Australia under a Labor government will become intolerant, with citizens worrying about what they can think and say, and economically weak due to excessive government intervention, Scott Morrison has warned in a last-ditch election pitch to voters.
The Prime Minister – who is in his final week of the job if the polls are accurate – painted a bleak picture of what life would be like under Anthony Albanese as he gave an interview to Daily Mail Australia on his RAAF plane after a busy day campaigning in Tasmania.
He thoroughly rejects any suggestion there is little difference between Liberal and Labor at this election, saying ‘that’s never been true and it’s still not’.
The Prime Minister made his pitch to Daily Mail Australia readers in an interview on his RAAF plane (pictured) while flying from Launceston to Melbourne after a busy day campaigning in Tasmania
In fact, this is a contest between two polar opposite views of what Australia’s economy and society should look like, he believes.
Mr Morrison says if Labor wins, then government – not families and communities – will be ‘at the centre of everything’, interfering in the economy and citizens’ lives at the behest of the ‘militant unions’.
Meanwhile, wokeism – excessive sensitivity to social issues – and cancel culture will prevail, leaving Australians ‘walking on eggshells forever’ and ‘second-guessing’ everything they think and say.
In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Morrison – who was heavily criticised over the slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout and subsequent rapid test shortage – admits he didn’t ‘get every call right’ during the pandemic but insists he was under extreme pressure.
He also takes a swipe at Joe Biden’s ‘build back better’ agenda, reveals his long-term vision for Australia to make billions from clean energy exports and explains why he can win on May 21 despite polls predicting a Labor majority.
Mr Morrison, an Evangelical Christian who prays every day, describes himself as ‘socially conservative’ and fears Australia would change culturally if Labor wins.
He has been blasted by the Left and also socially progressive members of his own centre-right party for standing by Warringah candidate Katherine Deves after it emerged she described transgender children who had undergone reassignment operations as ‘surgically mutilated and sterilised’ in tweets last year.
Asked if he is worried about the rise of wokeism and cancel culture in Australian society, Mr Morrison said ‘absolutely I am’ and warned they would be more pervasive under a Labor government.
Liberal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves wants to stop trans people playing women’s sport
‘They (Labor) will be completely pulled by the Left and the Greens and potentially woke independents, if that’s what the government looks like,’ he said, referring to the potential for a hung parliament.
‘That will see a government which has Australians walking on eggshells forever.
‘Everybody second guessing everything they say and think to see whether it complies with what the diktat is from government.
‘And that’s not the Australia I believe in. I don’t think it’s the Australia that the vast majority of Australians believe in.’
Mr Morrison, who condemned Ms Deves’ language but refused to dis-endorse her, said Australians ‘believe that people should be respectful and sensitive’.
‘We should be tolerant and understanding of people’s backgrounds and different perspectives,’ he adds.
But the 54-year-old believes it is wrong to simply ‘cancel’ someone who holds a controversial view, saying the Left ‘seem to only want to tolerate those they choose to tolerate.’
‘I’ve spoken about how I want to see more women in parliament – but I’m criticised for not having the women only they (the Left) want to see in Parliament,’ he says.
‘The whole point about our party is people should live the life of their choice. And that doesn’t mean I’ve got to agree with all of their choices.
‘I’m a socially conservative person and I think people who know me understand I hold those views and they’re very sincerely held – but I don’t see it as my job to impose them on others.
‘I see it as my job to live my own values. And others do the same. Even those who have very woke views that are very different to mine. That’s okay. Just don’t try to impose it on everybody else.
‘That’s sort of my point. Live and let live. Let there be diversity, including in the Liberal Party.’
Mr Morrison describes his party as a ‘broad channel’ that can connect with ‘a much larger part of the population’ than Labor.
‘With the Labor Party now increasingly left wing, you’ve got to pass their virtue test to be accepted,’ he says.
‘And I just think that’s at great odds with where Australia’s at and wants to be.’
The Prime Minister believes a Labor government would oversee an economy that is ‘more controlled by government’, ‘weaker’ and ‘less confident’, leading to higher prices and interest rates for Aussies.
A key issue in this campaign has been the rising cost of living, with inflation hitting 5.1 per cent in April and the interest rate rising to 0.35 per cent as a result.
But Mr Morrison believes his party is the best at tackling such economic headwinds.
