Anthony Albanese has emerged as the narrow winner from the first leaders’ debate, as the opposition leader accused the government of having no vision for the future.
Both Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced questions from a panel of 100 undecided voters last night, ranging from the economy, nursing in aged care and the need for a federal integrity commission.
Of the voters in the room, 40 per cent backed the opposition leader while 35 per cent thought the prime minister had the better night, while 25 per cent still remained undecided.
Albanese accused the Government of just treading water while Morrison touted his track record as prime minister.
When asked about how the nursing workforce would be supported in aged care, Albanese said there was a critical need for more nurses to be trained up.
“Most people would be surprised that there aren’t nurses in nursing homes, because it seems so fundamental,” he said.
“Our aged care plan isn’t something we’ve dreamed up, it is something that comes from the royal commission.”
While the opposition has pledged to have a nurse on call 24/7, Morrison said extra staff couldn’t just “fall out of the sky”, warning the plan would have repercussions in the sector.
“If you make that standard in aged care facilities right across Australia right now, then you will be closing aged care facilities in rural and regional communities across the country,” he said.
Morrison used the debate to spruik his economic record as leader, coming off the back of the COVID pandemic.
“The budget has turned around by over $100 billion, that is the single biggest turnaround in about 70 years,” he said.
“The reason for that is we’ve got people into work, off welfare … that is the major way you turn a budget around.”
Albanese went on the attack, saying the government was not focused on the future beyond the May 21 poll.
“The problem with this Government is that it’s just treading water, not pursuing any significant economic, social or environmental reforms,” he said.
“(The government) are shooting for a second decade in office and they haven’t shown any plan.”
One question came from the mother of a four-year-old child with autism, who had NDIS funding cut by 40 per cent.
While Morrison praised the work of the NDIS, while noting it was a difficult system, the prime minister drew criticism online after saying he and wife Jenny were “blessed” that their children did not have disabilities.
Albanese said the situation regarding the funding cuts was not an isolated one.
“Labor does the big things and we also do the big reforms,” he said.
“You can’t be scared of the future, you have to shape the future otherwise, the future will shape you.”
Both leaders traded blows over party stances on boat turnbacks, with Morrison accusing Albanese of being inconsistent on the issue during Labor’s previous term in government.
“Other countries around the world have said Australia got it right,” Morrison said.
“You’ll know I’ll do it because I’ve done it.”
When asked by Albanese about why the prime minister was “looking for division”, Morrison responded he was “looking for the accuracy”.
The opposition leader said Labor would do boat turnbacks should it win government.
Following news of the Solomon Islands signing a security pact with China, Albanese criticised Morrison on foreign policy failings, while also labelling Pacific Minister Zed Seselja a “junior burger”.
“This isn’t so much a Pacific step up, it’s a Pacific stuff up,” he said.
The prime minister said the issue in the Solomons was serious and one the Government had been conscious of for a long time.
Integrity in politics also came up as a major issue, with Labor pledging an anti-corruption commission “with teeth”, while the prime minister said he wanted to see a commission deal with criminal matters and not for it to be a kangaroo court.