Labor switches to attack as stocks dive

Paul Osborne and Tess Ikonomou |

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has switched tactics from policy announcements to attacking the coalition government, as Labor takes a hit in the polls.

Scott Morrison is ahead as the choice for preferred prime minister with 38 per cent, against 30 per cent for Mr Albanese, a sharp turnaround on the Labor leader’s 37-36 margin of two weeks ago.

The Resolve Strategic poll for The Sydney Morning Herald-The Age also showed Labor’s primary vote down four points to 34 per cent, with the coalition up one to 35 per cent.

Starting the second week of the May 21 election campaign in Brisbane, Mr Albanese blasted the prime minister over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters over the past two years.

“What we saw from the federal government, whether it be bushfires, floods or the pandemic is a real pattern of behaviour,” he said, after speaking with flood victims in the Brisbane suburb of Auchenflower.

“He only acted when the political pressure was really put on.”

Mr Albanese warned voters to expect health cuts if the federal government is returned to power, calling the government’s future health minister Anne Ruston a threat to accessible medical care.

“This is a health minister, now designate … who we know will undermine Medicare, who has said that the current model is not sustainable, who has said that Medicare funding is just putting things on the credit card,” he said.

“This is another example of what we can expect if Scott Morrison is re-elected.”

When the $7 patient co-payment was included in the 2014 coalition budget, Senator Ruston told parliament Medicare was not sustainable without it.

Senator Ruston said the government had since been clear it would not be making funding cuts to Medicare.

“We absolutely have guaranteed Medicare in law,” she told ABC Radio.

Mr Morrison, who was in Fremantle to unveil a $124 million investment in two new Evolved Cape Class patrol boats, ruled out future cuts to Medicare. 

“She (Senator Ruston) said yesterday there wouldn’t be any cuts and I’ll repeat that today,” Mr Morrison said on Monday. 

“I introduced the legislation to guarantee Medicare and to guarantee the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Because if you can’t manage money, which people know Labor can’t, the consequences of that is essential services suffer.”

Mr Morrison told reporters under his government, Medicare expenditure rose to $31.4 billion, and the bulk billing rate rose by more than six per cent.

The prime minister was forced to clarify comments about the JobSeeker rate.

During his press conference on Monday, Mr Morrison said the rate was $46 a week, when the unemployment benefit was $46 a day.

When questioned about it, Mr Morrison said he had misspoke.

During the first week of the campaign, the prime minister had attacked the opposition leader for failing to name the unemployment rate.

Mr Morrison will spend two days in WA before heading to Brisbane for the first leaders’ debate with Mr Albanese.

The prime minister also unveiled a plan for first-time homeowners who can’t put together the minimum 20 per cent deposit themselves.

From July 1 they would be able to secure a government-funded guarantee for homes valued at up to $150,000 more than the current cap.

With the polls pointing to a potential hung parliament, Mr Morrison was asked whether he would rule out a deal with so-called “climate independents” who are largely challenging sitting Liberal MPs.

“A vote for those independents is a vote for uncertainty, a vote for instability,” he said.