As Easter looms, Liberal and Labor both hold faux campaign launches

And both sides were worried that any momentum gained early in the campaign could come to a shuddering halt as soon many voters headed to the local fish shop for their Good Friday meal.

That concern manifested on Sunday with supporter-heavy events that were campaign launches in all but name. In Sydney, a rally meant to celebrate Labor volunteers featured all the elements associated with a proper campaign launch.

One thousand kilometres to the north, Scott Morrison was doing exactly the same.

Scott Morrison conducted his faux campaign launch in Brisbane.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Much of the ALP frontbench sat through a collection of 1980s Australian pub rock classics in Sydney’s Burwood, before local candidate for Reid, Sam Crosby, and then deputy leader Tanya Plibersek warmed up the crowd.

A video was played before Bill and Chloe Shorten descended into the venue jam-packed with 500 ALP volunteers and supporters including former NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth.

And then Shorten launched into what was billed as a shout-out to Labor volunteers but which was filled with the ALP’s key messages around health.

Much of Labor's front bench were at the venue jam-packed with 500 ALP volunteers and supporters.

Much of Labor’s front bench were at the venue jam-packed with 500 ALP volunteers and supporters.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Labor’s signature policy, to make the treatment of cancer as cost painless as possible, dominated the speech which also added a couple of announcement for health projects including an upgrade of the Concord Hospital which sits in the heart of Reid.

Shorten used part of the address to defend his plans to end franking credits to people who do not pay tax, putting it in terms of health.

Saying this element of franking credit policy will soon cost the budget $8 billion a year, the Opposition Leader said the current arrangement was a “gift”.


“Two minutes’ worth of the gift, the money that flows out of this one loophole, two minutes out of 365 days could pay for someone’s knee replacement surgery,” he said. “Ten minutes worth of the gift is enough to employ a nurse, full-time, for a year.”

Just like a campaign launch, the speech ended with wife Chloe on stage, as well as many of the frontbenchers on hand, and a wave to the volunteers.

The Coalition conducted a lunchtime “campaign rally” in Brisbane, replete with ministers including Josh Frydenberg, Michaelia Cash, Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann.

As far as rallies go it was low key but high energy, with a few hundred LNP staffers, volunteers and party members gathered at the Ekka’s XXXX Stockmen’s Bar and Grill.

Mr Morrison took to the stage to the sound of AC/DC’s “Back In Black” – by now the Liberals’ unofficial campaign theme song – and roused the party faithful with a sermon-style speech from minimal notes.

Michaelia Cash, Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton at the Liberal Party Rally.

Michaelia Cash, Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton at the Liberal Party Rally.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

He said his parents taught him “life is not about what you accumulate, life is about what you contribute”, and he argued this was a fundamental Liberal value.

But the Prime Minister’s resounding message was about getting young people into work, having earlier promised 10 new training hubs in areas of prevalent youth unemployment.

“It’s about jobs, because people matter,” Mr Morrison said, reprising the phrase reminiscent of Bill Shorten’s pledge to “put people first”.

Behind the stage, young LNP supporters stood holding signs up to the cameras bearing the campaign fixtures “better roads”, “lower taxes”, “more jobs” and “secure borders”.

Liberal Party supporters spruiked the campaign fixtures.

Liberal Party supporters spruiked the campaign fixtures.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

There were no saps to the importance of Brisbane and Queensland to this election, although it hardly needs to be said aloud, with the Coalition holding eight seats in the state on a margin of 4 percent or less.

However, Mr Morrison did single out Mr Dutton for praise over his work protecting children from sexual predators.

He also brought up climate change and acknowledged it was an issue of concern for voters. “Don’t let it be said that the Liberal and National parties don’t invest in the future of our environment,” he said.

However, on a highly stage-managed day, Mr Morrison did not hold a press conference and there was no opportunity to ask him about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s warning that the reef was in grave danger of global warming exceeded 1.5 degrees.

Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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