After yesterday fell apart for Bill Shorten on the campaign trail courtesy of errant candidates on asylum seekers and a highly damaging outbreak of speculation about a deal with the Greens — fanned entirely by the Greens themselves — today went a bit pear-shaped for Malcolm Turnbull. He was meant to spend the day out in Fiona Scott’s seat of Lindsay, in far western Sydney, which Labor needs a 3% swing to win back. The train trip out to Penrith was fine, according to the Prime Minister, but things went badly after that. First, Turnbull was grilled about education at a community centre visit by a local businesswoman — not his favourite topic given Labor is campaigning heavily on it. Then he was forced to make policy on the fly when he was asked about possible changes to the retrospective superannuation changes announced last week, which Julie Bishop yesterday flagged would be the subject of consultation. No changes, Turnbull declared, which renders any consultation rather moot and actually makes the government’s problem on the issue worse — and which is going to be overtaken by events because there’s no way that policy will remain intact.
Turnbull then tried to explain the super changes and produced an epic 300-word answer that would have been impossible to shrink to a soundfeast, let alone a soundbite. Then journalists zeroed in the main issue in Lindsay — the hostility of Abbott-aligned Liberal forces in NSW to her support for Turnbull during the leadership contest last September — and Scott’s unwillingness to say whom she supported. Turnbull also lauded Scott’s intellect (yes, really). But Scott, when invited to discuss superannuation, immediately deferred back to Turnbull, leaving the assembled throng none the wiser about the powerful intellect she wields. The Turnbull camp evidently decided discretion was the better part of valour and cancelled the following event, a walkabout at the local Westfield shopping centre. They were running late for other events back in town, was the official explanation. Quite.