Australia’s PM, Opposition Leader Prepare for First Live Debate Ahead of May 18 Election

April 29, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will debate Labor leader Bill Shorten in Perth on Monday in a bid to win over undecided voters.

Voter concerns about tax and climate policy are expected to dominate the first leaders’ debate of the federal election campaign on Monday night.

Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten will go head to head in Perth at 7 p.m. AEST in a debate hosted by the Seven Network and The West Australian, and televised on 7TWO.

Readers of The West Australian have nominated questions, mostly around the themes of Labor’s franking credits policy, the economy, tax, border protection and climate.

Policy costings are also likely to be a focus.

“I’m just going to be myself and be upfront with people,” Morrison told Nova radio on Monday. “I imagine we’re going to talk a lot about the GST.”

The distribution of GST revenues has been a big issue for Western Australia, with both major parties promising a better deal.

Shorten told reporters in Perth he would be talking about the big picture.

“Tonight is debate night—I’m really looking forward to a positive debate, outlining competing visions for what we can do to help the Australian people,” he said.

He said child care should be put ahead of “unsustainable tax loopholes at the top end of town.”

With early voting starting on Monday, the debate takes on greater importance.

A Newspoll released on Sunday night in The Australian shows the coalition has narrowed the polling gap with Labor, trailing only 51 per cent to 49 per cent in the two-party preferred vote.

Another Newspoll on Australia’s preferred prime minister showed Morrison leading Shorten 45 percent to 37 percent.

A second debate has been scheduled to be broadcast on Sky News from Brisbane on Friday, but the prime minister has already called for a third in prime time.

Shorten wants the third debate to be held at lunchtime at the National Press Club.

Morrison released a letter on Sunday evening calling for the third debate to be moderated by ABC journalist Leigh Sales and held in the evening of May 7, 8, or 9.

“A prime-time debate would provide as many Australians as possible, including those who work during the day, the best opportunity to scrutinise the very clear choice on offer at this election,” the letter said.

The letter also says the third debate wouldn’t prevent the two leaders going head-to-head again and doesn’t rule out the Nine Network’s proposal to host a debate.

By Angus Livingston