Seven days from this morning, Australia will be waking up to another three years of Scott Morrison & Co or a brand new Shorten government – and the Prime Minister is hoping women will cast the votes that renew his lease on The Lodge.
Yes, women. The same voting demographic widely designated by political observers and pollsters alike as the big hobble on the Coalition’s chances.
With Labor pounding home the message that the Liberal benches seat a disproportionate number of men and amid high-profile defections such as Julia Banks, who quit the party after complaining she and other women had been bullied, Mr Morrison pulled out steps to woo the pink vote on Saturday.
Arguing that the Coalition values quality more than chromosomes, the Prime Minister touched down bearing gifts at a children’s netball match in the eastern Melbourne seat of Deakin.
And he didn’t do his wooing alone, as he was welcomed by local Liberal MP Michael Sukkar, who holds the seat by 6.44 per cent, to talk up $30 million the government is giving to Netball Australia.
Cities Minister Alan Tudge was also on hand to court the female vote, noting that his daughter was both umpiring and playing at the Sportlink facility in in Vermont South.
The funding for netball – easily the most popular female sport in the country – is part of $70 million the Coalition has vowed to spend on sporting centres and events.
Part of that package includes $15 million to give the national women’s soccer team, The Matildas, a permanent home in Melbourne.
Change rooms will also be upgraded to female-friendly standards at 124 sporting fields across Australia.
Nothing like having the PM watching on to add a bit of pressure to your weekend netball game.
— Jade Macmillan (@JadeMacmillan1) May 11, 2019
The crush of would-be questioners at the netball morning obliged officials to stand with arms outstretched to prevent people flowing onto courts as kids and parents tried to snag Scott Morrison for a chinwag.
“This is how communities come together, just look at it,” said Mr Morrison, who seemed relaxed and at ease ahead of Sunday’s official campaign launch.
The Prime Minister also revealed a plan to help women get back into the workforce, or pick up extra hours, after caring for their children or elderly parents.
He also wants to spend $75 million on mid-career checks for women who have stepped out of the workforce for at least two years and don’t have a similar program available in their current job.
Participants would have an initial meeting with a career professional, who would assess their needs and provide relevant support and advice.
Quotas not considered
While women were most definitely the focus of the day, Mr Morrison insisted he hasn’t reflected on introducing quotas to boost their number in Liberal parliamentary ranks.
“I haven’t really focused on that issue in the course of this election. I’m just focused on my responsibilities as a parliamentary leader,” he said.
“We have a record number of women in my cabinet, more than any other government in Australia’s history.”
The Prime Minister spent Friday in central Queensland talking up the Coalition’s support for mining and manufacturing workers, and talking down Labor’s credibility to deliver on its policy costings.
Mr Morrison referred to such “traditional industries” again on Saturday.
“They deserve our respect, not the sneers of the Labor Party and The Greens,” he said.