Sat. Jul 2nd, 2022

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 does not 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, Albanian persisted. And survived!

Anthony Albanese stands at the lectern in front of cameras, watched by a woman on stage.
Albanese braved the National Press Club, while Morrison stayed away.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

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 “regionalization fund”, and tip that back in the tank for fiscal redeployment.

Morrison speaks at a microphone backed two women, with a stretch of mud between to banks of journalists
Scott Morrison in Corangamite on Wednesday.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Dear bulldozer diary

Down in Corangamite, meanwhile, 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.

Wednesday’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 was no 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.

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