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Fear & Greed, Fear and Greed

Federal parliament officially resumes today, with tax cuts dominating headlines.

But with cost of living, industrial relations reform, trade with China, and a US election also coming up – it’s going to be a massive year in politics.

Charles Croucher, Chief Political Editor at Nine News, talks to Sean Aylmer about the key political battles in 2024.

Find out more: https://fearandgreed.com.au

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Sean Aylmer: Welcome to the Fear and Greed business interview. I’m Sean

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Sean Aylmer: Aylmer. Parliament officially resumes today, but you’d be forgiven for

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Sean Aylmer: thinking it started a couple of weeks ago when Prime

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Sean Aylmer: Minister Anthony Albanese announced a backflip on the stage 3

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Sean Aylmer: tax cuts. It’s the dominant issue as the pollies return

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Sean Aylmer: to Canberra with opposition leader Peter Dutton saying he won’t

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Sean Aylmer: stand in the way of lower taxes. Tough one for

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Sean Aylmer: the opposition, they could easily attack the government over a

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Sean Aylmer: broken election promise, accept the change in policy will see

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Sean Aylmer: about eight and nine taxpayers better off.
Charles Croucher is

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Sean Aylmer: the chief political editor for 9News. Charles, welcome to Fear

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Sean Aylmer: and Greed.

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Charles Croucher: Sean, great to be here.

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Sean Aylmer: A big year coming up. How has Anthony Albanese handled these first

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Sean Aylmer: few weeks with the changes or the proposed changes to

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Sean Aylmer: the stage 3 tax cuts?

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Charles Croucher: Look, it’s been a big surprise to start. This happened

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Charles Croucher: before Australia Day, which has usually, or has in the

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Charles Croucher: past, been almost the ceasefire that gets you through Christmas

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Charles Croucher: and to Australia Day, as the country focuses on tennis

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Charles Croucher: and cricket and avoiding natural disasters over the past few

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Charles Croucher: years. This is the big change. And what the Prime

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Charles Croucher: Minister has done, as you mentioned, has picked out the

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Charles Croucher: vast majority to be better off. And he’s also taken

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Charles Croucher: back some initiative that the government really lost in the

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Charles Croucher: latter half of 2023. That came through the failure of

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Charles Croucher: the Voice referendum and then also some of the decisions

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Charles Croucher: from the High Court that set in spark a debate

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Charles Croucher: about immigration and law and order, typically strong topics for

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Charles Croucher: the opposition and particularly in the wheelhouse of Peter Dutton.

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Charles Croucher: So this is going back to basics. They’ll say going

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Charles Croucher: back to Labor values, certainly putting a Labor lens on

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Charles Croucher: what was a coalition policy. And taking back the initiative

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Charles Croucher: when it comes to the political debate, and I think

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Charles Croucher: they’ve done that pretty well. John Howard set the gold

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Charles Croucher: standard when it comes to performing a U- turn or

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Charles Croucher: changing your mind. He went to an election with the

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Charles Croucher: GST. This isn’t quite that, but the Prime Minister has

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Charles Croucher: fronted up on this.
He has wedged the opposition to

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Charles Croucher: the point where I think you’re right, standing in the

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Charles Croucher: way of people getting tax cuts is a very bold,

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Charles Croucher: brave, probably foolish place to be, and it’s certainly, that’s not

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Charles Croucher: something you suspect from Peter Dutton. And instead it will

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Charles Croucher: be the question of whether they actually back the changes

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Charles Croucher: or just don’t oppose them, which are different things and

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Charles Croucher: come with it different risks.

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Sean Aylmer: Okay, so what do you think Dutton will do? Because

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Sean Aylmer: you just explained why it is tricky for them. He

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Sean Aylmer: doesn’t want to be the person not giving tax cuts

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Sean Aylmer: to all these people. And does it take the wind

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Sean Aylmer: out of his sails at this point or can he regather

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Sean Aylmer: that momentum from last year?

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Charles Croucher: We can regather, but it is a different argument altogether.

