Paul Bongiorno: A huge momentum shift is Scott Morrison’s only hope

A masked woman at a Sydney pre-poll centre gave stark voice to what the major opinion polls are finding as we enter the final two weeks of the campaign.

She said the reason she was voting early is “I absolutely cannot wait to get rid of Scott Morrison and I want to do it on the very first day I can”.

Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare is trying not to get too excited about the fact that as the campaign has progressed the Opposition has steadily improved its position in the polls.

“Ignore the polls, treat them with suspicion,” he told ABC TV.

“They were wrong last time. I suspect they will be wrong this time as well.”

There is ample evidence from past elections that the final two weeks are critical in terms of momentum shifts.

Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare.

The momentum shift Clare sniffs in the air is a consolidation for the change of government mood. He would not be surprised by the Sydney voter’s response.

He says Australians are “fed up to the back teeth with Scott Morrison and his government”.

“They are sick of the lies and the rorts and the incompetence,” he said.

In the leaders TV debate on Sunday night the moderator Sarah Abo felt it necessary to seek a commitment from both leaders “that we will have truthful answers tonight”.

The extraordinary request was met with a terse “of course” from the Prime Minister.

Morrison is now assuring voters they do not have to like him to vote for his government and claims superior economic management for them to hold their noses and return the Coalition.

But that argument suffered a direct hit last week when the Reserve Bank began raising interest rates.

That was undoubtedly the biggest factor in the shift away from the government in Newspoll and Ipsos.

After all, the Liberals have been telling Australians since the 2004 election that rising interest rates are always bad and an indication of government failure.

So they can hardly have been surprised by the polling results, even though some in the government were hoping Anthony Albanese’s National Disability Insurance Scheme policy stumble would shield them.

Instead, the government comes into the home straight more severely handicapped than it did in 2019.

But was it though?

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison clash in the second leaders’ debate on Sunday.

The latest average lead for the Opposition in the polls is now 9 per cent.

Two weeks out last time it was just 3 per cent and the Liberals were closing the gap steadily through the campaign.

This time there is another huge obstacle to retaining power and that is the “teal” independents running in hitherto-safe Liberal seats.

Liberal research in some of these electorates is so dire that the incumbents refuse to believe it is accurate.

There has been a dangerously large collapse in their primary vote.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong is clearly very worried.

His defeat is as unthinkable as was the idea that PM John Howard would lose his own seat in 2007.

Morrison had no convincing explanation in the Sunday debate for his absence from Frydenberg’s and the other teal-threatened Liberals campaigns.

josh frydenberg monique ryan

Josh Frydenberg is under pressure from independent challenger Monique Ryan.

He suggested his task was to campaign against Labor and he had every confidence his colleagues could successfully battle the independents themselves.

You know a government is in trouble when its leader is electorally toxic in his party’s traditionally blue-ribbon seats.

Morrison knows he has his back to the wall and, like Donald Trump in his first presidential debate with Joe Biden, employed rudeness, yelling and disregard of the agreed debate rules to try and push Albanese off balance and appear “a schoolyard weakling”.

The lines fed out of Liberal campaign headquarters last week were that Albanese is a small and weak leader, querying if he can’t stand up to a baying press pack how could he confront China’s Xi Jinping?

The Labor leader was alert to the play at hand and did not look to the moderator to protect him, but fought fire with fire.

It led to a very unedifying spectacle, but starved Morrison and his supporters in the media of the ammunition they were seeking.

Clare said on Monday “all that try-hard bully boy stuff, it might work in the Liberal Party but it didn’t work last night”.

To close the gap in the next fortnight Morrison needs an unprecedented shift in momentum – a major Albanese stuff up or some cataclysmic event like 9/11 in 2001.

Albanese is undaunted.

He says of the bruising debate, “Scott Morrison didn’t have anything to say except shouting. He only had smears and that smirk throughout it all”.


Monday was the first day of pre-poll voting at more than 500 locations across the country. Photo: AAP

Maybe, but like for another pre-poll voter, it is all over bar the shouting.

He told ABC TV he wanted to get it done.

“I know who I am voting for. I made up my mind a long time ago.”

The polls suggest Labor has an entrenched lead, but that must translate into a majority of 151 individual seats and Morrison isn’t giving up.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.