Australia’s aspiring prime ministers used Wednesday night’s third debate to choose between the “risk” of change and the benefits of a potential “better future”.
It was a similar picture at the more local level, where Morrison’s best result was a 44-44 draw at the Western Australian seat of Hasluck.
In policy terms, the biggest rift between the two sides has crystallized over the cost of living and wages, fueled by Albanian support for a minimum wage increase in line with inflation and Morrison’s claims that his opponent’s comments were irresponsible.
In a relatively civilian final showdown, Morrison repeatedly tried to portray his opponent as unprepared for the job, as he did throughout the campaign.
“This election is a choice. It’s a choice about who can manage and deliver that strong economy because that’s what your future depends on,” Morrison said of Seven.
And now is not the time to risk that for an unproven opposition and Labor leader who has no plan for our economy and the experience of the challenges we face.
“A vote for the Liberal and Nationals on May 21 is the strong, responsible and safe choice for a strong economy for a stronger future.”
Albanian, meanwhile, stressed the government’s alleged mistakes in responding to the wildfires, floods and pandemic crises.
He said Morrison asked for “three more years of more of the same”.
“They don’t really have a plan or policy for the future because they’re struggling with the present and that’s why we have constructive plans and processes in these elections that we’re proposing to the Australian people,” he said. †
“If we don’t elect a new government, we will miss the opportunity to increase women’s economic participation through cheaper childcare.
“We will miss the opportunity to end the climate wars. We will miss the opportunity to tackle the cost of living and stop everything from going up except people’s wages.”
After a day when the minimum wage came to the fore, Albanian clarified his stance on the issue, claiming he was shocked that the two sides could not come to a consensus.
He said he would support a decision by the Fair Work Commission to raise the minimum wage by 5.1 percent, in line with the cost of living and the equivalent of an additional $1 per hour at the current rate of $20.33. But he didn’t immediately insist.
“That’s two cups of coffee a day,” he said.
“And the idea that two cups of coffee a day is something that would hurt the economy just doesn’t seem right to me.
“We need to take care of vulnerable people. We need to do more than just say ‘thank you so much for everything you’ve done during the pandemic, but now we’re going to cut your salary’.”
Morrison said he would welcome pay increases for all workers, but again declined to commit an amount, claiming that pay increases could further drive up the cost of living.
“We can’t have a situation where someone gets a raise, but then gets it all back in higher interest rates and a higher cost of living,” he said.
“That’s why we think the most sensible way is to look at all the evidence and not just run to the mouth and just run with things.”
Albanian claimed that “non-inflationary wage increases” were possible as long as they did not exceed “inflation plus productivity”.
Both leaders acknowledged how difficult it had become for many people to make ends meet as prices of groceries, gasoline and housing soared
Morrison said the recently announced $250 one-off payments for retirees and others on regular incomes would help Australians and blamed the rising cost of living on external factors.
“We didn’t want Australians to be affected by the rising cost of living caused by the war in Europe and the problems in China, and the floods that are driving up fruit and vegetable prices,” he said.
Albanian pointed to longer-term strategies such as cutting childcare costs, creating incentives for women to join the workforce, cutting electricity bills through Labor’s energy policy and lowering the cost of medicines. .
“How crazy is it in 2022 that if some women want to work a fourth or fifth day, it costs their families money,” he said.
“Everyone knows that when your youngest child goes to kindergarten, families are suddenly better off. That makes no sense.”
The leaders were also asked to rule out a carbon tax or a mining tax to pay off debt. They quickly agreed.
The Labor leader denied Morrison’s claims that his party’s efforts to fight climate change, using the disused “guarantee mechanism” introduced by the coalition government led by Tony Abbott, were a “creeping carbon tax”. He argued that the coalition failed to prepare the electricity grid for an influx of renewable energy.
“Climate change is real and it’s here now. We’ve seen it with the wildfires and we’ve seen it with the floods,” he said.
“We need to make sure that we actually harness the energy that business has for this change, to make sure we take advantage of the opportunities out there. Australia can be a renewable energy superpower for the world.”
Morrison reinforced his commitment to fighting climate change with technology and said his administration is investing $22 billion in such measures.
“You invest in the companies to make the change,” he said.
“You don’t burden the law with a carbon credit scheme, taxing their operations.”
While the debate was less boisterous than previous clashes between the two, it was not without barbs.
Morrison was asked to justify calling “Albanian the most dangerous Labor leader since Gough Whitlam and that could be unkind to Gough Whitlam”.
“This is a Labor leader who is on the far left of the party and who has been very licentious,” he said.
“He’s a loose unit when it comes to the economy. He makes things up as he goes.”
He said Albanians did not have the necessary experience to run the country financially.
Albanian said he would lead the “most experienced incoming Labor government in our history”.
“I served as Deputy Prime Minister for six years, as a senior minister for infrastructure, communications, regional development for a range of portfolios and was head of government in the House of Representatives, chairing the entire parliamentary program during that period. I also make this point “, he said.
“I have acted as prime minister a few times.”
Asked to define one strength in his opponent that “you admire but also worry about,” Morrison delivered what moderator Mark Riley called a “compliment sandwich.”
“He has shown a lot of determination during that period to get up from very humble beginnings,” he said, referring to Albanian who never forgot his time on housing committees.
“And I admire that in Australians and I admire that in Anthony, and that’s great.”
The Strangest Moments of the 2022 Federal Election Campaign
But he claimed that Albanian had not been able to demonstrate that he was perfectly prepared to get the job done.
Albanian resisted the urge to have a “squatter” to his opponent in return.
He said “Scott is absolutely committed to his nation” and emphasized increases in funding for mental health services, especially the youth organization Headspace.