Anthony Albanese was lively and fired up and despite an awkward stumble on borders has put himself back in contention in the election fight, writes CHARLIE MOORE
- Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison face off in the first election debate
- Lively and fired-up Opposition Leader’s performance put him back in contention
- Prime Minister was strong on detail and appealed to the audience’s emotions
Anthony Albanese was lively and fired-up as he battled to rescue his election campaign in the first leaders’ debate against Scott Morrison after a disastrous first week where he forgot the unemployment rate.
He was strong on traditional Labor issues such as healthcare, the NDIS and housing and also blasted the Prime Minister over his failure to stop the Solomon Islands signing a security deal with China.
However, he stumbled on borders where he skilfully was backed into a corner by a smiling Mr Morrison who questioned his record on boat turn backs – but later rescued the situation with a clarification.
The Labor leader – who had spent all afternoon preparing for the showdown while Mr Morrison went for a swim – avoided his habit of rambling and spoke fluidly and energetically, exuding passion which was picked up by the 100 undecided voters in the audience.
Anthony Albanese is back in the running after a disastrous first week of campaigning
He was at his best on the emotive issues of aged care and the NDIS where he tugged on the heart-strings of the audience describing shocking incidences of neglect.
When he recounted Royal Commission evidence of food being scraped off plates, blended and served up the next day for lunch in age care homes, several audience members shook their heads in anger.
Mr Morrison also appealed to the audience’s emotions when he talked about his late father receiving care and tried to own the issue by reminding everyone that he called the aged care Royal Commission.
He added a personal touch by conversing with the audience members who asked questions, asking their names and about their lives.
But he was also strong on detail and commanded the facts, effortlessly reeling off median house prices in Brisbane.
In a moment that signified how benign and respectful the debate was (with both leaders referring to each other by their first names), Mr Morrison even praised Labor for setting up Medicare and the NDIS.
But then couldn’t resist taking a swipe, saying it’s the Coalition that ‘has to work out how to pay for these things’.
Scott Morrison (pictured) added a personal touch to the leaders’ debate by conversing with the audience members who asked questions, asking their names and about their lives.
Mr Albanese replied that Labor ‘always does the big reforms’ and in the only visionary moment of the debate, declared: ‘You can’t be sacred of the future. You’ve got to shape the future otherwise the future will shape you’.
The Labor leader was also strong on the integrity after Mr Morrison broke his promise to set up a corruption watchdog.
In a pithy soundbite, he said there was a ‘stench around a range of issues in Canberra’.
But his excellent start came crashing down on the tricky topic of borders. Mr Morrison was boasting about his creation of Operation Sovereign Borders which ‘stopped the boats’ by turning them around.
‘It’s not easy and you have to believe in it. You know I do because I’ve done it,’ he said.
Mr Albanese insisted that he would also enact boat turnbacks but Mr Morrison interjected: ‘Why did you not support turnbacks when you were deputy Prime Minister’.
Anthony Albanese (left) and Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced off in the first leaders’ debate in Brisbane on Wednesday night
Mr Albanese protested ‘you weren’t proposing it then’ but the smiling PM knew he had scored a win.
After Mr Albanese accused him of ‘seeking division’ he quickly replied ‘I’m just seeking the truth and accuracy’.
The Labor leader realised he’d been stumped and later in the debate admitted he did not support boat turnbacks at the time but insisted he does now because he saw how the policy worked.
He avoided disaster was able to bolster his national security credentials by hammering the PM on China, prompting Mr Morrison to get desperate and say ‘why would you take China’s side?’
Mr Albanese’s handlers are breathing a collective sigh of relief. He’s back in the game.
A relaxed Prime Minister took time out for an afternoon swim ahead of the leaders’ debate