Scott Morrison hoped to add power to the Liberal Nationals campaign in Queensland on Sunday, turning into action man for the cameras as he cut laps in a military tank.
But that photo op only momentarily distracted from a war of words breaking out yet again between the PM and the state’s deputy premier.
He landed blows, calling Steven Miles “juvenile”, but the LNP still has a lot of ground to make up in the battle for Queensland votes.
After weeks in Canberra before the federal budget, Mr Morrison turned his attention on Brisbane, with a two-pronged visit to sell his government’s jobs recovery plan and to give a boost to Queensland opposition leader Deb Frecklington before the looming state election.
The PM also visited workshops and plants in south-east Queensland to talk up his budget strategy to boost manufacturing.
“We make things here in Australia,” he said, sharing a refrain he repeated several times during his visit.
“They make things here at Neumann Steel. They’ve been making them for a long time,” he had said earlier, alongside Ms Frecklington.
“You’ve got to get the gas to make things in this country,” Mr Morrison said on Friday, back in Canberra.
And it seemed Mr Morrison was keen to make sure people know he makes things in his spare time, too.
The latest of his home handyman series hit Facebook at the weekend – this time combining his recent favourite haunt, Bunnings, and his love for Cronulla Sharks.
Totally on this year’s Christmas list. Will be going to Bunnings.#UpUpCronulla
It follows other recent home DIY adventures packaged up for his weekend social media posts, such as assembling a chicken coop and building a cubby house for his kids.
‘A week off’ being PM
Selling the idea to Queenslanders that only the LNP can make jobs for people who make things is at the centre of their election strategy – just look at Nationals senator Matt Canavan’s ‘black coal matter’s stunt’ last week.
The opposition is desperate to sell the key message, though it might be too late.
Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is expected to hold on to power at the October 31 poll, buoyed by her government’s strong handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
A YouGov poll printed last week suggests the LNP has some catching up to do, with Labor leading 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis in Queensland.
A bit of Prime Ministerial intervention won’t go astray in boosting the opposition’s chances.
Mr Morrison had to tread a fine line between saying the “excellent” Ms Frecklington’s success would “really change things up here” and stressing Premier Palaszczuk had “played an important role” in the national cabinet’s COVID response.
The deputy premier, meanwhile, was in no mood to offer kindness to the federal leader in return.
“I’ve said for some time that the Prime Minister is personally running the LNP’s campaign here in Queensland,” Steven Miles said on Sunday.
Mr Miles claimed Mr Morrison was “choosing to take a week off from leading our country during this pandemic, during this crisis, to campaign for the LNP”, and that Ms Frecklington “will do whatever the Prime Minister tells her to do” if she became premier.
Asked about Mr Miles’ comments, the PM shrugged it off while launching a stinging criticism of his own.
“I think this guy has got to grow up,” a deadpan Mr Morrison said.
“I think those sort of careless and juvenile remarks reflect terribly on him.
“I’d encourage him to focus on doing his job and to, frankly, grow up.”
Mr Miles has taken lead offence roles in recent times as Queensland’s COVID policies, like the hard border, came under fire from NSW and federal governments.
Last month he accused Qantas of “gouging” ticket prices as the airline launched a campaign against border closures.
He also said Canberra “should back off” the criticism, and just last week claimed NSW was “giving up” on stopping community transmission of the virus.
On the hustings
But the PM’s stoush with Mr Miles wasn’t the only state election story on Sunday.
Mr Morrison’s injection of federal star power into the campaign continued as he rode shotgun in an armoured vehicle, on his visit to a defence manufacturing facility in Brisbane.
A facility, Ms Palaszczuk soon pointed out, was put together with her government’s help.
Rheinmetall’s Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Redbank is the product of my Government’s partnership with the Morrison Government and one all Queenslanders can be proud of. pic.twitter.com/QVncDu6noC
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) October 11, 2020
Elsewhere on the trail, Premier Palaszczuk announced a plan to hire nearly 9500 extra healthcare workers in coming years.
Ms Frecklington said a Liberal government would quickly move to give Queenslanders a rebate for their car insurance “in time for Christmas” if elected.
Every Qlder who owns a registered car will receive a $300 rego rebate in time for Christmas. @QLDLabor smashed Queensland drivers with a massive $120 rego hike but the @LNPQLD will give back $300. Our plan will stimulate the economy and be a big budget boost for families. #qldpol pic.twitter.com/1323RY1grU
— Deb Frecklington MP (@DebFrecklington) October 11, 2020
Mr Morrison is expected to spend several more days in the Sunshine State, including appearing at a fundraiser lunch alongside Ms Frecklington and deputy PM Michael McCormack.