With Malcolm Turnbull expected to visit the Governor-General on Sunday to send Australia to the polls, both parties have launched stinging attacks on their opponents’ pitch to voters.
It’s believed that Mr Turnbull will drive to Yarralumla just before lunchtime to dissolve both houses of parliament and kick off an eight-week election campaign.
The Coalition will paint Bill Shorten as a high-taxing, big-spending union heavy who is reviving the Rudd-Gillard years. Labor’s caricature of Malcolm Turnbull will be an out-of-touch toff pandering to the big end of town.
It will be a long and bitter winter campaign that will be decided in a marginal seats ground war.
Speaking on Saturday, Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Australians should realise Mr Turnbull favoured wealthy people.
“When you hear some people say more money doesn’t fix things, the only people who have that view are people who already have enough money,” Mr Shorten said.
“The more [people] look at the policies, not the personalities, and they see our positive plans, I’m optimistic that despite our underdog status people will realise that a Labor government will put people first,” he told Channel Nine.
And it may be Mr Shorten who has the best platform to launch his campaign on Sunday.
While the PM will have the formalities of a visit to the Governor-General, Mr Shorten this weekend revisits Beaconsfield in Tasmania to mark the 10th anniversary of the mine disaster which left two workers trapped underground for days.
It was that moment that propelled the then-leader of the Australian Workers’ Union onto the national stage and had many asking whether he could one day become a national leader.
If recent polling is any guide, Mr Shorten now has a realistic chance of leading Labor back into power after just three years on the Opposition benches.
The latest Seven-ReachTel poll, the first since the budget, puts the two-party preferred result at 50-50, indicating this will be a hard, close campaign.
However, the poll showed 33 per cent believed they would be worse off under Scott Morrison’s first budget, announced last Tuesday.
Scott Morrison used the government’s mantra of “jobs and growth” to point out the differences between the major parties.
“What you got from me this week was a national plan for jobs and growth,” he said.
“What you got from the Opposition was all politics and no plan and I think that gives a very stark choice to the Australian people.”
While Mr Shorten now says the July 2 poll will be an “education election”, he will not have it all his own way.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, campaigning in the marginal Victorian seat of Corangamite on Saturday, said the Government’s policies were superior.
“Bill Shorten has made promises in education that cannot be funded,” Ms Bishop said.
“If it’s an education election it will be to highlight that Bill Shorten’s made promises, raised expectations that he can’t meet.”
Meanwhile, one of Ms Bishop’s senior colleagues, Christopher Pyne, was feeling the tension ahead of the election announcement, saying the anticipation was “killing everybody”.
Education a key battleground
Ms Bishop said the Coalition had increased funding to education but more importantly, had found the savings to pay for it.
“We have increased funding for education that’s been paid for, not pie in the sky promises that Bill Shorten has made that haven’t been paid for.”
While Mr Shorten said the election would be about policies and not personalities, he also warned voters that there would a “civil war” inside the Liberal Party after the election.
“We know they’re going to have that fight. Let’s all make them have it from opposition,” he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
Mr Shorten admitted he had thought Mr Turnbull would lead a better government than Tony Abbott but says “he’s proven to be a massive disappointment”.
He accused the Coalition of viewing education as a cost instead of “an investment in every Australian’s future”.
“We will fight this as an education election. We will put the funding on the table to make sure every teacher in Australia gets the recognition and the support to back up what they do every day.”
He has promised to implement full Gonski funding if Labor is successful on the predicted poll date of July 2.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said voters may become tired with a long election campaign if parties were not honest about their policies and costings.
“People don’t want weasel words, they want honest and accountable government,” Senator Xenophon said.
-with AAP, ABC