This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning till the end of the election. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
Not everything went to plan for Harry Houdini when he toured Australia in 1910. Severe seasickness during the voyage from Europe left him weakened and 10 kilograms lighter, a tiger snake almost bit him as he attempted to become the first man to fly a plane on our soil and, after plummeting into a murky river locked in chains, he emerged successfully only to find himself treading water next to a floating corpse.
Not everything has gone to plan for that well known political escape artist Scott Morrison, either. Lauded for his unexpected "I have always believed in miracles" victory in 2019, the Prime Minister has trailed in the polls, failed to land a knockout punch on an opponent he believed was brittle and, by claiming his days as a bulldozer would soon end, achieved something even Houdini never attempted by tying himself up in knots without any assistance.
But all escape artists have one last trick left in the bag, and yesterday Morrison delivered it during the Liberal's official campaign launch in Brisbane. Under a re-elected Coalition government, first home buyers would be allowed to use up to 40 per cent of their superannuation - limited to $50,000 - to purchase a home. Older Australians wanting to downsize would also be able to reinvest $300,000 from the sale of their property into their retirement fund.
Allowing young buyers to dip into their retirement savings - once described as "the craziest idea I've heard" by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and a swathe of other senior Liberals when it was floated in the past - is pitched directly at middle Australia amid the growing crisis around housing affordability and rental availability. Rest assured Morrison will unleash an onslaught over the remaining five days of the campaign by contrasting it with Labor's $329 million Help to Buy scheme, which involves the government taking an equity stake of up to 40 per cent on the price of a new home.
"There is no limit on who can use it," Morrison said, before telling the crowd "I am just warming up." The Coalition's Super Home Buyer Scheme meant "there are no complex rules about income thresholds ... when you do an improvement you don't have to check with the government every time you go to Bunnings to buy a can of paint."
The proposal was immediately attacked by Labor and the Financial Services Council, which claimed the superannuation system could be undermined by forcing "5.3 million young Australians to decide between owning a home or their retirement savings." But it was also, unsurprisingly, supported by the Housing Industry Association, and will appeal to many of those young Australians who are decades away from accessing their super and unable to gain the same foothold in the property market as their parents.
Right now Morrison is in the sort of pickle Harry Houdini found himself in during the closing stages of his Australian tour, when three optimistic attendants from a local asylum rolled him "in a number of large sheets in mummy fashion", fastened him to an iron hospital bed and poured 15 buckets of water "over his form so as to cause all the materials and knots to shrink". It took Houdini a painful 35 minutes to escape - an eternity by his standards.
Scott Morrison has five days - a political eternity - to pull off the greatest political escape of the century. He's betting the house on it.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Will yesterday's Coalition housing announcement change your vote - or that of your kids? For that matter, has anything else during the campaign affected the way you will vote? And do you believe Morrison's admission that he has been a bulldozer who will become more empathetic if re-elected? Send us your views on all the election issues that matter to you: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
THEY SAID IT: "No one party can fool all of the people all of the time; that's why we have two parties." - Bob Hope.
"Labor have no regional health minister. But they do have a minister for the republic. So they can't bring your blood pressure down but they can take down a picture of the Queen." - Barnaby Joyce.
YOU SAID IT: "Catchphrases and hollow words don't do it for middle Australia. Albo has a 'plan' for everything but won't say what's in the plan. He also says 'We can do it better.' Mate, please tell me how you will do it." - Geoff.
"It is difficult to find out who all the candidates are. Could we have a system like Switzerland when every household receives a leaflet which lists names and gives everyone space to give a brief policy statement?" - Maggie.
"The claim 'If we don't mine the coal, someone else will' is not actually true in the longer term. The less coal that is mined, the higher the price for coal will go; the higher the price for coal, the faster people will stop burning and start replacing coal. We are causing more coal to be burnt in the long term by continuing to mine it. There are no free rides with mining coal." - Glenn.
"The words 'We care' or promises of any kind coming out of ScoMo's mouth make me gag. He has shown his true colours time and time again and is clearly not to be believed. The focus on mudslinging and culture war and the lack of clearly identified policies on both sides is just sad." - Linda.
"The unions have destroyed our manufacturing and yet the polls indicate a person who has strong ties to his past union ideologies will be leading Australia into an incorruptible, perfect society..." - Billie.
"What words would I like to hear? From master Morrison: 'Sorry, sorry, sorry.'" - Terry.
"Words and phrases I want to hear: Uluru Statement of the Heart, environment, protection of habitat, cost of climate change, emissions-reduction target, child care, aged care, ending men's violence ( instead of women's safety), common good, best for all, think of others, fairness, equality, share the wealth, republic." - Jenny.
"Two words Morrison's dinner guests would be in fear of hearing: 'Chicken curry.'" - Malcolm.
"I'm not just disappointed by the lack of use of the word climate change in the election campaign. I'd like to hear our leaders talking about the climate crisis or climate emergency. These words far better communicate the seriousness and urgency of the problem." - David.
"Integrity and an interest to 'do right' for all of the electorate (improving the social safety net, environment, aged care, health care, education and research etc. and separating support for worthy groups and projects from party politics) are important governance tasks. ScoMo has shown no willingness or ability to achieve improvements in any of these areas." - Linda.
"Albanese came across as a real person in the final debate, who listened to questions and answered them as well as he could. Hilarious that Morrison chose the only thing he could to attack: a minimum wage increase in line with inflation. This shows clearly the moral vacuum of the PM: tax cuts for the richest in our society, but opposing a $1 dollar an hour increase for the lowest paid." - Shirley.
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