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Joyce ridiculed over economic credibility -

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LEIGH SALES: Barnaby Joyce has a knack for courting controversy and he's once again managed to put
himself at the centre of political debate. The Government is ridiculing the Shadow Finance Minister
for suggesting Australia's at risk of defaulting on its loans.

Tonight Senator Joyce is standing by the comment which the Government has labelled an irresponsible
slur. It distracted, today, from Tony Abbott's efforts to rally his troops ahead of this year's
election.

From Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: There's one side of Tony Abbott that Liberal Party strategists want the nation to
reflect on - the tough guy, action man image. It's being wheeled out at every opportunity.

(Excerpt from press conference)

REPORTER: What makes you so confident?

TONY ABBOTT: The last thing I am is-is-is over confident or cocky, because, uh... it would be the
first time in well over 70 years that a first-term Government has been defeated. But, maybe-maybe
history is going to be made.

(End of excerpt)

(Gavel pounds)

HAYDEN COOPER: It's a message he took inside to try to rev up his parliamentary team.

TONY ABBOTT (in party room): Yes, we can win.

LIBERAL MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

TONY ABBOTT: That is the message that we're getting. The message that we are getting loud and clear
from the Australian people is that increasingly, they don't like Mr Rudd's great, big new tax on
everything.

TONY ABBOTT: They are sick - they are sick of the broken promises, so I want to say to all of you:
Go out there, sell the message, respect your colleagues but train your fire on the other side and
we can win this election.

LIBERAL MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

(Applause)

HAYDEN COOPER: One MP refrained from the moment of hype, suppressed a wry smile and applauded only
reluctantly.

The Prime Minister is another who finds it all a bit much. Three years ago, it was John Howard who
accused him of getting carried away.

JOHN HOWARD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER (2007): I think he's getting a bit full of himself.

KEVIN RUDD: Mr Speaker...

HAYDEN COOPER: Now Kevin Rudd's dealing with his new challenger in a similar manner.

KEVIN RUDD: We know that the Leader of the Opposition thinks he's on a roll to win the next
election. We know he's had a bit of a hoopla in the party room about winning the next election.

Well, one of the big risks which the Australian public are evaluating in their mind is what sort of
economic risk do they buy.

HAYDEN COOPER: And that's where the Shadow Finance Minister strikes again. Barnaby Joyce calls
himself "the gift that keeps on giving" and the Government couldn't agree more. His errors have
already troubled the Opposition Leader.

Today once more, his words were turned against him by a government grateful for the chance.

At issue was his warning that Australia could default on its debt payments.

BARNABY JOYCE: You've got to ask the question, "How far in debt do you want to go?"

We are getting to a point where we can't repay it.

HAYDEN COOPER: Commonwealth debt of 5 per cent of GDP is dwarfed by other major economies, so the
statement drew indignant fire in Parliament.

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER (in Parliament): We are the envy of the world, but not to Barnaby Joyce.

LINDSAY TANNER, FINANCE MINISTER: I'm now onto my fourth Shadow Finance Minister and the first
three are all back in the pavilion with "dux" beside their names.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Senator himself spent the day in estimates hearings, where tempers flared.

PENNY WONG, ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: ...unprofessional... you're doing it again!

SENATOR: Oh, Minister, you are so good at manners! You know, the pointing, pointing!

PENNY WONG: Absolutely unprofessional.

HAYDEN COOPER: And admissions were made. A $450,000-a-year broadband job for a former Labor MP
prompted claims of jobs for mates.

PARTY MEMBER: Labor is king!

HAYDEN COOPER: And the conduct of Labor backbencher and former Health Union boss Craig Thompson was
called into question.

A breach of electoral donation laws has left the union at risk of prosecution. Although the MP
proclaims his innocence.

MICHAEL RONALDSON, LIBERAL SENATOR: I put it to you that Mr Thompson potentially is one of the
people who has breached this act in, I would say, a most heinous fashion.

TONY ABBOTT: (laughs)

HAYDEN COOPER: With the Abbott team growing in confidence...

TONY ABBOTT: (laughing heartily)

HAYDEN COOPER: ..no wonder he's laughing.

Hayden Cooper, Lateline.