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Leaders to battle over health policy -

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The future of health care in Australia will be the focus of a debate between Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the Press Club in Canberra.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: It's a familiar political refrain, but both leaders say tomorrow's
healthcare debate boils down to one thing: Trust.

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott will go head-to-head for the first time in a televised debate, an
unprecedented move outside an election campaign.

Today they traded pre-debate blows in preparation for what could be a bruising encounter.

Political reporter, Hayden Cooper.

(Rocky theme plays)

HAYDEN COOPER, POLITICAL REPORTER: In one corner, Tony Abbott is limbering up in last minute
training for tomorrow's clash.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: I think that's the way to go.

HAYDEN COOPER: In the other, Kevin Rudd's engaging in a bit of pre-debate sledging...

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, Mr Abbott, we're still waiting.

HAYDEN COOPER: ..on the question of trust.

KEVIN RUDD: How can you trust a man who three years ago promised to develop a new plan for
Australia's health and hospital system and three years later has failed to deliver even on that?

HAYDEN COOPER: It cuts both ways.

TONY ABBOTT: Who are the public going to trust, someone who's got a very solid record as a Health
Minister or someone who couldn't deliver pink batts, can't deliver computers in schools and now
wants to be trusted with the most important service delivery organisations of all?

HAYDEN COOPER: The lunchtime contest promises to be a punchy affair.

It'll start with a five minute opening statement from each leader and then the questions from the
press begin.

It's the first of three such events before the election, but for the Federal Director of the
Liberal Party, even that is not enough.

BRIAN LOUGHNANE, LIBERAL PARTY DIRECTOR: Well, we believe it's important that Mr Rudd honours his
commitment to have three debates during the election campaign so that he's open to real scrutiny.
If he was serious about scrutiny, tomorrow's debate would be at 7:30 at night, it would go for 90
minutes and it would cover a whole range of issues.

KEVIN RUDD: Is three times the number of debates that Mr Howard ever extended to me.

HAYDEN COOPER: Brian Loughnane wants as wide an audience as possible for the occasion to show off
his aggressive leader.

TONY ABBOTT: We all know that the Prime Minister will want to blaggard me and he'll want to
besmirch our record but without being in any way over the top in response, I think we've just got
to calmly counter lies with fact.

HAYDEN COOPER: Rare thought it may be, tomorrow's event is just a warm up for the campaign. It's
unlikely to reveal anything new on health, as the Opposition waits for later in the year to declare
its policy hand, but there is one certainty: The bout will deliver fireworks.

And this time, on some networks The Worm will be back and no one's complaining.

BRIAN LOUGHNANE: Oh, these are matters for the television networks. I'll leave that to the experts.

HAYDEN COOPER: Two leaders, a worm, and plenty of dirt.

But hopefully a better reception than tonight's effort at the football.

FOOTBALL COMMENTATOR: Lovely! Hands down the right hand side. The PM thinks it was pretty good as

CROWD: Booooooo!

HAYDEN COOPER: An unpopular Broncos fan in Canberra.

Hayden Cooper, Lateline.

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