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Thu, 9 May, 2019Joanita Wibowo

"No need to get nasty": Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten's heated final debate

"No need to get nasty": Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten's heated final debate

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison have clashed in a debate on homosexuality and freedom of speech in the third and final leaders’ debate on Wednesday.

In the National Press Club debate, the two pitched their vision for Australia in 10 years’ time. Morrison emphasised his focus on jobs and infrastructure, while Shorten cited climate change, equality and “modern Australia”.

“I want us to be a nation which is more equal and, in becoming more equal, what we’ll actually deliver is a more prosperous and wealthy nation for my kids and, indeed, their kids after that,” said Shorten.

One of the other highlights of the night included a discussion over rugby star Israel Folau’s social media posts that gays are going to hell.

Shorten declared that gays are not going to hell, while Morrison reiterated his position on freedom of speech.

“Free speech is one of our fundamental freedoms, so is religious freedom. I feel this very strongly. I mentioned it in my maiden speech to the Parliament. If you’re not free to believe, what are you free to do in this country?” said Morrison. “Freedom of speech is important, but we have to exercise it responsibly and exercise it in a society such as ours with civility and due care and consideration to others.”

Shorten expressed his support for religious freedom, but admitted he was “uneasy” over Folau’s statement. “People should be free to practise their religion … Mr Morrison is right. It’s a contractual negotiation at one level, but I’m uneasy about where that debate’s gone,” said Shorten.

“People putting out on social media that if you’re gay you’re going to go to hell, I get that’s what he genuinely believes.

“I don’t think if you’re gay you’re going to go to hell. I don’t know if hell exists actually. But I don’t think if it does that being gay is what sends you there. So I am uneasy.”

Morrison criticised Labor’s ‘retiree tax’ on franking credits as “a heinous tax on Australians who have worked hard all of their lives”, but Shorten said the policy would be more sustainable than the current tax concessions.

“I can understand why some people don’t want to lose the money, I get it,” said Shorten. “But there’s no principle of tax law anywhere since the ancient Romans which says you get a tax refund when you haven’t paid income tax. It’s a gift.”

Shorten hit back when Morrison questioned the cost of his emission reductions policy. “The question here at this election is not should we be taking action on climate change, that is agreed. The question here is what is a responsible approach to take,” said Morrison.

In his rebuttal, Shorten described Morrison’s statement as a “charlatan’s argument”, comparing the climate change issue with the use of asbestos in constructions. “There was a cost to stop using asbestos in buildings, but I tell you what the advantage was – it saved lives,” said Shorten. “When we’ve look at the debate about cost it is a dishonest argument when you don’t look at the net benefit.”

Shorten also landed a jab on the Liberal Party’s growing internal rifts. “Will you keep the same environment minister? Where is she? If you win you’ll have more people to promote because so many of your current ministry is leaving.”

Morrison replied, “No need to get nasty.”