Sunday, August 11, 2013

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott get ready for election ... - Herald Sun

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pictured in Queanbeyan today. Picture: Adam Head Source: News Limited

KEVIN Rudd has prepared for tonight's debate by spending a quiet day with his family and visiting church for "a bit of divine solace".

While Tony Abbott pumped up the endorphins by finishing the City to Surf with 85,000 fellow Sydneysiders in his hometown, the Prime Minister turned to one of his closest advisers for support.


After a morning spent with his whole family, including daughter Jessica and granddaughter Josephine, he enjoyed a long walk with son Nicholas, who has been deployed to his father's campaign.

Mr Rudd also announced a $35 million program to help about 9000 unemployed youth find pathways to work.

The Step Into Skills program is aimed at 15 to 25-year-olds who haven't finished school and don't have qualifications to find work.

"There is a group of young folk who often fall through the cracks," he said of those the program would target through training, literacy support and lifeskills lessons.

He said he was couldn't wait to finally take on Mr Abbott, after months of taunting him with challenges for a debate.

The leaders will face off for an hour from 6.30pm at the National Press Club in a clash to be screened on free to air networks.

And audiences will have a chance to cast their votes on the pollie's performances, with the "worm" and Twitter feeds featuring on all channels.

"I'm delighted to the opportunity to have a debate about our future," Mr Rudd said "I am so passionate about our country and where we can take Australia."

Despite the long lead-up, Mr Rudd this morning said his focus would remain fixed firmly on the Coalition's plans for the economy, including secret plans to hike up the goods and services tax - an assertion Mr Abbot denies.

The two leaders managed to agree on the debate format after weeks of argy bargy about the details. Mr Rudd's first challenge was issued in the press conference he held after snatching back the Prime Ministership, but Mr Abbott always insisted any debate should be held during the campaign proper.

The debate will be moderated by Sky News presenter David Speers and questions asked by a panel of journalists from the ABC, Fairfax and News Corp Australia.

Earlier today Mr Rudd said the last-minute replacement of two Labor candidates embroiled in sexist and racist scandals was "absolutely the right decision".

"When I talk about a new way in politics I mean a new way in politics, and I stand by those decisions," he said.

He defended the fact the two candidates had gotten so far into the election campaign before being stood down.

"I think it's fair to say that in the history of pre-selections across the country you always have some problems which emerge," he said today while launching a new $35 million youth employment initiative in Queanbeyan.


Geoff Lake, the pre-selected candidate for retiring former ALP leader Simon Crean's seat of Hotham in Victoria, was stood down after admitting he had called a wheelchair bound local council candidate a "f******g slut".

Ken Robertson resigned as the candidate for Kennedy in Queensland after it emerged he had called the Opposition Leader "a very very bigoted person" in an interview with News Corp Australia.


Mr Rudd said he would now rely on the ALP national executive to field further candidates.

"I will depend on their wisdom and I am sure they will inform me what they are doing. I am sure we will put our best foot forward," he said.

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