‘Despicable lie’: Leaders trade ‘scare campaign’ barbs

Support for both major parties falls in poll

The heat has gone on in the federal election campaign, with Scott Morrison accusing Labor of a “despicable lie” and the opposition hitting back at a Coalition campaign of “fear and scare”.

With the Prime Minister campaigning again in Western Australia on Tuesday and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on the opposite side of the country in Queensland, the two leaders took aim each other.

Mr Albanese lashed Coalition modelling released on Tuesday that appeared to show consumers would be financially worse off under Labor’s plan to increase the size of the transmission network.

“I want to back Australian science. I want to back Australian jobs. I want to back Australian industries,” Mr Albanese said.

“I’s a big difference between myself and my opponent. My opponent is running on fear and scare. He did that in 2019, and the truth is he got elected. He got elected without an agenda. My agenda, my agenda, is about optimism, is about creating opportunity.”

In Perth, in turn, Mr Morrison accused Labor of running its own scare campaign the cashless welfare card being expanded to all pensioners. It came after Mr Albanese spoke on Brisbane radio earlier on Tuesday.

“Here’s what [social services minister] Anne Ruston said on February 1, 2020: ‘We’re seeking to put all income management onto the universal platform, which is the cashless debit card’,” he told 4BC.

“They’re her words, not mine.”

Senator Ruston ruled out putting pensioners on the cashless welfare card on the same station on Monday, and accused Mr Albanese of twisting her words.

Mr Morrison described the claims as a “despicable lie” and accused Labor of scaring pensioners.

“The Labor Party is ringing up people, sending out brochures, writing to pensioners and scaring them, that there are some suggestion that our government would be applying the debit card to pensioners,” he said.

“It is simply not true. Anthony Albanese needs to come clear on this, he needs to rule this out, because it is not true.”

Labor has said it would get rid of the card.

Anthony Albanese with Labor’s candidate for Dickson, Ali France, in Brisbane’s south on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

However, both leaders were in lockstep on Tuesday on another hot topic – ruling out any deals with independent candidates to form government if a hung parliament is delivered on May 21.

The latest Newspoll has Labor on 36 per cent of the primary vote with the Coalition on 35 per cent – meaning almost a third of voters don’t support either major party. It’s the lowest level of combined major party support in an election campaign yet recorded by Newspoll.

Mr Morrison said the uncertainty created by independents would risk the livelihoods of small businesses during challenging times.

“You can vote for the stability and certainty that we’ve been able to provide or you can vote for the chaos and instability of independents,” he said.

Mr Albanese also ruled out deals with independents and the Greens, telling 4BC that Labor would seek to form government in its own right.

“There will be no deal with the independents and crossbenchers,” he said.

Mr Albanese used the ninth day of the campaign to spruik a pledge of $38 million over three years to Disaster Relief Australia, while attacking Mr Morrison for his handling of the Black Summer bushfires and the recent floods in Queensland and northern NSW.

“Over the last three years, Australia has watched Scott Morrison refuse to take responsibility and go missing in action when natural disasters have struck,” he said.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has rejected claims Queensland flood victims are receiving less income support than residents of Lismore in northern NSW.

Mr Morrison also doubled down on his controversial captain’s pick candidate in the Sydney seat of Warringah, Katherine Deves, saying he wouldn’t have her “pushed aside in a pile-on”.

Ms Deves is under fire for past comments about transgender people, including from within the Liberal Party.

She has apologised for anti-transgender tweets and comments and has the support of Mr Morrison. But NSW Treasurer and Liberal moderate Matt Kean said on Tuesday she was not fit for office or aligned with the values of the party.

“This is not a one-off, drunken Twitter rant. This is not a statement made at university 30 years ago. This is a series of consistent positions held over a long period and in recent times,” he told the ABC.

“We need to continue to stand up and call out this kind of language, this kind of bigotry.”

Liberal moderate Trent Zimmerman has also reportedly appealed to senior members of Mr Morrison’s office to have Ms Deves dumped.

Mr Morrison said he believed she would be a great member of parliament.

“I’m not going to allow her to be silenced. I’m not going to allow her to be pushed aside as the pile-on comes in to try to silence her,” he said.

“My team is standing up with her and we will make sure that she won’t be silenced. I know there’s plenty of people who would like to do that.”

Pushed on a response to the criticism from within his own party, Mr Morrison was unmoved.

“I wasn’t saying where the commentary was coming from. I was simply saying that in selecting Catherine I have selected someone – together with the Premier in NSW and Christine [McDiven, the Liberal Party’s former president] – who is a woman raising three girls, who has always stood up for women and girls in sport,” he said.

“I think she has learned from her advocacy in her private life [that] the better way to do things [is] to take things forward as a member of parliament.”

-with AAP

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