Scott Morrison hits the Queensland marginal seat campaign trail in the ‘ScoMo Express’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison kickstarts his unofficial federal election campaign with a week-long bus road trip. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)
What possesses a political leader to burn rubber in a big, shiny bus outside a federal election campaign?
The actual election could be six months away, but that has not stopped the new Prime Minister from hitting the road in his freshly stickered mothership, dubbed the ‘ScoMo Express’.
@ScottMorrisonMP: Looking forward to hitting the road in Qld this week and keeping Australia on the right track – lower taxes, more jobs, lower electricity prices, economy building and congestion busting infrastructure, AAA balanced budgets.
He unveiled his wheels today, as he embarked on a four-day tour of marginal Queensland seats.
He is on a mission to define himself in the public imagination as a “fair dinkum” bloke who wants everyone to have the chance to “have a go”.
In a taste of campaigning to come, he told Queenslanders he is “listening”, “hearing” and “doing.” And he is using a rather large bus to help get that message across.
A video tweeted from the road showed a seat-belted PM on his largely lonely bus, clutching a tray of strawberries as he spruiked the Coalition’s new changes to farm visa rules.
He was fresh off a property on the Gold Coast hinterland, where he had been chewing the fat (and strawberries) with farmers affected by the recent needle contamination scandal.
What is there to gain from the giant billboard on wheels?
Buses emblazoned with political slogans and giant headshots have become a typical tactic on election campaigns in recent times.
Labor upped the ante in 2016, with the infamous (amongst insiders at least) ‘Bill Bus’ — a bright red beast that made its way from north Queensland to Melbourne, then Tasmania and even Perth, via town halls, pubs and schools.
Labor leader Bill Shorten featured his bus prominently at his party’s federal election campaign launch in 2016. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)
The bus became a story in itself, curated loudly by former Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who spent weeks aboard, posting updates on social media.
Leader Bill Shorten jumped on and off periodically, as did Labor MPs from respective regions, while community members were also invited along for the ride.
At the time, Mr Dastyari told the Conversation podcast it was a throwback to old-school grassroots campaigning.
“What we’re really doing is taking on board some really 1950s/1960s great Labor campaigns, great political campaigns,” he said.
“And why did we campaign this way? Because people felt engaged, people felt like they were part of it. It helped tell a story.”
The political bus excursion has traditionally been an approach adopted by opposition parties. The government of the day doesn’t consider cutting about the countryside on multiple big wheels to look entirely prime ministerial.
But with his recent and unexpected promotion, Scott Morrison has little time to win over punters before they head to the polls next year.
And never one to take a back seat, he’s going full throttle with his giant billboard on wheels through the sunshine state, trying to pit his character against Mr Shorten’s.