Thursday Mussing from Annabell

Morrison's truancy gave Albanese, on paper, a perfect excuse to dodge the Press Club

Beta blockers were the order of the day for Labor types in Canberra as Anthony Albanese — riding queasily on a new poll suggesting his lead is melting fast — arrived at the National Press Club for the traditional final-week address.

For the first time in 50 years, this engagement will not be a bilateral affair, the PM having discovered a series of dozer-ready projects in marginal seats around the continent requiring his urgent attention.

Morrison’s truancy gave Albanese, on paper, a perfect excuse to dodge the Press Club. It’s an engagement which is pretty much all down-side risk in the last week of a close campaign. It’s broadcast live in the middle of the day, for starters; if you do brilliantly, it doesn’t mean much because nobody’s watching, but if you muff it up, the world will know by tea time, your gaffe having become instant TV wallpaper.

With things this finely poised, you really are just one “Marendra Nodi” or “Sure! Taiwan’s a country!” away from pain like you’ve never known.

And yet, Albanese persisted. And survived!

The Labor leader waded with enthusiasm into yesterday’s Government pledge to repair the budget by cinching in public service jobs to the tune of $2 billion.

“You know what that leads to? Robodebt,” thundered Mr Albanese, his rhetoric drowning out the distant whimpering of at-risk Liberal ACT Senator Zed Seselja, whose aspirations to hold his seat were dealt a sickening blow by Morrison’s plan to have Seselja’s constituents sack themselves. (Poor old Zed; he’s the latest Liberal colleague to get a taste of the collateral damage that can occur when bulldozers fix things).

Anyway, an Albanese government would leave the public service alone, but would sweep up 350 million unspent dollars of the community development program, and $400m of the recently announced “regionalisation fund”, and tip that back in the tank for fiscal redeployment.

Dear bulldozer diary

Down in Corangamite, meanwhile, today provided another scene in the Prime Minister’s absurdist Beckett play in which the protagonist roams the electoral moors, pausing occasionally to ask himself whether he is or isn’t a piece of earthmoving equipment.

Today’s update is, “Yes, I am a bulldozer. And actually, people love it.”

“I have been very conscious about my approach for a very long time, and I have to tell you in the roles I have had it has served the country extremely well,” explained the PM, on location in a receptive if bemused Geelong housing estate.

“You could not have been weak and stopped the boats, you could not have been weak and stood up to the Chinese government, you could not have been weak and made the decisions we had to make during the pandemic where there wasn’t time… to be going and consulting on every decision, and in crises, that’s what you do have to do, and in a crisis again, so I will have to do and Australians know that when things really get down to it that I can make those calls, that I can have the confidence to make those calls and that’s what has enabled Australia to come through what has been one of the biggest challenges we faced since the Second World War.”

The Bulldozer Diaries, which commenced last Friday with Morrison’s sombre avowal that he needed to change, and have since blossomed into a sort of group therapy affair where Morrison dips his id at every campaign stop, make for compelling reading.

I mean, this kind of “I’m sorry for being the way I am, but really, I don’t know. Should I be?” back-and-forth is richly available in any relationship.

(“Darling, I’m sorry I threw out all your stuff without asking you when I tidied the shed. Especially your wedding dress — I’m really sorry about that in particular, and I know it made you sad. And I won’t ever do anything like that again. But also, darling, if you think about it, that space in the shed is going to be amazingly handy for storing the awesome new mower that I bought. And you won’t be tripping over my golf clubs any more, because they can go in the shed now! And really, I know you’re sad, but if I’d asked you about it we’d never have all that lovely space, now would we?”)

What is unusual is to see it dominate the final week of an election campaign.

As if this situation needed any more literal demonstration, the PM closed out the day by flattening a kid at a junior soccer friendly in the seat of Braddon. The kid is FINE.

Anyhoo, today it was confirmed that wages absolutely are being outpaced by inflation.

Would the 5.1 per cent increase to the minimum wage backed by Labor jack up the cost of your morning coffee? Nassim Khadem investigates.

Good day

It’s a good day for planning a regional democracy mini-break! The Australian Electoral Commission today confirmed that — like pretty much every employer in the nation — it’s having trouble finding staff. And some remote polling booths are in danger of going dark unless intrepid out-of-towners or motivated locals step up. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said the Queensland electorates of Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy and Leichhardt were experiencing shortages, as were Barker and Grey in SA, and Durack and O’Connor in WA.

“Short of handing out blank cheques for work, or accommodating thousands of single-day workers in interstate locations, there is not much more we could have done so far,” he said.

“We’re calling on other organisations to assist as a final push, and investigating all possible staffing models including amalgamating venues. We’re also continuing to engage with local residents in the hope they’ll put their hand up. For some people it may mean that if you want to vote at a polling place in your town on election day, you may have to sign up to work as well.”

Feel like an adventure? A democracy-loving nation needs you. Sign up here!

Bad day 

Former Liberal Senator Karen Synon has had her knuckles rapped for sticking a giant Josh Frydenberg placard on her front fence.

How is that controversial, you might ask?

Weeeellll, Synon is a deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s social services division, one of the 40 per cent of appointments to the tribunal under this government that involve politically aligned persons, compared to about 6 per cent in the Howard/Rudd/Gillard years.

Tribunal members are forbidden from expressing a political view, hence the knuckle-rapping.

Frydenberg is prepared to plaster any remaining flat surface in Kooyong with his visage; he’s keen to survive and indeed, so is Morrison, because removing him could see a Dutton-led opposition if things go badly for the PM on Saturday.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Katina Curtis reports from the Synon camp that “the placement of the campaign poster in question was authorised by Deputy President Synon’s husband”.

What to watch out for tomorrow

The ban on political ads on TV and radio kicks in at midnight tonight. But it doesn’t include social media so you’ll likely be seeing them online right up until polls close.

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