Last night, the two leaders went head to head in what’s been dubbed a ‘relatively tame’ public debate. It gave voters their first close look at the two men who want to run the country. They explored hot campaign topics including tax cuts, superannuation, education and refugee policies.

Julia Wighton reports.


The Malcolm Turnbull-Bill Shorten show was the 10th most popular television program on Sunday night.

The first formal leaders’ debate has widely been reviewed as dull.

The audience started strong with 529,000 at kick-off, plummeting to just 93,000 by the end.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten emphasised the need for fairness, citing ‘positive plans’ for health and education.

Bill Shorten, Opposition leader: “You can trust Labor to protect Medicare, trust Labor to stand up for education and training.”

Malcolm Turnbull emphasised the economy, citing proposed small business cuts, plans to boost indigenous entrepreneurship and defence spending.

The Prime Minister says Australia’s future hangs in the balance.

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister: “These are times of enormous opportunity and uncertainty.”

He says the economy needs to come first, and everything else will follow.

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister: “The fundamental basis of everything we are considering tonight and over the next five weeks must be strong economic growth.”

Despite criticisms of their performance, there were glimpses of fierce competition.

Bill Shorten, Opposition leader: “There’s a big difference between me and Mr Turnbull. I genuinely lead my party, whereas your party genuinely leads you.”

With the leaders back on the hustings today, most political observers say the debate was a draw.

Julia Wighton, QUT News.