Bill Shorten lands first blow in election debate

 

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison backed his ability to keep the economy strong, as Bill Shorten lashed out over electric cars in the first leaders' debate of the election.

Despite struggling in the first two weeks of the campaign, Mr Shorten won over 25 of 48 undecided voters, compared to just 12 for Mr Morrison while 11 were remained unsure.

It was an at-times fiery debate as the two leaders fired barbs at each other ahead of Friday's major face-off at the Sky News/Courier-Mail People's Forum at the Gabba in Brisbane.

Last night's debate was held in Western Australia, once considered a stronghold for the Coalition but increasingly under threat from the Labor Party, which is targeting a swath of marginal seats.

Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten speak during the first leaders forum at the Seven West Media Studios in Perth. Picture: AAP/7 Network
Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten speak during the first leaders forum at the Seven West Media Studios in Perth. Picture: AAP/7 Network

Asked about Labor's plan for electric vehicles to make up 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030, the Opposition Leader was caught out when he could not name the price of a popular model, saying he had not bought a new car in years.

He complained about "gotcha" questions and took a pot shot at Mr Morrison, who answered the question for him saying it was $28,000.

"That's great, we've got a Prime Minister spending his time in the motoring pages, that's super," he said.

Mr Shorten said Labor was not coming for voter's utes saying "we don't mind what car you drive".

He received applause from the audience, who had been independently selected by YouGov Galaxy polling company, when he attacked the Government's energy policy.

"If you want to stop polluting the environment you do have to spend some money," Mr Shorten said.

"The biggest reason energy prices are out of control is because the Government can't make up its mind on what to do on climate change.

"An argument which says you shouldn't change … is an argument which says the future is too hard."

Bill Shorten’s attack on inaction on climate change drew applause from the crowd. Picture: 7 Network
Bill Shorten’s attack on inaction on climate change drew applause from the crowd. Picture: 7 Network

But Mr Morrison sprang on the Opposition Leader's lack of detail around his policies, when Mr Shorten said he was "ready" to govern.

"If you're ready, tell us what the cost of your tax policy is. Tell us what the cost of your climate change policy is," the PM said. "He's not telling you what the cost of change is … People deserve to know what the cost of change is."

Mr Morrison said voters could trust him because he had a track record of delivering, including the first projected Budget surplus in a decade.

"If our economy can't remain strong then the funding for those essential services are at risk," he said.

He also fired shots at Mr Shorten over his franking credits tax, saying it would hurt retirees with self-managed super funds.

"Mr Shorten needs to be a bit clearer about the impact on pensioners," he said.

The pair clashed on border protection, after Mr Morrison said he "fixed it" and warned Labor had a record of overseeing an influx of asylum seeker boats.

But Mr Shorten said he accepted boat turnbacks work and said he had convinced his party to take a bipartisan position on the issue.

"I accept the lessons of the past," Mr Shorten said. "We don't want this evil trade to start again."

He said the only differences were at the "margins", such as medical evacuations of asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru.

Scott Morrison attacked Bill Shorten’s lack of detail on policies. Picture: 7 Network
Scott Morrison attacked Bill Shorten’s lack of detail on policies. Picture: 7 Network

Mr Morrison hit back, saying Labor was divided on border protection and would create an incentive for people smugglers by abolishing temporary protection visas as they had in the past.

"If you play with any element of it is an invitation for people smugglers," Mr Morrison said.

Instability in the Government was another line of attack from Mr Shorten, who latched on to the Coalition's preference deal with Clive Palmer.

"If I had members of mine, when I was a union rep, who were owed money, I would chase the money, I wouldn't give their boss a job in the Senate," he said.

Mr Morrison defended his preference deal with Clive Palmer, saying he was less "dangerous" to the country than Labor and the Greens.

"Clive Palmer should pay his workers, Clive Palmer should settle things up," he said.

Meanwhile, The Courier-Mail columnist Peter Gleeson on Monday held a special candidate debate in the ultra-marginal seat of Dawson, as he hits the road ahead of the election.

Incumbent MP George Christensen, independent Lachlan Queenan, KAP's Brendan Bunyan, and UAP's Colin Thompson went head-to-head on various issues.

"Every industry in Dawson is under attack," Mr Christensen said.



Residents ‘nearly lost everything’ as fireys fear the worst

Residents ‘nearly lost everything’ as fireys fear the worst

Find the latest alerts and warnings here

Lightning strikes behind five bushfires

Lightning strikes behind five bushfires

This is the full list of Queensland bushfire alerts and evacuations

Fire flares at Warwick Gymnastics Club

premium_icon Fire flares at Warwick Gymnastics Club

FIREFIGHTERS responded quickly to the frightening scene.