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Our Pollies Won't Stop Insulting Each Other Over Debate Dramas

Labor and the Coalition are trading barbs as they debate about the next debate with Labor upping the ante by saying Scott Morrison was “chicken” and his ministers were hiding in “witness protection”.

The two election debates so far, despite hardly blockbuster TV ratings on 7TWO and Sky, have given Bill Shorten confidence and momentum.

The Coalition earlier claimed Shorten was dodging debates and had resisted a prime time face-off on a mainstream channel. However, the Labor leader is now itching for another, after he won the majority of undecided viewers in both televised bouts so far.

Labor wrote to the Liberals last week, suggesting a National Press Club debate on Wednesday night, broadcast by the ABC. Little progress has been made since, and on Monday, Labor’s campaign director Noah Carroll nudged the Liberals with a follow-up note.

On Twitter, Shorten’s official media staff account claimed that Morrison was a “chicken” for also not appearing on ABC’s Q&A program, which the opposition leader will do on Monday night. The program’s producer tweeted that the PM advised he would not be able to appear this campaign.

The Liberals have now finally agreed to a debate, but on the proviso there was only one journalist moderating. Labor wants representatives of other media to be included too, so it seems the standoff will continue, just 48 hours from the proposed debate night.

On Monday, Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese threw down the gauntlet, claiming Morrison was “running scared”.

“Scott Morrison basically got creamed by Bill Shorten in the two debates that have been held. Creamed absolutely,” he said at a health funding announcement in Penrith’s marginal seat of Lindsay.

“He should have further debates.”

Shorten claimed Albanese had “been struggling to find someone to debate him”.

Albanese also added that he thought Morrison was “chicken” for dodging Q&A, goading that he should “break out of the egg” and front the audience’s questions.

Protestors dressed as Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten during the anti-Adani Rally outside Parliament House in Canberra. PhotoL AAP

“We're quite happy to have debates. I’ve written to [Coalition infrastructure minister] Michael McCormack, I’ve sent text messages, I’ve sent smoke signals to try and find him, and he can’t be found,” Albanese joked.

Shorten also took aim at other Coalition members for keeping a low profile in this campaign. Morrison has largely campaigned on his own, with other ministers - such as Peter Dutton, environment minister Melissa Price and McCormack - staying largely out of the media spotlight.

Dutton has challenged Shorten to name who would hold the Home Affairs portfolio - Dutton’s own ministry - in a Labor government.

“Old Peter Dutton stuck his head up here, came out of witness protection briefly,” the Labor leader joked, adding that he was looking forward to how the Liberal election campaign launch would go next Sunday in Melbourne.

“I just wonder who’s going to be there. I had my whole team at my launch. Will we see the minister for environment? She’s more on the endangered species list than the ones we’re trying to protect,” Shorten said.

“As for Peter Dutton, he’s the one who famously said you can’t go have dinner in Melbourne... will he be too scared to attend?”

Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol. 

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