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Focus shifts to industrial relations, hospita -

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Broadcast: 23/09/2004

Focus shifts to industrial relations, hospitals

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: And as the election countdown moves closer to the crucial phase of the final two
weeks -- including the major party launches -- we'll again tonight join the two leaders on the
trail, examine Labor's often tense relationship with big business, get an independent expert
assessment of how electors are thinking and put the microscope on one of the tightest seats in this

The two leaders intensified their policy push today -- John Howard seeking again to put the
spotlight on his next planned round of industrial relations reforms; Mark Latham drawing attention
to his ideas for public hospitals.

For a change there wasn't a lot of money being splashed around today, although Mr Howard did
produce -- on the eve of the AFL Grand Final- $8 million for a Melbourne football club.

But as political editor Michael Brissenden found today, it's not just the professionals spending
big in this campaign to make a political point.

YOUNG GIRL #1: He's probably going to win the election because so many people trust him.

YOUNG GIRL #2: He wants to be PM again so he's come here for some reason.

MAN #1: You know, but no fairy tale, this is actually, as I said, something realistic and something
we can put our hat on.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: We all know Melbourne's footy mad, but what's this?

This is an election campaign in the week before the Grand Final, that's what it is, and this is the
campaign pork barrel bursting through the crepe paper.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I'm delighted to announce that if the Government is returned, we'll
contribute $8 million in 2005 towards a $19.5 million community partnership.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Yep, you heard it right -- $8 million for a football field.

And not just any football field.

This is Western Bulldogs territory.

The struggletown club made famous a few years ago as the subject of the documentary called the
'Year of the Dogs.' As it happens 2004 might well be the Dogs' best year yet.

But is it enough to turn votes in this classic working class Labor stronghold?

Well maybe it does work after all.

REPORTER: Would you vote for him now as a result?

WOMEN #1: I'd think about it.

I'd think more seriously about it now.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, every vote counts but at this point in the football cycle the campaigner
spinners were obviously more interested in the broader footy image than turning the doggedly Labor
seat of Gellibrand into a blue ribbon Liberal strong hold.

As it happens, $8 million is about the same amount promised by the PM earlier in the day for a
children's cancer ward at a Melbourne hospital.

And Mark Latham was back in hospital again today as well.

Having pledged $1 billion of already committed money yesterday for public hospitals.

You just can't seem to keep him out of the wards at the moment.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: We've got some money for the emergency department and speciality

No doubt he still thinks he's on a winner with this one.

Won't the nation's long suffering hospital patients be glad when this is all over.

REPORTER: This election will be a referendum about the economy and interest rates.

Do you not think they're as important as health?

MARK LATHAM: Well, they're important issues but if Mr Howard was serious about that he wouldn't be
involved in a spending spree.

Mr Howard is treating this campaign like a clearance sale -- everything goes.

Everything goes out.

Including him.

And he's offering all these sales and bargains on the way out as he heads into retirement and he's
been on a $5 billion spending spree in this campaign.

So you have Peter Costello, I think the first Sunday of the campaign saying if you run down the
surplus you put upward pressure on interest rates and there's only one thing the Coalition's been
doing ever since, running down the surplus and putting upward pressure on interest rates.

JOHN HOWARD, PM: We plainly have got to expect there is some human community dividend from running
the economy well.

What is the point of running the economy well and building up surpluses and not doing anything at
all with them?

Now, it becomes inflationary if you go into deficit and that is not going to happen and we have
been in surplus.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It's quite remarkable, isn't it?

The politicians career across the country for six weeks, boasting about how they're the more
responsible economic manager, warning of the dangers of irresponsible spending sprees and then they
hand out billions of dollars, and on the subject of the right and the wrong way to go about
spending public money the Government turned up the heat again today on Labor's current fiscal
rectitude and previous fiscal record.

Having claimed to have found a $700 million hole in Labor's tax policy costings, the Government is
continuing to demand the Opposition hand the figures over to Treasury for analysis.

JOHN HOWARD: It's an open and shut case against them, until they submit the document in full to the
Treasury for costing, they are rightly accused of both dodginess in the document and deceit in
handling the costing of it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Labor says its policy has already been fully costed by the widely respected
economic modelling centre Natsem.

MAN #2: We're hoping that you're going to do the right thing by us.

JOHN HOWARD: We're working on it.

MAN #2: You've done tremendously well.

Strong on the interest rate thing.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: For the Government, this focus on economic responsibility all feeds into the
wider theme of interest rates.

And, more specifically, the claims that they'll be higher under a Labor Government.

It's a line we've heard over and over again and it just keeps coming.

Today, the emphasis switched to industrial relations policy.

Even though there was this minor concession from Mr Howard that even he couldn't give guarantees.

JOHN HOWARD: I don't seek to give guarantees about judgements about individual movements.

My argument is that they will always be lower under our policies and that argument is supported by
the last time Labor was in government and the impact of their industrial relations policies.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The PM says Labor will do special deals with the union movement and sites the
plan to scrap individual work place agreements as a case in point and generally speaking industrial
relations is really the one area of stark difference in economic policy between the two.

MARK LATHAM: Dog eat dog, individual contracts setting Australian against Australian is not the way
forward for this country.

It's not the future I want.

I believe in the fair go for all.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It's that sort of talk that's put big business on edge for sure.

But the Government hasn't got all the business vote locked in just yet.

In fact, one wealthy businessman is even putting up $2 million of his own money to run pointed
anti-government ads that are currently airing in marginal seats in South Australia and Queensland.

And next week, in Melbourne and Sydney.

ADVERTISEMENT: John Howard and Alexander Downer -- don't unfairly take East Timor's oil and gas
revenue which it needs to build hospitals, school and to feed their children.

You are not being fair to the East Timorese.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Perth businessman Ian Melrose believes the East Timorese are being short

And he's not afraid to put his money where his mouth is.

IAN MELROSE, PERTH BUSINESSMAN: I'm concentrating on marginal seats because that's where the
Government will be the most sensitive.

The Government can stop this campaign tomorrow just by doing a deal with East Timor that's fair and
reasonable and that the East Timorese accept.

ALEXANDER DOWNER, FOREIGN MINISTER: If he's as rich as this he should spend his money helping the
disadvantaged in East Timor.

I think that is a much more appropriate way for him to spend his money, if you've got millions to
spend on television advertising, over the issue of East Timor.

IAN MELROSE: I was going to allocate it to East Timor health, but that's not going to touch the

By allocating it to advertising, highlighting that John Howard and Alexander Downer are ripping off
the East Timorese people, I'm more likely to have a substantial result, that is, it could well
result in $400-$500 million in additional royalty and benefit payments to East Timor.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So there you have it.

Proof that election campaigns aren't just an opportunity for politicians to throw money around.

Anyone can try and buy votes.

The difference is, Ian Melrose is using his own.

The politicians are using ours.