As they attempted to kickstart a stalling campaign in which many pundits and pollsters are already calling for the Liberal government, Labor made their campaign launch about two words; choice, and understanding.
"This election is a battle of our generation for true believers," Bill Shorten said, flanked by benches of his shadow cabinet team.
"It's our time. Our chance to be more than a face in the crowd... In the end, the choice for Australians is simple."
Chris Bowen, aspiring treasurer, painted himself and his party as the compassionate managers of the nation's purse strings, in contrast to unpopular cuts overseen by the government.
"We understand," he repeated.
"Bill Shorten understands."
It was a relatively intimate theatre setting in Penrith, deep in the heartland of western Sydney, where Labor officially launched their campaign. The casual observer might be confused by the "launch" coming at this point – "hasn't this election been going for a year already?" would not be an unfair response – but it was so that the chosen few hundred assembled on a rainy, drizzly day to hear Shorten, Bowen, Tanya Plibersek and other Labor luminaries assemble for an event sitting somewhere between pep talk, rally and stump speech.
There had to have been one hundred corflutes dotted around the entrance alone, staked into the ground and cable-tied to portable fences erected out front – half bearing the face of Lindsay candidate Emma Husar, the others of Bill Shorten's beaming mug. A lone Nick Xenophon Team candidate braved the rain, his orange shirt and corflute (bearing a double-size rendition of his own head, hanging just below his actual head) adding a rare dash of diversity among a sea of red. Another small but hardy band of WestConnex protesters quietly strung a banner to a tree, as a pair of police moved a little closer to keep a watchful eye. Ministers and backbenchers and state premiers slowly filtered in, a proper who's-who of Labor politics from all corners of the country.
As we file into the auditorium, a sea of red curtains and red banners and red shirts and red ties and red mood lighting, there's a standing ovation for former Prime Ministers Gillard, Keating and Hawke in the front row. In contrast, Kevin Rudd, conspicuous in his absence, is later mentioned by Shorten as being overseas – barely a peep or clap was heard.
"There's more fight in Bob Hawke's right arm than in Malcolm Turnbull's whole front bench," Shorten roars, in an assertion we'd like the ABC Fact Check unit to investigate.
It is a launch trotting out some of the ALP's greatest hits from the election trail scare campaign so far; claims that a returned Turnbull government would bring in a 15 percent GST, a state-based income tax, $100,000 university degrees; that a Shorten government would "save" Medicare, support local jobs and young workers, work for housing affordability, commit to a better national broadband network and marriage equality and action on climate change; painting the ALP as the party for the people, and the Coalition as the party for business.
"Hope is not found in a three word slogan," Shorten says, standing beneath a giant banner of Labor's own four word slogan.
Draped over the red backdrop is a massive red banner of Labor's campaign tagline, "we'll put people first", just below a bank of smiling, red-shirted beautiful young people – Plibersek says they represent 100 people representing Labor's 100 positive policies.
Shorten commits to several new policies during his speech. He drops a plan to ensure Australian apprentices comprise ten percent of employees on government infrastructure projects; a tax break for small business to employ under 25s or over 55s or parents or carers, a clear contrast to the government's $50 billion tax cut which was railed against at several points during the speeches; and reversing planned cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging.
But this was not an engagement meant to surprise or shock, to give much in the way of new policy. It was about hitting key target areas, reminding voters of Labor's commitments (which, understandably, may have been forgotten by casual voters during the mammoth election campaign) and telegraphing the ALP's focus for the remainder of this election's fast-dwindling lifespan.
The main take home message? Despite the pundits writing them off, the pollsters saying Labor is not picking up steam fast enough in key marginal seats, the predictions that the Coalition has done just enough to hang on to government for another three years?
"Mr Turnbull says he's got this in the bag. He claims he has already won. I say to him, you ain't seen nothing yet," Shorten roared.Suggest a correction