Morrison’s cabinet confusion and Albanese’s epic stumble: Welcome to day one of the federal election

Awlrighty. So we’re away, on a six-week election campaign during which Scott Morrison – Australia’s 30th prime minister – will beseech the nation to give him another go-round rather than handing the joint over to Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

They’ve hit the ground running – and so have we. I’ll be bringing you the highlights at 6pm weekdays, along with my colleagues Brett Worthington and Patricia Karvelas.

Morrison vs Morrison

First of all, congratulations to the PM for becoming today – on the formal dissolution of the 46th Parliament – the first prime minister in 15 years to survive a full parliamentary term without being whacked by his colleagues.

These are baby steps, but important ones, and the PM today embarked on the day of an election campaign lasting six weeks, which is a hell of a long time to spend up the Congo – especially when you’re essentially campaigning against yourself.

And that’s the weirdest thing about this looming democratic event. It’s not a competition between two entities bearing different cheese platters, between which we can take our pick. It’s a competition, essentially, between two versions of one man.

Scott Morrison smiles while holding a beer can towards the camera.  The beer label is blue and reads "ScoMo's strong economy".
This election will see a competition between two versions of Scott Morrison. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Is Scott Morrison a nasty, incompetent, gaslighting pretender? Or is he a flawed but essentially decent bloke who’s done his best in a tough three years?

If the nation turns out to associate itself predominantly with the latter sentiment, then we get another three years. If the former, then we get anything from a majority Albanian government to some sort of intricate red-and-teal combo (poo-brown, I’m afraid, in case you were wondering).

Over the next six weeks, the ABC will be throwing a lot of coverage your way, giving you every opportunity to find out what the parties and candidates stand for.

But first it might help to go on your own voyage of self-discovery with Vote Compass, the fiendishly popular self-analysis tool that helps you to work out where you stand. Answer 30 simple questions and unleash your inner ideologue! Discover that you have more in common with Mad Uncle Bertie than you thought! All these and more thrills available right here, check it out.

And in recognition of this democratic event, the politics newsletter will be abandoning its sedate once-a-week format and hitting your inboxes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. You can sign up here.

Who is the election really about?

“This election is about you,” the Prime Minister declared yesterday as he got the show moving. Hmm … is it, though?

This is the first PM I can remember whose personality issues have their own budgetary line item.

Why did the recent federal budget spank $ 3 billion on fuel excise? Because the government needed specifically to address the perception that the Prime Minister doesn’t care that you’re struggling.

Anthony Albanese takes a selfie with a woman while campaigning.
Anthony Albanese wasted no time in getting to the electorate of Bass in Tasmania – the government’s most marginal seat. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Why has the government been obliged to devote up to $ 5 billion to women’s security, health and workplace participation programs in the last year? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s welcome – but does anyone think it would be happening if the PM had a cheaper way of getting women to like him?

Why is there $ 20 billion in infrastructure spending that Barnaby Joyce wants? Because Morrison needed a political settlement of the Coalition climate wars, and the easiest way was to throw a little of your money at the situation. And so on.

The election certainly doesn’t seem, at this stage, to be about Albanese. If it were, surely there’d be a little more interest in the fact that this former socialist left firebrand is going into this election backing in $ 19 billion a year worth of tax cuts to the wealthy, which are due to commence within two years and about which Labor proposes to do nothing at all?

Off and running

Right. To the campaign!

Today, both leaders chose to kick things off in marginal seats. Morrison returned boldly to the 2020 bushfire hot zone of Nowra, where former state NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance is contesting the narrowly held Labor seat of Gilmore.

Scott Morrison wearing a blue suit and red tie walks alongside Andrew Constance outside.
Morrison kicked off the election campaign with a visit to Nowra, where former NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance is running. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Constance’s street appeal, ironically, is built partially on his status as The Guy Who Socked It To ScoMo During The Bushfires.

Albanese, meanwhile, headed for Launceston in Tasmania and the seat of Bass. At 0.4 per cent, it’s the government’s most marginal seat, held by Bridget Arthur – ironically another Liberal MP with a reputation for yanking the PM’s chain.

Good day

Well I’m not sure he’ll really enjoy this, but how good is Alan Tudge’s job? He stepped aside from his education ministry after a suite of allegations from his former staffer with whom he had a workplace affair.

The woman will receive a settlement of more than half a million dollars, although an investigation found Tudge had not breached ministerial standards and he’s strenuously denied all allegations against him.

His job is being done by Stuart Robert. But the Prime Minister says Tudge is still a cabinet minister, despite the fact that he does not sit in cabinet, collect a ministerial wage nor exercises ministerial powers.

Bad day

Oh boy. Not much debate about this one.

Albanese – on day one of a campaign in which he is attempting to convince Australians that he knows his way around an economy – could not name either unemployment rate nor the cash rate when asked by a reporter today.

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The Opposition Leader could not list the unemployment and cash rates.

It was awful, almost unwatchable stuff. Clearly, Albanese knows this area is a weakness for him. Why else would he be making pointed references to his economics degree in campaign material?

This was a real howler. The unemployment rate is hardly an obscure detail on which an opposition leader might be expected to stumble. Here’s Matt Doran with the story.

Political editor Andrew Probyn wrote this morning that Morrison’s choice of a long campaign was to maximize his chances of sanding away Labor’s polling lead. Which would be even easier in the event of unforced Albanese errors, which probably even in his most optimistic moments Morrison didn’t expect to come so early.

What to watch out for tomorrow

Albanese will be staying in northern Tasmania, a key sign he is hoping to snag the electorates of Braddon and Bass.

Morrison will also be staying put in NSW, a state where he needs to find inroads if he is to remain in power.

Catch up on today’s stories

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The key battlegrounds in the 2022 Federal Election.


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