Malcolm Turnbull appealed directly to marginal seat voters in a campaign launch speech that urged Australians to resist the “roll of the dice on independents or minor parties” and return the Coalition government to ensure stability.
“That is why I counsel Australians against a roll of the dice on independents or minor parties,” Turnbull said.
“Vote for anyone other than the Liberal and National party candidates, and the risk is that Australians will next week find themselves with Bill Shorten as prime minister and no certainty about their future.
“That is why I am urging every Australian to think of this election as if their single vote will determine what sort of government we have after July 2.”
In the final weekend of an eight-week election marathon, the prime minister “launched” the campaign in the seat of Reid, held by Liberal MP Craig Laundy on a margin of 3.3%.
Turnbull’s key messages were stability following the UK’s decision to exit the European Union and a return to Tony Abbott’s theme of a safe, secure Australia.
“National security and economic security go hand in hand,” he said.
Turnbull nuanced the Coalition’s domestic message in the wake of the Brexit decision, with a nod to the disengagement felt by voters in Australia and around the world.
“There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian,” Turnbull said. “But only if your optimism and confidence is matched with a clear-eyed understanding of what makes the economy work, what makes businesses invest and hire, and an ability to see the world as it is, not how you would like it to be.
“This is a time which demands stable majority government.”
His Coalition partner, the National party, has been worried throughout the campaign that Turnbull’s message of “exciting times” in a changing economy has been scaring the electorate, especially in regional Australia.
The prime minister, whose main policy is a $50bn corporate tax cut, underlined the connection between the economy and people, fleshing out specific examples including women who want more part-time work and young people who want to get a start.
“We know that the economy is people – their lives, their futures, their security.”
He characterised the $50bn decision to build submarines in South Australia as a “historic investment” because “only a strong Australia can be a safe Australia”.
He attacked Labor’s record on asylum seekers – “50,000 unauthorised barrivals on 800 boats, 1,200 deaths at sea” – and again suggested people smugglers were looking for a sign that the government would waver on refugee policy. Turnbull warned the division in Labor over boats policy would mean the return of asylum seeker boats.
“We know this because hope rarely triumphs over experience,” Turnbull said. “They have failed Australia before.”
He borrowed from John Howard’s justification for hardline asylum policy.
“Public trust in the government to determine who can come to Australia and how long they can stay is an essential foundation of our success as a multicultural society,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull thanked Howard for his reforms, which he said “set Australia up for the longest period of prosperity in our history”, and Tony Abbott for ending the Rudd-Gillard years.
“John and Tony, we salute you.”
Turnbull announced a number of election pledges in the final stage of the campaign, with the major commitment around mental health.
He promised $192m towards a package of mental health changes to ensure help for individuals and their families, including commitments in suicide prevention, which has been a persistent theme in the campaign.
The Coalition pledged $48m to help 24,000 of Australia’s most disadvantaged children with their education through the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program and $31.2m for internships and post-school career advice to increase support for women and girls to study and work in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).
There is $50m to improve the digital literacy of senior Australians and $10m to protect, preserve and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages as part of the living story of Australia’s shared history.
He attacked Bill Shorten’s policies as being a recipe for “economic stagnation”, characterised by “union thuggery” and raised the Victorian firefighters’ dispute.
“His vision splendid is to run the nation like a trade union,” Turnbull said. “The volunteer firefighters of Victoria know what that looks like.”
In a bid to sidetrack the Coalition event, Shorten effectively held a second campaign launch in Brisbane under the guise of a Save Medicare rally. He framed the Coalition as divided and Malcolm Turnbull as a weak leader ahead of the Liberal launch.
“Behind the forced smiles today and the awkward music, when we watch them, those Liberals at that party are sharpening their weapons of revenge for the impending civil war in that party after the election.”
The latest poll from Galaxy Research – of more than 500 voters in each seat – showed Labor was unlikely to win the marginal seats required to take government.
The poll, published in News Corp papers, found Labor would win only two of 14 Coalition-held marginal seats in four states and is at 50-50 in two others.
The poll suggests Labor could win the Queensland seats of Petrie (2PP 52-48) and Capricornia (2PP 51-49) while it is on 50-50 in Hindmarsh in South Australia and Macarthur in New South Wales.