Election campaigns are meant to be about the future.
Yet day 33 of Australia Votes 2019 will be better remembered for the medieval overtones that managed to take over.
In hindsight, there were early warning signs federal politics was heading back into the dark ages.
It was only a few months ago that a senator was forced to clarify that while his blood was smeared across Pauline Hanson’s Parliament House office, he couldn’t for the life of him remember how on earth it got there.
But now, political stakes are being driven through hearts (metaphorically, of course) and gay people are being doomed for eternal damnation (well, sort of).
Why? Because 2019.
Keating talking in codes
Former prime minister Paul Keating has a way with words. It’s something he’s renowned for.
His first intervention in the campaign, dubbing Australia’s spy chiefs as “nutters”, in one sentence put national security policies on the political agenda.
Today he used an interview with ABC Radio Melbourne to clarify that he was speaking in code, not literally, to send a message to the nation’s leading security agencies.
He clearly wasn’t using code when he used that interview to launch a withering attack on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, urging voters to “drive a political stake through his dark political heart”.
But wait, there’s more.
The former PM went further, dubbing Mr Dutton the meanest politician he’d witnessed in five decades.
The Home Affairs Minister has bigger issues to deal with as he seeks re-election in his marginal Brisbane electorate of Dickson, but he did find time to hit back at Mr Keating, who he accused of having overseen “heartless mismanagement of the economy” during his time leading the nation.
Bill Shorten used a character attack on Peter Dutton to criticise the Prime Minister. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)
Ruling out eternal damnation
Within little over an hour of Mr Keating offering his attack, the Opposition Leader was being pressed to see if he agreed with the sentiment.
Before a journalist had finished asking Bill Shorten if he agreed, deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek cut in.
“We’ve all said that about Peter Dutton,” she said, attracting a smile from Mr Shorten.
It wasn’t the first time she’s offered an assessment on the Home Affairs Minister this campaign.
Mr Shorten, meanwhile, wasn’t taking the bait and instead used the question to launch an attack of his own.
It wasn’t the Home Affairs Minister in his sights, but the Prime Minister.
What came next was hours of debate about whether or not gay people go to hell.
By the day’s end, both leaders had insisted, in case there had been any confusion, that neither believed with that proposition.
A clearly frustrated Mr Morrison dismissed the saga, insisting “I’m not running for Pope, I’m running for Prime Minister”.
Having demanded Mr Morrison make his stance clear on eternal damnation, Mr Shorten then offered that the nation needed to stop tearing itself apart with “toxic debates”.
Scott Morrison was more interested in talking about first home buyers than Paul Keating’s comments. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
Leaders agree on housing deal
The one thing the two leaders were able to agree on was the support they would offer first home buyers.
Labor was quick to back a Coalition commitment to help buyers secure their first home with just a 5 per cent deposit — well below the industry standard of 20 per cent.
The Treasury hasn’t costed the proposal and it didn’t go through Cabinet and yet it has bi-partisan support.
The Coalition expects it will cost $500 million and be available to 10,000 individuals or couples each year.
Last year, there were 110,000 first home buyers.
The Prime Minister’s arrival in a housing estate draws the attention of Boothby voters. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
The seats shaping the election
Australia officially goes to the polls on Saturday.
But one in six people, as of this morning, clearly weren’t willing to wait and have already had their say, according to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
The AEC said 2.6 million early votes had been cast prior to today, with 400,000 people visiting pre-poll centres on Monday.
It’s almost double the number that voted at the same time in the last federal election.
For people who are yet to vote and are confused about the process, the ABC has developed a tool that will make the process a whole lot easier.
The voting tool allows people to play with draft ballots and determine their own preference flow that can be printed out, screen shot or emailed to take with them into the polling booth.
There’s just four days to go.