Monday, August 19, 2013

Rudd turns to health, spending cuts - Ninemsn

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned the coalition would scrap GP super clinics and Medicare Local centres, as he fended off claims of running a negative scare campaign.

Heading into the third week of the campaign, Labor is stepping up efforts to persuade voters a coalition government would be a risk to jobs and services because it would have to cut public spending to fund its election promises.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, however, said Labor was plumbing new depths in its attacks on the coalition by making "a whole series of absolutely outlandish and false claims".

Mr Rudd took his campaign to northern NSW on Monday to launch a $50 million plan for stroke patient support.

Speaking at a Medicare Local centre, the prime minister said the coalition would shut down the facilities run by local clinicians and community leaders and sack 3000 frontline health workers.

"Mr Abbott hasn't really thought through the real impact of his cuts on real peoples' lives," Mr Rudd said.

Labor has backed up the attack with campaign advertisements showing workers standing in spotlights which are then switched off.

"This is not about negativity, it's about accountability," Mr Rudd said of the ads.

The coalition has yet to announce its health policy, but Mr Abbott said last Friday he wanted community control of public hospitals, and medical research funding would be quarantined.

Mr Abbott did not intend to cut health spending, but would be spending "money more wisely".

The opposition leader was in western Sydney on Monday to formally announce his small business and law and order policies.

"The current government in losing control of our borders, has not just failed to stop the boats but has failed to stop the guns as well," Mr Abbott said.

The crime policy includes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for importing illegal firearms, $100 million for Customs and local gang squads and $50 million for CCTV cameras in communities.

During a visit to supporters in Liverpool, he incorrectly referred to Labor as the "former government", before quickly correcting himself.

Treasurer Chris Bowen stood by Mr Rudd's argument that the coalition cuts would drive the economy into recession.

"We've seen it in other countries when you cut and when you embark on an austerity program, then you see an impact on economic activity," Mr Bowen said.

The latest Newspoll puts the coalition ahead of Labor 54-46 on a two-party basis and Mr Abbott just two points behind Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister.

But, in a sign of hope for the government, an Essential poll has Labor and the coalition at 50-50, after a two-point drop in the primary vote for minor parties and independents.

Labor star candidate Peter Beattie, who is standing in the Queensland seat of Forde, took an optimistic view of the polls, saying Labor can stabilise and rebuild as the campaign to September 7 continues.

"Incumbent governments always go backwards in the first 10 or 11 days," the former premier said.

The opposition's health spokesman Peter Dutton dismissed as "totally false" Mr Rudd's suggestion that all Medicare Local programs would be scrapped and that 3000 frontline health staff would be sacked under an Abbott government.

The coalition continued to provide "in-principle" support for Medicare Locals and wanted to ensure that funding for patient services wasn't being diverted to administrative services, he said in a statement.

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