During one hectic day on the election campaign trail Scott Morrison requested a bowls match against an 81-year-old local champion, spoke to Aussies struggling with their mental health and was rushed away from a cheese factory by his security detail.
He greeted every person with a smile and looked relaxed and comfortable chatting to locals in front of the media – but also when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Even Mr Morrison’s harshest critics concede he is a formidable campaigner whose skill in communicating his message all around the nation helped deliver his shock 2019 election win.
Whether he can pull off another against-the-odds victory remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the result will be decided by voters in a handful of key swing seats.
On Thursday Daily Mail Australia accompanied Mr Morrison in northern Tasmania through a packed schedule involving three events, a protest and a feisty argument between one of his advisors and a journalist.
He was composed, on message and – in his own words – ‘full of beans’ throughout the jam-packed day.
But there was some rest and relaxation at the end for the PM in the form of a beer and a can of Pringles on his RAAF plane back to the mainland.
Mr Morrison showed his softer side at the mental health clinic where he spoke quietly with patients
The day began at a Head to Health clinic in Launceston where the PM announced $55 million to support mental health across Tasmania over the next five years.
Outside the clinic, anti-Coalition protesters held signs and chanted ‘hey-hey, ho-ho, Morrison has got to go’.
Protests are rare because the major parties do not announce their campaign plans in advance – but Mr Morrison seemed unperturbed by the information leak as he walked into the clinic with a smile.
‘Those cups of teas look good,’ he said as he sat down with Head to Health staff and patients in the kitchen.
Outside the Launceston Head to Health clinic, anti-Coalition protesters held signs and chanted ‘hey-hey, ho-ho, Morrison has got to go’
During the press conference Mr Morrison fended off awkward questions about whether his support for biological sex campaigner Katherine Deves was impacting the mental health of transgender people
The PM, sitting alongside outgoing Health Minister Greg Hunt, listened to the patients’ stories and spoke softly in response.
‘De-stigmatising issues around mental health is so important,’ he told them.
‘I wish you all the best with your journey and the recovery that you’re on.’
Next he was whisked by his advisors into a private room for a seven-minute briefing ahead of a press conference where he fended off awkward questions about whether his support for biological sex campaigner Katherine Deves was impacting the mental health of transgender people.
Asked if he was tired, he declared he was ‘fighting fit (and) full of beans’ and looking forward to the rest of the campaign.
Mr Morrison nailed home some talking points, insisting ‘a vote for Labor means a weaker economy’ before concluding with his customary remark: ‘Thanks very much, everyone.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks to drinkers at the Beauty Point Bowls club in northern Tasmania on Thursday
At the second event, the Prime Minister walked quickly into the Beauty Point Bowls club in northern Tasmania and was immediately greeted by the club president Mick Savage.
‘Hey Mick,’ he boomed as the pair shook hands with cameras trained on their faces and microphones hovering above their heads.
‘How you going big fella,’ the president replied with an extraordinarily casual greeting that appeared to take the Prime Minister off guard.
‘I don’t think we’ve met before have we Mick’ he said – but there was no time to be offended because the punters were waiting.
Mr Morrison was all smiles as he chatted to locals during the visit to the bowls club after meeting president Mick (right)
The PM approached the nearest table to the door where three men were sipping cans of lager at 1pm.
‘You’re on it early,’ he exclaimed with a big smile, evoking laughter from the group as he shook their hands one by one.
The Prime Minister was warmly received by the club members – who are mostly retired – as he walked through the room before giving a short speech announcing $180,000 of taxpayer money to upgrade the club facilities.
He was introduced by Mr Savage who – true to his name – took a swipe at the PM for turning up late, saying: ‘Thank you for coming down… and waiting’.
Mr Morrison cringed and laughed along with the rest of the members and journalists in the room.
But the biggest cheer came when he announced the funding boost while making his election pitch to the TV cameras, saying: ‘I get what places like this mean.
‘If there’s not strong communities there’s not a strong country.’
Community is a theme the PM has pushed in the final days of the campaign – trying to set up a contrast between his Liberal Party and Labor which believes in the power of big government.
Mr Morrison was beaten comfortably at bowls by local champion Bruce (pictured behind the PM)
On his third visit of the day, Mr Morrison enjoyed a cheese tasting in northern Tasmania
After the speech he requested a game of bowls if the ground is dry enough, keen not miss out on a great picture opportunity that would make the 6pm news.
Local champion 81-year-old Bruce was summoned away from the bar and the pair walked outside to the green as Mr Savage scrambled to get the balls out of the shed.
Mr Morrison asked Bruce about his competition days and revealed his grandmother used to love watching bowls on TV.
If there’s not strong communities there’s not a strong country
He cracked up into a fit of laughter and was unable to take his shot when a TV reporter described him as ‘bowling his way through Bass’ – the electorate they were in – during a piece to camera.
After being smoked by the highly skilled Bruce, he walked back inside and his media advisors ordered ‘cameras down’ so he could have a sandwich and chat to the locals in a more natural setting.
The PM’s third event was a trip to Ashgrove Cheese Dairy Door where he was given a tour by general manager Richard Bennett.
He asked several questions about the story of the business, its export markets and why cheeses taste different.
Trevor Sofield (centre) confronted Scott Morrison to express his disappointment at China’s security deal with the Solomon Islands
Mr Morrison was whisked away by his security team, rushed down into the cafe’s carpark and into his private car, flanked by cameras and other local residents
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Ashgrove Cheese Dairy Door on Thursday
But the outing was cut short when the former High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Trevor Sofield, repeatedly attempted to speak to the PM about China’s secret security deal with the Pacific nation.
Mr Sofield was ushered away from the PM by his close protection officers and instead told journalists why he was so unhappy with the foreign policy ‘failure’.
One media advisor yelled furiously at a reporter, accusing her of creating a confrontation to make good TV – which she vigorously denied.
The argument perhaps proved that tensions are running high in the Coalition camp with polls predicting an 80-seat Labor majority.
After he was bundled into his car and driven to the airport, the PM’s final engagement of the day was an interview with Daily Mail Australia on his RAAF plane while flying from Launceston to Melbourne.
He munched on Pringles and sipped a brew dog IPA as he chatted about cancel culture, China, and Covid-19.
Asked if he’s going to win, Mr Morrison said: ‘I know how this plays out, I know the road to get there. But I’m always humble.’
Mr Morrison visited a laboratory in Melbourne a day after campaigning in Tasmania
Mr Morrison (pictured in a selfie with wife Jenny, their two daughters and dog) says Australia has come out of the pandemic stronger than most of the advanced countries in the world