News Election 2019 Bill Shorten edges PM in first leaders debate

Bill Shorten edges PM in first leaders debate

The audience declared Bill Shorten the winner of the first debate. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison smirked and Bill Shorten heckled during the first leaders debate that confirmed both men appear to genuinely dislike each other.

Swinging voters handed the Labor leader victory on Monday night – but it was a win marred by unforced errors on Labor’s franking credits policies for pensioners.

Given it was a focus group of 48 undecided voters, perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the findings. Mark Latham won the debate in 2004, too, before The Handshake with John Howard.

Around half – 25 people in the studio audience – thought Mr Shorten won and 12 undecided voters went for Mr Morrison. According to, 11 voters in the studio audience left the room no closer to making a decision.

Bill Shorten and wife Chloe share a moment outside the studio. Photo: AAP

Look at moi

As the cameras beamed live images from 7 News in Perth, it was clear that both men’s immediate challenge was looking good on the dreaded stool, television’s most unflattering chair.

The leaders started by sitting side by side but ignoring each other, prompting moderator Lanai Scarr to interject: “Mr Shorten you can speak directly to the Prime Minister as well. You guys are sitting next to each other. You don’t need to look directly down the barrel of the camera”.

The Labor leader complained that “your people” had told him to do exactly that but confirmed he was prepared to look at the bloke sitting next to him. Both men proceeded to look straight at the camera anyway.

Mr Morrison won the coin toss and got to speak first.

The proceedings got off to a glacial start and soon there was a blow up.

Car crash over the motoring pages

Mr Shorten was quizzed over electric car costs, with the moderator wanting to know the price of the Nissan Leaf model.

“I haven’t bought a new car in a while, so I couldn’t tell you,” Mr Shorten said.

But shouldn’t he know, Scarr pressed, if he wanted to introduce a target of 50 per cent electric cars?

Mr Shorten’s attempt to dodge the question didn’t impress the Prime Minister.

“I can tell you how electric cars cost more –  it’s 28,000 bucks for the same type of car,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Shorten shot back: “That’s great. We’ve got a PM spending his time in the motor pages – that’s super.”

But Mr Morrison responded: “That’s where most Australians often spend their time, mate.”

Mr Shorten replied: “I am not talking about who won the fifth at Flemington, digger.”

“You’re so harsh”

By the time Mr Morrison started accusing Labor of secretly courting Clive Palmer for his preferences, Mr Shorten had clearly had enough and started heckling.

“Rubbish! Rubbish!” Mr Shorten interjected.

Labor challenged the Coalition to make the businessman pay his workers their entitlements before he spent $50 million on election advertising and traded preferences with the Liberals.

“The only thing you’re upset about is he said you will be a danger to the economy,” Mr Morrison replied.

Mr Shorten started laughing, adding: “You’re so harsh.”

Asylum seekers

Mr Shorten conceded Labor had made mistakes on asylum seeker policy in the past, but the PM said it was “not in Labor’s DNA” to offer strong border protection.

“We are going to have boat turnbacks,” Mr Shorten said.

“I accept the lessons of the past. And I accept where the Liberal Party has an idea or a part of an idea we agree with, I will adopt it. Sometimes in politics we can actually agree.”

Not so frank on franking credits

Ron, a West Australian reader, wanted to know about Mr Shorten’s franking credit policy and how it would affect pensioners with small holdings.

“We are not interested in affecting pensioners at all, so our policy doesn’t apply to people who receive a pension or part-pension,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Morrison raised his eyebrows and said: “Sorry. I’ve got to pick him up here because it does hit pensioners.”

“If you have a self-managed super fund, it hits you,” he said.

“50,000 pensioners will be hit. It all has to do around self-managed super funds.”

Asked about the fact the 50 per cent of the value of the tax loophole went to the top 10 per cent of those with self-managed super funds, Mr Morrison said they had paid tax all their lives.


After the program, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was falsely accused on social media of “perving” at the Opposition Leader’s wife, Chloe Shorten, as he tried to view the debate.

Coming to the Liberal frontbenchers’s rescue was Mrs Shorten, who insisted that the pair had a “lovely discussion” about their families.

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