Coalition MPs and senators have been warned the next federal election isn’t in the bag with leaders urging unity to kick off the parliamentary year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday channelled his high school rowing coach who told him to “keep your eyes in the boat”.
“No matter what else is happening around you, remain coordinated and together as a team – that’s the approach we all need to bring”, he told a
Coalition party room meeting.
The Australian was reporting on Tuesday afternoon that Mr Morrison told returning MPs and senators his speech was “designed to give an agenda that could help win the election this year” – even though he has repeatedly said he wants to wait until 2022 to head to the polls.
Mr Morrison also said the federal election was “not due until 2022” and Coalition members had to work to win every day between now and polling day.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg used the example of people writing off the Coalition in 2019 as proof the government could be defeated.
“It is important not to believe commentators who say that we have already got the next election in the bag,” he said.
He said every election was tough and the redrawing of electoral boundaries was likely to hurt the Coalition’s prospects.
“We must continue to focus on the job we’re doing, continue to explain what we’ve done [and] how our plans are helping Australia deal with the challenges that remain.”
While speculation is rife that Mr Morrison will send voters to the polls later this year, he continues to downplay an early election.
“The election’s due in 2022,” he told Sky News.
“This year, I’ve got to get people back in jobs, I’ve got to get businesses back open, we’ve got to roll out a vaccine.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese entered the first week of parliament buoyed by a Newspoll that had the major parties locked at 50-50 on a two-party basis.
He flagged March, when JobKeeper wage subsidies and the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement cease, as a potential turning point.
“At the next election Scott Morrison will be asking for the Libs and Nats to have more time in office than John Howard had,” he told Labor MPs and senators in Canberra.
“Their agenda is cuts to JobSeeker, cuts to JobKeeper and cuts to wages.”
“Once we get past March – and it will be after parliament rises – workers and businesses will feel the impact of these cuts.”
Despite polls remaining close, Labor’s dismal results in Queensland and Western Australia at the last election have clouded the opposition’s path to victory.
But Mr Albanese believes the Prime Minister’s attacks on popular premiers in those states will come back to bite him.
“People in Queensland haven’t forgotten that Scott Morrison came to campaign against decisions Annastacia Palaszczuk made to keep people safe,” he told caucus.
“People in Western Australia haven’t forgotten that Scott Morrison joined with Clive Palmer to oppose decisions that Mark McGowan took to keep people safe.”
Last week’s shadow frontbench reshuffle created new roles aimed at winning back votes in those states.
Senator Murray Watt added Queensland resources to his responsibilities while Patrick Gorman became shadow assistant minister for WA.
Labor has set its sights on 18 target seats with almost half in Queensland.