Australians might have been sitting down for dinner about 7pm on Monday, or tuning in to the news, but for those living in marginal seats there was a chance they were interrupted – by the former prime minister John Howard.
“Hello it’s John Howard calling from Sydney for the Liberal party,” were the words voters in seats such as North Sydney, Wentworth and Hughes heard when they answered their landlines and mobile phones.
Since losing the 2007 elección, Howard has maintained a fairly low profile, especially compared to some of his successors.
sin embargo, this election campaign, the Liberal party is wheeling out its former leader to spearhead a last-ditch push in key marginal seats it fears losing. There have been robocalls and letterbox drops.
El martes, Howard told the Guardian he was responding to a plea from the Liberal party to “campaign extensively”. He does not plan to slow down his appearances between now and election day on Saturday.
“The Liberal party has asked me to campaign extensively, which I will continue to do,” Howard said.
His campaigning message differs depending on the medium – calls, letters and in-person appearances – and the electorate.
But his visibility in Liberal-held seats threatened by teal independents is in stark contrast to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, who appears to be avoiding the inner-city seats. Liberal party sources admit party research shows Morrison is unpopular in these areas.
On the other side of the campaign, Labor has deployed Kevin Rudd to some seats, including in Melbourne, and he spoke at a party event in Brisbane on Sunday.
Julia Gillard has been ever quieter this campaign, intervening only to endorse the Australian Capital Territory senator Katy Gallagher amid concern the progressive vote in Canberra could be split.
The Liberal party is hoping Howard will trigger a positive response from people who formerly backed the Coalition.
Inviting Howard to vulnerable seats has worked well for the Liberal party in the past – most recently he joined the campaigns that saw the party win the New South Wales y elecciones federales en 2019.
sin embargo, this election, the 82-year-old has been traipsing across the country, from Perth to campaign launches in Sydney.
El martes, having previously visited Chisholm and Higgins in Melbourne, Howard appeared alongside the treasurer, jose fredenberg, campaigning in Kooyong, the traditionally blue-ribbon seat that a slew of polls predict could fall to the teal independent Monique Ryan.
His message in Kooyong is more tailored. “You may not think that everything Josh or the government has done is perfect, but how could it be?” his letter to voters states. “In these very uncertain times, he and the Liberal team are the best choice to ensure a strong future for our wonderful nation.”
In his NSW robocalls, Howard tells voters there’s “a lot at stake” this election and the Coalition government saw Australia “emerge stronger than most countries” from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just as we’re turning a corner, now is not the time to risk change. Mr Albanese simply has not presented a credible alternative. And to vote for an independent could risk a hung parliament, which would mean gridlock and be disastrous for our country,” Howard said.
In his mail-outs, Howard rallied further against the teal independents, suggesting the candidates were “not being upfront about their real intention, which is to bring down the Liberal government”.
In an interview on Sky News on Tuesday, Howard sought to play down Morrison’s popularity, and explained he was “working hard for the Liberal party both to repay the enormous support it gave me for many years”.
“But also because I believe in it and I believe in the prime minister and I believe in his deputy, jose fredenberg, who’s been a great treasurer for our country and I want to see him continue for years and years into the future as the member for Kooyong.”