Bill Shorten, Labor’s hope of wresting the Prime Minister’s mantle from Malcolm Turnbull, was in Lismore yesterday, working hard to portray himself as a man of the people.
Flanked by Labor’s Richmond MP Justine Elliott and former Page MP, and candidate Janelle Saffin, Shorten congratulated the crowd for turning out, describing Lismore voters as politically aware, and claiming the underdog tag from the government.
In the wide-ranging question and answer session, the Labor leader dealt with a range of issues including the National Disability Insurance Scheme, climate change policy and mining, renewable energy, refugees and free trade agreements.
He pointed out that Labor had introduced the concept of a NDIS, only to have the Coalition government scale it back.
He said prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was more interested in in his own popularity and when to call an election, rather than tackling real issues.
Mr Shorten made it clear that Labor would be adopting an old-style approach of electioneering by engaging with voters at town hall style meetings where all questions would be welcomed.
He described Janelle Saffin as a ‘trusted, known quantity in the seat of Page’ saying voters did not know where Nationals MP sits.
‘The National Party are the brothers-in-arms to the Liberal party and then they try to hide themselves up here in Richmond and Page and try to say they are standing up to the government,’ he said.
‘Nine out of the ten poorest electorates are held by the National Party, which says a lot.
‘If you want a fighter then you should always be on side with the underdog.’
Mr Shorten described the voters of the Page electorate as ‘politically switched on’.
‘If we are to restore faith in Australian politics Labor and Liberal need to go out and talk to the people,’ he said.
‘The path to Canberra is through 100 of these town hall meetings.
Speaking on changes to the voting system which could make it more difficult for micro-parties and independents, Mr Shorten took swipe at the Greens.
‘The Greens have been conned by the Liberals. If we had this voting system Tony Abbott would have had a majority in the Senate and we would already have a 15% GST,’ he said.
‘When it comes to political preference, people considering voting Green must understand that their votes could go to the Liberal party,’ he said.
He promised that schools would be properly funded and there would be no cuts to health.
As well, first home-buyers would have a level playing field with property owners buying their seventh investment property.
Mr Shorten said Labor was committed to having 50% renewable energy by 2050, and would be shutting coal mines to achieve the aim.