Bestinau got that-
And then there was the January promise that staff in retirement homes would receive a cash bonus of up to $800 per person, in two installments, before the election. According to a union survey, 97 percent of workers had not received a cent by the end of March. And so forth.
The liberating thing about election campaigns is that it’s impossible for politicians to deliver on their new promises until they’re elected to government, and that can only happen after the vote is over. So it’s open season.
That is why trust is so very important. No promise in a campaign has greater prestige than the trustworthiness of the person who makes it. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, the cruel truth is that he is the least trusted politician in Australia, according to Roy Morgan Research’s annual ranking released last month. If trust is the currency of politics, Scott Morrison is in deficit about the same amount as his federal budget. And that’s heading for a trillion dollar debt.
Morrison relies on different kinds of trust. Rather than asking voters to trust him personally, he appealed to confidence in the reality of national performance: “By almost every measure, in terms of death rates from COVID, vaccine rates, economic growth, job growth or debt levels, it leads the way. Australia’s recovery to the world.”
And he’s right, which brings us to the paradox of Australian politics today. If the country’s performance is so good, why are the polls so bad?
The inconvenient fact for the Prime Minister is public opinion of Morrison himself. His term has been defined by disasters and crises – wildfires, pandemic, justice for women, floods – and he has been judged as a failed crisis manager in all cases. In investment language, he trades at a sharp discount to the value of the nation he leads.
Rightly or wrongly, the electorate seems to attribute credit for the country’s successes to the efforts of civil society, emergency services, health professionals, the states, volunteers, business, just about everyone other than the prime minister.
But how can anyone trust the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese? He hasn’t sat on government benches in nearly ten years. There is no recent benchmark to judge its reliability. The last time Labor was in federal power, it blew its own brains out. The campaign announcements will also have to be taken in confidence.
Fortunately for Labor, it has managed to make a lot of money in the trust bank. The three most trusted politicians in Australia are Penny Wong, Albanian and Tanya Plibersek, in that order, all on the front seat of Labour.
In Sunday’s announcement, Morrison said: “It’s a choice between a government you know and a Labor opposition you don’t know.” And maybe that’s exactly why the government is going into the campaign to lose.
Jacqueline Maley breaks through the hubbub of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up here for our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter.