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Canberra Today 15°/19° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Here they come, despite no poll date

Cartoon: Paul Dorin

“March 29 is so important. The federal government will bring down its Budget. With the Budget presented to the parliament, the stage will be set for an election that will be a contest of ideas,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

EVEN though the election date has not yet been selected by the Prime Minister, there is no doubt that the campaign is in full swing.

Michael Moore.

Independents have not waited, with David Pocock and Kim Rubenstein formally launching their campaigns in the last couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Labor and Liberal leaders are dashing across the country grabbing as much publicity as possible.

The floods in Queensland and NSW may have distracted from the election campaign along with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, this has not stopped the Liberal party leaders Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton’s attempts to paint Labor, and leader Anthony Albanese in particular, as inadequate on defence issues and soft on China which have not really been successful.

In SA, where there are fixed four-year terms, the election is well underway with that State’s constituents overloaded between state and federal issues. South Australians go to the polls on Saturday, March 19. At least this leaves time for the concerns to separate a little. However, it does raise the issue as to why the members of the federal parliament have not yet adopted fixed four-year terms. This is now common across the other jurisdictions in Australia.

As the independents contemplate what influence they might have in the case of a minority government, one of the key issues should be this change. Having a Prime Minister choose the date in order to gain electoral advantage has no place in a truly fair democratic system.

The outcome of the federal election is really unpredictable. Even when disagreeing with Scott Morrison, it is hard not to admire the skill he brings to marketing himself and the Liberal Coalition. Labor identifies the spin, lack of complete honesty and misrepresentation by the Prime Minister again and again. But he seems coated in Teflon.

Broken promises – such as the failure to set up an Anti-Corruption and Integrity Commission – should be enough to bring a government to its knees. Perhaps it will! But at this stage it does not seem enough.

Labor has sat on its laurels long enough. The early tactic of sitting back and allowing the government to destroy itself has not proved effective. Heaven knows that there were enough scandals. 

However, it is now time to offer a genuine alternative. Even though looks ought not be a factor, the first attempt is to improve the image of the leader. Anthony Albanese looks so much fitter and ready for a fight. He has revealed that he has hit his target of 80kg after losing 18kg by cutting alcohol and carbs.

It is not enough to look the part. A promise of spending two per cent of GDP on defence has foiled this issue for the Morrison government. Just how Labor achieves the goal remains to be seen. Appealing to its own heartland, Labor has promised to spend the best part of half a billion dollars on improving education.

There is an overlap with health. Half of the money will be spent on upgrading ventilation in schools to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. The rest will be earmarked to support the mental health of students, many of whom have struggled after returning to school following two years of disruption through the pandemic.

It remains to be seen just how fundamental the issue of climate change will be in this campaign. Labor has it as a central issue for the election. The independent and Greens candidates in Canberra are pushing very strongly for serious action, arguing that neither major party goes far enough on the issue.

Education, health, defence and the environment are sure to be issues that will influence voters. There will also be issues such as aged care and infrastructure that will have an impact. 

However, being able to pay for them underpins the campaigns of the major parties. This is why March 29 is so important. The federal government will bring down its Budget. Two days later Labor will have the opportunity to reply.

With the Budget presented to the parliament, the stage will be set for an election that optimistically will be a contest of ideas rather than falling into the sort of divisiveness that, unfortunately, marred the most recent election in the US.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

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