This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
In the final hectic weeks of the 2019 election that every poll predicted he would lose, Scott Morrison went looking for a sign from God. "I must admit I was saying to myself, 'You know, Lord, where are you, where are you? I'd like a reminder if that's OK'." He soon found it, he said, on the wall of an art gallery as he gazed upon "the biggest picture of a soaring eagle that I could imagine."
Referring to an old testament biblical passage from Isaiah, Morrison later recalled: "The message I got that day was, "Scott, you've got to run to not grow weary, you've got to walk to not grow faint, you've got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle."
Morrison, Australia's first Pentecostal prime minister, is yet to reveal whether he has received a similar sign during this election campaign, although he was seen soaring almost like an eagle and charging definitely like a bulldozer this week while bizarrely tackling an eight-year-old soccer-playing boy in Tasmania.
But two figures handed to Morrison yesterday must have felt like the closest thing to heaven he has experienced in the past six grueling weeks.
The first was Australia's unemployment level for April - 3.9 per cent, the lowest recorded since 1974. The second came shortly after when Labor revealed its election costings would add $7.4 billion more to the budget deficit over four years than pledges made by the Coalition.
With government debt approaching the $1 trillion mark, a few billion here and there might not sound like much, particularly after the government's recent decision to abandon its French submarine program at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $5.5 billion. And forecasts and estimates, it should be remembered, tend to be based on the work of that peculiar group of pseudo-scientists known as economists who, as the saying goes, are experts who will happily explain tomorrow why the things they predicted yesterday didn't happen today.
But the difference in Labor's costings - its Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers claimed they were due to greater investment in childcare, training and education and cleaner energy sources - was enough to launch the eagle once more on to a current of fresh - and very hot - air: "This election is a choice about who can manage money and who can't," Morrison said. "What we have always seen from the Labor Party is when they can't manage money they come after yours in higher taxes."
The question now is whether Morrison has left his run too late. Close to half of Australia's voters will have already voted by the time booths open tomorrow morning and while the polls show an increasingly tight race, most still indicate a tight Labor victory or the possibility of a hung parliament.
So today Morrison and Anthony Albanese will crisscross the country in a desperate bid to woo the remaining swinging voters in marginal seats who could still decide tomorrow's outcome. Both have experienced brain fades this week - after Morrison's strange tackle on his eight-year-old opponent it was Albanese who inexplicably stated during a breakfast television interview yesterday that "Our borders are closed ... our borders are closed," when our borders have actually been open since February.
But perhaps we can forgive them. Six weeks of incessantly selling tissue-thin policies and endlessly repeating the same message is enough to send anyone crazy. To the rest of us who have been spectators to this unedifying spectacle of pork barreling and facile debates, tomorrow can't come soon enough. Enjoy your democracy sausage. You've earned it.
HAVE YOUR SAY: We'll be back next week to wrap up all the craziness of the 2022 election. But we can't do it without you. Your concerns, comments (and jokes) have been a highlight of this campaign so please keep them coming. Email us: email@example.com
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 per cent, its lowest figure since 1974 when it reached 2.7 per cent. Total employment increased by only 4000, with full-time employment increasing by 92,400 and part-time decreasing by 88,400. Rising case numbers of COVID-19 contributed to 740,000 people working reduced hours in April - double the monthly average.
- Unvaccinated One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is isolating after testing positive to Covid-19. The 67-year-old senator wrote on Twitter: "I thank all of those people who have sent their well wishes, and I look forward to disappointing all of those who hope that I drop dead."
- NSW yesterday became the last state to pass legislation allowing voluntary assisted dying for terminally ill patients. But Scott Morrison indicated it was unlikely that a future Coalition government would remove laws currently preventing the ACT and Northern Territory governments from introducing legalised euthanasia.
THEY SAID IT: "It would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is desperately needed for political ads." - Andy Borowitz, satirist.
YOU SAID IT: "If this election is any indication in 2025 people will be hitting each other with sticks and we will have to get the UN involved, like happens overseas." - Tim.
"I believe the costing on all political promises should be available in the first week of the election campaign, not the last. We should know how and where they plan to spend our money before we vote to support or not. Also, a record should be kept of these promise costs and if they don't match what they proposed then fine or throw them out." - Steve.
"Now 'Czarmo' wants to cut/sack thousands of public servants. Perhaps he should look at what happened when Campbell Newman did this in Queensland. Yes, he sacked 13,000 Qld public employees, but then lost the following election by the biggest loss ever. The public servants will have long memories. And who will get the work that was done by those sacked staff - private consultants on much higher remuneration?" - Michael.
"Interesting how Morrison wants to reduce public service numbers. Does he mean real efficiencies to reduce those services where it affects the sectors that the public rely on when dealing with Centrelink and similar services. Pardon me for being so cynical. Can't help but think the worst, knowing how they play their game." - Rosemary.
"Please, a Royal Commission into the pandemic so we can get some answers." - Myriam.
"Scomo tells us he is The Bulldozer but, when you think about it, not a very successful one. The Bulldozer stalled on integrity and couldn't push religious freedom over the line. The Bull turned into dust and he just dozed through the bushfires, vaccine roll out and supply of RATs. But if Scomo stays in the driving seat, the engine will be revved up again and he will surely be more successful in bulldozing through public service jobs and the services that go with them." - Ian.
"A Royal Commission into what we already know is wasteful. Use the money towards the solution, not the problem." - Julie.
"Funding cuts to the public sector? It is already taking 20 days for a Medicare refund. With any public sector funding cuts we will most likely have to wait six weeks for a refund. Advance Australia where? Into the deep, wet ocean and into oblivion!" - Elizabeth.
"Mobile phone charges have gone up. Groceries, of course, went up. My fortnightly order now includes one chicken meal, one beef meal. It's a choice between steak and mince. Steak? What's Steak? On the phone now waiting to speak to Telstra. Either my bill has doubled or they charged me twice. There's no leeway on the pension!" - Trish.
"Robocalls should be banned and limits on funding from the public purse for advertising. Andrew Gee does not improve his chances by wall-to-wall posters at the early voting centre in Orange. Should be a limit for each party at polling centres." - Rowan.
"We should pay a fixed amount to political parties to run a campaign and they should not be able to get others to donate for this purpose. This could be a tiered process - the biggest get most to a maximum level while the small have the opportunity to have some, too. Any advertising has to be then scrutinised for accuracy by AEC before it is screened. We have seen too many examples of unscrupulous ads being used, then being ruled out after the damage is done." - Chris.
"For sure I would want to replace my 20-year-old CO2 emitting belcher with one that the pollies get to use, paid for by people like me. But most people cannot afford $45,000 for an entry-level electric vehicle. If these parties are serious about a clean future, how is it that none of them have made any announcement or incentives or tax breaks for people to replace their gas guzzlers for clean EVs?" - Ian.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.