Cartoon of Scott Morrison

Morrison and Shorten Sound Like My Ex-Boyfriend

I remembered an old boyfriend this week. It was way back, when I was young and head over heels with the possibilities, driven by his promises. Dinner on Saturday night. A weekend away next month. A phone call after work.

Eventually (and perhaps I was slower than most), I realised the promises would only ever be promises. There was no dinner and next month was always four weeks away.

Too low down his priorities, I dumped him, and turned my attention elsewhere. And that’s the story of our political parties and the rest of us who have to choose between them next month. We want a better world for our children. We want an answer for climate change.  We want jobs in our local communities. We want to know that our children are learning at school what will equip them for the future we are not around to see.

We are head over heels with the possibilities of what our nation could be. It’s the leaders who need to step up.

Take Perth, for example. It’s a long way from Canberra; outgoing Liberal star Julie Bishop would attest to that.

But now, with a federal election date looming, both parties know they have to court voters on the other side of the country.

Perth will be home to the first-ever WA election debate. Scott Morrison believes that gives him the great opportunity he needs to show the clear choice between prospective prime ministers.

“West Australians know they can trust the Liberals,” he says.

No, they can’t, retorts Bill Shorten, from on the ground in Perth. “You’re being ripped off by Canberra,” he tells anyone who will listen.

That’s why he’s decided, were he to become prime minister, he would choose someone from WA to be in his Labor cabinet. That’s why he’s hell-bent on doing something about jobs in the west.

Matt Canavan, the LNP resources minister who also happens to be in Perth this week, has a different take on Labor and jobs. Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target would have a direct impact on WA, he says. And local headlines hint the cost could be as high as 10,000 WA jobs.

Kerry Stokes, the chair of Seven West Media, thinks this debate is just what WA needs.

“At last Perth and WA are being treated with respect from our leaders,” he announced on the front page of The West Australian (which happens to be published by Seven West Media).

No, they’re not. It’s more akin to a one-night stand.

Voters are being courted in WA – as they will be in Queensland and NSW and Victoria and everywhere else in coming days – because they could help Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.

That’s all. Promises. A bit like an ex-boyfriend I knew.

What the major parties don’t understand is that voters are onto them. They know, from experience, that many of the promises will amount to no more than sweet nothings.

They know that the motivation on both sides is driven by one date, and it’s not the date of the election debate.

It’s May 18; the date voters in WA and every other state and territory will go to the polls to decide on who should lead our nation.

Voters know the three-year cycle of big promises and protestations of undying love. And they’re used to breaking up with their government, when they are dumped shortly after the polls.

That’s why they’ve looked for love elsewhere – in the arms of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation or Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, for example. But after repeated disappointments, their hopes have been dashed there, too.

Voters have turned off politicians, even in Perth where both leaders are arriving with their pockets full of giveaways. Don’t worry Queensland; our turn will come.

But here’s a tip for Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten. Cottesloe and Fremantle don’t make up Perth, just as there’s more to Brisbane than Clayfield and Norman Park, and more to Sydney than Manly and Kirribilli.

Take a trip down millionaire’s row. Even catch up with Kerry Stokes. By all reports, he’s a nice bloke.

But make your promises with the whole of Perth in mind.

Find 10 minutes to walk down Hay and Murray streets in the city centre, and see the plight of the homeless and the mentally ill.

On Saturday, the temperature will dip to 8 degrees, and that will signal the start of cold, long nights for many of them.

And then reach into those deep pockets because while promises might warm the soul, they don’t feed the hungry or cover the cold.

Actions matter. Talk is cheap.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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