Scott Morrison has insinuated that Anthony Albanese is using his Covid infection to excuse poor performances and suggested the Labor leader “can’t hack the campaign”.
Morrison used a campaign event in Western Australia on Friday to personally target the Labor leader, brushing off suggestions his opponent’s campaigning could be impaired by his recent bout of Covid-19.
Asked if Albanese’s performance on the campaign could be excused by “brain fog”, a symptom of cognitive impairment attributed to Covid, Morrison told the West Australian’s Leadership Matters event that “if that’s what he wants to believe, if that helps him get through the day, well good luck to him”.
“But when you’re prime minister, you don’t get to do that … being in a campaign is nothing compared to running a government,” Morrison said. “And if you can’t hack the campaign, then I think people are starting to think, is this guy really up to it?”
The comment follows a similar jibe last week, when Morrison accused Albanese of having a “quiet week” while he was in Covid isolation, as opposed to the prime minister’s “busy” schedule when he was infected earlier in the year.
The Coalition trails in the polls ahead of the 21 May election and is facing a growing insurgency in normally blue-ribbon inner-city electorates from teal independents, who received a boost from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday.
Morrison has urged voters to retain the Coalition because they do not know and cannot trust the Labor alternative.
Before he contracted Covid, Albanese started the campaign with a gaffe: failing to recall the unemployment rate and official interest rate.
But since the initial stumble, Albanese has sharpened his performance, including winning the first leaders’ debate, according to the audience of undecided voters.
On Thursday, Albanese needed a briefing note from an adviser to answer a question asking for the details of Labor’s six-point plan to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
In a solo appearance earlier on Friday, Albanese said improving the NDIS was “not about gotcha questions” and rejected suggestions his campaign had been slow in comparison to Morrison’s since he emerged from isolation.Advertisement
Albanese told reporters that Covid “has an impact” but responded to a question about “needing to nap in the afternoon” by reciting a lengthy list of campaign appearances.
Albanese noted on Thursday he appeared on breakfast television, did a radio interview, attended the smart energy expo, did a press conference, held meetings at the commonwealth parliamentary offices, spoke at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, went into his electorate office in Marrickville and appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program.
“I think that’s a pretty heavy program.”
Later on Friday, Morrison told the Perth event the election was a choice between a “strong economy or a weaker economy”.
“I want Australia to be strong and secure in a difficult, turbulent world – and strength matters more than ever,” he said.
“I don’t subscribe to the ‘small target’ philosophy of leadership that others seem to have done. You can’t as prime minister. The job is too big to be small. Small target means a small leader. A small leader is a weak leader. And a weak leader is a risk to Australia, our economy and our security.”