COVID-19: Scott Morrison has been labelled ‘SloMo’ over delays in the vaccine rollout, and the ‘prime minister for NSW’ over his attitude towards the states’ handling of the pandemic. But will voters credit him for Australia’s internationally-low rate of severe illness and death? Or will voters hand Anthony Albanese the job of leading the post-pandemic health and economic recovery?
BUDGET AND ECONOMY: The jobless rate has remained low despite the pandemic and the economy is on a sound footing. But under-employment is high and the rate of casual and insecure work is of concern to many Australians. And government debt is at unprecedented levels with no prospect of being repaid any time soon. Inflation has many concerned, with an interest rate hike looming.
TAXES: Scott Morrison insists he will drive down taxes on workers and businesses and the coalition is best placed to keep taxes low over the long term. Labor’s immediate priority is dealing with multinational tax avoidance, but the coalition is seeking to convince voters a Labor budget would contain hidden nasties.
CLIMATE: The coalition and Labor are committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Labor has a more ambitious medium-term target than the coalition. The issue has effectively been neutralised as a debating point, but a coalition campaign over Labor pushing up power prices can be expected. Independent candidates backed by Climate 200 are campaigning on doing more than either of the major parties.
BORDERS: The coalition says Labor’s soft stance on border protection will reopen the people smuggling trade and result in deaths at sea and a major cost blowout on detention centres. Labor says it supports boat turnbacks and offshore processing but will do so in a more humane way.
HEALTH: The coalition has boosted hospital funding for the states and territories. Labor says it will restore funding to the system and the coalition can’t be trusted with Medicare.
EDUCATION: The school funding debate seems to have settled. But Labor argues universities have been left to die by the coalition, especially as the international student market dried up during the pandemic.
NATIONAL SECURITY: The coalition says it is best placed to handle terrorism, China and other threats to national security and is more willing than Labor to enact laws to give greater powers to police and intelligence agencies. Labor says national security is a bipartisan priority, but wants to ensure there are proper checks and balances in any new powers.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: The coalition is taking a hands-off approach when it comes to the Fair Work Commission’s decision-making, which now has more employer-focused personnel. It also warns of Labor being dictated to by the unions. Labor says the existing system needs reform as workers are not benefiting from economic growth, in terms of higher wages, and casuals are being exploited.
INTEGRITY: The government has long-promised a Commonwealth Integrity Commission but argues Labor stood in its way. Labor says a national integrity commission with teeth is needed. The debate has given impetus to independent candidates targeting Liberal seats.
WOMEN: Scott Morrison was forced into doing more to address women’s safety when Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation of being raped in a minister’s office, and Christian Porter defended an accusation of historic assault which he firmly denies. Labor argues it is best placed to deal with women’s safety and empowerment and is more committed than the coalition to running female candidates in winnable seats.