Scott Morrison admitted the two leadership failures he regrets during a heated pre-election interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair.
With just days until Australians head to the polls, Grimshaw grilled the prime minister on Tuesday night about his controversial new policies and unpopular decisions in office, including his infamous trip to Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires.
The Prime Minister also faced scrutiny over his problematic first home buying scheme, which will allow young people to tap into their retirement to earn a deposit, and his recent admission that he “needs to change” because he can be a “bulldozer”.
In a feisty start to the segment, Grimshaw asked Mr Morrison directly: “How long have you known you’re a bulldozer?”
Scott Morrison has revealed the two biggest mistakes he believes he made during his time in office.
Smirking at the comment, Mr Morrison admitted: “I’ve been like that for a while.”
“This has been much needed over the last few years,” he said.
“Going back to when I had to stop the ships, I’ve had a lot of tough jobs in politics and you have to have the determination to keep going.”
Grimshaw then asked Morrison, who is trailing in the polls, what he would have done differently in retrospect during his tenure as prime minister.
In response, the Prime Minister said he now realizes he could have been “more sensitive” and should have accelerated the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“I think I could have been more sensitive at times, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
‘In terms of actual policy decisions… I wish, in hindsight, we could have militarized the vaccine rollout sooner.
‘First we did it through the Department of Health. “If we had done it sooner, I think it would have made a difference.”
Tracy Grimshaw took aim at the Prime Minister after he failed to address some of her most unpopular decisions.
Grimshaw was quick to point out that the prime minister failed to mention other major criticisms of his leadership, including saying “I don’t have a hose buddy” after being criticized for going on holiday in 2019 while Australia was in crisis.
‘Wouldn’t he have referred to the heroism of rural firefighters risking lives and saving lives as holding a hose if he had his time again?’ Grimshaw asked.
Morrison said he “didn’t think that was the context of the comment” but admitted it was “not helpful.”
Grimshaw continued the line of attack, reminding the Prime Minister of the widespread outrage he sparked after refusing to meet with women’s rights activists protesting outside Parliament in March 2021.
The justice protest in Canberra emerged after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins came forward with rape allegations against a colleague, sparking a wave of sexual assault allegations from other women within Parliament.
“Would you make more of an effort to recognize and meet the women who marched in Canberra and across the country because they were tired of being marginalized?” the journalist asked.
But the Prime Minister doubled down on his decision.
The prime minister sparked outrage in December 2019 after vacationing in Hawaii as Australia dealt with one of its worst bushfire seasons. Pictured: Scott Morrison visiting bushfire-affected Sarsfield in Victoria
“No, I did the right thing that day,” the prime minister responded.
‘I offered a meeting in my office as I do with so many groups and that’s exactly it, I met with other groups that day too and I was very happy to have a discussion and would have welcomed the opportunity to get to the top of a discussion in my office.
Grimshaw asked the Prime Minister if he believes his actions have lost him female voters, prompting Morrison to list a number of women-focused policies his government has implemented.
After Mr Morrison ended by admitting that “sometimes people may not have liked my language”, Mr Grimshaw wondered whether he would have handled the “cancellation of the French submarine deal” a little better.
‘Did Emmanuel Macron get the bulldozer treatment?’ Grimshaw joked.
Mr Morrison responded: “I demanded that national interests be served and I don’t regret that moment at all.”
“I’m trying to figure out where you’ve been like a bulldozer,” Grimshaw refuted.
Morrison admitted his comments about “not holding a hose” were “not helpful.” Pictured: A satirical mural painted in the wake of the Hawaii trip saga
“Because you’ve said you’ve been a bulldozer… (but) I’ve given you three examples so far and you said you weren’t.”
Mr Morrison replied: “I didn’t say that at all.” I said that’s how I handled those situations.’
The Prime Minister continued to defend his position, stating that he was able to secure the deal on the AUKUS nuclear submarine by being “determined” and arguing that the Prime Minister “must have strength.”
In response, Grimshaw demanded to know if he intended to change his “demolition” methods as promised if he retains his job on Saturday.
“Alright, then, you’re not going to be a bulldozer if you win this election?”
‘Where are you really going to change? You’ve just been arguing that everything you’ve done has been good.’
Without giving a definitive answer, Mr Morrison replied: “What I’m saying is that there have been times that have required that level of force.”
After promising Australia will see a brighter economic future if voters stay with the LNP, Grimshaw’s attention turned to the prime minister’s controversial plan to buy his first home.
Scott Morrison’s plan to allow Australians to invest $50,000 of their surplus into the purchase of their first home could help them get into the market much sooner as prices rise (the Prime Minister is pictured campaigning in Ipswich on Monday).
The veteran journalist highlighted that retirement facilitates retirement funds by accumulating compound interest, which is generated by leaving accounts intact for long periods.
‘They already let us get raided (retirement) during the pandemic, now they’re going to let us get raided to buy a house?’ -Grimshaw suggested.
But the prime minister insisted the government was not allowing Australians to “raid” pension funds because “it was already their money”.
“It’s your money,” Mr Morrison said.
“You don’t own the retirement fund, you own it, you saved it.”
Since the proposed policy was announced on Sunday, it has been widely condemned amid concerns it will fuel the growing housing market and be detrimental to young Australians’ retirement funds in the long term.
Critics have pointed out that several Liberal Party luminaries have previously condemned the idea of introducing policies that would allow people to dip into their super to buy a home.
Morrison has previously argued the policy would not affect supply as it is designed to work alongside another plan that will encourage older Australians to move into smaller homes.
However, opponents have pointed out that encouraging downsizing will push older Australians to look for smaller homes, the same ones that new buyers will look for, continuing to drive property inflation.
The Super Home Buyer plan allows prospective home buyers to use 40 per cent of their pension, up to $50,000, to purchase their first home.
‘How does getting boomers out of their four- and five-bedroom homes help first-time buyers in a much smaller market?’ Grimshaw asked.
“If you take boomers out of their big homes, they’re going to look at the exact same smaller, more affordable market that’s already overheated for first-time buyers.”
Mr Morrison said Mr Grimshaw was “misunderstanding” his staff reduction policy.
“We’re talking about people who may have bought very modest houses to build three-bedroom houses in suburbs like Guildford or Moonee Ponds,” he said.
“These are people who can downsize and are looking for different homes.”
The interview comes after Morrison revealed to Leigh Sales on the ABC show at 7.30pm on Monday that he was not contemplating leaving politics if the LNP loses the election.
On Sunday, Morrison announced that first home buyers would be able to access 40 per cent of their superannuation up to $50,000 to buy a home.
Additionally, a re-elected coalition would expand a plan to encourage older Australians to downsize and free up housing supply.
Scott Morrison said he was not contemplating leaving politics if he loses at the polls this weekend.
Albanese said even senior Liberals had opposed the proposed retirement policy in the past.
“The government, in its desperation, has created a thought bubble that according to itself has not been modeled (and) they have no idea what the impact will be,” he said.
‘Minister Hume has belled the cat, (she) has said this will put upward pressure on house prices.’
Labour’s housing alternative involves a “help to buy” scheme in which 10,000 people on low incomes would be eligible for a capital contribution from the government to help them enter the housing market.
The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees said the coalition’s plan would drive up house prices and undermine the core purpose of the super system.
“Using Super as a deposit will drive up property prices, leaving Australians with greater debt and depleted retirement savings,” said institute chief executive Eva Scheerlinck.