Sunday, August 11, 2013

Abbott stands firm, Rudd runs - Sydney Morning Herald


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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.

The two leaders entered their debate in front of a country already inclined to vote Labor out of power, but needing to be reassured Tony Abbott is leadership material.

And while Abbott was neither intellectually compelling nor personally charismatic, he did manage to be basically reassuring. Like Kevin Rudd, he evaded the hard questions. Neither man would level with the voting public on how he would repair the nation's public finances. Both failed a litmus test of seriousness on fixing the country's groaning infrastructure – they ducked the question on building Sydney's second airport.

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.

Despite rules prohibiting the use of "documentation or props" Kevin Rudd appeared to reference notes. Photo: Andrew Meares

Both told us Australia needed to diversify its economy now that the mining boom is in retreat, yet neither came any closer to explaining how he would do it.


Rudd leaned heavily on the national broadband network as his multipurpose problem solver; Abbott leaned heavily on his central argument that the main problem to be solved is Labor.

As an example of inspirational national vision-building, it was a failure on both sides.

The conversation on Twitter clearly spiked when the issue of gay marriage was raised.

The conversation on Twitter clearly spiked when the issue of gay marriage was raised.

But Abbott was clear and calm and projected the essential confidence that the people need to see in their leaders. He stuck to his well-rehearsed themes and his three-word slogans. Simplistic, absolutely, even simple-minded, but against the contrast of Labor's chaos, it's a deliberate effort to convey stability and predictability.

Labor's slogan – "A New Way" – emphasises Rudd's central problem. He needs to renew Labor's argument for re-election. He's asking for a second chance for himself and third chance for Labor. He did not make a compelling case.

His desperation was clear in his effort to run what Abbott correctly described as a "cheap scare campaign" over Abbott's alleged plan to raise the GST. And Abbott is a man who knows a cheap scare campaign when he sees one. Abbott was careful to reserve the ability to review the tax system and to take any proposed changes to a second election. He has not allowed Labor to panic him out of prudent policy options. But he has been emphatic that he will not change the GST in his first term, yet Rudd persisted.

Abbott has not yet closed the deal, but he moved closer in the debate and Rudd failed to stop him.

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