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Scott Morrison has sensationally accused Anthony Albanese of ‘taking China’s side’ following the security deal between the Communist country and the Solomon Islands as the first election debate kicks off.
One hundred undecided voters fired off questions to both leaders in Sky News and The Courier Mail’s People’s Forum on Wednesday night.
The Prime Minister said the deal came after years of Chinese interference in the region, before asking the Labor leader: ‘Why would you take China’s side?’.
Mr Albanese erupted at the question, saying: ‘That’s an outrageous slur from the prime minister — national security shouldn’t be the subject of that sort of slur’.
‘This is a pacific stuff up, not step up. We should have been on top of this issue.’
Sky News commentator Andrew Clennell described Mr Albanese’s attack on him about China as an ‘overreach’.
The debate kicked off with a question on what each leader would do to help Aussies get into the housing market.
The Labor leader took the opportunity to bring up a remark made earlier by Mr Morrison who told those struggling to afford rent to consider buying a house.
Anthony Albanese has made the first jab during the election debate against Scott Morrison when discussing Australia’s skyrocketing housing prices
‘I know that it’s so tough now. Some of the measures the government have done are terrific but we’re missing out on bits too. We’re not doing anything on social ownership, which would increase supply,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘We also need to address the rental crisis. Rents are going through the roofs. Scott said if you’re having difficulties with rent, buy a house.
‘The truth is, it’s much more difficult than that, and we need to address each of the issues. How do we get people into home ownership? How do we address affordable housing?’
The pair then became caught in a heated debate over turning back boats, leaving Mr Albanese stumped.
Mr Albanese said he supported turnbacks before Mr Morrison noted when he was Deputy Prime Minister in 2013 that wasn’t the case.
Both leaders have come out swinging in the first election debate on Wednesday night
‘Why is it Scott you’re always looking for a division, not looking for an agreement?’ Mr Albanese fired.
Mr Morrison responded cooly: ‘I’m just looking for the accuracy and the truth.’
Mr Morrison said he hoped the debate in Brisbane would be ‘civil’.
‘I’ve said right from the outset of this campaign this election is about a choice (and) tonight, I’m talking about our plans, what we’ve been doing,’ he told reporters in Adelaide earlier on Wednesday.
‘I’m optimistic about the future for Australia … so tonight, I look forward to that discussion. I hope it will be a civil discussion.’
Both leaders offered very different opening statements before the questions began.
‘After everything we’ve been through over the last few years, I’m incredibly optimistic about Australia’s future,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘Our economy today is one of the strongest in the first world. This election is a choice. It’s a choice about how we keep our economy strong. A stronger future, and an uncertain one.’
Scott Morrison (left) and Anthony Albanese (right) will go head to head in their first debate on Wednesday night
Meanwhile the Opposition leader said he planned to create a better future for Australians if his government was elected.
‘I believe we can have a better future if we have a better government,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘You all know the cost of everything is going up, expect your wages.
‘So we need a plan. We need to make sure we have a strong economy with secure work.
‘The government’s been in office for a decade. The truth is, they haven’t learnt from their mistakes. We must do better.’
More to come