Undecided voters give Shorten the edge in debate

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shake hands before the first leaders forum at the Seven West Media Studios in Perth yesterday. Photo: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shake hands before the first leaders forum at the Seven West Media Studios in Perth yesterday. Photo: AAP

UNDECIDED voters picked Bill Shorten as the winner of the first leaders’ debate, despite questions about the cost of his tax and climate policies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison pressured the Labor leader on how much he will increase taxes and what his climate policies will do to the economy.

But Mr Shorten said the cost of inaction was greater, and he argued it was time to put middle Australia first instead of the nation’s wealthiest.

A record 110,000 people cast early votes on Monday before the debate, and Mr Morrison used that to demand answers from Labor on the cost of tax and climate policies.

“Voting has started, people deserve to know what the cost of change is,” Mr Morrison said on Monday night.

But Mr Shorten said people were voting early because they wanted change, and that included action on the climate and healthcare.

“The cost of not changing is this: longer waiting lists,” Mr Shorten said.

“I can categorically say that if we don’t take real action on climate change that will be a disaster for our economy.”

Of the 48 voters watching the debate in person, 25 said Mr Shorten won, 12 picked Mr Morrison, and 11 remained undecided.

Mr Shorten is still in Perth on Tuesday to announce a $1 billion program to help up to 4000 schools put solar panels on their roofs

“Schools are an excellent location for solar investment and the creation of virtual power plants, because they often don’t use energy at times of peak demand,” Mr Shorten said.

“Annual savings from reduced electricity costs alone have been estimated to be up to $89,000 for a large school in NSW, or $15,000 for a small school.”

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will provide $1 billion in cheap loans to schools so they can install the solar panels.

Mr Morrison is also still in Perth on Tuesday and he will announce $20 million to put 2600 CCTV cameras at 500 crime hot spots around the country.

“Australians are entitled to feel safe in their own homes and within their local communities,” Mr Morrison said.

The coalition is aiming to hold Attorney-General Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce, on a margin of 3.8 per cent, and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck, on a margin of 2.1 per cent.

But the Liberals are also targeting Labor MP Anne Aly’s seat of Cowan, which she holds by just 0.7 per cent.

Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest will host a fundraiser for Mr Morrison on Tuesday night, two days after he hosted a similar one for Mr Shorten.

Hits and misses from the great debate

PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON

Hit: Mr Morrison swayed the audience by questioning the cost of Labor’s policies, highlighting the lack of detail on costings. The prime minister noted that early voting has begun, and Australians deserve to know the full details from Labor now.

Miss: The prime minister lost out to Labor leader Bill Shorten when it came to climate change and Clive Palmer. The opposition leader was applauded for saying solar panels were an investment for the future and when noting how the coalition were helping Mr Palmer and One Nation get into parliament.

LABOR LEADER BILL SHORTEN

Hit: Mr Shorten said not acting on climate change would have a greater cost for the economy in the future, making the point that parents shouldn’t be passing on a worse environment to their children. The audience welcomed his critique of Mr Palmer and his attacks on the coalition doing a preference deal with the controversial billionaire.

Miss: The Labor leader was unable to put a figure on the cost of his changes to the tax system and his emissions reduction target, which left some of the audience members questioning his policies.

– AAP