News Election 2019 ‘No need to get nasty’: PM and Labor leader talk up free speech in policy-heavy debate

‘No need to get nasty’: PM and Labor leader talk up free speech in policy-heavy debate

PM and Bill Shorten at the final leaders' debate. Photo: AAP
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Bill Shorten declared that gays are not going to Hell – despite rugby star Israel Folau’s views – and Scott Morrison told his opponent “There’s no need to get nasty”.

In the third and final leaders’ debate, the Prime Minister and the Labor leader sparred over policy detail on climate change, childcare and cancer treatment costs.

Mr Shorten was strongest when he challenged the PM on climate change.

Mr Morrison was strongest when he challenged the Labor leader on policy details, including his plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatment.

On that front, Mr Shorten confirmed he will release the ALP’s costings in full on Friday, just a week before the May 18 election.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the third Leaders Debate at the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: AAP

Gays not destined for Hell

One of the most fascinating moments was when both discussed their unease over the Israel Folau debate. The rugby union superstar faces a ban from the sport for social media posts saying gays are going to Hell.

Moderator Sabra Lane asked both what should be done with the freedom of speech dilemma.

“Free speech is one of our fundamental freedoms, so is religious freedom. I feel this very strongly. I mentioned it in my maiden speech to the Parliament. If you’re not free to believe, what are you free to do in this country?” Mr Morrison replied.

“Freedom of speech is important, but we have to exercise it responsibly and exercise it in a society such as ours with civility and due care and consideration to others.”

Mr Shorten then surprised by arguing strongly for religious freedoms, before adding he doesn’t believe in Hell.

“People should be free to practise their religion,” Mr Shorten said.

“… Mr Morrison is right. It’s a contractual negotiation at one level, but I’m uneasy about where that debate’s gone.

“On one hand, I think Israel Folau is entitled to his views. And he shouldn’t suffer an employment penalty for it … But I also think that we’ve got to be mindful about the other side of the equation.

“People putting out on social media that if you’re gay you’re going to go to Hell, I get that’s what he genuinely believes.

“I don’t think if you’re gay you’re going to go to Hell. I don’t know if Hell exists actually. But I don’t think if it does that being gay is what sends you there. So I am uneasy.”

Franking credits a heinous tax

Scott Morrison dubbed Labor’s “retiree tax” on franking credits a heinous tax.

But he ruled out using Paul Keating’s 1993 tactic of warning voters if they backed John Hewson they would get his policies, saying he “wasn’t interested in that”.

“It’s a heinous tax on Australians who have worked hard all of their lives. And to be told they have to pay a higher rate of tax than others do on their dividends based on their marginal rate of tax, I think is wrong,” Mr Morrison said.

“I think to treat retirees as if they’re self-funded retirees who have put themselves in that situation to say they’re no longer independent and a recipient of some special largesse from the government is very offensive to them.”

Mr Shorten said it was time to end giving a tax refund to retirees who don’t pay tax.

“I can understand why some people don’t want to lose the money, I get it,” he said.

“But there’s no principle of tax law anywhere since the ancient Romans which says you get a tax refund when you haven’t paid income tax. It’s a gift.”

No need to be nasty

There was a volley over Labor’s refusal to announce who its home affairs would be if it wins.

Morrison: “Who is your home affairs minister going to be?”

Shorten: “We will pick after the election.”

Morrison: “I was wondering.”

Shorten: “Will you keep the same environment minister?”

Morrison: “Yes.”

Shorten: “Where is she? If you win you’ll have more people to promote because so many of your current ministry is leaving.”

Morrison: “No need to get nasty.”

Shorten: “I’m sorry.”

Morrison: “Smile, it was a joke.”

Climate change

Mr Shorten accused the Prime Minister of a scare campaign on climate change.

“We all know the Liberal Party tears itself apart over climate change. This isn’t me saying that – just ask Malcolm Turnbull,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr Morrison replied: “Bill Shorten said it was a dumb question the other day to ask what the cost was. I don’t think it is. I think it’s a fair question.”

Mr Shorten’s retort did not hold back.

“Actually, something that Scott said I agree with, I accept the cost question is not a dumb question. I’ll rephrase that, I think it’s a dishonest question,” Mr Shorten said.

“It’s a charlatan’s argument.

“The same with asbestos. There was a cost to stop using asbestos in buildings. But I tell you what the advantage was – it saved lives. When we’ve look at the debate about cost it is a dishonest argument when you don’t look at the net benefit.”


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