By political reporter Matthew Doran
The first major leaders’ debate of the marathon 2016 election campaign has centred around the issue of trust, with the past demons of both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten being used as weapons in the battle.
Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader were questioned on why Australians should vote for them, considering they had both ousted sitting leaders — Mr Turnbull removing Tony Abbott to take the top job and Mr Shorten instrumental in removing both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as Labor leader.
“I am a well-known quantity in Australian public life,” Mr Turnbull said, when questioned on whether he had abandoned his personal beliefs on issues such as climate change to take the Liberal leadership.
“I did not come into this role as a political activist, I did not come in here as a political staffer.
“I came into this role as an adult, at 50, after a lifetime of working, building businesses in many, many areas, creating jobs.”
Mr Shorten said his party had moved on from the tumultuous leadership changes between 2010 and 2013.
“The Labor Party have learnt from that difficult period and we have demonstrated more unity of purpose than we have in a very long time,” Mr Shorten said.
“We have learnt our lesson.”
“There’s a big difference between me and Mr Turnbull — I genuinely lead my party, whereas your party [Mr Turnbull] genuinely leads you.”
Asylum seekers sparks fiery exchange
The debate was fairly measured, with many well-rehearsed lines of party rhetoric from both sides.
That was until a question on asylum seekers.
Mr Turnbull said the nation’s borders were at risk from a Labor government, arguing the former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd wound back asylum seeker legislation so far it led to an increase in people travelling to Australia by boat.
“[People smugglers], they’re out there marketing now, telling their customers that if Labor is elected it will be all on again,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Bill says that’s not the case but, of course, they know what Labor was like in government just as we do.”