This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
It was a great political line that quickly turned into one of the greatest political lies in history. "Read my lips: no new taxes," said George H. W. Bush as he campaigned to become president of the United States in 1988. Within two years he had struck a deal with Congress to raise those same taxes and was promptly turfed from office at the next election.
Bush's broken promise was seen as a stroke of genius when he first uttered it, a glib but potent one-liner that fitted perfectly in a world increasingly suffering from attention deficit disorder. By the time he was elected president the average sound bite for a politician on television news had been reduced to less than nine seconds. Twenty years earlier it had been 43 seconds.
Anthony Albanese says he wants to avoid those scripted soundbites and "change the way that politics operates in this country [by] actually answering questions ... If you're serious about rebuilding respect for politics in this country - and I believe it is an honourable profession - then you need to do that."
But how? As a torrid battle erupted yesterday over the Coalition's plan to allow first homebuyers to dip into their superannuation it became clear that Albanese will have his work cut out if he is serious about changing the tone of Australia politics should he become prime minister.
He could start with himself, of course, by giving a straight answer to a question he has avoided several times about when Labor might actually table the full costings behind its policies. Or he could double down on his own frontbench who spent yesterday hurling so many lame soundbites and dated cliches criticizing the super home scheme - "Throwing kerosene on a bonfire", "Desperate act of a dying government" - that the campaign trail sounded more like the qualifying round of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Albanese has never seemed comfortable with the patter of modern politics. He is not a gifted speaker and when he delivers scripted lines he often looks and sounds like a man still numb from root canal surgery. But he is also hoping that a little authenticity won't hurt when voters compare him to Scott Morrison, a man who surely dispenses soundbites even when talking in his sleep.
Hopefully the leaders of both major parties took some time out yesterday to watch a debate among three members of the crossbench - Zali Steggall, Craig Kelly, Adam Bandt - and independent South Australian senator Rex Patrick. It was a largely civil and decent discussion that ranged from tax cuts and climate change to vaccine mandates and trust and integrity in politics. Glib soundbites were left to a minimum and many issues raised by voters were dissected at length. In other words, it was unlike any of the debates we saw between Albanese and Morrison and a world away from the chaos the coalition warns us will befall the nation if more independents are elected.
In contrast, many voters opened their letterboxes yesterday to discover the Liberal Party had mailed them a "scratchy card" dubbed "Independents Bingo" warning them that "Voting for an independent is a gamble." Good luck with your plan to change the political tone of the country, Mr Albanese. You'll understand if we don't hold our breath while we wait.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Independent economist Saul Eslake condemned the coalition's superannuation housing policy as a contender for being the worst government housing policy in the past 30 years. "Politicians know there are far more votes in policies that push up house prices than there are to be had in policies that restrain the rate of growth of property prices," he said.
- The Greens released a seven-point plan they plan to use in negotiations in the event of a hung parliament. The demands - costed at $173 billion - involve dental and mental health care being covered by Medicare, free childcare, the wiping of student debt, the construction of one million affordable homes and improved rights for rents, no new coal or gas mines, the lifting of income support and progress on the Uluru statement from the heart.
- The Australian Electoral Commission declared campaign signs linking candidates Warringah's Zali Steggal and ACT Senate hopeful David Pocock with The Greens to be in breach of the electoral act. The conservative lobby group Advance Australia agreed to withdraw the signs to avoid potential legal proceedings.
THEY SAID IT: "Broadcasters or politicians or writers who think that they are respecting...the battlers by dumbing things down into one-line sound bites are not respecting them; they are treating them with contempt. It's our job above all in politics to tackle the big issues and to explain them." - Malcom Turnbull.
YOU SAID IT: "Baby Boomer Bonanza! House prices will be rocketing up when first home buyers start dipping into their super, and us baby boomers can cash in with the added bonus of a super tax break! I've always grumbled that I never got first home buyer handouts, baby bonuses or paid parental leave, but this makes up for it in spades! Just one problem: the price of my new downsized home will cost the earth. I might have to dip into my super." - Ian.
"What 'younger home buyer' is going to have the sort of money in their super account that Morrison is spruiking? A politician? A CEO? Just another cruel, out of touch vote grab by a desperate who has no idea about the real world." - Chris.
"This election campaign, like all campaigns, is a crock. The Government has had three years to set in place all the "wonderful" policies and cash handouts it has announced over the past weeks. They've been sitting on their hands policy-wise and now think they can "buy" another term in office through a cash-splash." - Alan.
"If anyone thinks Scomo will change if he wins another term they are seriously deluded. He'd say anything to get re-elected. One would assume he'd believe himself to be truly God's chosen one. Heaven help the rest of us." - Ces.
"This latest attempt to regain power is just a short term band-aid fix for Morrison, with longer term pain for all Australians and particularly those that fall for it. This man can't change, he is only for himself. I only hope that voters review history rather than fall for his lies and spin...again." - Paul.
"So many aspects of the plan are suspect. I'm over 70 and have no super. It's tough, I tell you. The saving grace is I'm now in subsidised housing. Before that, my health suffered: physical, dental and mental health." - Trish.
"I would believe Saul Eslake over Scott Morrison any day regarding the insane idea to have people compromise their superannuation balances just so Morrison can keep his tenuous grip on power. I can't wait for this election campaign to be over and for this opportunistic weasel to be gone. I would have an Albanese government any day!" - Anita.
"Using super to buy a house is the worst idea I've heard in a long time. The next generation of retirees may have a roof over their heads (if they have been able to pay it off over 30 years) but they won't have any income to buy groceries. This will increase the need for the age pension." - Jennifer.
"Older Australians considering downsizing their house and placing up to $300,000 in super really need to think it through. There are traps for the unwary when dealing with Centrelink. It is not a bed of roses like the prime minister likes to sprout. Take it from one who has been caught in those Centrelink traps." - Richard.
"The PM suggests older folk down size. First home buyers are lucky if they can afford an apartment or even a small house. Who will buy the vacant larger homes to allow older folk to downsize, and where will they find a smaller home? Can anyone please explain the PM's logic here? I'm baffled." - Wendy.
"The timing of elections should be taken away from the politicians. Have a fixed term with elections on a set day (e.g. the third Saturday in May), with Parliament rising three or four weeks before and no candidate or party advertising until then." - Tina.
"It's not unions that destroyed manufacturing - it was successive governments from both parties that threw away tariffs and opened free trade agreements with countries that have much lower standards of living and very low wages." - Ross.
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