Former prime minister John Howard has joined Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy on the campaign trail, as Premier Daniel Andrews called for men to change their behaviour in the wake of Luke Foley’s resignation as NSW Labor leader.
- Mr Howard suggested federal leadership instability would not hurt the Coalition’s chances in the state election
- Mr Guy spruiked innovation vouchers for businesses in the food and fibre industries
- Mr Andrews promised to rebuild the court precinct in the regional city of Bendigo
Mr Howard, the most recent Australian prime minister to serve a full term, received an enthusiastic reception from members of the public as he toured two shopping centres in Melbourne’s south-east with Mr Guy.
At Fountain Gate Shopping Centre in the marginal Labor-held seat of Narre Warren North, Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister praised Mr Guy’s “well-judged” campaign and his focus on law and order and cost of living issues.
He said it was always difficult to defeat a first-term government, but played down the significance of polls suggesting the Coalition was trailing Labor.
“I’ve seen polls been defied before,” Mr Howard said.
And after weeks of state Liberals privately blaming federal Liberal turmoil for poor polling in Victoria, Mr Howard said voters could differentiate between the state and federal spheres.
“I think people distinguish. They always have,” he said.
“I’ve seen a long history of people voting differently in state and federal elections.
“Now obviously, the federal Liberal Party’s been through a few ups and downs, but I think Scott Morrison has got off to an excellent start as our new prime minister.”
Mr Howard refused to comment on former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s interview on Q&A last night, in which he called on several ministers to explain why they challenged his leadership in August.
“I don’t have any comment to make on Malcolm Turnbull’s interview,” Mr Howard said.
Asked for his views on the high rate of turnover of Australian prime ministers in recent years, Mr Howard said he was “not going to give a political science lecture outside a Westfield Shopping Centre”.
Mr Howard was also asked about how Liberal supporters should vote in the inner-Melbourne seat of Richmond, a Labor-Greens contest in which the Liberal Party has decided not to run a candidate.
“The Greens are the true extremists of Australian politics,” Mr Howard said.
“I regard the Greens as more extreme, even than the extremities of the Labor Party.”
Mr Guy said Mr Morrison would campaign with him next week.
Earlier, Mr Guy announced businesses in the food and fibre industries would be able to apply for innovation grants as part of a scheme worth $9 million over four years.
Meanwhile, the Labor campaign travelled to Bendigo, where Mr Andrews announced a $152 million commitment to rebuild the regional city’s law courts.
Mr Andrews also spoke about the resignation of Mr Foley, who quit yesterday, after ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper released a statement alleging he had placed his hand inside her underpants at a Christmas function in 2016.
Mr Andrews praised Ms Raper and said it was appropriate that Mr Foley resigned.
“None of us should forget how much courage it takes for a woman to come forward and make a complaint like that,” Mr Andrews said.
“Blokes have just got to stop behaving like this. Like, this is not on. This is not on and it must stop.”