(Australian Associated Press)
Scott Morrison is going after Labor’s political edge on health, but the opposition is pushing back to take on the coalition’s strength on the economy.
The prime minister announced more health funding on Wednesday as he talked up his government’s record on healthcare
“We’ve increased the number of people being bulk-billed by almost five per cent since we were elected five-and-a-half years ago,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Launceston on Wednesday.
Labor made cutting out-of-pocket costs for cancer and radiology scans a key feature of Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech last week, so Mr Morrison is going after one of the opposition’s strengths.
He’s promised $91 million to cut elective surgery waiting lists, improve maternity services and cancer treatment, especially radiation therapy.
But while Mr Morrison was going after Labor on health, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen was promising Labor would be better economic managers than the coalition.
He slammed the coalition for promising $286 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years without revealing how they would be paid for.
“l tell you what would happen if I tried that, you would laugh me out of the room,” Mr Bowen told the National Press Club.
Mr Bowen said Labor tax cuts would be prudent and affordable in the context of the wider economy, rather than promising cuts five years into the future like the coalition.
Mr Morrison also backed away from his party’s criticism of electric vehicles, after some coalition MPs said Labor was going to “ban” utes.
But he did say Labor’s plan to introduce carbon emission standards for vehicles would drive prices up.
Labor wants to introduce a carbon emissions standard of 105 grams per kilometre, in line with standards in the United States. Australia is one of the only developed countries in the world without carbon standards for cars.
“There’s only three out of the top 20 selling cars today that actually meet that standard,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Shorten said the coalition was running scared on electric cars.
“All of the big car companies around the world are moving to producing electric vehicles. What we want to do is make sure that Australia is in the debate,” he told reporters.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil, who attended one of many mass rallies of workers on Wednesday, said unions were targeting 28 seats with grassroots campaigning.
She told the ABC they had originally targeted 21 seats, but found seven others where the coalition was in trouble.
The prime minister is expected within days to announce the federal poll, most likely to be held on May 18.