At 9.29am on Monday morning, the metaphoric firing gun for the election race was triggered as the governor-general, David Hurley, proclaimed the 46th parliament prorogued, officially dissolving the house of representatives.
By the time the Federation Guard’s 19-gun salute commenced following Hurley’s announcement, Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison had already slung potshots of their own.
Shortly after that ceremonial event, Albanese was stumbling over the national unemployment and cash rates during a press conference in Launceston — leaving it to his finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher to step in with the answers — while Morrison popped up on the NSW south coast unable to properly explain if Alan Tudge is in or out of his cabinet, or will be remaining or returning to it.
Well before the budget was handed down late last month, the prime minister had switched to election mode and was weaving a critique of an alternative Labor government into nearly every public address he made.
Announcing the May 21 federal election, Scott Morrison said voters could choose between a strong economy or a Labor government ‘that would weaken it’.
“It’s a choice between responsible financial management that has seen Australia maintain its ‘AAA’ credit rating in the most extreme of circumstances and has seen the largest budget turnaround in the last 12 months that we have seen in 70 years, and a Labor Opposition that, you know, can’t manage money,” Morrison said.
The PM also had a crack at humility, telling the press conference his government was upfront about its flaws (the Liberal leader has been beleaguered in recent weeks about Morrison’s character by members of his own party amid wide-ranging internal spats over preselection and stories about his penchant for bullying others).
“It’s a choice between a government you know, and a Labor opposition that you don’t. Our government is not perfect. We’ve never claimed to be,” Morrison said, promising workers and small businesses would be the beneficiaries of another term of the Coalition in power.
“We are dealing with a world that is less stable than at any other time since the Second World War. Our economy has many, many moving parts and there are many great risks, but I believe there are many, many opportunities there to be seized from the strong position we’ve put ourselves in as a country, as we emerge strongly from this pandemic. Now is not the time to risk that,” he said.
Albanese described the Coalition as a ‘government treading water’ which failed to present voters with any economic, social or environmental policy reform.
“We have a plan for a better future. The government just has a priority of trying to get through the next six weeks,” he said.
According to Albanese, Morrison had quit his responsibility of governing Australia in 2021 and had already been working his election pitch for 12 months. In his view, the ‘game’ Morrison was playing to take so long to call the next federal election bought the Coalition more time to run government advertising which promoted their political party, and appoint friends to government boards.
“We had a budget handed down that even the government doesn’t talk about anymore because it was so thin, so devoid of any vision for economic reform, anything beyond one-off payments that end as soon as people have cast their ballot papers,” Albanese said.
“We need a National Anti-Corruption Commission, and [the Coalition’s actions] reaffirms that this government only acts and governs in its own interests, not in the interests of the Australian people.”