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Doomed ScoMo pays for forgetting about SA

This is a good thing, as while they share lame gags about serial killers and wisecracks likening the city of Adelaide to the hick NSW town of Yass, we can sit here happily enjoying the great wine, excellent food, cheaper housing and lack of traffic snarls.It is a tactical pity for the federal Liberal Party that, like the rest of the country, it does not follow things in SA more closely. By my reckoning, it looks the federal Libs are about to suffer a fate eerily similar to that which befell the SA Liberals just eight weeks ago.The Libs need to realise that while they might be regarded by a majority of voters as superior economic managers, economic management alone does not guarantee victory. Nor does dwelling on the achievements of the past, as opposed to outlining a compelling vision for the future.Steven Marshall is probably the most hard done-by politician Australia has seen since former NSW Premier John Fahey won the Sydney Olympics bid and was promptly turfed out by his ungrateful constituents at the next election. Marshall cut taxes and utility bills, stabilised the power supply, tackled the brain drain, championed the growth of jobs in emerging industries and helped preside over a world-best Covid response. For all that, he was turfed out as a one-term premier in a crushing landslide. His muted campaign can be summarised in a few words: we’ve done heaps of good stuff, why would you vote for the other mob?So too now with ScoMo. I have not seen a more backward-looking campaign by a sitting government. Morrison’s messaging, as was the case in SA, is framed almost entirely around the soundness of his economic management, and the seemingly unbelievable scenario that anyone would be crazy enough to vote for a bloke who doesn’t even know the unemployment rate.The SA election showed – and the federal election looks set to show – that conservative parties can no longer rely on this approach as a sure-fire path to re-election.The first reason for this stems from the post-Covid times we inhabit. The idea of being alarmed about the bottom line seems kind of quaint given the worldwide raid that every nation has mounted on its savings. Covid necessitated spending on a scale never witnessed. Money itself almost became an abstract concept, meaning the belt-tightening mantras that once worked in politics carry less gravity today. The second reason is that there is actually more to governing than sound economic management. On this the Liberals have forgotten the lesson of their greatest prime minister, John Howard, whose 11-year reign was marked by constant ideological tension with his treasurer, Peter Costello. It was Howard who made all the big and profligate calls on spending, pushing through vastly expensive ideas such as the baby bonus and first homebuyers scheme, measures which on paper jarred with conservative free market thinking. Howard knew that you needed to show voters some love, even shower them with riches. It helps explains why that class of Australians who came to be known as the Howard Battlers stuck by him for so long in our less affluent seats. I struggle to think of a single thing Scott Morrison has offered in a material sense to voters for the next three years, other than a continuing commitment to running the economy well.The biggest problem of all for ScoMo, and again it has a parallel in the recent SA campaign, is that it has failed to prevent Labor from capitalising on a key issue of public concern. The SA Libs did nothing to neutralise Labor’s attacks over ambulance ramping and health more broadly, executed most damagingly with its savage campaign against the proposed $662m Riverbank Arena.The problem is bigger for Morrison in that the cost of living and wages growth questions seem to be breaking Labor’s way.I know the Libs think they’re on a winner trying to poke holes in Albo’s vagueness about how, or if, a Labor Government would pursue the question of wage increases. That might resonate with people who read the Financial Review, but not with the many punters who haven’t had a pay rise for years. Against that backdrop, the Liberal attacks on Albanese in the dying fortnight of the campaign, at a time when inflation is the number-one story in the land, can be best expressed as follows: “You know if you vote for Anthony Albanese the bloke might try to give you a pay rise?” It’s an attack that a political opponent who’s had his troubles during the campaign could only dream of, and one that seems set to land him in the Lodge. And it comes thanks to the backward-looking campaign by the Liberals framed around a baseless smugness that their economic genius is obvious for the world to see, and so irresistible that surely no-one could beat them. Scott Morrison is right when he says that Anthony Albanese is no Peter Malinauskas. But, like Mali, Albo is at least talking about the future, unlike the PM who sounds trapped dwelling on the achievements of the past, at a time when many people have one simple question: What’s a person got to do to get a pay rise around here?DAVID PENBERTHY PRESENTS BREAKFASTS ON FIVEAA WITH WILL GOODINGS

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