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Election 2019: The Morrison/Shorten report card — Week 2

Each week of the federal election campaign, Macquarie Media’s Political Editor, Michael Pachi, will assess the performance of the Labor and Liberal leaders.

SCOTT MORRISON

GRADE – B

The Prime Minister continues to show he’s been underestimated by Labor.

Despite facing some prickly issues, his campaign remains disciplined, at least on the surface.

Scott Morrison has batted away questions regarding a controversial water deal that saw taxpayers fork out a record $80 million to buy two water licences from a company based in the Cayman Islands.

Labor has tried to make it an issue over the past week but I’m not convinced it’s having much cut-through at a broader level.

The Coalition has quickly neutralised the issue by asking the Auditor General to investigate all water buybacks signed since 2008, which would also expose some of the deals that Labor signed when it was in power.

Mr Morrison has been willing to front up to more media interviews, despite knowing that he would be face tougher questions about issues like water buybacks.

Early in the week he did a blitz of the breakfast TV shows, whereas Labor seems to have Bill Shorten tied to a daily news conference and that’s it – in the end there’s more risk involved in one-on-ones, especially when you do back-to-back interviews.

By putting himself out there, the PM is showing a greater level of confidence in his ability to campaign.

On the flip-side, I think Mr Morrison needs to explain why the Liberals feel the need to cosy-up to Clive Palmer.

Given the grief Mr Palmer has caused hundreds of workers through the closure of his nickel refinery, as a party of enterprise, I don’t think the Liberals are sending a good message by backing Mr Palmer.

And it wasn’t a good look to ink this deal while campaigning in North Queensland where 800 people lost their jobs.

I’ve given Mr Morrison a B for his efforts this week, he’s kept the ship steady through his “small target” strategy and capitalised on inconsistencies in Labor’s message.

As we approach the halfway mark, let’s see how next week’s leaders debates go and if Mr Morrison is able to keep up the momentum.

BILL SHORTEN

GRADE – C

The Opposition leader’s low-risk strategy is not working.

He looks flat and continues to stumble on key policy issues.

Bill Shorten spent three days campaigning in North Queensland this week, a region wracked with high unemployment and where Labor needs to hold key marginal seats like Herbert.

He made some good job announcements for the region focusing on the resources and tourism sector, but what most people wanted to know – will he back the Adani coal mine.

Many want the project to go ahead believing it will create thousands of jobs in north and central Queensland.

But Mr Shorten continues to sit on the fence, trying to appease those who want the mine to be built and those vehemently opposed.

His candidate Cathy O’Toole is seeking a greater commitment, she currently holds Herbert by just 37 votes and with Clive Palmer’s party proving a threat, she may lose it to the LNP next month on Mr
Palmer’s preferences.

Mr Shorten also stumbled when he was meeting port workers in Gladstone.

One worker confronted the Labor leader on his tax plans asking him why he doesn’t help high income earners, who are earning more money on the back of overtime and night shifts – Mr Shorten said he would have a “look at it” – prompting legitimate questions about his tax policy which limits relief to low and middle income earners.

Mr Shorten says he’s not sending mixed messages, arguing Labor would offer relief to high income earners once the federal budget is in better shape.

This is a convenient excuse on another stumble, the worker had a legitimate question, if you work hard and earn good money why is there absolutely no reward for that effort.

I’ve again given Mr Shorten a C for his efforts this week, his performance on the campaign trail continues to be very vanilla, I just don’t see him inspiring voters and giving people a reason to vote for
him.

He needs to be able to answer key questions on his policies, in the end he wants to run the country from next month.

Mr Shorten needs throw out the rule book and take a few more risks. He needs to subject himself to more and tougher one-on-one interviews to show people why he deserves the top job.

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