Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Photo: Andrew MearesFederal Election 2013 coveragePeter Hartcher: From Howard’s book and headed for same footnoteMichael Gordon: Rudd summons fighting spirit in spite of pollsHave your say at YourView
A defiant Kevin Rudd has used his official campaign launch to warn voters not to write him off in 2013, asking them to think very carefully about their jobs before installing Tony Abbott as prime minister.
”And for those who say the fight is up, I say they haven’t seen anything yet,” he said, to roars of support from the audience. ”Because we have something worth fighting for.”
The warning came as he unveiled new promises aimed at winning the affection of small business owners – through beefed-up tax breaks – and apprentices, through mandated trainee quotas on projects, and increased incentive payments for the purchase of tools.
Positioning Labor as the chief protector of job security, he repeatedly appealed to any last-minute uncertainty voters might have about spending cuts under a Coalition government, such as those undertaken by the Newman government in Queensland.
”If you are still feeling uneasy about voting for Tony Abbott,” he said, ”there is good reason for that because he’s asking you to buy something sight unseen. You, the Australian people, have had a long time to get to know Mr Abbott after his 20 years in Parliament, but if you still have doubts, don’t vote for him.”
He said if Mr Abbott won, there would be ”real change all right, because his real change means choosing massive cuts to your schools, your hospitals, your broadband, your jobs, and your pay packet”.
Labor’s official re-election pitch in Brisbane came a week before polling day, leaving it little time to turn around its fortunes which, polls say, will almost certainly see it turfed out of office on September 7.
”We should have done this earlier,” said a senior aide, in an acknowledgment of the looming verdict of voters.
Mr Rudd was introduced by his wife Therese Rein as Labor strategists tried to upstage Mr Abbott’s use of his daughters to introduce him at the Coalition launch last week.
Ms Rein reminded the audience of her husband’s humble beginnings from sleeping in a car as a child after the death of his father, to his newest role as doting grandfather.
She said he was a man ”who carries his country boy smile everywhere with him”.
”I want you to meet . . . a man who just knows how important it is to have a place to call home, to have the dignity of a job,” she said.
Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating received enthusiastic applause when they entered the hall, with Mr Hawke introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as the country’s longest-serving Labor prime minister and Mr Keating as the best treasurer the country ever had.
An upbeat Mr Rudd showed no sign of feeling any political mortality, telling the party faithful that despite the welter of bad polls suggesting Labor’s troubled six years in power were at an end, all was not lost. ”In this election, we can and will prevail,” he declared.
He said he had come from behind before and, while acknowledging that Labor had made mistakes, said the nation could not afford to go backwards under an Abbott prime ministership.
Among several new policy announcements was a promise to ensure that all investment projects worth more than $300 million would be required to give local suppliers and workforces a ”fair go”. This represents a near halving of the $500 million threshold for such projects announced by Labor earlier this year. The Prime Minister said this would pump between $156 million and $624 million into Australian industry each year.
As well, Canberra-funded construction projects worth more than $5 million would have new mandatory apprentice/trainee/cadet quotas under which a minimum one in 10 workers would be drawn from these categories, to boost job opportunities for the young.
”Federal Labor is going to this election with a positive plan for jobs,” Mr Rudd said.
Small businesses with turnover of less than $2 million a year will also benefit from an immediate ”upfront tax deduction … when they buy new equipment worth up to $10,000”.
As the campaign enters its final week, the latest Newspoll shows Mr Abbott has overtaken Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister for the first time.
The survey, published in The Australian on Monday, shows primary support for Labor has slumped to 33 per cent, the lowest level ever under Mr Rudd as Prime Minister.
Labor now trails the Coalition 46 per cent to 54 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.
If this result was seen nationally, Labor would lose 14 seats, including those of former treasurer Wayne Swan and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury. Mr Abbott leads Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister 43 per cent to 41 per cent.
Mr Abbott, who will make his last major campaign speech to the National Press Club on Monday, denied there were harsh cuts in the offing.
”I don’t believe the additional savings to be announced later in this week will impact on ordinary Australians,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday. ”I want to give people this absolute assurance: no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to pensions and no changes to the GST.”
with Dan Harrison
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.