ANALYSIS

Federal election 2022: Anthony Albanese holds premiers tight as Scott Morrison's chickens come home to roost

Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Longford, Tasmania. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Longford, Tasmania. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

If you're going to reach out to friends in a crisis, you need to have some in the first place.

As a kinder, gentler but isolated version of Scott Morrison emerges just days from the election, his opponent is turning to friendly faces.

A Saturday coffee stop with newly-minted Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles means Anthony Albanese has campaigned alongside every Labor state and territory leader (save for Andrew Barr, and he's yet to personally campaign in the ACT).

As the Prime Minister pledges to ditch a "bulldozer" approach, he's warning conflict will continue if teal candidates bar him from majority government.

But Mr Albanese warns two years of political missiles launched from Canberra over state borders will continue if the Coalition retains power.

"I look forward to working with every Premier and every Chief Minister, regardless of where they come from politically," he declared on Saturday.

"I want to bring the country together. I want to unite the country. This country has conflict fatigue."

COVID-19 has barely registered as a campaign issue, something which would have seemed unthinkable even six months ago.

But its mark - manifest in the emergence of dominant state premiers - is firmly stamped on this election.

Mr Morrison and his frontbenchers have run afoul of Mark McGowan, Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk.

And as his campaign flounders in the home stretch, they're in no mood to let bygones be bygones.

"Every federal dollar that Victorians get from the miserable Morrison government, [it's like] we ought to bow our head and treat it like it's foreign aid," Mr Andrews declared, in the ultra-marginal seat of Chisholm this week.

"We have been ripped off by this Liberal-National government."

Any campaign needs an attack dog, allowing the would-be prime minister to rise above the fray. Being able to turn to a popular state leader for the brutality is an asset.

In other instances, it's boost-by-association.

South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas joined Mr Albanese to unveil a splurge on hospitals, which drove the new premier's thumping state win just months ago. Mr Albanese was hand-in-glove with Queensland Premier Palaszczuk on Labour Day, with secure work a key plank of his rhetoric.

Arguably the most dominant of the lot, Premier McGowan was on hand to launch his campaign in the key battleground state of Western Australia.

"I stand with Mark McGowan. Scott Morrison stands with Clive Palmer," is Mr Albanese's not-so-subtle reminder of the Coalition's aborted attempt to overthrow the state's hard border during the pandemic

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It's in stark contrast to Mr Morrison, whose chickens may be coming home to roost.

He's walked back his attacks on Western Australia with a whimper, but just two Liberal state premiers remain after South Australians ousted Steven Marshall.

The Prime Minister enraged Gladys Berejiklian during the bushfires and vaccine rollout. His relationship with her replacement, Dominic Perrottet, is frosty at best.

As Mr Morrison continued his attack on the NSW ICAC as a "kangaroo court", he placed his state colleague in a straitjacket.

"I've never been a fan of how it's conducted itself," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Perrottet, who has warned against undermining the ICAC, could only muster a half-hearted defence.

"I agree with the Prime Minister in relation to it's not a one-size-fits-all approach," he said.

He boosted funding for the watchdog the next day.

Mr Morrison's empathy rebrand began just eight days from the election.

It'll take longer than that for state leaders to forget the bulldozer.

This story Albanese holds premiers tight as PM's chickens come home to roost first appeared on The Canberra Times.