Turnbull to promise ‘a step up in political culture’

Days out from the Australian federal election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is calling for unity. Lukas Coch/AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australians want the parliament to “offload the ideology” and end juvenile behaviour and personality politics.

Turnbull will address the National Press Club on Thursday in his last major campaign speech. Against the background of the new international uncertainty caused by the Brexit decision, he will urge more sense of common purpose and less division – “a step up in political culture”.

He says in his speech that one strong sentiment he has picked up while visiting so many electorates is that Australians want the government to get on with the job of ensuring a strong economy to set up the country for the future.

“In uncertain times globally, they are looking for a greater sense of common purpose.

"I believe they want our parliament to offload the ideology, to end the juvenile theatrics and gotcha moments, to drop the personality politics. They want our focus to be on issues that matter to them – and an end to division for division’s sake. Australians are entitled to expect that of their parliament.

"In these uncertain times, we need to stick together, stick to our economic plan, grow our economy, create more jobs and build a better future for all Australians. If re-elected on Saturday that is what I am committed to delivering.”

Turnbull says Australians are “clear-eyed and realistic about the volatility and uncertainty in the global economy”.

He says Australia has done well to have 3.1% growth in the year to March. This is better than any of the G7 economies and well above the OECD average. But we are in a low-growth global economy, and this requires keeping a weather eye out for the headwinds, he says.

“Given that uncertainty, my strong sense is that what Australians are looking for most from this election is a step-up in political culture – strong, decisive, resolute leadership, yet with a focus on what unites rather than divides. That is the leadership I and my team offer to the Australian people.”

On Wednesday Turnbull gave a categoric guarantee that if the government was re-elected and its proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite was carried it would be implemented by parliament. This was an “absolute certainty”, Turnbull said, insisting it would “sail through the parliament”, although the fact that Liberals MPs including cabinet ministers would have a free vote has prompted questions.

He said the plebiscite would be dealt with “as quickly as possible” and he was “reasonably optimistic” it could be held before the end of the year.

The mechanics would be similar to those for a referendum. That would mean if there were any funding made available for the distribution of a yes and no case, it would be on an equal basis, he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was put on the spot after a video emerged from the 2013 campaign in which he said he was “completely relaxed about having some form of plebiscite” on same-sex marriage. Shorten now trenchantly opposes a plebiscite.

He said he had changed his mind. “The people are now leading in terms of public opinion on marriage equality. The people have changed my mind.

"I think the people of Australia, the majority of them, have clearly moved, even in the last two or three years, to supporting marriage equality and all popular opinion polls would seem to indicate the truth of what I’m saying. Now the question is: what the best way to achieve it?.”

Labor argues it should be through parliament, not via a divisive plebiscite. Shorten promises that if elected he would legislate in his first 100 days.