Election 2022 LIVE updates: Studio audience decides Anthony Albanese wins first debate against Scott Morrison; fallout from Solomon Islands-China security pact continues

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  • Leaders clash over China, boat turnbacks and the NDIS in first debate
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Leaders clash over China, boat turnbacks and the NDIS in first debate

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have clashed in a fiery debate over China’s expansion into the Pacific, as the prime minister attacked his opponent’s history on asylum-seeker boat turnbacks and the Labor leader fought back on the NDIS.

In a sign of the lack of significant policy differences between the two leaders, Morrison last night stuck to his attacks on Labor over asylum seeker boat arrivals in 2013 and accused him of siding with China, while Albanese continued his claim that the Coalition could extend the cashless welfare card to pensioners.

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison at the first leaders’ debate of the 2022 federal election campaign.Credit:Getty

The tensest exchange at the Sky News forum in front of 100 undecided voters in Brisbane – the first debate between the two leaders – came when they were questioned over a new security pact between China and the Solomon Islands.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong yesterday accused the government of the “worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific” in almost 80 years.

“This isn’t so much a Pacific step up, it’s a Pacific stuff up,” Albanese said, referring to the Coalition’s Pacific foreign aid program.

Morrison said the deal came after years of increasing Chinese interference in the region and suggested Labor’s criticism of the government’s actions showed it was “taking China’s side”.

“That is an outrageous slur from the prime minister,” Albanese replied. “And national security issues shouldn’t be the subject of that kind of slur.”

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Thursday, April 21. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started.

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese went head-to-head last night in the first televised debate of the election campaign. The leaders covered topics including housing affordability, foreign diplomacy and security, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the state of the economy.
  • The PM last night sought to corner Albanese over his previous position on boat turnbacks. Labor MPs, meanwhile, criticised Morrison for the way he responded to a questioner whose four-year-old son has autism. The live television audience declared Albanese victorious by the end of the debate: 40 people voted for the Labor leader, 35 chose Morrison and 25 remained undecided.
  • Security experts are warning that Chinese ships and aircraft could arrive in the Solomon Islands within four weeks, according to David Crowe and Eryk Bagshaw. As reported yesterday, the security pact between the two countries has been signed despite lobbying from the Australian government and Western allies. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia has defended Jakarta’s plan to include Russia in this year’s G20 summit in Bali.
  • And the countdown is on for NSW and Victoria when it comes to easing household close-contact isolation rules. The latest easing of coronavirus restrictions comes into effect from 6pm tomorrow in NSW and 11.59pm tomorrow in Victoria. Masks on public transport and at airports are tipped to be the next pandemic restrictions to go.
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