• In last night’s ‘community forum’, half the questions were ‘swinging voters’ demanding to know what politicians are going to do for them personally or for the industries they work in. No mention of major issues like housing supply, the lack of competition in financial markets, poor infrastructure, our reliance on gouging oligopolies or, as Julia Gillard noted at the end of her session, climate change. If that’s a representative sample of the undecided voters the major parties are desperately trying to attract, it explains why politics in Australia is thoroughly stuffed. Voters moaning about lack of inspiration are advised to have a look in the mirror.
  • Who was the winner? The relevant media outlets. A confected event, aimed at promoting a brand rather than exposing politicians to serious scrutiny, testing only their capacity to work an audience and link questions back to their key talking points. The commercial networks and the ABC and SBS primary channels wisely avoided it. The only loser was the credibility of ABC News 24, which offered former Coalition staffer Bob Lawrence and one of News Limited’s stable of right-wing ranters, David Burchell, as commentators on the event. The ABC usually manages the balance without the judgement, last night it couldn’t even manage the balance.
  • Exclusive: John Howard says failing to provide election commitment costings to Treasury treats the public with “disdain and contempt”. Okay, sorry, that was in 2004 when Mark Latham did what the Liberals did yesterday — get some accountants to check that your costings add up, rather than expose them to serious scrutiny. That’s not an exclusive, that’s just ordinary political hypocrisy.
  • For those of us who’ve been bagging the Charter of Budget Honesty process for years as a scam intended to damage Oppositions, yesterday was sweet, sweet vindication as the very architects of the scheme, the Liberals, washed their hands of it. Labor put up with it for two elections before jacking up. The Liberals didn’t even get to one. In doing so, they may have unwittingly struck a blow for greater transparency.
  • The last set-piece of the election campaign is at lunchtime today, with Julia Gillard presenting to the National Press Club. Neither side has used its set pieces — the kick-off press conferences on July 17, the party launches, or Tony Abbott’s Press Club address — to particularly good effect. Don’t expect the Prime Minister to break that pattern, but how she wraps it up will be interesting, especially in the balance she strikes between hammering her opponent and offering anything positive. She performed well last night and off the back of that Labor will finish strongly if she can get some key messages onto the evening news bulletins tonight. This morning, both sides are blitzing tabloid TV and FM radio, the media outlets most likely to reach the voters who don’t care about politics and who will only grudgingly vote on Saturday.
  • Now’s about the time for the inevitable ‘late swing’ headlines in the mainstream media. Recipe: take one part tiny movement within the margin of error of a poll, one part journalistic ignorance of polling, one part editorial enthusiasm for some last-minute excitement in a flagging campaign and/or partisan bias, mix well. Bake overnight, serve fresh. It’s an old recipe, but a good one.
  • The 42nd Parliament has already been dissolved, of course, but as we wind up the election campaign I suggest we have a go at nominating the best performers in the last Parliament by portfolio. Who’d be in your ‘war Cabinet’ drawn from all parties based on the last three years? Send suggestions to [email protected] or tweet them to @bernardkeane. I’m thinking Lindsay Tanner for PM, Andrew Robb for Finance and Scott Ludlam for Communications, for starters.