News State New South Wales Campaign version of Honey I Shrunk The Kids – Except it’s the Liberal Party that is near invisible
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Campaign version of Honey I Shrunk The Kids – Except it’s the Liberal Party that is near invisible

Scott Morrison had family on stage at the Liberal launch on Sunday – but one thing seemed amiss. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison has just five days to shrug off the baggage that is the Liberal Party he leads.

As the election enters its final days the Prime Minister has provided ample proof that all that is on offer is himself.

Sunday’s launch was a political version of the 1989 comedy: Honey I Shrunk The Kids except this time it is the Liberal Party that has shrunk to near invisibility.

Its logo, along with its coalition partner the Nationals, could scarcely be seen on the giant backdrop if you were in the auditorium. If you were watching at home, you couldn’t see it at all.

You couldn’t see immediate past prime ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull either, because they weren’t invited. Nor was John Howard because if he turned up it would only highlight their absence.

Brand Liberal is on the nose and they know it. One of their MPs says all politicians are suffering the same disdain. He is right.

It’s the legacy of 10 years of leadership churn and internecine rivalries, but the Liberals have been the party of government for the past six and have only made it worse.

Bill Shorten on Monday said the “nation doesn’t deserve more of the same”.

“Mr Morrison made a virtue about being the only politician at his launch, but you don’t only just vote for the leader. The fact that he’s got his own party in witness protection shows you that the disunity, which makes Australians so angry. The constant infighting is barely masked.”

scott morrison ignores RBS dire warnings
PM Scott Morrison waving at the Liberal Party campaign launch on Sunday. Photo: AAP

Mr Morrison has sought to airbrush out the internal splits over climate and energy policy that directly led to Mr Turnbull’s demise.

Social researcher Rebecca Huntley told Radio National voters have reacted very negatively to the dumping of Mr Turnbull just as he was proposing an end to the damaging 10-year climate and energy wars.

Ms Huntley compared it to the collapse in support for then prime minister Kevin Rudd and Labor after he failed to deliver on climate change action and was dumped by his party.

Ms Huntley says a summer of extreme weather has shot climate change to near the top of voters concerns. Labor is campaigning heavily on it in these critical last days.

Liberal independents are using the issue as a battering ram in several hitherto safe seats.

Internal Liberal Party research, according to one source, has Tony Abbott trailing Zali Steggall by 10 points in his seat of Warringah.

Another disillusioned Liberal, Oliver Yates – according to research paid for by the Greens – is trailing Labor and the Greens glamour candidate Julian Burnside in Kooyong. But Burnside is within striking distance.

Kooyong Greens candidate Julian Burnside. Photo: AAP

Yates says the Liberals will “have to split after the election” for the party to rid itself of the right-wing elements “that have taken over” and “stopped it having an energy or environment policy”.

But casting a huge cloud over Labor optimism, particularly in Queensland, is the $50 million advertising spend of billionaire political maverick Clive Palmer.

In Queensland the latest Galaxy poll has a 3 per cent swing to Labor, potentially delivering it six seats, except the Liberal National Party’s preference deal with Palmer could prove a road block.

Palmer’s full-page ads expensively at the front of major papers around the nation are increasingly anti-Labor, targeting Labor’s tax reforms with a message to Mr Shorten, “Tell Shifty he’s dreaming”.

One senior Labor strategist says “it’s clear the deal between the Libs and Palmer is about more than just preference swapping.”

Is it any wonder Liberal ministers and campaign workers are doing their best to channel protest votes through Mr Palmer and away from Labor?

Mr Shorten says Mr Palmer will be calling the shots in a Morrison coalition government and it’s a recipe for “the sort of chaos Australians are over”.

How much “over it” we’ll find out on Saturday.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics

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