‘Labor and Anthony Albanese in particular very much see government at the centre of the picture,’ he says.
‘I remember when (former Labor PM) Kevin Rudd was elected during the Global Financial Crisis and he said ”the government is back at the centre of the economy, where it should be”.
‘It put a shiver down my spine when I heard him say it. But that’s fundamentally how they think about things.
‘They think government is the thing that changes your life. My view is you do. Your community does, your family, the environment that you live in, the opportunities that you take.
Our job is to facilitate, to encourage, to create the right environment where communities and individuals and families can be as strong as they possibly can,’ he adds.
‘So if you like it’s bottom up rather than top down. I have limited belief in government.
‘They (Labor) want to keep that big role of Government in the centre of everything, pulling all the levers.
‘It will only lead to slower growth and fewer opportunities, higher interest rates and greater inflation.’
After taking 240 policies to the 2019 election, including significant tax hikes, Labor has dramatically slimmed down its policy agenda this year.
The challenger for PM: Anthony Albanese
Key proposals include a review into providing a universal 90 per cent childcare subsidy and a new ‘help to buy scheme’ which would see the government take a 40 per cent stake in homes to help Aussies on to the property ladder.
But the Prime Minister believes Mr Albanese – who on Thursday said he will ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ – is going to do things in government that he’s not telling voters about right now.
‘The only lesson he seems to have learnt at the last election was don’t tell people what you’re going to do. Because last time the Labor Party told people what they were going to do they rejected them,’ he says.
Mr Albanese – who was raised in housing commission by a single mother on benefits – is from the Left of the Labor Party.
In his younger years he spoke out against the privatisation of companies and advocated an inheritance tax.
The 59-year-old now presents himself as a mainstream centrist but Mr Morrison does not buy his change of heart.
‘I don’t believe Antony Albanese has changed at all,’ he says.
‘I think he’s the same Tory-fighting leftie that he’s always been. My observation is that what’s always motivated him is political struggle.’
Mr Morrison says Labor is filled with ‘fantastical visions’ about how to reform the economy but ‘always stuff it up’.
‘They stuff it up because they don’t understand the limitations of government and they don’t understand the full power of community and individuals and businesses and people making their own choices.
‘It’s like they don’t trust Australians with their choices, that they have to make them for them. And I’ve always found that quite elitist and quite arrogant,’ he says.
The Prime Minister also warned ‘militant unions’ who fund the Labor Party would ‘have a much stronger say in how our government is run’.
Mr Albanese backed unions’ calls for pay rises in line with the 5.1 per cent inflation rate – despite warnings from economists this would stoke further price rises.
How Australia will get rich
Labor criticises the Prime Minister for lacking a long-term vision, but when pressed he says Australia in 10 years’ time will be wealthy and prosperous on the back of advanced manufacturing and – ironically for a man who once took a lump of coal into Parliament – clean energy exports.
‘I see this as the most significant period of opportunity Australia has had since the post-war period,’ he says.
‘Australia has come out of the pandemic stronger than most of the advanced countries in the world.
‘Our small businesses and medium-sized businesses are capitalised, they’ve kept their staff and their apprentices.
‘The biggest challenge we have as a country is skills and labour force. And that’s where the majority of my economic attention will be applied.’
Quoting British economist John Maynard Keynes, Mr Morrison says he wants to empower ‘the entrepreneurialism and the animal spirits that can really drive this next period.
The Prime Minister rejects US President’s Joe Biden’s approach to increase government spending across several areas including education, child care and welfare as a way of recovering from Covid-19.
‘The whole build back better thing, I can’t stand that stuff. What that talks about is that prior to the pandemic the world economy had it wrong. And somehow we have to build the economy back in a sort of centre-left, socialist model. Rubbish,’ he says.
‘I’ve argued at the G20 for the last few years and had good support from those who are more centre-right like myself, we want business-led growth, we want entrepreneurial-led growth.
‘We don’t want government coming in and controlling the economy and telling it how it should function.
‘We want capital markets to function. We want investment to find a home. We want free trade which is breaking down barriers, particularly between like-minded partners.’
The Prime Minister then warns Mr Albanese will simply ‘parrot what we’re seeing in other progressive left governments around the world which sees a greater encroachment of government into every single sphere.’
