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Trust deficit will hang heavily over the election campaign

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison finds himself astride a particularly toxic moment in Australian history, and one whose entrails will be exposed in an election campaign.

Political journalists like to predict that each election will be more divisive, and, yes, more toxic than others that have gone before. These forecasts should be regarded sceptically.

Scott Morrison is the leader at a particularly toxic moment in Australia's history. Photo: Dean Lewins/AAP

However, it is the case the country is more "confused'', as the historian Stuart Macintyre puts it, than at other contentious moments in its history.

The rise of populism, including an unpleasant version of "anti-other'' ethno-nationalism, with its echoes in a Persil-white Australia, is reflective of the country's mood.

This is Australia's "Tea Party'' movement. The American version's influence on American politics was disregarded by a Democratic Party in thrall to the out-of-touch Clintons until it was too late and we got Donald Trump.

What is clear is that the centre of Australian politics is under increasing stress. A reasonable question on the eve of this 2019 election is: can the centre hold, or will we witness a further fragmentation of the political system and, therefore, more instability?

Ian McAllister, of the ANU, whose long-established Australian Election Study is the authoritative survey........

© Canberra Times