The 9NEWS Federal Political reporting team take a look back at the second week of the campaign.
If Scott Morrison won the first week of the campaign, Anthony Albanese won the second by not making it worse, and changing his attitude, and strategy, writes political reporter Jonathan Kearsley.
Some inside Labor are trying to spin this an opportunity to show off a team, a new-look campaign Mr Albanese insists had been “war-gamed”.
But it will also test the strength of the Labor leadership team.
On Saturday it was stress-tested, when Deputy Leader Richard Marles was quizzed over his party’s energy policy, and whether mining companies would have to buy carbon credits to offset emissions or whether they would be exempt, as some Labor MPs in resources-rich seats had been telling voters.
There wasn’t an answer and Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers stepped in and appeared to suggest they would be exempt, but still the question remained whether the Deputy knew the answer and the question largely remains unanswered.
With the leader in isolation, it showed a fragility in those asked to step up to be able handle the pressure of a campaign.
Mr Albanese started the week with the Resolve Strategic Poll for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age showing a slump in Labor’s Primary vote and in the personal rating of the Labor leader.
The Labor leader dropped seven points to be below Scott Morrison as preferred Prime Minister.
That night he struck the wrong chord with some music fans, as Bluesfest became boos fest at Byron Bay.
By Monday morning his campaign strategy had changed tune.
He was back on the offensive, and his target was the Prime Minister, and it was personal.
It was a strategy Labor insiders say worked well in the past, so Mr Albanese reverted to what he knew best, but he had undergone change.
He was more assertive in his body language, surer of his responses.
He waved his hands, and pushed his voice deeper, and projected it further. It was a clear move to try and assert some level of dominance.
The heat was turned on the government over Beijing’s security pact with the Solomon Islands, as Labor questioned how it was allowed to happen under the Coalition’s watch.
The Prime Minister was accused of failing on a big issue, that was a big part of his pre-election credentials, national security, the rise of China, and its influence in the pacific.
Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong blasted it as the “worst foreign policy blunder in the Pacific since the end of World War Two”.
In the first leaders debate of the campaign Mr Albanese referred to the government’s pacific step-up policy, by branding the government’s handling of the issue a “pacific stuff-up”.
The debate itself was handed to Mr Albanese, narrowly but it showed what the polls are showing, there are swathes of voters still undecided, meaning every day of this campaign is critical for whoever wants to form government.
The bruising campaign became more personal as both leaders accused the other of scare campaigns over debit cards for pensioners, and energy prices.
There were claims from the Prime Minister of an “out and out disgusting lie” – from Labor, while Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers hit back accusing the government of being “powered by these lies that they talk about climate change and energy”.
Just as Labor seemed to find its gear, came Mr Albanese’s confirmation he had “the bug” as his campaign spokesperson Jason Clare described it.
Seven days in isolation, seven days off the physical campaign trail.
There will be much written and said about whether this is a help, or a hindrance time will tell, as polls suggest a minority government looms large.
It prompted the Prime Minister to target the teal independent movement.
“It’s the Forrest Gump principle, you just never know what you’re going to get,” Mr Morrison said.
A sign the Prime Minister is seriously worried about the prospect of a hung parliament.
And week three of the campaign will be interesting.
A Labor leader still in isolation, a Prime minister determined to campaign.
And it will start Anzac Day, a pause to reflect on sacrifice, bravery, and honour.
Eyes on Western Australia
Seeking to capitalise on another gaffe by the Opposition Leader on border security, Scott Morrison stood in front of patrol vessels docked at a shipyard in Henderson on Monday, to attack Labor’s past.
But when pressed about cost of living, he made a slip of his own on the rate of JobSeeker, mistakenly saying it was $46 a week when that’s the daily rate.
Labor is talking up its chances of snatching at least one seat off the Liberals in WA, so the PM was on the defensive in Swan (3.2 per cent) and Pearce (5.2 per cent), where two sitting Liberal MPs are retiring.
While in the west, he went digging for support from the mining industry at a resources breakfast on Tuesday and gave a rev-up to Liberal MPs and candidates at a party rally.
Mr Morrison continued his national security theme promising new defence industry jobs in Adelaide on Wednesday, but the defence of our region dominated questions, after revelations the Solomons and China had put pen to paper on a concerning security pact.
The Prime Minister defended his decision to send a junior minister to the Solomons last week, instead of the Foreign Minister, explaining his approach was not to go over there to “stomp around”.
The audience questions largely focused on traditional Labor strengths, and days of cramming by the Opposition Leader paid off. He had one messy moment, again on border security, but managed to land a zinger on the Solomons’ deal with China.
“It’s not so much a Pacific step-up as a Pacific stuff-up,” Mr Albanese quipped.
Extinguishing a Labor scare campaign was the order of the day on Thursday in Brisbane where the PM visited a retirement village to reassure pensioners the Coalition would never seek to control their finances by putting them on the cashless welfare card.
The Prime Minister was also forced to apologise over a comment during the debate that offended people with disability, when he said his family was “blessed” not to have to navigate the NDIS system.
The end of the week also brought more questions about when the government first learned of the Solomons-China deal, and when the PM last reached out to his Solomons counterpart, which hasn’t happened since before the agreement was inked.
But in a sign the Coalition doesn’t believe the issue is doing them major damage, defence was again the major theme on Friday, as they committed $428m to upgrade airbases.
Quote of the week goes to Mr Albanese during the Leaders’ Debate on Wednesday night in regards to the Australian government’s handling of the Solomon Islands relationship, after the Solomons signed a security pact with Beijing.
“This isn’t so much a Pacific step-up it’s a a Pacific stuff-up,” he said.