The 2019 federal election campaign is a week old and it feels like it has been going on forever. For a brief moment late last week, it sounded like Scott Morrison was on to voters’ tedium. The Prime Minister said he and the Labor leader, Bill Shorten had agreed there would be no campaigning in the Easter period. To be more precise, he nominated Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But as with almost everything in politics, nothing is quite what it seems.
The Liberals and Labor will pull their radio and TV ads on the nominated days – throw in Anzac Day for good measure, but that’s about it. In the process they will be saving themselves some scarce dollars as well. Fear not though, there will be no vacant spot in the nightly news bulletins. Labor will avail itself of the travelling news pack to talk about the fact weekend penalty rates have been cut. Shorten may even turn up at a café or business trading on Sunday to make his point. The self-confessed underdog, Scott Morrison, is planning some media as well, certainly to fire back with his mantra about Labor’s bigger tax burden no matter what day of the week it is.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale wasn’t even into paying lip service to “religious observance”. He told Barrie Cassidy on ABC TV: “We will be campaigning hard during the Easter period.” He said he would join Green’s patriarch Bob Brown on his “Stop Adani Convoy”. The convoy left Hobart on Wednesday and plans to drive right up the east coast to the site of the new coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. One Labor wit quipped it will be burning a lot of fossil fuel to make the point.
Di Natale says the Greens will be doing everything “we can to make this a climate change election”. On Easter Saturday, there will be a demonstration in Sydney. The rolling protest will end in Canberra on Sunday 5 May with a “Rally for Climate”. There’s no doubt climate change is already a key issue in the election. A number of independents are running in hitherto safe Liberal seats with the need to do more to transition to renewables and cut emissions a key plank of their campaigns. Zali Steggall is giving Tony Abbott a run for his money in Warringah. Kerryn Phelps is fighting to hold on in Wentworth. In Victoria, Liberal defector Julia Banks is running in Flinders and Oliver Yates in Kooyong.
All are believed to be receiving financial support from Alex Turnbull, the son of the deposed prime minister. And there are suspicions that Canberra businessman and renewable energy developer Anthony Pesec is also being backed by the younger Turnbull in his run for an ACT Senate seat. Pesec certainly has the profile to fit the bill. He identifies as a “sensible centrist” more in touch with the capital’s progressive views than the conservative Liberal incumbent Zed Seselja.