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More flak for the Govt over Auditor-General's -

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VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The Coalition's campaign has been thrown off course for a second day in a row by
the controversy surrounding a damning Auditor-General's report into the Government's Regional
Partnerships Fund. Now the Deputy Prime Minister has added fuel to the fire by suggesting the
auditor's powers should be limited during the period of caretaker government and he has questioned
whether the release of the report was politically motivated.

John Howard has flatly rejected the auditor's findings, saying ministers have every right to
overrule their departments when they are handing out money.

And with Tony Abbott's admission that WorkChoices has left some workers without the same level of
protection, it has put the Coalition on the back foot with just a week to go until polling day.

Dana Robertson reports.

DANA ROBERTSON: An Adelaide interloper capped off an ordinary week for the Prime Minister.

PROTESTER: Just delivering some non-core promises, Mr Howard.

DANA ROBERTSON: The union organiser gate crashed Mr Howard's speech to sweep up, he said, Mr
Howard's broken promises.

PROTESTER: No, no. Absolutely not. All I just wanted to collect the promises, please, that's all,
and hand them back. I'm concerned that the... oh, thank you. I'm concerned that the promises might
not be kept. They weren't kept in 2001. That's all I'm worried about.

DANA ROBERTSON: He got within metres of the Prime Minister but Mr Howard laughed off the security
breach.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: I haven't felt the least bit troubled by these matters. I mean, people
are entitled to have a go, as long as they don't hurt other people and behave in a silly fashion. I
don't think he's going to vote for me.

DANA ROBERTSON: But he can't laugh off so easily the comments Tony Abbott made at a local
electorate function about the impact of WorkChoices.

TONY ABBOTT, HEALTH MINISTER: I accept that certain 'protections', in inverted commas, are not what
they were.

JOHN HOWARD: Tony Abbott did not say that protection had been taken away for workers.

TONY ABBOTT: I said that in the old days when we had this panoply of courts and commissions
interfering in every nook and cranny of business life, that they were pseudo protections, that they
were counterproductive protections.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: Mr Abbot is condemned out of the words of his own mouth. People have
seen him say that.

DANA ROBERTSON: And it's not just Tony Abbott throwing bombs into the Coalition campaign as it
begins the sprint to next Saturday's finish line. The Deputy Prime Minister's been less than
helpful too, suggesting that yesterday's release of a damning Auditor-General's report could have
been politically motivated.

MARK VAILE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It seems strange this is released one week before the federal
election.

KEVIN RUDD: Mr Howard's Government is out of touch. They now attack the Auditor-General. The
Auditor-General is independent.

JOHN HOWARD: I've got nothing to... critical about the Auditor-General. I'm not attacking the
Auditor-General.

DANA ROBERTSON: The Audit office found the distribution of more than $320 million didn't meet
standards of public administration because projects in Coalition-held seats were more likely to be
approved by the minister after being rejected by public servants. But John Howard is unrepentant.

JOHN HOWARD: Ministers are elected to take decisions and ministers are accountable for those
decisions. This idea that on every occasion ministers should follow the advice of their department
is ludicrous. And I believe that from time to time, ministers have every right not to take the
advice of their departments, otherwise you wouldn't bother having them.

DANA ROBERTSON: But Mr Howard wasn't so keen to embrace ministerial independence back in 1994, when
Ros Kelly gave the go-ahead to sports grants reject by her department.

JOHN HOWARD: She's been found guilty of what I can only call political corruption.

KEVIN RUDD: My call to Mr Howard is to accept responsibility for this waste of taxpayers' money in
short-term political fixes, rather than a long-term investment plan for the nation.

DANA ROBERTSON: Despite the turmoil of the past two days, John Howard is still confident he can
pull off a victory against the predictions of the polls, maintaining that a large number of voters
are still undecided.

JOHN HOWARD: I think this election is anybody's at the present time.

DANA ROBERTSON: Barely a week out from election day, the polls are still showing it's no contest. A
Galaxy marginal seat poll to be published in full on Sunday has the two major parties almost neck
and neck on primary votes, but on the back of Greens preferences, the Opposition's still in the box
seat for victory on 24 November.

Kevin Rudd's not getting carried away.

KEVIN RUDD: It's very hard to put together, you know, the list of 16 seats that we need to win.
This is tough.

DANA ROBERTSON: Especially if he's to avoid Kim Beazley's fate of winning most of the votes but
losing the marginal seats that matter.

Dana Robertson, Lateline.