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Charles Croucher: And what the argument will become about on the opposition’s

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Charles Croucher: behalf, and I think they’ve done a moderate job of this

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Charles Croucher: so far, is make it about the U- turn, make

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Charles Croucher: it about the lie. And if that’s the case, how

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Charles Croucher: do you trust the Prime Minister moving forward? It’s me

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Charles Croucher: quoting some opposition lines there.
I guess the problem becomes

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Charles Croucher: that if you don’t vote for the changes, then that’s

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Charles Croucher: a government attack line that they didn’t vote for you

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Charles Croucher: to get a tax cut, and so you can still

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Charles Croucher: prosecute the process without actually prosecuting the policy itself. I

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Charles Croucher: think in terms of the policy, what it does for the

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Charles Croucher: government and what it does for a lot of Australians,

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Charles Croucher: and certainly if you speak to backbenchers around here they’ll

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Charles Croucher: start saying this, is it maps out the potential for

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Charles Croucher: six to eight good months for economic news for those

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Charles Croucher: Australians that are hurting the most. Now there are so

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Charles Croucher: many Australians, every focus group that we do, that political

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Charles Croucher: parties do, that anyone does, puts cost of living number

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Charles Croucher: one.
So what the government will argue is that with

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Charles Croucher: real incomes now on the way up, I think that will be

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Charles Croucher: confirmed when we get the wage data that comes out

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Charles Croucher: reasonably soon. What you’ll see now is that things are

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Charles Croucher: going to get easier from here on. There is a

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Charles Croucher: indexation of pension and some of the welfare rates in

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Charles Croucher: March. We then have the budget in May, there’ll be

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Charles Croucher: more cost of living measures there. Then you get potentially

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Charles Croucher: the first rate- cut, be it June, July, August, around

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Charles Croucher: that period. Then you get tax cuts in July. You

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Charles Croucher: also get a decision on the minimum wage in June

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Charles Croucher: that comes in July. So Australians are going to start

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Charles Croucher: having more money in their pay packets each week or

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Charles Croucher: fortnight or month. And that, according to some of the

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Charles Croucher: Labor MPs around here, will lift spirits in the community.

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Charles Croucher: That’s the message and the path that they’re trying to

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Charles Croucher: walk. For the opposition it is hard to stand in

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Charles Croucher: the way of that when it has been such a

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Charles Croucher: dominant feature and is the dominant feature. I guess the

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Charles Croucher: other option is, does the opposition go further? Do they

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Charles Croucher: say, and politically you could do this, do they say, ” We’re going

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Charles Croucher: to keep the lower end tax cuts and raise that top

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Charles Croucher: tax bracket to 200, 000, or do we eliminate the 37

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Charles Croucher: from a higher mark,” or they could bring it on

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Charles Croucher: earlier, or there are a couple of options that run

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Charles Croucher: around that could see more money in people’s pockets. Of

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Charles Croucher: course that all means less money in the budget. And

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Charles Croucher: while that budget situation’s pretty good year- on- year, in

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Charles Croucher: the long run it’s still in a really bad spot.

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Charles Croucher: So that’s the difficulty now. And again, it’s a fight

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Charles Croucher: being fought on Labor’s terms now. It was on the

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Charles Croucher: opposition’s at the end of last year.

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Sean Aylmer: Okay, so beyond taxes, what are we going to hear a

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Sean Aylmer: lot about this year? I presume IR legislation part two.

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Sean Aylmer: We’ll hear a lot about that. What else?

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Charles Croucher: Yeah, that’s a really interesting one, in particular that ” right

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Charles Croucher: to switch off” is something that the Greens are really

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Charles Croucher: heavily for, some of the crossbenchers have been trying for

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Charles Croucher: as well. And it’s so fundamental to the way so

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Charles Croucher: many Australians work is this, if you clock off, does

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Charles Croucher: that mean you’re off the clock effectively and that you

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Charles Croucher: won’t answer emails or answer calls, or at what stage

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Charles Croucher: does being on- call become being paid on- call? These

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Charles Croucher: are pivotal things to the way Australians work, and because

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Charles Croucher: of our phones, it’s something that has changed and warped.

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Charles Croucher: So how legislation will keep up with technology is going

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Charles Croucher: to be a big one.
Look, we’re still waiting for

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Charles Croucher: trade normalization with China. That is huge for Australia in

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Charles Croucher: terms of the budget bottom line. And then we have

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Charles Croucher: this issue, cost of living will remain huge. Housing is

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Charles Croucher: still the number one contributor to the cost of living,

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Charles Croucher: the number one issue in Australia, so that becomes big.

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Charles Croucher: But we then have these series of elections around the

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Charles Croucher: world that are going to have a major impact on

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Charles Croucher: the way Australia runs and it’s kind of out of

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Charles Croucher: our hands. There’s an election in Indonesia in the next

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Charles Croucher: two weeks. There is an election in India this year.

