Dodds: My final verdict on 2022 Federal Election

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On May 17, 2019 in my pre-election editorial I suggested the Coalition needed a spell in opposition and backed Bill Shorten to be the next Prime Minister.

We all know what happened 24 hours later – the Scott Morrison miracle and the shattered dream for Shorten, who had all but printed his new business cards.

While a Labor government did not eventuate back in 2019, it would appear Anthony Albanese is on track to be the 31st Prime Minister of this great country.

There is no question Morrison’s term has delivered challenges nobody could have possibly foreseen when he declared victory as the clock approached Midnight on that Saturday night three years ago.

The landscape and legacy of his term changed dramatically in the opening months of 2020 when like the rest of the world, Australia found itself in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, it was almost a political blessing in disguise. Morrison was able to put the bushfire debacle behind him and his initial response to the pandemic garnered widespread praise.

But COVID wasn’t over in the few short months as many originally hoped and there would be no political resets for Morrison, just some of the biggest decisions of the last 70 years.

And it is some of those decisions that I reflect on when thinking about tomorrow’s election.

Scott Morrison. Photo: Megan Dunn.

This government implemented one of the most impressive economic rescue packages in the world, no doubt saving jobs, livelihoods and businesses in the process. You wouldn’t have to walk far down the streets of Penrith and St Marys before you’d find a business owner who confirms they’re still open today because of JobKeeper and the government’s financial assistance during the worst of the pandemic.

We’ve come out of the pandemic with an extraordinarily low unemployment rate (which I’d almost argue is full employment, given how difficult it is for businesses to find staff at present) and in better economic shape than anyone could have considered possible given the circumstances of the last three years.

Somewhere along the line though, it all went sour for Morrison. Any empathy towards him running the country during this extraordinary period has been replaced with anger and disdain.

And the primary criticism seems to come back to two things: his holiday to Hawaii while the bushfires raged, and the vaccine roll-out.

In retrospect I have little doubt Morrison would have come home from Hawaii as soon as he realised the scale of what was unfolding back home.

At the time, he believed the agencies in charge, all falling under the control and management of the State Governments, had it covered. But he should have understood and accepted the optics better, no question.

Whether it has deserved the three-year obsession that has followed is another thing altogether.

As for the vaccine roll-out, embedded in that saga is the reality that the government desperately tried to ensure we had access to a locally manufactured vaccine, which would have largely avoided supply issues and much of the international back and forth that ultimately ensued.

That locally manufactured vaccine turned out to be AstraZeneca, and no government could have predicted the media and public fear campaign that would surround it.

Of course, Morrison’s critics will argue there’s much more than bushfires and vaccines on their list of grievances. And so be it, that’s the joy of our democracy and tomorrow they can have their say at the ballot box.

It will be up to Anthony Albanese to prove that Morrison’s critics are right.

I remain unconvinced about Albanese and Labor.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

From day one of this election campaign, when he didn’t know the unemployment or cash rate, Albanese has cast doubt over whether he is ready to govern.

Along the way we’ve learned that Albanese has changed his mind on everything from China to border protection. He has failed to prove he has the strength of his convictions.

He’s held multiple ‘correction press conferences’ to clarify what he’s said, even having to be handed notes about a six point NDIS plan he’d been spruiking a day earlier. And no, it’s not a ‘gotcha’ moment, it’s an expectation that he’s across exactly what he’s trying to sell.

I’ve watched every press conference of this campaign from start to finish, and Albanese continues to be flustered, bordering on rude, and lacks way too much detail. It is hard to imagine how he’d handle the added pressures of actually running the country.

Morrison’s campaign has been far from perfect. The belief that a long campaign would suit him has perhaps not turned out to be the case; his appearances particularly over the last fortnight certainly don’t have the spring in the step they did at the start of this ride.

When it comes to voting tomorrow, it’s all about a judgement of the last three years and a look forward to the next.

I believe the Coalition has proven it has the economic smarts and management credentials to win another term.

There probably is an argument for change, and I’m not deluded enough to believe this government has got everything right, I just don’t believe

Labor has prosecuted that argument with any real strength or clarity.

Over to you.

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