Tanya Plibersek has finally appeared alongside Anthony Albanese after claims the popular Labor MP was ‘benched’ from the campaign trail.
The pair met with students at Mr Albanese’s old school St Mary’s in western Sydney on Monday morning and announced plans to recruit more high achievers to teaching careers.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing with a school bell repeatedly going off and interrupting Mr Albanese as he tried to begin his press conference.
‘The bell tolls for the Morrison Government,’ a quick-thinking Mr Albanese quipped.
Ms Plibersek was conspicuously absent from major campaign events amid reports Mr Albanese sidelined popular MPs who might steal his limelight.
She until recently only had one transcript released to the media and was not included in a trip to WA for events with popular Labor premier Mark McGowan.
In an awkward moment Mr Albanese’s speech on Monday was repeatedly interrupted by the school bell – but the Labor leader managed to make a quip at Scott Morrison’s expense
Ms Plibersek is the MP for Sydney while Mr Albanese is the MP for the neighbouring seat of Grayndler in Sydney’s inner-west.
Both are from the left faction of Labor and were considered for the party’s leadership when Bill Shorten quit after the 2019 election loss.
Ms Plibersek quickly pulled out of contention, leaving Mr Albanese to duke it out with right faction hopefuls.
Back then, Ms Plibersek said she had ‘support, from across the party, to be elected leader’ but the move would have required too much time away from her family.
She added she was was ‘overwhelmed by the confidence my colleagues, the union movement, and Labor party members have placed in me’.
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Monday claimed he and PM Scott Morrison could work far better together than Mr Albanese and Ms Plibersek.
‘I’m 450km away from (Mr Morrison’s) seat of Cook,’ he said.
‘Tanya Plibersek is 10cm away from the seat of Grayndler, right next door, and you can’t see Tanya and Albo at the same coffee shop,’ Mr Joyce said.
‘They can’t stand each other.’
Ms Plibersek was alongside Mr Albanese in Sydney on Monday after reports she had been benched because of her popularity (pictured)
Mr Albanese took the opportunity on Monday to fire back at the prime minister’s leaders’ debate performance on Sunday night as nothing but smirk and smears, as pre-poll voting gets under way across the country.
While the second leaders’ debate was declared a draw following a shouty contest, both sides have sought to claim victory from the showdown.
‘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.’
While a hung parliament remains a distinct possibility following the election, Mr Albanese said Labor wanted 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.’
Despite not being able to guarantee a lift to real wages at Sunday’s debate, Mr Albanese said he remained confident about working alongside businesses and unions to improve working conditions.
‘The truth is we have had flatlining wages over 10 years. The key to lifting wages is lifting productivity,’ he said.
‘Our clear objective is to lift up living standards… (the prime minister) couldn’t even say that Australian workers should be paid the minimum wage.’
The pair were announcing their plan to get more high achievers into the teaching profession
Labor is looking at splashing nearly $150 million on getting more high achievers into teaching and boosting the numbers of science and mathematics teachers.
The plan aimed to reverse nearly two decades of declining performance in Australian students.
The sector sees at least one in three teachers quit in their first five years of teaching, with unions complaining of extra workloads pushing members to their limit.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said his party’s plan would incentivise the best graduates to take up teaching.
‘We want to make sure our kids get the best education they can. That means we have to make sure they get the best quality teaching,’ he said.
The plan will give 5,000 students with an 80 or higher ATAR get $10,000 a year to study teaching, plus an extra $2,000 if they move to the bush.
It will also fund 1,500 extra placements to retrain mathematicians and scientists and support them as they work part-time as teachers while getting their masters degree in education.
Labor also said it would work with the states and territories to boost career options for existing teachers, including considering higher pay for elite teachers and more chances to share their skills with other teachers without having to leave the classroom.
The updated plan will be funded by $146.5 million over four years.
Mr Albanese attended St Mary’s for eight years of his schooling (pictured at the school on Monday with Ms Plibersek)
Ms Plibersek said boosting student results was one of the most important things Australia could do.
‘If we want a better future in Australia, we need a smart, skilled workforce so we can compete for jobs and growth with our neighbours,’ she said.
There is uncertainty around the coalition’s education portfolio, with the current minister Alan Tudge disappearing from the public eye in the wake of allegations he emotionally, and at one time physically, abused his staffer while the pair were having an affair.
Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert said more money wasn’t the answer to boosting student results, and the government was instead focused on shaking up the national curriculum.
NSW and Victoria recently rejected an updated history curriculum amid concerns it was downplaying indigenous history.