Labor has pledged to spend $15billion through a National Reconstruction Fund to re-build after Covid-19 with huge investments in infrastructure and manufacturing.
The PM claims if he’s re-elected then Australia will ‘have a much more dynamic economy’ in 10 years with thriving manufacturing and resources sectors which ‘will set up new lines of revenue and income for the country.’
The Morrison Government has been investing heavily in hydrogen – a zero emissions gas that can be extracted using solar and wind power and used as fuel.
The global hydrogen market is expected to hit around $600billion by 2030, meaning Australia could make billions by exporting it.
‘When I’m in Europe or the UK or North America they see Australia as the hydrogen island. When they think of hydrogen, they think of Australia because of the very significant resources of solar and wind, which make that possible.’
But Mr Morrison says despite his net zero by 2050 target, coal and gas exports will continue.
‘Australia has always been a massive energy exporter. Particularly to north and southeast Asia. That’s going to continue with our existing traditional resources, but it will transform over a period of time.
‘This is why my plan on net zero 2050 is not about turning something off and turning something on. It’s about a parallel pathway for both,’ he insists.
Asked if he’s being ambitious enough on climate change while leaving Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target at 26-28 per cent, he replies: ‘Yeah I am.’
‘It was actually Bill Gates who convinced me of this. You can hit net zero by 2050. That’s doable. But the technologies that are actually going to deliver the payload on that – they won’t all be running by 2030.
‘If you’re overly focused on 2030 for all the sort of political reasons, you end up mis-allocating your resources to investments in things that only get some sort of short-term superficial gain.
‘And you miss out on the big shifts that actually deliver at the end. And so I think we’ve got our pitch right.’
The Prime Minister loves to trumpet how Australia performed better than comparable nations on health and economics during the pandemic – but rarely mentions the brutal repression of civil liberties and human rights.
Melbourne was in lockdown for 252 days, the most in the world, while state premiers across the country shut their borders, causing misery and heartache for split-apart families.
In one tragic case that captured national attention, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prevented a 26-year-old nurse who lived in Canberra from coming home to say goodbye to her dying father, despite the Prime Minister’s pleas to let her in.
Mr Morrison also adopted a hard-line approach, even threating his own citizens with five years in jail if they entered the country from India during its Delta wave in May 2021.
But, looking back, he says only the state premiers were guilty of any excessive use of power.
‘Ultimately if there were excess, then they were excesses in the decisions made at state level,’ he says.
‘Take mandatory vaccines as an example. At a federal level the only mandatory vaccines that were agreed were in high-risk health situations and care situations. That’s it.
‘Other than that the common law applied. The states made unilateral decisions which were not decisions of the Commonwealth Government.’
Mr Morrison said the virus played out differently across the nation so there was always going to be ‘a spectrum’ of responses with states wielding the power to impose lockdowns.
‘Our model was like in the US where we saw a very similar spectrum of responses – but the difference in Australia was I was able to get them all in a room on over 50 occasions and seek to try and get as much consistency as we possibly could,’ he said in reference to his ‘national cabinet’ meetings with premiers.
Asked if he was successful in marshalling the premiers, he said: ‘I think the results speak for themselves.’
Labor has relentlessly attacked Mr Morrison over the slow vaccine rollout which was derailed over blood clot concerns with the AstraZeneca vaccine which Australia had banked on to do the heavy lifting.
In a televised debate on Sunday the Prime Minister admitted he should have viewed the rollout with more urgency after he repeatedly said ‘it’s not a race’.
Mr Morrison now admits he made mistakes but also insists he was under extreme pressure.
‘In many of the areas where we’ve had imperfections, a lot of it had to do with the extraordinary circumstances in which we were operating,’ he says.
‘And in those circumstances I don’t think anyone can pretend to be able to get every call right, particularly when you look back in hindsight which is largely what Anthony Albanese did for the last three years.’
Mr Morrison believes one of the biggest challenges facing whichever man wins the May 21 election is China.
Since president Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, and particularly in recent months, Beijing has pushed an increasingly assertive foreign policy.
It has reinforced territorial claims in the South China Sea, killed Indian troops in the Himalayas, frequently flown fighter jets over Taiwan and last month signed a secret security deal with the Solomon Islands, just 2,000km from Queensland.
