His early near death experience made him realise he was never going to be allowed to skate through this campaign that mistakes can prove fatal and to win he has to perform consistently well, no matter what is going on with Morrison. And there has been a lot going on.
On the day Albanese was unable to nominate the cash rate and jobs figures, Morrison proudly declared he shared the views of his handpicked candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves ostensibly to protect women in sport, promising voters they would hear more about that. They did. He reignited the civil war in NSW.
The exposure of her extensive ugly transphobic history, which went beyond the issue of women in sport, began crashing like a wrecking ball through Liberal heartland seats.
The following day, with Albanese still mopping up, Morrison, spruiked his impressive jobs record at a factory in Parramatta which was shedding workers and shifting some of its operations to Vietnam. Standing beside him was the Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, whose junior minister Zed Seselja was dispatched to Honiara that same day to talk the Solomon Islands out of signing a security pact with China. Bad choices at every level.
When Albanese stuffed up on border protection, Morrison blamed Labor for stopping him from establishing an independent commission against corruption as he had promised.
The worst traits of both leaders were there for all to see. Albanese looked like he didn’t trouble himself with detail. Morrison did the very things that have caused so many Australians to forsake him, particularly in those inner urban Liberal seats where polling showed his net negatives at the beginning of the campaign were a horrendously high minus 30.
Bungling and spin risked undermining his strong suits of the economy and national security, he refused to accept responsibility for his own failure to keep an important promise and his character and judgment came under scrutiny as he appeared prepared to use vulnerable people, particularly children, to harvest votes.
Liberals accused him of choosing Deves after calculating her views would win him more votes in outer suburban or regional seats like Parramatta and Hunter, with high concentrations of religious populations, than he would lose in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Federal Liberal moderates, who backed Morrison for the leadership because they so feared Peter Dutton, then stayed mute for three years, now – thanks to Morrison and a co-ordinated assault from highly motivated, cashed-up independents – face a wipeout in an election that could irrevocably change the character of the party.
“Utterly ruthless. The most ruthless politician in parliament,” is how one of Morrison’s colleagues under threat described him. It wasn’t meant as a compliment.
Matt Kean, assuming the mantle of national leader of the moderates, called on Morrison to dump Deves from Warringah declaring there was no place for bigots in the Liberal Party. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who fell victim to the prime minister’s leaky text syndrome, did not disown his Treasurer. He called for calm and compassion in a sensitive debate, composing his text to Morrison with extra care.
So far, Albanese’s lapses have not translated into votes for Morrison. In the spirit of “they would say that wouldn’t they”, both leaders have vowed not to deal with independents or crossbenchers if there is a hung parliament, although it is clear Labor’s policies on climate and the integrity commission align more closely with the Teals and the Greens.
If the Coalition wants to deal itself in, if it wants to stay in government, it may have to dispense with Morrison. Don’t think for a moment that this hasn’t crossed the mind of a number of Liberal MPs.
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