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
After spending almost six weeks tip-toeing around one of the most profound events in Australian history, the major parties yesterday began addressing the one topic the rest of the country has never stopped talking about - the nation's rising COVID-19 infection rate and its rapidly mounting death toll. But surprise, surprise. It wasn't people they really wanted to discuss. It was politics.
"During the course of this pandemic we've learned a lot about the power of government," Scott Morrison said yesterday after the deaths of another 65 people across the country. "I think we're over that. We're putting this pandemic behind us and all the intervention of government in our lives. I've seen it in other left-wing governments in other places of the world. They see it as a reason to keep government at the centre of our [lives]."
He was, of course, sledging state Labor governments that imposed strict lockdowns during the early stages of the pandemic while they waited for Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout to quicken pace. But Morrison, who recently declared his days as a bulldozer were over, went a step further. "We are living with COVID and not going back to ... the threat of shutdowns and lockdowns and interfering in people's lives again." Anthony Albanese, mused the Prime Minister, was "keen to get back into that type of approach."
Morrison provided no supporting evidence for that remarkable claim. But when Albanese, who has indicated he wants a Royal Commission into the handling of the pandemic, addressed the National Press Club in Canberra, his rhetoric on the pandemic also remained heavily political. Morrison was "the bloke who said, when Australia was burning down, 'I don't hold a hose, mate!' The bloke who said - when we were way back in the queue in the developed world [with] the rollout of vaccines - what was his response? 'It's not a race!'."
With Australia's COVID-19 death toll approaching 8000 and almost a quarter of the population having already contracted the virus you might have thought this might be an issue above political point-scoring and deserving a little more depth and even respect. Whether you agree or not, the prospect of mask mandates has been raised by several medical bodies around the country as Australia faces the prospect of a winter of record COVID, influenza and cold infections. But alas, with just two days left in the campaign and with the race predictably tightening, a rising body count means nothing compared to dwindling poll numbers.
And there was mixed news in those numbers for both Labor and the Coalition yesterday. Several polls indicated the Coalition was closing the gap with Labor. But figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed wage growth in the 12 months to March this year grew by 2.4 per cent - well below the inflation figure of 5.1 per cent, a gap Labor said was the largest in 20 years.
Scary figures, maybe. But nothing compared to the numbers our hospitals and graveyards are experiencing.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Struggling to make ends meet with soaring cost of living and stagnant wages? Support a Royal Commission into the pandemic? Or is there another issue you want to vent about? Hurry up - you only have two days left. Email us: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Two polls released yesterday indicated a tightening in the race between Labor and the Coalition. A Resolve Strategic poll published by Nine's mastheads found Labor's primary vote had dropped to 31 per cent, while the Coalition had increased to 34 per cent. Labor held a 51-49 per cent two-party preferred lead. A Guardian Essential poll also found Labor leading 48-46 on a two-party preferred basis, with seven per cent of respondents undecided. A fortnight earlier Labor led the coalition 49-45 with six per cent undecided.
- Scott Morrison indicated he would proceed with his own version of a federal anti-corruption commission following a letter from 31 retired judges urging all sides of politics to establish an integrity body with the power to hold public hearings and launch its own investigations. "Nothing less than halting the serious erosion of our shared democratic principles is at stake," the letter said.
- The Australian Electoral Commission has warned that worker shortages may lead to "a relatively small number" of voting booths being closed around the country on Saturday.
THEY SAID IT: "If you don't vote you lose the right to complain." - George Carlin.
YOU SAID IT: "John Howard's robocall came on both our phones at the same instant. All I could do was shout "get stuffed" and hang up. So rude of the parties to run these robocalls at dinner time." - Richard.
"It's disgusting that public money can be wasted on elections. My husband and I received a letter from John Howard also advising us of the danger of voting for independent candidates. He certainly has been a very busy man during this campaign and such a waste of money. Why not use this money towards wages for health, aged and education workers?" - Lorraine
"So ScoMo et al. will fund their future costings by kicking the public service in the guts ... again. They just can't help it. They hate the APS, despite what it achieves in putting their misdirected policies in place (Robodebt anyone?) and keeping the country going through the provision of government services to the public." - Alan.
"So, now we have it - the Coalition will be increasing its efficiency dividend on the public service to fund promises and pay down debt. This will mean further loss of public service jobs, erosion of departmental corporate knowledge, wage stagnation and decreases in the ability of the public service to provide quality advice to government - advice it perhaps would rather not hear. Will it be popular with voters? That's all that really matters, isn't it?" - Ross.
"Here's a radical idea for a democracy - political parties and independent candidates should release their full policy offering at least three weeks before election day. The electorate should have the opportunity to fully scrutinise and debate these policies, with no more last minute thought bubbles or ambushes that can't be tested just days before voting." - Ian.
"Just thinking about some of the consequences of using 40 per cent of your of super toward a home. First marriages more often end in divorce. So with little equity in a home it gets sold for settlement, less more share of super, which leaves very little super left for another relationship." - Lynette.
"I do not agree with the $70 million-plus that goes to political parties. It has just given "the big boys" a very handy stash of cash which makes it harder for ordinary Australians to compete in elections. There should be real time declarations of donations, caps on spending and truth in advertising laws that are well policed." - Phil.
"Listening to the PM telling us how good he is and how much he has done for us is nauseating. Digging into super to get a deposit for a house is a recipe for disaster." - Judi.
"The major parties' apparent answer to the threat of climate change is to commit to new coal mines. Of course, there's the Beetaloo, which both major parties are going to frack, against the express wishes of the people who live there. Another fine example of democracy in action. Contrast that with the decision to stop the proposal to explore for undersea gas off the Central Coast. Our current and alternative governments are just fiddling around the edges." - Barney.
"The Greens and their Labor mates tell us we must fix climate change, but fail to mention it will be at the cost of jobs and Australia's economy. They never mention or acknowledge their ideas will hold back the developing and third world countries. It's obvious their warped ideas will contribute to greater poverty, poorer health and a lack of education in those countries." - Tony.
"According to ABC's Vote Compass the most important single issue for voters by far is climate change. And rightly so. The major parties can't complain if they find on Saturday night that a swag of Greens and climate-aware independents have been elected. They will have brought it on themselves by failing to adequately address this most urgent of crises." - Cliff.
"Looking forward to a hung parliament where third, fourth and fifth voices are included in debate and decision making. Our democracy is strengthened by breaking the duopoly of the political process -- more voices, more ideas, more diversity, more integrity. The only voice we wish to hear next is Anthony Green calling the result at 9.00pm on Saturday." - Thomas.
"It's about time that any elected government manages projects to improve everyone's standard of living. Country areas are left out, particularly in regards to housing, health and education. Creating an environment that provides employment in country areas will help reduce the demand for housing in the major capital cities while giving the country areas a boost." - Michele.
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