Undecided voters have picked Bill Shorten as the winner of the first leaders’ debate as a record 110,000 people cast their vote three weeks early.
Ballot boxes opened on Monday morning ahead of the debate in Perth, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison put pressure on the Labor leader to explain how much his tax and climate policies would cost.
But the undecided voters in the room gave Mr Shorten the win after he argued the cost of doing nothing would hurt the nation.
A record 110,000 people cast early votes on Monday before the debate, and Mr Morrison used that to demand answers from Labor on the cost of tax and climate policies.
“He’s not telling you what the cost of change is,” Mr Morrison said on Monday night.
“Voting has started, people deserve to know what the cost of change is.”
But Mr Shorten said people were voting early because they wanted change, and that included action on the climate and healthcare.
“The cost of not changing is this: longer waiting lists,” Mr Shorten said.
“I can categorically say that if we don’t take real action on climate change that will be a disaster for our economy.”
Of the 48 voters watching the debate in person, 25 said Mr Shorten won, 12 picked Mr Morrison, and 11 remained undecided.
The latest Newspoll shows the gap between the parties has tightened, with Labor only leading the two-party preferred vote by 51 per cent to the coalition’s 49 per cent.
Mr Morrison announced $1 billion to bring forward construction of three new naval ships in Western Australia, as he bids to save several key marginal seats.
He said the investment would make sure there were no gaps in the pipeline of work.
“To maintain a sovereign defence industry, that continuity of build is critical,” Mr Morrison told reporters at Civmec shipyard in Henderson, south of Perth.
“This is about thousands of jobs in Western Australia.”
Mr Shorten took his election campaign to a childcare centre in Perth, where he read the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
He has promised to make childcare cheaper for almost one million families and lift wages for early education workers.
The Labor leader attacked the coalition for doing a preferences deal with Clive Palmer, who he says still owes taxpayers $70 million.
But despite labelling Mr Palmer a “tosser” and “con man” in recent days, Labor has put the mining magnate second on its how-to-vote cards in Tasmania.
For its part, the Morrison government has described Mr Palmer as the “least worst” alternative option, after striking a preference deal with the billionaire in South Australia.
Another leaders’ debate has been scheduled for Friday in Brisbane, while Mr Morrison wants a third debate in prime time.