In a nutshell
Victoria is still the most popular state this election campaign, with both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten spending another day in the southern state. The Coalition was sandbagging, while Labor was hunting. Morrison was ostensibly there to talk about “congestion busting” infrastructure but, once again, the day was all about health.
The government is absolutely determined that this time around the “Mediscare”, which almost toppled Malcolm Turnbull, does not get off the ground. Greg Hunt kicked off the day by claiming a health department “analysis” of Labor’s cancer funding policy showed a $6.8bn “hole”. Fast forward a few hours (and a couple of press conferences) and the health department issued a statement that it had not costed Labor’s policy, per se, but had provided an analysis in response to certain requests from the government. That turned out to be the cost of lifting the Medicare rebate for all cancer-related items to the level of the AMA’s recommended fee.
Sound like a familiar tactic? It’s because it is very similar to the Coalition’s claim on Friday that Labor’s tax plan would cost $387bn, based on “Treasury” figures. That also turned out to be an analysis the department provided in response to a government request to look at some numbers, not Labor’s actual policy, and importantly, Treasury said it provided no totals.
So it’s become a familiar sight – first headlines of a Labor policy “cost” based on a department’s “analysis” of figures the government provided to it, and a later statement “clarifying” what the terms of that analysis contained.
And what joy! We have 33 more days of this! Health has so far been the biggest battleground, with the Coalition working to neutralise any perceived Labor advantage on the issue. But that’s not to say it was the only issue – Peter Dutton’s “apology” also got more airtime after Morrison pleaded for disability not to be used as “a political football”, which seemingly ignores who brought it up in the first place (“I mean Kristina Keneally actually attacked me on the weekend,” Morrison said). Dutton has become a key Labor attack, and Morrison was forced to brush off questions about Michael Sukkar’s judgment in supporting Dutton’s prime ministerial bid as “such a bubble question, I’m just going to leave that one in the bubble”.
Morrison also rolled out a very laboured analogy in which he tried to link the 2.11m-tall Collingwood star and “big unit” Mason Cox and champion mare Winx, to Labor’s tax plan. “Now if you had Mason Cox riding Winx on the weekend, I don’t think she would have run quite as fast. She’s a champion, but I mean she’s still mortal. And what we’re trying to do is make sure we have the correct weight on our economy, the correct weight on our rider. That means you can have the champions of Australia really do well.”
It was repeated at the press conference, but hopefully dies a very quiet and peaceful death as soon as the Morrison campaign rolls out of Victoria.
Elsewhere on the trail
Michael McCormack was showing off the wombat statue on the “wombat trail” campaign, which so far has been the most interesting thing about it. Meanwhile, Bill Shorten was thrown a question from cancer sufferer and former CFA volunteer Rob Gibbs at his press conference, about trust. Mainly, why he should trust Labor, after he said he was let down by his state government. Shorten answered him in the press conference, and then spent some time with him afterwards. Meanwhile, launching Gladys Liu’s Chisholm campaign, Scott Morrison gave a nod to his “ni hao” gaffe (a greeting he directed to a woman who answered “I’m Korean”) by telling the crowd he was “no Asian languages expert, so I’m gonna say g’day to everybody”. Also on the weekend for some reason Matt Canavan ate an onion.
The big picture
The Warringah independent Zali Steggall has called on Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott to distance themselves from a “sexualised” video created by conservative group Advance Australia. The Australian Electoral Commission has warned unions for posting unauthorised fake eviction notices on the offices of two Liberal MPs in marginal Victorian seats. The Coalition has defended the level of Newstart, saying the unemployment benefit is “appropriate” and no extra rise is needed.
Tweet of the day
It’s the second time it’s happened to journalists on the Liberal bus – uniting journalists on the bus.
It’s been all about Victoria, but both campaigns are expected to head further afield tomorrow.