Looking deep into his opponent’s eyes, Labor leader Bill Shorten aptly summarised the state of his relationship with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I just can’t make you happy,” he offered.
It’s like that when you’re trying to take someone’s job.
Moments earlier, he’d dubbed the PM a “classic space invader” as the two went toe-to-toe over taxation.
The two sparred, tried out their best zingers and ridiculed the other’s federal election commitments in the second of their leaders’ debates.
But day 22 of the federal election will be better remembered for the political careers it potentially ended rather than the policies the parties wanted to spruik.
Candidates overshadow leaders’ debate
Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten strode onto the debate stage having endured their worst days on the campaign.
Each had cut loose a candidate in seats their parties mere weeks ago had wanted to win.
Now they had tax on their mind. And climate change, education, religious freedom, mental health and the economy, in what proved to be their most substantive battle of the campaign to date.
Here, the muckraking of the day was a thing of the past.
Gone were the awkward exchanges from their stilted Seven West Media debate in Perth on Monday.
The leaders went largely uninterrupted as they used their policy pitches to attempt to eviscerate their opponents.
Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister argued, would hurt the economy with higher taxes, blow out the budget with climate change commitments and slug pensioners with a so-called retirees’ tax.
Mr Morrison, the Opposition Leader argued, would offer more years of Coalition chaos, would damage the economy by not taking climate change seriously, and drive a further gap between Australia’s wealthiest and poorest.
For punters there were answers. For political wonks, policies.
Ultimately, it was a far cry from what had come earlier in the day.
‘Ill-informed’ Liberal turned independent
The week’s major party political body count hit four early on Friday.
The Prime Minister had backed his Tasmanian contender as early allegations emerged about Ms Whelan’s social media history.
His support went so far as to campaign alongside her.
But Ms Whelan’s absence from his press conference later that day rang early alarms that the support was wavering.
The PM argued she was missing because he was no longer in Lyons — a precedent clearly not set when he was campaigning in neighbouring electorates a week earlier.
By the following morning, with his feet firmly on the mainland and in the face of new anti-Muslim allegations, prime ministerial support was lost and Ms Whelan’s resignation happily accepted.
Morrison: The information in front of us yesterday was not the information that we were able to receive overnight.
Journalist: Have you been lied to?
The Coalition’s campaign effort will now focus on the Nat in the race, Deanna Hutchinson.
It was Ms Whelan’s alleged support for a Pauline Hanson post on Facebook that landed her in trouble — posts she now describes as ill-informed.
That post happened years ago and now she’s facing a challenge the One Nation leader herself contended with two decades ago.
The Liberal Party dumped Ms Hanson at the 1996 election after ballots had been printed.
She went on to win that battle, setting up a political story still being written.
Labor supports and then dumps candidate
“People say we look alike,” Mr Shorten told Mr Morrison during the leaders’ debate.
“But I don’t see it.”
He mightn’t see it but the voters could be forgiven for getting the scandals, the leaders and parties confused.
As Mr Morrison offloaded his Tasmanian candidate, Mr Shorten’s return to Melbourne had him flying into one of his own.
Rape, lesbian and Catholic jokes his candidate Luke Creasey engaged in years earlier were clouding Mr Shorten’s ability to sell disability funding commitments on Friday.
“Stupid is stupid,” the Opposition leader offered as he fronted the cameras with Mr Creasey tellingly missing.
Though scathing of the conduct, he stuck with his candidate.
By lunch, his tone was changing — albeit slowly.
More posts had emerged, the candidate’s former high school employer was distancing itself from him and the Opposition leader was suddenly demanding an inquiry.
He wouldn’t need to wait for the report to come back, with Mr Creasey pulling the pin himself.
And with that, the week’s major party political body count hit five.
The seats shaping the election
The Prime Minister and Opposition leader have had a lot in common in recent days.
They’ve travelled to the same places, they’ve battled similar candidate scandals.
And now gone head-to-head in two leaders’ debates.
The debate audience broke 43 per cent in Mr Shorten’s favour, 41 per cent for Mr Morrison, with 16 per cent left undecided.
Voters in the rest of the country have 15 more days to decide how they’ll judge the two men.