Asked what President Xi is trying to achieve, Mr Morrison says Beijing’s approach to the Indo-Pacific is to ‘extend economic largesse in return for compliance’ and described this approach as ‘the same deal the Chinese government has with its own population’.
But he says Australia and its allies will resit.
We won’t have that. And the Indo Pacific won’t have that and liberal democracies certainly won’t have that. That’s why the Quad is so important,’ he says, referring to the strategic dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US that he believes provides a ‘counter-balance’ to China.
Mr Morrison has no regrets about calling for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid, prompting China to block a series of Australian exports including wine, barley and seafood.
He also talks up Australia’s ban on Huawei’s 5G equipment and his tightened foreign interference laws.
‘We still maintain positive policies in those areas. But this idea that we should simply have allowed the continued incursion without calling it out has woken many other countries up to this,’ he says.
‘I think we’ve played an important role in resetting the balance in the region. And that is very much in Australia’s interests.’
In a swipe at his political opponents, he adds: ‘And I worry, I really do worry about the strength of Anthony Albanese and many of his shadow ministers given their involvement on these issues in the past, whether they have the same spine.’
Asked about whether he agrees with Defence Minister Peter Dutton that Australia would have to join the US in a war with China over Taiwan, he said: ‘I never speculate on those things because I don’t think it’s helpful.
‘I will always do what’s in Australia’s national interest every single time and consider that very, very carefully and soberly make those decisions as I always have.’
But he adds: ‘The whole point of the alliances and partnerships that I’ve been building over the last four years is to ensure that those issues don’t become realized at all.
‘That there is a sufficient balance within the region that creates stability and that’s what the region wants.’
Mr Morrison says Australia wants to trade with China and is ‘not looking to change the Chinese government’.
‘In Australia we don’t seek to tell other countries how they should run and what they should do. We have a very strong view that they should be doing the same in return,’ he says.
‘And we want all countries in the region to have their own sovereignty.’
‘We want Indonesia to have that. We want Malaysia to have that. What concerns me in that part of the world is this (China’s incursion) is really compromising their sovereignty. I’m quite passionate about it,’ he says.
Labor has accused the Prime Minister of the ‘worst foreign policy failure since WWII’ over China’s security deal with the Solomon Islands which experts warn will see Beijing’s troops stationed there.
He says the south west Pacific ‘is not without its challenges’ but still claims he’s done a good job in the area.
‘I’ve spent a long time with deep interests in the Pacific islands from a young age.
‘And when I say Pacific family, I mean it. I have deep connections, and many friends and I want to protect their sovereignty.
‘We don’t want anything. We just want them to be sovereign, free and living their own democratic sovereign state. That’s it.’
Mr Morrison also defends his controversial decision to tear up a $90billion submarine contract with a French company, infuriating the nation’s president and costing taxpayers $5.5billion, to instead obtain nuclear submarine technology from the US and UK under a new AUKUS alliance.
‘There was no doubt in my mind that Australia needed a nuclear-powered submarine capability and the pathway we had embarked on was no longer the right path,’ he says.
‘And despite there being real costs of changing that course we had to make that choice.
‘But having understood that, it wasn’t an easy thing to then deliver and what we did over 18 months (in signing the AUKUS alliance) was unprecedented in Australia’s diplomatic history.’
Can he win it?
The latest polls predict Labor will win a comfortable majority of 80 seats – but the Prime Minister doubts the usefulness of polls after he proved them wrong with his shock victory in 2019.
‘I’ve been around politics and long time. I’m not saying I don’t believe the polls. I’m just saying all of them have different levels of accuracy and relevance,’ he says.
‘Some are used for particularly political purposes and are complete bunkum. But they take a snap of a point in time.
‘They’re not predictive, they never are. We’ll all know who wins the election soon enough.’
Mr Morrison says trying to forecast the outcome is futile and instead is focussed on flighting until the end.
‘I do know, having done so many elections, that everybody is always so keen to call it before the Australian people have had their say,’ he explains.
‘They’ll have their say and that’s the only one that matters.’
Asked if he’s going to win, Mr Morrison says: ‘I know how this plays out, I know the road to get there. But I’m always humble.’
If he loses on May 21, Mr Morrison says his best achievements will have been ‘seeing Australia come through the pandemic’, doubling mental health funding, and countering China by building alliances within ASEAN, the Quad and AUKUS.