Sunday, August 11, 2013

$70b hole a fantasy: Abbott - Brisbane Times

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Abbott rules out raising the GST

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott denies any potential changes to the GST during Sunday night's leaders debate.

Tony Abbott has branded Kevin Rudd's claim of a $70 billion shortfall in his election platform as ''simply a fantasy'' but refused to say how he would replace billions of dollars in revenue forgone by scrapping a slew of Labor taxes.

The claim and counter-claim came in the keenly awaited first leaders' debate of the 2013 election campaign, scored by many observers as a narrow win to the challenger who, unlike Mr Rudd, spoke without notes in accordance with the agreed rules.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott shake hands at the commencement of the Leaders Debate at the National Press Club in Canberra on Sunday 11 August 2013. Photo: Andrew Meares

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott shake hands before last night's debate at the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares

Under attack from Mr Rudd over undisclosed Coalition costings, Mr Abbott said he had no ''big scalpel'' poised to slash spending in health and education as he hit back at Labor's record on asylum seeker boats, and claimed Labor had killed the China resources boom with a raft of taxes.


Lagging slightly in the latest opinion polls and thus needing a strong performance with less than a month to the election, a visibly nervous Mr Rudd appealed to voters to consider Labor's economic management credentials through the GFC and the end of the mining boom, arguing he had the policies to meet new challenges from climate change to the national broadband network.

But in an otherwise drab debate, he also moved to politically wedge his conservative opponent on the issue of marriage equality announcing a new push to legalise same-sex marriage.

Close call ... electorate divided following tonight's debate.

Close call ... viewers were divided on preference after the debate.

He said a parliamentary vote on full marriage equality would take place within the first 100 days of a re-elected Labor government.

Mr Abbott, who personally opposes any change to the Marriage Act, refused to be drawn on the question of whether he would grant coalition MPs a free or conscience vote on the issue.

Citing the claimed $70 billion shortfall, Mr Rudd accused Mr Abbott of having undeclared plans to increase the 10 per cent goods and services tax to replace revenue from the mining and carbon taxes and to fund his direct action plans.

''Let's just say that the $70 billion can't be made up in terms of all the cuts which have been partly foreshadowed to jobs, health and education,'' Mr Rudd said.

''Mr Abbott, and the deputy leader Julie Bishop … and (shadow treasurer) Mr Hockey have said that the review of the goods and services tax is on the table.

''Will it be increased? And will it go to food?'' It was a claim Mr Abbott rejected outright promising repeatedly that the GST would not be changed despite acknowledging that a Coalition government would conduct an audit of government spending and would review the entire tax system including the GST.

''I think our country, I think the people at home who are watching this deserve better than a cheap scare campaign from the Prime Minister of this country,'' Mr Abbott said.

''This idea that the coalition is ready with a great big scalpel to slash health, to slash education, to slash jobs is simply wrong.''

Speaking second, determined by a the coin toss earlier in the day, Mr Abbott used his opening salvo to call on Australians to back Labor's goal of ''a new way'' by dumping Kevin Rudd.

In a debate in which neither side landed a knock-out punch on the other, both men appealed to the hip-pockets of middle Australia.

''The election is about a clear choice on the economy, on jobs, on how we support families under pressure, and how we support education and health,'' Mr Rudd said.

''I can see a great new future for Australia, and the government I lead knows how to build that future for all Australians.

''I offer a new way to secure Australia's future.''

Mr Abbott said the election was not about either leader, ''it's about you the people of Australia''.

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