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Division and unity 100 days after election

AAP logoAAP 9/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

The federal government reckons it has 100 days of achievement under its belt since the election, as Labor sought to return the political focus to Medicare.

The latest Newspoll has the coalition trailing Labor 48-52 in two-party terms, but Malcolm Turnbull leading Bill Shorten 45-30 as preferred prime minister.

After a three-week break, parliament resumed on Monday with Mr Shorten unsuccessfully bringing on a motion to condemn the 100-day-old government's plans to find budget savings in the Medicare system through rebate freezes and other measures.

"The prime minister has admitted that he has a problem with Medicare but he's shown no interest in fixing it," the Labor leader told parliament.

"He's backflipped on the backpacker tax, he's backflipped on his iron-clad commitment to superannuation, but when it comes to cutting Medicare he knows which side he is on."

Mr Shorten sought to weave the issue into a broader criticism of the coalition, saying "universal health care is the bedrock of fairness".

Mr Turnbull said only the coalition government could cover the $23 billion a year cost of Medicare because it was properly managing Australia's public finances.

"The Labor party has done nothing about Medicare except frighten vulnerable Australians with falsehoods - we defend it, we sustain it, we ensure it serves Australia," he told parliament.

The prime minister and opposition leader shared a moment of bipartisanship in a motion - sought by Mr Shorten in the wake of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate - promoting anti-racism and equal rights for all Australians.

The bipartisan motion, similar to that presented to the parliament when Ms Hanson was first elected in 1996, denounced racial intolerance and reaffirms the parliament's commitments to Australians regardless of race, colour, creed or origin.

"A 20 year-old unity ticket perhaps, celebrating and reaffirming the Australian values of fair go and mutual respect for all regardless of how they look, how they worship or where they come from," Mr Turnbull told parliament.

Mr Shorten said Australia was not in danger of being "swamped by anyone", taking aim at Senator Hanson's previous warnings about Muslims and Asians.

"Migration is not a cost, or a burden. It is a powerful force for our continuing economic growth and future prosperity."

Senator Hanson and her three party colleagues were set to deliver Mr Turnbull a win in his bid to legislate to protect emergency services volunteers in the wake of Victoria's Country Fire Authority dispute.

Mr Turnbull said Labor's opposition to the law changes flew in the face of the party's commitment to fairness.

Following last week's shutdown of Ford car-making in Victoria, Mr Shorten sought to pin down the prime minister on support for 600 unemployed workers.

Mr Turnbull pointed out Ford's decision to close its production was made under the Gillard Labor government.

He said jobs would flow from a $155 million "growth fund" for advanced manufacturing and the government's naval shipbuilding strategy.

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