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Will JobKeeper become 'ElectionBuyer' for the Morrison Government?

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Cartoon by Mark David | @mdavidcartoons

Labor might have a shot at winning the next election by proposing a clear vision for a better future as opposed to the LNP's monetary handouts, writes Tarric Brooker.

IN THE WAKE of last summer’s devastating bushfires across much of the nation, the Morrison Government started the year in a disastrous position in the polls. According to Roy Morgan, Labor led the Coalition by as much as ten points (55-45) in January/February, leading some to speculate on Scott Morrison’s future as Prime Minister.

Now, six months and a pandemic later, things look quite different for the Morrison Government and the political landscape in general. The Coalition now leads Labor by ten points (55-45) in Roy Morgan’s polling, after an enormous 20 point turnaround in just six months.

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(Source: roymorgan.com)

Back in January, the Morrison Government recorded the lowest level of public confidence in the Federal Government since the Coalition was returned to power in 2013. Now, after more than $100 billion in various stimulus measures providing money to the public, confidence levels are near record highs for the Coalition’s time in office since 2013.

(Source: roymorgan.com)

The Government’s recent success in the polls has not gone unnoticed by the Liberal Party room, with some Liberal MPs now speculating about the possibility of an early election.

It was recently reported by Sky News that the Prime Minister did not rule out extending JobKeeper until the next election. With the program already extended to at least the end of March 2021, it’s well within the realm of possibility that the program will last another six months to September 2021.

This would put the potential conclusion of a JobKeeper program extended until the end of September 2021 more than six weeks after the first possible date for a normal half senate and full house election.

Which begs the question — will JobKeeper become “ElectionBuyer”?

While it could certainly be argued that it would be unfair for Labor to fight an election when the Coalition could be handing out billions of dollars a week to the electorate, that may be the reality the opposition may end up facing.

With the next possible date for an election a little over 11 months away and Labor currently wedged on the issue of government assistance for the economy, it’s increasingly clear that a different strategy is required.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese faces the unenviable challenge of attempting to overcome an opponent that has completely taken leave of all political norms.

Where once the Morrison Government hounded vulnerable Centrelink recipients for just $721 million in alleged overpayments through their Robodebt program, in the next 24 hours, the same policymakers will throw more money than that at businesses in the form of JobKeeper payments.

With an electorate that is increasingly disengaged and a minefield of potential missteps where Labor could be construed as “talking down the economy”, the strategy required to overcome the inherent disadvantages Labor currently faces may need to be bold.

As Australia stares down what the IMF is calling the ‘worst economic crisis since the great depression’, it’s clear that a grand vision for the future of our nation’s prosperity is required now more than ever.

This is where Labor can truly begin to differentiate itself from the Morrison Government. As it stands, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has no grand plan for the future, instead focusing on attempting to ensure that the economy will “snap back” to the way it was before COVID-19.

After 18 months of stagnating per capita GDP (pre-COVID-19) and almost nine years of real household disposable incomes per capita going nowhere, the Morrison Government is ironically quite vulnerable on the issue of household economic outcomes.

(Source: macrobusiness.com.au)

If Labor can put together a grand vision of the future that gets Australians back to work, encourages aspirational households to get ahead and helps those among us who are struggling, Labor could build a consensus that transcends politics and ideology.

By committing to build a better and more prosperous nation to benefit all Australians, Labor can begin to strongly counter the Morrison Government’s cash handout-driven popularity. By offering a vision that a better tomorrow ultimately lays ahead and having the plan to back it up, Labor may give itself the best possible chance of ensuring the JobKeeper does not become ElectionBuyer.

Tarric Brooker is an IA columnist, freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow Tarric on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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