ScoMo, a man of the people.
ScoMo, a man of the people.

The warning that Labor can’t ignore

Labor can't say it wasn't warned that Scott Morrison would slip into affable campaigning guise as smoothly as amber fluid down the throat on a hot day.

In fact that's what happened.

Back in November reported in words and pictures how the Prime Minister worked the crowd at the PM's cricket match in Canberra, downing beef with the punters.

Taking the Bob Hawke approach to popularity: necking beers at the cricket.
Taking the Bob Hawke approach to popularity: necking beers at the cricket.

The report said: "Scott Morrison and a cricket crowd have given Labor a warning that the Prime Minister will not be an election campaign pushover.

"And it revealed a ScoMo many voters do not know - but could become familiar with."

This campaign has not seen much of past Morrisons, such as the grim overlord of inhospitable asylum seeker detention centres, or the Budget slasher withering services and payments.

This Morrison was relaxed and interactive with crowd members, a rehearsal of his campaign persona as the friendly bloke down the road who likes sport and would lend you his lawnmower.

The authenticity of this Morrison might be challenged, but after a crucial week in which he emerged in better shape than Labor's Bill Shorten, it cannot be denied.

Mr Shorten is also a practised and effective campaigner in the flesh.

He does better addressing workers in a factory yard than Mr Morrison because it is a familiar habitat.

However, in general terms, Mr Shorten has been the stern face of Labor's campaign, even as he offers hope to cancer sufferers fighting the disease and the depletion of finances that comes with it.

Not a lot of laughs there.

Far from being cheerless, Mr Morrison has swum laps at public pools, celebrated the Winx win at the racecourse, and sat through the new episode of Game of Thrones, including the scene in which the actors had to shed their underwear to perform.

One problem with this knockabout Morrison is that he is so keen to please he feels driven to agree with whomever he is talking.

Three days ago, Mr Morrison attended a meeting of older voters in Corangamite when one of the carefully filtered invitees wanted to know why Australia didn't have nuclear electricity generation?

A polite rumble of approval quickly told the Prime Minister the room thought this would be a good idea.

So he danced around an answer, without any great skill, leaving open a re-elected Coalition might indeed look at the matter.

Labor accepted the opening and quickly asked voters if they wanted a Morrison nuclear reactor in their backyard.

It took him a couple of days to reject the suggestion and accuse Labor of scare tactics, an irony that wasn't missed by observers.

Winning voters over one beer at a time.
Winning voters over one beer at a time.

Mr Morrison's modus operandi had been to chat up to voters and when the mood was relaxed drop a massive scare bomb of his own.

It might be the absurd notion Labor would force people to buy expensive electric cars, or to manufacture a huge number and claim this was how much a Labor policy would cost.

First he wins the attention of voters in benign fashion, then he caters to and magnifies their apprehensions.

And Labor, sticking to its health campaign program, has usually been slow to respond.

The Morrison strategy is a direct contradiction to the 2016 election.

Back then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted on a positive campaign and Labor filled the negative void with Mediscare.

Mr Morrison is much more aggressive and the big grin disguises a determination play hard, particularly in the final three weeks after the Anzac Day break.

One huge risk will be he might overreach. It should be remembered this was the Prime Minister who spent $185 million in taxpayer money so he could fly to Christmas Island to inspect an unnecessary project and warn of an asylum seeker invasion that was not going to happen.

- Malcolm Farr is's national political editor. Continue the conversation @farrm51

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