He has been prime minister for just over a month, since Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in the second Liberal leadership spill at the end of August, but Scott Morrison has been working hard to sell himself as a down-to-earth alternative to his millionaire predecessor from the moment he was sworn in.
Now Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has revealed that he thinks the Liberal National Party would have suffered a “significant defeat” were Turnbull still sitting in The Lodge at the next election, saying Morrison has put the government firmly “back in the race”.
Appearing on Channel Nine’s the Today show, Dutton said: “I believe very strongly we were well on our way to a significant defeat at the election. I honestly believe that.
“I think the government is doing well. I think we are back in the race. We are back in the game.”
Dutton, who challenged Turnbull for the top job himself and was ultimately beaten by the former treasurer, reckons it’s the prime minister’s likability that stands him in such good stead with the Australian public as “people can relate to him” as a husband and father of two young daughters.
“I think it is obvious the government has done very well under Scott Morrison,” he added.
“I think he has a very good story to tell. I think people can relate to him. I think he is down to earth. He is talking about issues that are relevant to families.”
The Liberal frontbencher also admitted that he has “a black eye and bruised ribs” from his defeat in the party room, but said he has no regrets about triggering the spill that saw Turnbull ousted as leader of the Liberal party, and therefore the country.
Morrison won some supporters in recent weeks thanks to his tough stance on the strawberry contamination crisis, as he announced strict new consequences for any Australians found to be involved in the planting of needles.
Addressing media at a press conference at the time, the PM said anyone involved in spiking food could face a decade behind bars. He described those involved so far as “cowards” and “grubs” and said new laws would target the reckless behaviour.
His strong words were reflected in Monday’s poll results, which showed Morrison’s personal approval rating had climbed a further three points (45 per cent), while Labor leader Bill Shorten fell four points (32 per cent).
While the government has remained coy on whether it will call an early election, it still trails the Opposition on a two-party preferred basis, at 46 per cent to 64 per cent.