Australians were left divided after the second leaders’ debate with Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese tying 50/50 last night, with over 30,000 votes counted in a viewer poll. 

The second leaders’ debate frequently dissolved into fiery arguments, as both men made their final pitches to the Australian public before early voting polls open this morning.

Engaging on the cost of living, national security, the treatment of women, aged care, and character, each leader’s answers regularly consisted of their key slogans and messages.

When asked about the cost of living, Morrison waded in with his campaign’s clear message of a strong post-COVID economy. 

“By managing money well, that puts downward pressure on inflation… means we can invest in and guarantee the essential services you rely on, those cheaper medicines and medicare… that’s how you get the job done” said Morrison.

Alternatively, Albanese said Labor’s solution would be to adopt “practical” plans consisting of cheaper childcare, cheaper medicine including capping the maximum price at $30, and sustainably growing the economy.

“We also have a plan for the economy that makes sure we prioritise productivity so that we’re not placing upward pressure on inflation… our plan which consists of powering Australia with cheaper energy… fixing the NBN, better infrastructure investment, cheaper childcare, and making more things here.”

The topic of national security, focusing on China’s military activities in the Pacific and their security pact with the Solomon Islands, was another tense one, with a heated argument between the two opponents. The argument detracted from both candidates’ view on the issue as moderator Sarah Abo struggled to bring the pair to a stop.

Morrison was unable to identify where a potential “red line” was as Albanese called the situation “the biggest failure since the second world war”.

“It is a massive Pacific stuff up,” he told a TV audience estimated at well over a million. 

Both Morrison and Albanese were pushed over their party’s treatment of women in parliament. 

Morrison platformed his $2.5 billion policy, announced earlier in the day, allowing women with cancer or other genetic diseases to freeze their embryos for free, but when asked about the treatment of women within parliament said: “I don’t believe it has been resolved.”

“We need to do what we need to do to make the parliament a safer place for women,” he said.

It was a race Anthony, and we shouldn’t’ve described it in those terms.

Albanese was then questioned about the alleged bullying of the late senator Kimberley Kitching and why he wouldn’t launch an official review into the matter. Albanese discussed the procedures set in place by Labor but failed to effectively answer the question.

Issues of the personal character of both politicians were raised with panellists asking Morrison why Australia still didn’t trust him despite supposedly knowing him.

“I know that over that period of time there would have been many disappointments. People would have disagreed with many of the things I did, and might have had a different view on how things might have been managed”, said Morrison, “What I do say to those Australians is see what we’ve achieved together.”

Albanese was questioned over criticisms saying that Australia didn’t know what he stood for despite being in parliament for 26 years. 

“I have had the same values my entire life. Values of supporting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, values of supporting essential universal services,” he said. “I came out with three great faiths; the Labor party, the Catholic Church, and the South Sydney Rugby League Football club.”

The pair then began arguing over Labor’s proposal for a federal ICAC, with Morrison questioning his opponent over his party’s alleged lack of legislation, with Albanese forced to defend his position on the issue. 

The topic of aged care was also raised. Aged care has been one of the touchstone topics of the election, with Albanese saying he will fix the issue by employing more nurses and giving them more hours while Morrison refused to accept responsibility for the aged care crisis, while stating his proposed solutions.

Morrison then made the claim he was the whistleblower on the aged care crisis, leading Albanese to say that Morrison only acted “under pressure from the labour party”.

Criticisms of the government’s vaccine rollout were brought up by Albanese who challenged Morrison’s use of language in the rollout. This led to the admission from Morrison: “It was a race Anthony, and we shouldn’t’ve described it in those terms.” The PM then attempted to justify his comments by saying the government was ensuring the vaccines were made in Australia and were safe.

While the debate included a wide range of topics, climate change was only briefly mentioned in Albanese’s closing statements and loosely in arguments between the pair over energy prices.

Both leaders began the debate well-behaved, following the rules set prior to the event. However, the longer the event went on, the more Albanese and Morrison deviated from the rules and incoherently shouted over each other. 

Channel 9’s poll had technical issues leading to some confusion over a winner. However, the network said the correct result was eventually reached. The narrow margins of every viewer poll indicate that this election is far from decided, and either leader could still win when Australians go to the polls in less than two weeks time.

Main picture by Sam Kosack.