• Great Barrier Reef dominates election campaigning (AAP)
SBS World News Radio: Labor has pledged half-a-billion dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef from threats, including climate change, if it's elected to government.
By
Aileen Phillips

31 May 2016 - 8:00 AM  UPDATED 31 May 2016 - 9:23 AM

Day 22 of the federal election campaign saw the opposition leader return to Queensland, while the Prime Minister made a second visit to western Sydney with promises of more funding for an initiative linking schools with private business.

An environmental icon may have been the big winner of today's announcements.

Both the coalition and Labor admit saving the Great Barrier Reef from devastating bleaching will require action on climate change.

Labor's committed funding for the Reef, as bleaching continues to wipe out coral, if it wins government.

It's promising a $500 million fund to invest in direct environmental management, science and research and proper reef management.

Mr Shorten says the Great Barrier Reef is a national treasure that's in desperate need of saving from irreparable damage.

"Our Reef also is the backbone of the far north Queensland economy. There are two million visitors who come here each year. It supports 70,000 jobs, it generates 5.7 billion dollars to our economy. So this reef is important environmentally and it's also important economically. And the reed is in peril."

The coalition promised $6 million for another boat to cull crown of thorns starfish, which is considered another threat to the Reef.

But the main focus for the coalition was an announcement to expand its school-business partnerships.

If it's re-elected, an extra 12 schools around the country will get to trial the program known as Pathways in Technology, or P-TECH, following a $4.6 million funding boost.

The government says the program is designed to deliver better results in maths and science subjects and give students skills that employers want.

Mr Turnbull visited a school in the marginal seat of Lindsay, where students are partnered with young PricewaterhouseCoopers employees.

He says the program can be life-changing and is a critical element in the Coalition's economic plan.

"I talk about jobs and growth and I'm sure that some of you feel I talk about it too often, but it is absolutely vital and it makes life changing transformation to young people here in this school and right around the country. They see suddenly, yes, that's why I'm struggling away at this mathematical problem, that's why I'm battling away at physics, that's why I've got to work hard because there's a great job for me."

The initial P-TECH trial was announced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014, who was enthusiastic after seeing a similar program in action in the United States.

Nearly a year later, in August 2015, Mr Abbott announced two schools in Geelong and Ballarat would be the first to trial it.

Mr Turnbull's extra commitment could see the program expand further.

The prime minister also confirmed his government would put same-sex marriage to a national vote by the end of the year, if the coalition is re-elected.

"Obviously legislation has got to pass through the parliament. So all I can do is give you my commitment to hold the plebiscite as soon as we can and it'll be a very straight forward question and we will be asking the Australian people whether they support the definition of marriage being extended to include couples of the same sex."

Under a government in which the Greens party holds the balance of power, Australia's arts and culture scene can expect a boost.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says it's important to have a thriving arts community in Australia.

The announcement includes a $220 million injection into the Australia Council, as well as funding for a specific project aimed at young and emerging artists.

The body which advises the government and allocates federal money to arts projects has suffered serious funding cuts under the coalition, forcing it to defund dozens of organisations reliant on its grants.

Senator Di Natale says the Greens also want a broader strategic vision.

"We're committing to working with the arts sector to implement a national arts vision so that we can have policy that is directed by the arts sector themselves and it allows us to make decisions into the future which are guided by an overall framework. We want a national arts week. We've got a science week, why don't we have a national arts week. And we are committing to funding that."

On the sidelines of the campaign, Federal Opposition finance spokesman Tony Burke dismissed comments made by a former state Labor treasurer.

Keith De Lacy accused the opposition of running an anti-business campaign, saying its stance on corporate tax cuts is the most anti-business policy he's ever seen federal Labor put to an election.

Mr Burke says Mr De Lacy's comments are nothing new.

"I did a bit of a search through the records. Mr De Lacy has made comments like this every few months. He's clearly got this view. Not that I saw today is new from him. On the Great Barrier Reef for example, you read some of the views he's put out there about the only problem being the do-gooders and it being a self-correcting eco system. I think when you go through the history of Mr De Lacy's views, I was surprised they were given the prominence there were given today."

And there are reports Malarndirri McCarthy will be Labor's Senate candidate for the Northern Territory at the federal election.

The former Labor representative for Arnhem in the Northern Territory parliament from 2005 to 2012 was unanimously endorsed by the party's national executive.

It comes after Nova Peris announced her intention to leave politics last week, saying she wanted to devote more time to her family.