Morrison And Shorten Trade Blows In The Third And Final Leaders' Debate

The gloves came off, at least partially, for the final leaders' debate of the federal election with Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten having several testy exchanges.

The prime minister and opposition leader fronted the National Press Club on Wednesday night for their third match-up of the campaign, but there was no clear winner.

They confronted each other directly over issues including the details of Labor's plan to tackle the cost of cancer treatment, negative gearing and the make-up of their ministries.

"If you win you'll have more people to promote because so many of your current ministry is leaving," Shorten said on the last point.

"No need to get nasty," the prime minister shot back.

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison during the third election debate. Photo: AAP

The coalition won't be respecting Labor's mandate to wind back franking credit refunds to people who pay no tax.

"It's a heinous tax on Australians who have worked hard all of their lives," Morrison said.

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And Shorten indicated Labor wouldn't heed any coalition mandate on dealing with climate change, saying, "I think their minimalist approach to climate change means the argument goes on."

However, both leaders committed to maintaining budget surpluses even against the economic headwinds forecast to blow Australia's way.

Bill Shorten during the third election debate. Photo: AAP

Moderator Sabra Lane, from the ABC, pulled up Morrison when he said the budget was in surplus already, pointing out it wasn't for the current financial year and the truth of the forecast for 2019/20 wouldn't be revealed until September 2020.

"I said we brought the budget back to surplus next year," he replied.

The leaders also agreed with a simple "yes" each to have an independent debate commission set up before the next election to end the back-and-forth over when and where debates will be held and in what format.

The leaders were allowed to ask two questions of each other - and all four were about Labor's policies.

Scott Morrison watches on during the third election debate. Photo: AAP

Shorten asked whether the coalition would follow his lead on further subsidising cancer care and childcare fees.

"I think Australians have got to the point where they've grown tired of politicians who come and say give me all your money and I'll solve all your problems," the prime minister replied to the latter.

He used his to ask whether Labor planned to increase tax on superannuation and for a guarantee proposed limits on negative gearing wouldn't push rents up or house prices down.

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Shorten replied that the Grattan Institute and NSW Treasury had on Wednesday said the negative gearing policy wasn't likely to impact house prices.

"So there's no guarantee?" Morrison pushed.

"You heard the answer," Shorten replied.

Throughout the debate, Shorten stuck with a theme he's followed during the election, that if the coalition won it would be "business as usual" for another three years.

Morrison maybe inadvertently underscored this when he painted a picture of what Australia would be like in a decade when his kids are grown up, pointing to the continuation of programs and economic efforts already underway.

But both leaders agreed whatever happens on May 18, Australians could be reassured the instability in the nation's leadership would end.

"I think we need one more change of PM and then we can finish it for a while," Shorten said.

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