Scott Morrison’s promise of change rubbished by several Q + A panelists as Liberal senator says he’d rather see Labor in power than a hung parliament

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to change and be less of a “bulldozer” should he be re-elected on Saturday but on Q + A on Thursday night, multiple panelists rubbished that claim.

Mr Morrison has been labeled a “liar” by French President Emmanuel Macron and criticized in leaked comments by members of his own party, and his character was brought into question by audience member Brenda McGowan, who felt his interview on ABC’s 7.30 with Leigh Sales on Monday night was further evidence he cannot change.

Former independent member for Indi Cathy McGowan said she would “love” to see Mr Morrison change, especially on his treatment of women’s issues and when it came to showing empathy.

“There’s a huge amount of room for improvement in our government,” Ms McGowan said.

“I just want what’s best for Australia – and if Scott Morrison can get to this stage of the election and honestly say he has not been as good as he could have been, and he could have been better, I really welcome that.”

Given the opportunity to defend his leader, Liberal senator James Paterson said issues that have been raised in Mr Morrison’s term – including COVID, bushfires and floods – required swift decision-making and decisiveness but that he believed if re-elected, the PM could change his ways.

“Hopefully these are now peaceful and prosperous and conflict-free times and will require a different style of leadership,” Senator Paterson said.

“I think that’s what he was signaling.

“He ran a very tough and small government in times of crisis where decisions had to be made quickly, where you could not go through the normal consultation and careful consideration but had to make decisions on the fly.”

Asked by Q + A host David Speers if that meant a “kinder, gentler Scott Morrison”, Senator Paterson said he thought it would.

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That claim though was not bought into by either Labor Member for Macnamara in Victoria Josh Burns, or Peter Hartcher, the political editor for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Hartcher was particularly aggressive when it came to Mr Morrison’s character and drew on religious parlance to take on Mr Morrison’s promise of change.

“Looking at electoral oblivion, he decided that he would have to change.”

Asked if he thought Mr Morrison could change, Hartcher said no.

“I think you judge someone on their record,” he said.

“James has said ‘kindler and gentler’ would be a better mode but the thing is that a leader has to respond to whatever circumstances present.

“In a major crisis, we could have done with more of ‘Bulldozer’ Morrison, with the bushfires and the floods, the country was calling out for Scott Morrison to take leadership in those crises and he did not.

“Kindler and gentler… when there were crises with an [alleged] rape being committed in the ministerial wing of Parliament House, when there were other atrocities going on, he could have shown more empathy.

“When there was a march of women for justice at parliament house that he refused to meet.”

The alleged rape is currently being investigated by authorities.

Mr Burns had put it to him that Labor had committed to character assassination of the PM but he held firm and said Labor had merely been able to capitalize on what others said.

“It has not been the Labor Party that’s effectively made character assessments on Scott Morrison but members of the Liberal Party: Gladys Berejiklian, Malcolm Turnbull, even the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said famously, ‘I do not think – I know that he’s a liar, ‘”Mr Burns said.

“I think that there’s been a long line of people wanting to make an assessment on his character.

“This is as good as he’s going to get.

“This guy has been a handbrake on climate action, a handbrake on an Integrity Commission.”

‘Out of touch’: Coalition housing plan questioned

The hits kept on coming for Mr Morrison as audience member Leah Sawell criticized the government’s plan to allow Australians to access up to 40 per cent, capped at $ 50,000 of their superannuation to place a deposit on a house.

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The 35-year-old renter said she was in shock at the announcement as she suggested it showed the PM to be out of touch with Australians on the cost of living.

“I was actually in shock about this announcement to withdraw $ 50,000 in order to buy a house,” Ms Sawell told the panel.

“After surviving domestic abuse and violence, and living on the below-poverty rate of Centrelink in my 20s, I have less than $ 30,000 in my super.”

She then asked Senator Paterson if he knew if any women were involved when the planned scheme was hatched.

The senator said he sympathized with Ms Sawell before affirming that Minister for Superannuation Jane Hume was involved in formulating the policy, before defending it.

“I understand that this is not a policy that will work for everyone,” he said.

“Some people will take it up and some people won’t but part of your story was really interesting.

“You said you’re paying more on rent than you would on a mortgage, for some people, it would help them if they could take money out of superannuation, that would get them the deposit they need to buy a house and pay lower mortgage repayments rather than higher rent.

Labor costings under scrutiny

While the Coalition came under fire for that policy, Labor was also questioned over their plans for spending after they unveiled costings that equated to $ 7.4 billion added to the budget deficit.

Asked, given the rate of inflation, should we not be “spending less”? Mr Burns responded by defending Labor’s plans, especially to increase the minimum wage.

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“We should have a wage rise for our minimum wage earners,” he said.

“We’re talking about people earning $ 20.33 an hour, these are people earning about the same in a week what the prime minister earns in about half a day.

“Our differences in costings are $ 7 billion over the forward estimates, which is pretty modest.

“It goes to productivity measures … investing in childcare so women and families can get back to work, making medicines cheaper so families can ensure they get the medicines that they need.”

Hartcher suggested that Labor, in announcing that level of spend, was being hypocritical.

“Labor, having been very critical of the government has now replicated it and added another $ 7 billion.

Paterson shocks Speers with pro-Labor comment

One interesting question going into the federal election is whether minor parties and independents will increase their vote enough to hold a balance of power or lead to a hung parliament.

Ms McGowan who was elected as Independent Member for Indi in 2013 said she thought only three independents could win seats.

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She did not nominate those but said: “One in Melbourne, I reckon, one in Sydney, and one in Perth,” before she added that she believed many would place pressure on National Party MPs.

“There’s a real movement in the country as well, in the National Party seats,” she said.

“There’s a number of National Party seats that are going to come really close, and I think, on election night, there’s going to be a massive recount.”

The notion was something that Senator Paterson bristled at as he made a surprising comment in support of Labor over people voting for independents.

“I think it’s a vote for a weaker government and a weaker country, leading to uncertainty,” he said.

“In uncertain times, that’s the last thing we need.

Pressed on his comments by Speers, Senator Paterson said he would of course prefer for the Coalition to remain in power but there be a majority government either way

“If Labor is successful, if they do provide the prime minister, I would rather that they are able to do so in their own right rather than relying on the crossbenchers.”

Watch the full episode of Q + A on iview.

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