Just days before Australians go to the polls, after a gruelling campaign fought over gaffes and petty personality attacks, Scott Morrison has decided he wants to have a debate on policy.
The Coalition’s “signature” housing policy, unveiled at yesterday’s campaign launch, is a thought bubble about letting people unlock superannuation savings to buy their first home.
It’s also an idea we’ve seen plenty of current and former Liberals — such as John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, Mathias Cormann and Peter Dutton — dismiss before.
Labor instantly claimed the Coalition’s policy would inflate an already overheated housing market (“like kerosene on a bonfire” was the line from campaign spokesman Jason Clare yesterday). This morning, the government’s Superannuation Minister Jane Hume conceded prices would, in fact, go up.
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At a press conference this morning, Morrison repeatedly ignored questions asking whether he would release any potential modelling underpinning the policy. When asked if he could point to any experts backing the scheme, in light of the sharp criticism from economists, the prime minister pointed to… the Property Council.
You’ve almost got to admire the brazenness. For five weeks there’s been a gnawing frustration in the community, especially among younger Australians, about the perceived indifference to skyrocketing housing prices from both major parties.
Morrison’s slightly more positive tone of recent days seems like a calculated response to a feeling among many voters that he’s too negative and unpleasant, and the housing issue feels designed to create the façade of a fourth-term agenda — and to serve as a bone to throw to the few young people who might still consider voting for the Coalition.
It’s also peak Morrison because it can be distilled into a cheap, palatable message (“Housing good, Big Super bad!”)
“Am I going to agree with those who want to stand up, stand with the big union super funds? I’m going to stand with the home buyer. That’s who I’m standing with,” the prime minister said today.
He also pointed out that the man joining him at today’s presser, Sam Biggins, LNP candidate for the Queensland marginal seat of Blair, could sing the praises of the policy because he comes from the real estate industry. I mean look at him.
Still, the super housing announcement gives Anthony Albanese actual policy to grapple with in the final days of the campaign. So far, Labor has been more than happy to chip away at Morrison’s personality, a tactic that seems to be working.
Albanese was out campaigning in Perth with WA Premier Mark McGowan today, in his quest to win two, maybe three seats in the state. A recent poll published in The West Australian showed while Labor is still tipped to win the key seats of Swan and Pearce, things have tightened in the west.
Labor hope McGowan’s absurd dominance at a state level could give the party a much-needed boost, so it was unsurprising to see the premier front the presser, as the two announced more funding for a hospital in Perth.
Albanese faced the standard questions asked of a Labor leader — whether he’d increase the deficit, and when Labor would release all its policy costings (in 2013, Tony Abbott famously left this until two days out from the election).
But every day that Albanese doesn’t have some kind of major implosion, or which passes by without some big, momentum-shifting incident, is another good one for the opposition. The Liberals hope the housing fight could do that for them. Soon we’ll know.
Before we wrap up today, let’s turn briefly to the clowns over at Advance Australia. Today, the Australian Electoral Commission ruled the far-right lobby group’s signs depicting ACT Senate candidate David Pocock and Warringah MP Zali Steggall, both independents, as Greens breached electoral laws.
Pocock says he’ll seek prosecution of Advance over the ads.
It’s another L for a group of well-moneyed trolls, who dreamed of shaking up Australian politics from the right, and have instead given us little more than a few juvenile pranks.