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Policy confusion and weirdness abounds in first week of Election campaiging

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Scott Morrison and his Federal counterparts started the campaign inauspiciously (screenshot via YouTube).

Even for Australian politics, last week was unusually gaffe-prone and bizarre, writes James Fitzgerald.

AS WHAT can only be described as one of the most confusing, frustrating and utterly discombobulating opening Election weeks in history draws to a close, let’s be thankful that the Easter long weekend has given us a well-deserved respite.

The week opened with a salvo from Morrison and company targeting Labor’s apparent $387 billion of new taxes if they were to win government, a figure we were told came directly from the Treasury. The Treasury then stated that no exact total figure was released to the Government.

Take from that what you will.

To then pour petrol on the flames, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton threw his two cents in by saying his opponent for Dickson, who has a disability, was using it “as an excuse” as she does not live in the area due to a lack of disability services and access. The proverbial in the bed, on day two no-less.

Then, almost on cue, controversial Nationals MP George Christensen had to defend spending a significant amount of his time in the Philippines, instead of pottering around his local electorate of Dawson in North Queensland. It has also now been revealed that he may have billed the taxpayer up to $3,000 by making trips north to visit his electorate; only to grab a connecting flight to Manilla.

All on our behalf.

Earlier in the week, PM Scott Morrison had hit the trail and visited the under-threat seat of Reid in Sydney’s inner-west, which is currently held by the Malcolm Turnbull backer and departing MP Craig Laundy. Although the seat, which holds a marginal 4.7 per cent for the Coalition, has a large Korean population, the Prime Minister greeted a local Korean restaurateur with “Ni Hao”, which, of course, is Chinese.

Not to let the Coalition have it all their own way, Bill Shorten then forgot his own superannuation policy after a grilling by a Channel Ten reporter, stating that “we have no plans to introduce any new taxes on superannuation”. This was, at best, a half-truth. In fact, this Labor policy was announced last year in the reply budget, so in essence it was a faux pas from earlier, simpler times which was still poorly timed.

As is always customary with election campaigning; when someone stuffs up another quickly rushes to take the gold jacket of incompetence away from them.

Former Prime Minister and Member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, then grabbed the baton with two hands stating that he was "willing to resume the leadership of the Liberal Partyif they were to lose the upcoming election.

Morrison immediately dismissed this saying:

“I think Tony was responding to a question that was very hypothetical.” 

Everything is fine.

As the curtain closed on this truly horrific week in Australian politics, we had time for one more very, very out-of-the-blue and astonishing remark, from the current Prime Minister himself.

In an interview with Tasmania’s LA FM, the PM was asked: “why is nuclear power not on the agenda"?  This was greeted with “well, it’s not, not on the agenda” and “well, they can if they pay their own way” in response to a question on possible subsidies to nuclear energy which renewables are entitled to.

But, of course, nuclear energy in Australia is illegal, so there’s also that.

The good news, or indeed bad, is we have another three weeks of this campaigning, confusion and commotion before we all saunter off to the polls on the 18th of May. Therein lies the magic of Australian politics, if one can put it that way: no one knows what calamity or disaster will be thrown up next for us to facepalm and sigh at.

Both parties will enjoy the break before praying that they have better fortunes on the horizon after what has been a truly weird and wacky week.

James Fitzgerald is an Australian freelance journalist based in London. He has a keen interest in world politics as well as social and environmental issues across the globe. You can follow James @Jamesfitzsport.

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