Mr Shorten said the election contest had become one of “hope versus fear’, as he accused the Coalition of having no agenda other than to warn voters against a Labor government.
“This is a government who’s disappearing down the sinkhole of its own negativity,” he said.
Mr Shorten reaffirmed one of his priorities for the first 100 days in office was to invite business, along with unions and others, to a summit to discuss the economy and wages. But while he was happy to consult, he indicated he would not be talked out of his policy agenda.
“It won’t be a session where we sit around with a whiteboard and butchers paper and ask everyone what do we do,” he said.
“We’ve got a clear plan but I respect the contribution that all can make.”
Mr Shorten’s plans for industrial relations, including mandated wages rises for the low paid, a return to pattern bargaining for low paid sectors and the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, are unpopular in business circles.
He pledged not to be run by the unions either.
“I take my inspiration here from Bob Hawke who said he wouldn’t be a hand maiden to the unions, he wouldn’t work for any sector,” he said.
“I will work for the Australian people, and to do that I will work with the different parts of the Australian economic life. Big business, small business, farmers, contractors, franchising, franchisees, start-ups, workers, unions, state and local governments.”
Labor entered the campaign as the favourite but a shaky first two weeks on the trail coinciding with a tightening of the polls now points to a close result.
Labor has paid dearly in the past for trying to tackle climate change and the government has mounted a scare campaign against part of its latest policy which is to subject the 250 heaviest polluters to a baseline and credit scheme.
Mr Shorten was unfazed.
“The times suit us, we reflect the national mood better than the dads’ army of climate deniers infesting the government ranks,” he said.
Other elements of his plan for the first 100 days include restoring the independence of Infrastructure Australia by making bipartisan board appointments, legislating to reverse cuts to penalty rates, legislating tax cuts for low and middle income earners and increasing the top marginal tax rate from 47 per cent to 49 per cent. He would also begin discussions about the Constitutional recognition of indigenous people, and unfreeze Medicare rebates for GPs.
Mr Shorten said he had not given up on tax cuts for higher income earners and taking on bracket creep but for now, there were other priorities.
“There is a fundamental unfairness in our tax system. Capital in Australia is taxed lightly and income is taxed heavily,” he said.
“We’re winding back some of the capital subsidies to make sure that we can properly fund our schools and our hospitals and get our budget into surplus sustainably, not without raiding the wheelchair fund of disabled people.
“But there’s no doubt in my mind…the more we can put downward pressure on income tax levels, that’s a good thing, but not at the expense of schools and hospitals, not at the expense of getting into surplus.”
Asked about style, Mr Shorten said he would borrow from all post-war Labor prime ministers.
He cited John Curtin establishing the Australian identity; Ben Chifley’s nation building; Gough Whitlam who “wrote Australia large”; Mr Hawke’s unique connection with the people and his “willingness to have a view and then bring people around the table and convince them”; Paul Keating’s forensic fiscal and economic understanding; Kevin Rudd’s commitment to act on climate and Julia Gillard’s commitment to education.
“You know I am going to be so modest as to say, that if I get elected Prime Minister at the end of my time, if what most people will say about me is that ‘he made our lives a little better than they ever otherwise would have been’, (I’d be content),” he said.