Malcolm Turnbull risks being seen as an elite “Mr Harbourside Mansion” by western Sydney voters, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff has warned.
As the prime minister heads to Windsor for the first leader’s debate of the election campaign, Peta Credlin says Mr Turnbull shouldn’t have cancelled a street walk in Penrith earlier this week.
“If it’s known you’re going to do a street walk in Penrith, the last thing you want to do, ‘Mr Harbourside Mansion’, is look like you don’t know and you are not welcome.”
Finance minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News he didn’t think the incident meant Mr Turnbull couldn’t relate to the everyday voter.
“Malcolm Turnbull is very much in touch and Malcolm Turnbull is out there talking about our plan for jobs and growth,” he said.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne jumped to Mr Turnbull’s defence, dismissing as ridiculous claims the Liberal leader has been flat in a sluggish start to his campaign.
Mr Pyne said it was Labor which had a chaotic week – and that’s what voters could expect if it won government.
“It is same old Labor,” Mr Pyne said, recycling a Liberal attack line.
First leaders debate imminent
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will go head-to-head in the first leader’s debate of the election campaign on Friday night.
The event will be the first time the two men have debated outside Parliament.
It will be in a so-called people’s forum format, with the two leaders taking questions from 100 undecided voters.
Mr Shorten wanted the event to be held in North Queensland where he has spent the week targeting coalition seats held by small margins.
“Mr Turnbull would rather stay in Sydney and debate me, than come to Townsville where a lot of people legitimately have an expectation of hearing both of us,” Mr Shorten said on Tuesday.
“So, we’ll go to him because I want all Australians to hear the issues.”
Mr Turnbull has promised there would be multiple debates during the campaign.
“I look forward to having a number of them,” he said on Sunday.
The forum will be at 7:00pm (AEST) at the Windsor RSL in the western Sydney seat of Macquarie, held by Liberal MP Louise Marcus.