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Charles Croucher: There’s an election in the European Union. There’s likely an

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Charles Croucher: election in the UK, and then of course there’s the

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Charles Croucher: big one in November in the United States that could change

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Charles Croucher: everything again.
So look, this is going to be a

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Charles Croucher: lot of domestic fixes on Australia’s government’s front, cost of

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Charles Croucher: living, housing, real bread and butter issues that are so

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Charles Croucher: important to every Australian. But then always fizzling away, are

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Charles Croucher: always there in the peripheral with these international elections, at

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Charles Croucher: a time when liberal democracies are a minority sport and

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Charles Croucher: things are getting harder for democracies, not easier, and it’s

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Charles Croucher: going to be an awfully big test of all of that

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Charles Croucher: this year.

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Sean Aylmer: Stay with me, Charles, we’ll be back in a minute.

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Sean Aylmer: My guest this morning is Charles Croucher, Chief Political Editor for

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Sean Aylmer: 9News. What about polls more local? Cook is the obvious

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Sean Aylmer: one with Scott Morrison’s old seat in the southern suburbs

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Sean Aylmer: of Sydney. I would imagine that the coalition would be

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Sean Aylmer: very confident of retaining that, but still, it’ll just be

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Sean Aylmer: interesting to see what the … I mean, I’m not even

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Sean Aylmer: sure when it is, it must be in coming months,

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Sean Aylmer: I’m not sure. It’d be interesting to see what the

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Sean Aylmer: voters are saying.

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Charles Croucher: They haven’t announced a date yet because Scott Morrison hasn’t

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Charles Croucher: formally resigned yet, he’s just made his intentions clear. So

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Charles Croucher: that will happen I suspect March, April. That will be

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Charles Croucher: a big test. Obviously Dunkley in Melbourne as well. Peta

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Charles Croucher: Murphy, her old seat. That’s a really important one to

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Charles Croucher: Labor backbenches, not just because they almost to a person

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Charles Croucher: loved Peta, but because it is on a margin that

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Charles Croucher: would, if the Liberal Party were to win, that would

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Charles Croucher: really worry a lot of Labor MPs.
But on the same note, if

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Charles Croucher: they’re looking at results of holding the line in Dunkley,

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Charles Croucher: perhaps limiting it to one or 2% swing against them,

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Charles Croucher: if they do better than expected in Cook, then there’ll

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Charles Croucher: be some. And this is a minority at the moment,

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Charles Croucher: but there will be some that will go through that

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Charles Croucher: path I laid out before and think that if things

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Charles Croucher: are looking pretty good around October, November, December, and there

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Charles Croucher: is a chance they can extend their majority in the

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Charles Croucher: House of Reps, then there may be the temptation to

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Charles Croucher: call an election at the end of the year. This

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Charles Croucher: Queensland election makes it difficult, obviously the US will take

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Charles Croucher: up a lot of the oxygen. But heading into summer

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Charles Croucher: was always a really popular time for an election with

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Charles Croucher: John Howard. And there are lots of people inside the

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Charles Croucher: current government, look at the way the politics more than

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Charles Croucher: the policy of John Howard and think they did it

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Charles Croucher: pretty well.
So it’s still a minority. It’ll still be

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Charles Croucher: largely dependent on the way that things are looking at

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Charles Croucher: that time. But we’re due an election by I think

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Charles Croucher: May next year, so what’s five or six months between

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Charles Croucher: friends, if you can avoid that summer where people switch

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Charles Croucher: off, and a summer where people could lose jobs, or

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Charles Croucher: a summer where things could go wrong. If they’ve got

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Charles Croucher: the opportunity, then I suspect there’ll be some that’ll want

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Charles Croucher: them to take it as well. So we may get

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Charles Croucher: more than just polls that we see in the newspapers,

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Charles Croucher: we may get the real one.

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Sean Aylmer: Charles, I can’t let you go without asking about the

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Sean Aylmer: US election, because I know you’ve covered US elections previously.

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Sean Aylmer: Pretty phenomenal just to watch US politics play out on

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Sean Aylmer: both sides of politics as well because we talk a

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Sean Aylmer: lot about Trump, but an 81- year- old Biden coming

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Sean Aylmer: up for reelection, it’s going to be a great year, isn’t,

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Sean Aylmer: it’s going to be fun watching.

