The Show Down

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Both say ageing is an opportunity, family is everything and dogs win over cats. What then separates these two men vying for our vote? With an election looming, we go in search of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s positions on health, the economy and climate change. By Sarah Saunders.

On the surface they couldn’t be more different.

One, a suave former investment banker, Rhodes Scholar and Liberal Prime Minister; the other, a rugged trade unionist who rose through the ranks to become opposition leader.

But dig a little deeper and the apparent chasm between the two narrows.

Both, in the past, have supported same sex marriage. Both have advocated Australia becoming a republic. Both have pushed for action on climate change. And both have bloodied hands from their climb to the top.

After a marathon 55-day campaign, Australians will be asked to make a choice on July 2: Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten, Liberal or Labor? Here’s how they stack up.

Who have been your role models in life?

Malcolm Turnbull: My father Bruce was a great influence on my life. He worked very hard in the jobs that he had – he started as an electrician and ended up working as a hotel broker. I remember that he worked a lot over weekends and I’d help him out doing stocktakes, counting inventories for pocket money.

Tom Hughes, Lucy’s father, has also been an enormous role model for me. He was a member of the House of Representatives and Attorney-General in the Gorton government. He remains very active and provided me with a lot of guidance earlier in my political career.

Bill Shorten: My mum. Mum was a great teacher – at school and university. She also taught my twin brother and I so much about life: the importance of hard work, the value of education, the idea of success as something you earned on your merits.

What are Australia’s top three issues?

Malcolm Turnbull: It is important that more people are able to find and keep work, especially young people. That’s why we’ve been so focused on creating jobs and providing better pathways to employment.

There’s no doubt the threat of terrorism and violence has grown. Ensuring Australians are safe and our nation secure is a priority. We should ensure Australia remains an inclusive, multicultural country that doesn’t see the type of conflict and hatred seen in all too many other countries across the world.

Bill Shorten: Medicare, education and jobs.

What’s your long term vision for the nation?

Malcolm Turnbull: Australia is a great country with enormous potential. Our nation can and should be a welcoming, harmonious and productive country. No one can predict what Australia will look like in fifty years’ time, but if we don’t shirk from hard work and ensure a fiscally sustainable social safety net, then I am sure our country will be more prosperous and liveable than it is today.

Bill Shorten: An Australia that offers every child the opportunity of a great education, every worker the chance of a good job with fair pay and every citizen dignity and security in retirement. A nation of courage, community and compassion.

The 2015 Intergenerational Report projected health spending to increase from 4.2% of GDP in 2014 to 5.5% in 2054.

How do we pay for health?

Malcolm Turnbull: Our spending on health is indeed increasing. We will spend around $71.4 billion on health over the next five years, including giving the states and territories around $18 billion to help fund their hospitals. Ultimately, we can only have a sustainable health system if we have a strong economy that provides the revenue needed to fund vital health services across the country.

Bill Shorten: It’s about priorities. Labor believes in a strong Medicare system and properly funded hospitals. It’s really important to understand that helping Australians see a doctor when they need and keeping medicine affordable are the keys to an efficient, strong healthcare system.

A Labor Government will make responsible, fully-funded investments in healthcare.

Prior to the Budget we outlined over $100 billion in economically responsible budget improvements. In my Budget Reply speech, I announced a further $71 billion in sensible improvements to the budget bottom line.

What’s your climate change policy?

Malcolm Turnbull: We don’t doubt the science or the scale of the challenge and we are delivering real results.

Our Emissions Reduction Fund is reducing carbon emissions at a low cost to our economy through innovation, investment, and jobs growth.

We will meet and beat Australia’s 2020 carbon reduction target and we will reduce our emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030. Our 2030 carbon reduction targets will halve our per capita emissions – one of the biggest reductions of any G20 country. We have also signed the Paris Agreement on climate change as we play our part in this global challenge.

Bill Shorten: Taking action on climate change is about fulfilling the duty we owe to the next generation of Australians, passing on an environment in better shape than the one we inherited.

There is a huge risk to our economy by refusing to take action on climate change. It’s also a chance to create new jobs.

By 2030, there will be $2.5 trillion of investment in renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific alone.

Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan will allow Australia to seize these opportunities for new jobs, new industries and greater investment. It will deliver 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

Our plan is underpinned by a pollution reduction target of net zero pollution by 2050. We will put a cap on pollution and create new opportunities for Australian firms to trade and engage with other ETS jurisdictions – already 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

Labor’s plan for an Emissions Trading Scheme with access to international carbon offsets does not and will not include a carbon tax or a fixed price on pollution. An ETS caps the level of pollution and allows business to work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate without handing over billions of dollars to Australia’s large polluters.

How do we position ourselves for population ageing?

Malcolm Turnbull: An ageing population is not unique to Australia and many countries, such as Japan, are grappling with the challenge.

On the one hand, an ageing population means we will need to do more in health and aged care, which presents obvious economic challenges for the country.

On the other hand, an ageing population presents opportunities for our country because we should draw on the knowledge, skills, and social contribution of older Australians.

Bill Shorten: More Australians living longer is great news. More children than ever before will grow up knowing and loving their grandparents.

Our job is to make sure that a longer life is matched by a better quality of life for Australians in their later years. Longevity is a great achievement and ageing should not be seen only as a challenge but an opportunity.

The Liberals are not taking ageing seriously – they have failed to appoint a Minister for ageing, only belatedly adding ‘aged care’ to Sussan Ley’s portfolio, and cutting funding to the active ageing work that Labor pioneered in Government.

What are you most proud of?

Malcolm Turnbull: My family. The achievements of my children and grandchildren are a source of great pride to me and Lucy.

Bill Shorten: My kids. Every day they find a new way to amaze me.

What are you reading?

Malcolm Turnbull: At the moment a lot of campaign briefs!

Bill Shorten: Our man elsewhere, Thornton McAmish’s new book on Alan Moorehead: war correspondent, historian and adventurer.

Which three people from any time in history would you invite to an intimate dinner party and why?

Bill Shorten: My wife Chloe, George Orwell and John Monash.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Malcolm Turnbull: A dog person. I’ve always been very fond of dogs and our family has had many including Jojo the terrier who is our current family pet. My daughter, Daisy, has two of her own dogs, Spook and Bandit.

Bill Shorten: As the owner of two British Bulldogs, Theodore, named after Theodore Roosevelt, and Matilda, or Tilley for short, I am most certainly a dog person.

At the end of the day, how do you unwind?

Malcolm Turnbull: I’ll take some time to read or kayak.

Bill Shorten: I always try and find time for a run in the course of a day. It helps me clear my head and blow out the cobwebs.

Happiness is...

Malcolm Turnbull: Spending time with our family. Whenever we can get my children and our grandchildren together is time that both Lucy and I cherish.

Bill Shorten: Time with my family.

This article by Sarah Saunders originally appeared in the June/July 2016 edition of 50 something magazine. 

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