News Politics Australian Politics Federal Election 2022 PM defends ‘spirited’ debate, as leaders keep up their animosity
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PM defends ‘spirited’ debate, as leaders keep up their animosity

Anthony Albanese mobbed on visit to his old high school

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Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have continued their animosity from Sunday’s wild live leaders’ debate on the campaign trail, each hitting out at the other.

As pre-poll voting opened across Australia on Monday, the Labor leader lashed out at the Prime Minister’s leaders’ debate performance as nothing but smirk and smears.

While the second leaders’ debate was declared a draw following a shouty contest, both sides have tried to claim victory.

Speaking in Sydney on Monday while launching Labor’s policy to boost the number of high-performance teachers, Mr Albanese said Mr Morrison failed to bring anything to the table during the debate.

“Scott Morrison didn’t have anything to say except shouting, he only had smears and that smirk throughout it all,” he said.

“Last night I put forward ideas … I ask you to think about what were the policy measures that Scott Morrison said he would do in his fourth term if he’s elected. If he is given three more years, we can’t afford three more years of the same.”

Sunday's leaders' debate was notable for its shoutiness

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Mr Morrison, unsurprisingly, had a different view – although no apology for the shouty nature of the televised clash.

“It was a spirited debate. I think Australians expect spirited debate and the last one was a bit more measured,” he said, campaigning on the NSW south coast on Monday.

“It is an election.”

He denied unfair treatment of the debate’s host, the Nine Network’s Sarah Abo.

“I don’t believe gender had anything to do with it. I’m surprised why it would,” he said.

“Both Anthony and I, I think, are completely respectful, have always been respectful of females in the workplace and certainly when we work professionally with them in an environment like that. I don’t think it had any bearing on that issue at all.”

Mr Morrison also took another swipe at Mr Albanese on Monday, accusing him of doing “a lot of talking about the problems last night but we didn’t hear any solutions”.

“Last night we heard from Mr Albanese that he can’t guarantee wage rises. He’s been banging on about this for the last three years, talking about how he can increase wages but when push came to shove and he had to answer the question, “Can you increase wages?”, he can’t,” he said.

Monday marked the start of early voting ahead of the election on May 21, with 550 pre-poll locations opened across the country.

It came as two polls released overnight showed Labor extending its lead over the Coalition.

The newest Newspoll showed Labor up 54-46 on two-party preferred, while an Ipsos poll had Labor ahead 52-40, with 8 per cent undecided.

While an election result without a clear majority for either of the major parties remains a large possibility, Mr Albanese said Labor was looking to govern in its own right.

“I will be working every day for 76 [lower house seats],” he said.

“We should have 150 Labor members in the House of Representatives, that is my starting point. I think we will fall short of that, but my objective is 76.”

Mr Albanese was greeted by a mob of cheering students at his former high school, St Mary’s Cathedral College, on Monday when he announced a $150 million plan to get more high achievers into teaching and boost the numbers of science and mathematics teachers.

The plan is aimed at reversing nearly two decades of declining performance from Australian students.

Opposition education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said under the Morrison government too many high-achieving teachers were leaving the profession and not enough were entering it.

At least one in three educators quit the sector in their first five years of teaching, with unions complaining of extra workloads pushing members to their limit.

Mr Albanese said his party’s plan would incentivise the best graduates to take up teaching.

“A good teacher changes lives,” he said.

“[Labor’s plan] is about attracting people who will become the best teachers in the profession.”

Under the plan, 5000 students with an 80 or higher ATAR will be able to receive $10,000 a year to study teaching, plus an extra $2000 if they move to the bush.

Mr Morrison, meanwhile, unveiled an $8 billion plan to upgrade the army and navy’s helicopter fleet as well as improve facilities used to house the aircraft.

It will include 12 new Romeo maritime helicopters, to be based at HMAS Albatross in the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore. There will also be 29 Apache armed reconnaissance helicopters to replace the existing Tiger fleet.

However, neither of the new aircraft will be available for use until 2025.

Mr Morrison said a further $360 million would be spent on upgrading facilities at HMAS Albatross, with another $550 million for Apache facilities.

“The more than $8 billion we’re investing in helicopters and facilities means 290 new jobs on the ground for electricians, mechanics and engineers to support their maintenance,” he said.

“A safe and secure Australia also means a strong economy and a stronger future for defence industry jobs.”

Monday’s announcement was similar to a $7 billion proposal by the government, made in December 2021, that it would scrap the Australian Defence Force’s fleet of Taipan defence helicopters and replace them with 40 Black Hawks and Seahawks from the US.

The Coalition also announced a new $10 million round under its public interest news gathering program that will allow eligible publishers to apply for funding in the face of newsprint prices rising by up to 80 per cent.

A third and final debate between Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese is scheduled for Wednesday on the Seven Network.

-with AAP