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Charles Croucher: It’s going to be remarkable. And it’s hard to search

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Charles Croucher: for a precedent in anything involving Donald Trump. We know

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Charles Croucher: what he’s trying to do now, it’s only been done

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Charles Croucher: once before by Grover Cleveland. That was well over a

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Charles Croucher: century ago. We know what he’s trying to do in

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Charles Croucher: terms of the legal side of things, he’s also going

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Charles Croucher: to be unprecedented. He’s going to spend as much time

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Charles Croucher: in courtrooms almost as on the campaign, and he is turning

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Charles Croucher: the courtroom into his campaign trail.

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Sean Aylmer: Good media.

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Charles Croucher: Yeah, yeah, absolutely is. Everyone’s going to watch. The question

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Charles Croucher: I wonder as I watch the primaries play out, is

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Charles Croucher: who is the voter that perhaps voted for Barack Obama

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Charles Croucher: in 2012, swung to Donald Trump in 2016, then said, ”

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Charles Croucher: Nope, I’ve had enough in 2020,” and went back to

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Charles Croucher: Joe Biden. Who is the voter that then four years

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Charles Croucher: later goes, ” Actually, you know what, I’m back to Trump

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Charles Croucher: again.”
That swing voter in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

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Charles Croucher: I just don’t know if there is those old members

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Charles Croucher: of what was Hillary’s Blue wall that Donald Trump crushed

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Charles Croucher: in that suburban area, who is that voter that then

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Charles Croucher: swings back to the Republicans this time around? The former

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Charles Croucher: President, President Trump’s position has been so dominant in the

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Charles Croucher: Republican Party, I wonder at what expense to independence, particularly

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Charles Croucher: suburban women that were so vital four years ago. And

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Charles Croucher: of course in the subsequent four years, we’ve had the

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Charles Croucher: High Court intervene with the Dobbs decision on abortion, which

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Charles Croucher: has really been the dominant feature of every subsequent election.

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Charles Croucher: I think we’re going to see a lot of money

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Charles Croucher: spent, a lot of focus on the race that’s coming.

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Charles Croucher: Anyone who gives you a prediction now is probably kidding

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Charles Croucher: themselves because things change so rapidly in the United States

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Charles Croucher: day to day, let alone eight months out. But it

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Charles Croucher: will be those same Rust Belt states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania,

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Charles Croucher: throw in Arizona, maybe Nevada, maybe Georgia. It’s still the

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Charles Croucher: same six, it’s still the same fight, and it’s going to be great to

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Charles Croucher: watch.
But I think Democrats will look almost at the

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Charles Croucher: same path we spoke about with the Labor government here.

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Charles Croucher: They’re about eight months ahead of us when it comes

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Charles Croucher: to … Inflation is down, wages are up, unemployment is still

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Charles Croucher: good. We assume the Fed will start cutting rates soon.

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Charles Croucher: They will hope that that good economic news we’ve seen

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Charles Croucher: for two or three months will start filtering through and

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Charles Croucher: people will feel it. There’s no good everyone talking about

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Charles Croucher: it if you’re not feeling it, the Democrats will hope

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Charles Croucher: that people will start feeling it and that’ll be enough

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Charles Croucher: to keep them on President Biden’s side, despite the obvious

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Charles Croucher: challenges for the Biden campaign.
Mike Murphy, who ran George

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Charles Croucher: W. Bush’s campaign, was involved with John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s

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Charles Croucher: campaign in California, he described it perfectly. He said Joe

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Charles Croucher: Biden’s age at the moment is like him having antlers,

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Charles Croucher: in that no matter what happens, how good the policy

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Charles Croucher: is, how successful the speech or the legislation is, he’s

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Charles Croucher: still the guy with antlers and you can’t get past

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Charles Croucher: that. So the challenge is, will enough voters who are questioning the

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Charles Croucher: guy with antlers be able to come in, maybe hold

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Charles Croucher: their nose and close their eyes and vote for the

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Charles Croucher: Democrat again. We wait and see.

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Sean Aylmer: It’s going to be a fun year, locally and internationally. Charles, thank

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Sean Aylmer: you for talking to Fear and Greed.

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Charles Croucher: Anytime.

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Sean Aylmer: That’s Charles Croucher, Chief Political Editor for 9News. This is

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Sean Aylmer: The Fear and Greed daily interview. Join us every morning

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Sean Aylmer: for the full episode of Fear and Greed, Australia’s most

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Sean Aylmer: popular business podcast. I’m Sean Aylmer, enjoy your day.