The marginal Prime Minister: The ScoMo electoral express

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Meme via Twitter (Source unknown)

Suddenly PM Scott Morrison has remembered the State of Queensland ahead of the next election.

Fearing that sense of being a doomed one-term prime minister (and an un-elected one at that), Scott Morrison is making a nuisance of himself in various marginal electorates. 

The “ScoMo Express” is being spotted in a host of marginal seats in Queensland — a State which promises, at this point, a good butchering for the Coalition Government come election time.

Suddenly, it seems, Morrison has remembered the State of Queensland where his presence has been, according to Labor Member for Lilley Wayne Swan,

“... rarer than sightings of Migaloo the white whale.”

The emetic nature of this bounding exercise might be a cause of interest to election watchers, given the Prime Minister’s conspicuous and planned presence in seats where defeat looks likely. Capricornia, Flynn, Forde, Petrie and Dickson, held by the threatened Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, feature prominently. Is Morrison gearing himself up for an earlier election and stealing a march on his opponents? Or will he go the full term of this disturbed, terminal Government? 

Morrison claims with the sincerity of a shape-changing marketing executive.

“This is me just doing what I do.”

What matters is that the Morrison advertising kit, banal and cringeworthy, is becoming standard fare. For one thing, the overall approach of campaign bussing is pinched from precedent. Opposition Labor Leader Bill Shorten used a campaign bus in 2016 to considerable effect. 

In the United States, the campaign bus usually makes an appearance when politicians wish to, in Time's Katy Steinmetz’s choice observation,

'... signal to their audience who they’re supposed to be: outside-the-Beltway folk who just want to hear the stories of the American people, spread their message and watch those amber waves of grain sail by.'

Such occasions also feature a “blame the other guy” approach. 

But unlike Shorten, Morrison will do most of his travel in Queensland with a Royal Australian Air Force VIP jet, leaving a skeleton staff on the express to do spectral work. 

Confirms Michael Koziol of Fairfax Media, “

'The ghost bus will be left with only one driver on board for several key legs, including the 400 kilometre-plus stretch from the Sunshine Coast to Gladstone.' 

That’s advertising for you.

The Prime Minister, in an effort to escape his designated “Canberra Bubble”, speaks with unnerving irritation about “listening” and “hearing”, cogitating over the needs of the Australian voter and engaged in the tasks of “doing” things. 

He can be found tweeting on November 3:

'We’re backing Queenslanders and there’s more to come. I’m listening, I’m hearing and we’re getting on with it. See you on the road.'

In an attempt to ensure that these good voters see him as “fair dinkum”, this Pentecostal reactionary is making sure that the social media feed is choked with missives and images of a man well in touch with psyche and pocket. He will even have a drink if need be. 'I’m backing Youngstar today', he tweeted ahead of the Melbourne Cup, showing that he could also have a flutter with the common punters.

Being a marketable, pleasant buffoon also features as part of this sale. 

On Monday, he thanked Elizabeth Osborne, mother of Australian surfer Mick Fanning, lacing his message with forced expressions of slang:

'G’day, Elizabeth, Mick Fanning’s mum. We’re here at the Gold Coast down at Broadbeach and yeah, fair dinkum, we should be supporting Australian businesses, so great to have the Rip Curl hat.'

The baseball-capped “daggy dad” theme has become a common plague and irresistible to satirists. The vehicle with which he is travelling through Queensland with, painted in pure sky blue, has also featured on social media.

Videos are being posted in quick-fire fashion. As part of an announcement on “Working Holiday Maker visa changes to support our farmers and their local communities,” the prime minister is featured with strawberries and the improved lot of farmers who got through their “difficult patch”. (Does this man pun, or what?)

Morrison is openly searching for the slogans and words that are bound to feature during the actual election campaign:

“At this next election there’s a choice. You can trust a Government that can pay for Medicare because we’re running a strong economy.” 

Repetition is key, with “small and family businesses” being uttered with the frequency of a tic.

Quipped reporter Josh Butler:

'I would love to see the results of the focus group that found "repeated thumbs up", "novelty caps" and "saying fair dinkum" were PR winners.'

Morrison’s own colleagues are unclear about how rich the bounty of the ScoMo Queensland express will be. Luke Howarth, who holds the seat of Petrie, is simply treating Morrison’s effort as a scouting one — a bit of political reconnaissance before the battle: 

“He’s just up here looking around, saying g’day and listening to people.” 

And, in an act of political mimicry, Howarth insisted that he was “certainly not worried, I’m just getting on with the job”. Like Prime Minister, like backbencher.

Another Queenslander, Minister for Defence Steve Ciobo, was typically chary on the post-Turnbull era and how it was flying in his State. 

“I don’t think it serves anybody’s purpose and I don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally, care about what’s happened.” 

Ciobo, who had supported fellow Queenslander and Cro-Magnon club-bearer Dutton in the political assassination of previous Prime Minister Turnbull, is more than entitled to that opinion — as is the Prime Minister. But electoral facts can prove contrarily nasty. The voters will be ready.

Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. You can follow Dr Kampmark on Twitter @bkampmark.

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