This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning until the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Don't you hate it when former Australian prime ministers rudely interrupt your evening meal, insist on droning on about politics and refuse to let you get a word in? It happened this week to loyal Echidna reader Paul. He might not have been able to see that distinct pair of bushy eyebrows, but there was no mistaking that old familiar voice.
"Got a phone call last night in the middle of dinner from John Howard," Paul tells us. "Our ex-prime minister wouldn't listen to my reply. Can anyone supply me with his home phone number so I can reciprocate?"
Howard's unwelcome message for Paul was simple: "... a vote for an independent could risk a hung parliament, which would mean gridlock and be disastrous for our country," he said. "I ask you to vote Liberal to deliver a stronger economy and ..." Well, you probably know the rest by heart.
Howard's robocall (a pre-recorded message delivered by sophisticated automatic dialling systems) is one of many being thrown at voters over the last week of the campaign. No-one knows the total number, but robocalls are cheap - a few thousand dollars can buy a purchaser hundreds of thousands of phone numbers from a robocall broker, which is why party strategists like them.
Registered political parties, entitled to public funding for campaign costs and protected by exemptions from privacy rules controlling access to personal data, also like robocalls because they fall into that hopelessly unregulated area of political advertising, which means they don't have to be truthful or factual.
All that is required, according to electoral laws, is an "authorising" name at the start of the message to give it validity, an oversight which the Nationals are being investigated over by the Australian Electoral Commission following a recent robocall attacking independent Rob Priestly in the Victorian seat of Nicholls. Still, how comforting it must be for Paul and millions of others to know that taxpayer dollars will ultimately help subsidise Labor and Liberal robocalling.
Meanwhile, there was more hot air and fogged-up windows on the campaign trail yesterday than at any 1970s suburban drive-in. In fact, the frantic fumbling and moaning over projected budget deficits and election costings was louder than anything coming from the rear of a squeaking panel van.
Anthony Albanese, who will release Labor's election costings tomorrow in a last-minute tactic employed by the Coalition on previous occasions, was unceremoniously chased by a media pack through a WA factory, while Scott Morrison was in the Northern Territory telling the remaining several hundred people who hadn't heard about his housing policy how good it will be.
The best observation of the day came from former Liberal foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who observed: "Both campaigns are risk-averse. There are not the grand policy visions for Australia and there are not the significant reform agendas ... that's why perhaps the polls are reflecting a sense of disillusionment that the voters are not seeing effective leadership within the political parties. They want to be inspired. They want to see what a post-COVID Australia will look like. And yet neither of the major parties are providing that big-picture vision."
How true is that? More than 2.6 million Australians have already voted at early polling centres, while another 2.56 million postal votes have been received. By today, almost one in three of the 17.2 million Australians registered to vote will already have done so - a pretty clear signal that just about everyone has had enough.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Received a robocall or spam text message during the campaign? What did it say? And do you agree with the current rule that registered political parties receiving 4 per cent of first-preference votes should be entitled to public funding? Email us: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
THEY SAID IT: "If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people." - Tony Benn, former UK cabinet minister.
YOU SAID IT:
"C'mon you two prospective PMs. I've got three days left to decide who of you will best improve our great country over the next three years. Please give me something with detail to convince me which of you will do a better job. I'm not voting for me now as I'm over 70, but I'm voting for my kids' and grandkids' future prospects. ScoMo's housing plan will improve the value of my digs but might help my grandkids get into a house. Albo's plan is he owns 40 per cent and gets 40 per cent of the capital growth - not so good. Help me out here." - Geoff
"The Coalition housing announcement could change the vote of my daughter who, with her young family, has been made homeless by the current housing disaster. It's no good having that money just sitting there when you can't get a home to house your family. And these government schemes should be made available for older homes, not just newly built ones." - Murray
"I don't usually vote on the basis of hip-pocket issues, but a realistic policy to address housing supply and affordability could change that. The Coalition's latest policy thought bubble is now making me look more closely at Labor's offering. Labor appears to have a more considered approach, which is not going to solve the housing crisis overnight, but is heading in the right direction." - Ian
"I am in the Bradfield electorate. The incumbent certainly takes us for granted. My wife and I are volunteering to have independent Nicolette Boele installed as our local MP. We are worried that the LNP does not believe in climate change and are very concerned about the lack of ethical government, so a good federal ICAC is essential. This will benefit our grandchildren." - Terry
"No one is talking about Clive Palmer's United Australia Party and how many young votes they are going to take away from the ALP. My grandkids say their friends are voting for 3 per cent mortgage rates from Clive even though he can't deliver them as rates are set by the Reserve Bank and then bank lenders." - David
"I wonder how Scott Morrison is going to convince older people over 55 to downsize the home to free up availability of homes for sale to younger people? I could not acquire my first home until I was almost 50. And where are older people going to purchase these so-called smaller homes when housing of all sizes is in short supply? Maybe he will tax the elderly for owning a home?" - Rosemary
"So young people who cannot now afford to buy a home will now have an opportunity by using their super funds. What a brilliant, short-term idea. Up go the prices, down goes the super. I'm back in Italy where I was born. The average lease for homes is eight years, not six or 12 months. While not ownership, it is security of tenure. Increases in rent are pegged. These gimmicky election promises from this morally bereft government are dangerous and disingenuous but may work for some who think short-term as Morrison does." - David
"Do the young have enough funds in their super? My daughter's employer did not forward the super funds on for some time, but when they did only the net amount was paid. Result: she did not receive any compensation for the lost interest the super fund would pay." - Gary
"I am 64 and I have friends who purchased their home saying "This is my superannuation." I wonder how they are going to pay for their groceries, bills, entertainment etc. You will be asset-rich with no cash." - Denise
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