrious to subsidise the idle.
And a small irony is that, with Albo’s pay rise next month, and now that he has ruled out changes to negative gearing, he will be able to afford more investment properties, more than his parliamentary peers.
The media will ignore the fact that tax perks for boomer super funds now stand at $36bn a year and will soon eclipse the aged pension at $40bn. Just as bad, low and middle income earners will lose their $1080 tax breaks from July but high income earners will get thousands of dollars back from the ATO because Labor has backed the Liberals’ Stage 3 tax cuts for high income people.
Unless they backtrack on their lame Liberal policies, Labor will have sacrificed social obligation for office, prudence for privilege.
A Morrison comeback?
But we digress, slightly. Can Morrison stage a comeback from here? It would seem, if we are right and he has lost a nation’s trust, then no.
In counterpoint to Albo’s Log Cabin yarn, Scomo’s narrative has turned out to the The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He has lied and spun too many times. Even last week while Albo was being excoriated over the latest gotcha, his failure (when grilled by a Nine reporter reading from his phone) to recite his NDIS policy-points, Scomo got his usual leave pass for a litany of half-truths in the daily pressure.
Fantasies such as his “$100bn turnaround in the economy” (actually a paper shuffle), all ignored – yet all went unchallenged by media and Albo’s gaffes led the evening news bulletins instead on the government-subsidised news networks.
What about the polls?
And no, you can’t trust the polls too much either, but they are more credible than they were last time in 2019 for technical reasons. And together – Roy Morgan, Resolve, Ipsos and Newspoll – have now blown out in favour of Albanese and Labor beyond the margin of error.
Yes they could be wrong, and the media will still want to spin this as a tight race, but unless Albo really puts his foot in it, he is a shoo-in. Where, only a week ago, Teal was the story of the election, it is now Albo and Labor, who are firming to form government in their own right.
Of course the cost of living is hammering people, and that helps Labor tremendously, which brings to the Scomo’s narrative. It might now have shrunk from “strong on the economy, strong on national security” to “stick with us cos you can’t trust the other mob”.
But in the public consciousness it has turned out to be The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Now, on the most fundamental issue for most Australians, the rising cost of living, he is not trusted even though he’s actually telling the truth. And he is probably only telling the truth because it’s the best story, but that won’t help once people think you’re lying anyway.
You see, rising prices are a global thing, inflation is not Morrison’s fault. A lot of things are, but not inflation!
Too bad. The loss of public confidence will cost Morrison and his corrupt and incompetent Coalition government office; and Labor will return from its 10-year sojourn in the political wilderness, barring fatal campaign circumstances which are now hard to envisage.
The change will do us good (although the challenge of a failing media and a two-party political culture funded by fossil fuels remains).
Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.