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Final poll has Coalition closing the gap on L -

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VIRGINIA TRIOLI: After six weeks, there's nothing left for the party leaders to do now but wait.
John Howard and Kevin Rudd have criss-crossed the country relentlessly during the campaign. Kevin
Rudd's mostly been on the attack in Coalition-held territory, trying to claim the 16 seats that he
needs to win.

By contrast, John Howard often appeared to be on the back foot, fighting to hold onto the cult of
marginals. Not to mention some of the safer seats he already holds. And perhaps the Howard strategy
has paid off. While his campaign never seemed to gain the momentum of the Rudd juggernaut, the
final poll of the campaign has him within sight of a fifth straight election win.

Dana Robertson reports from Canberra.

DANA ROBERTSON: It's the beginning of the end - of the campaign, at least. And Queensland's the
battleground. Both leaders spent their final day campaigning in a style they've perfected over the
past six weeks.

Last night - Brisbane, today - Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton too. In the past 23 hours, John
Howard has hit six shopping centres in six different electorates. All but one of them already in
Coalition hands.

JOHN HOWARD, FEDERAL PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't think it's desperate to spend the last day, or
the last 24 hours of the campaign in Queensland, which I've done. And I've deliberately come to
Queensland for the last day.

DANA ROBERTSON: And Kevin Rudd wasn't about to break with tradition either.

KEVIN RUDD, FEDERAL OPPOSITION LEADER: We do have appointments with various shopping centres which
we need to meet. Well they've been told we're arriving, so...

DANA ROBERTSON: The Prime Minister and the man who wants to be, have both maintained all along that
the election would be tight. And it's looking to be tighter than any previous predictions. The
final poll of the campaign has the Coalition within striking distance of victory.

Newspoll has Labor's primary vote down two points and now just one ahead of the Coalition - 44 to
43. But it's expected that most of the remaining 13 points will go to the Greens, which is
directing preferences to the ALP, in every state but Tasmania.

But if the preferences fell as they did last time around, Newspoll puts the split at 52 for Labor
to 48 for the Coalition. It's an exact replica of the Galaxy poll published today.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd, Newspoll closed to four points, are you feeling a bit shaken by that?

DANA ROBERTSON: John Howard is also gaining ground as preferred prime minister. He's up two to 44.
But Kevin Rudd's support is up as well, by one to 47. The poll trend fits with what Mr Howard says
he's picking up first hand.

JOHN HOWARD: Meeting people, talking to them, looking them in the face, looking at their reactions
- I've been doing this for a long time. And I know when I'm struggling, and I know when I'm well in
front, and i know when I'm, I could be coming back.

KEVIN RUDD: It's going to be interesting.

DANA ROBERTSON: Mr Rudd's sticking with his Mount Everest analogy.

KEVIN RUDD: We're above the snow line and there's a peak up there, somewhere and still some fog and
some mist around. And I know there's another bloke climbing on the other side, and this will be
very tight, in terms of who gets there first.

DANA ROBERTSON: But while the leaders were determined to stay on message for their final day, last
minute controversies were inescapable.

Yesterday, John Howard had to grapple with the fake Lindsay leaflets scandal. Today, Kevin Rudd's
been accused by Indigenous leaders of dumping his support of a referendum to recognise Aborigines
in the Constitution.

NOEL PEARSON, CAPE YORK INSTITUTE: Understand the heartless snake here. Understand the heartless
snake here. If you find any, if you harbour any hope that these buggers are going to do anything
courageous in relation to Indigenous affairs, then you're living in an illusion.

DANA ROBERTSON: Noel Pearson's denounced Mr Rudd. Saying he doesn't want to risk his chance of a
second term by dealing with political leapers.

NOEL PEARSON: I believe this is a deeply disgraceful act. And if there was an indication that they
were going to walk away from their clear commitment on day one of the campaign, then that should in
all honesty have been made clear to us much earlier in the campaign.

JOHN HOWARD: I thought Mr Rudd said a few weeks ago that he agreed with it. And he seems to be
changing his position. I mean you wonder in these matter, does he really believe in anything. Any
questions?

DANA ROBERTSON: But by this afternoon, it was time for final press conferences, and a last ditch
plea to voters.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm saying to them, that if you believe that our country is fundamentally heading in
the right direction, you should not vote for a change of government.

KEVIN RUDD: When it comes to future, Mr Howard prefers to talk about the past. For Mr Howard, the
future is an after thought. For me, the future is my first thought.

DANA ROBERTSON: And on his final swing through the sunshine state, John Howard was urging voters
not to be won over by the home town boy.

JOHN HOWARD: In the end, it's not where you live, it's what you believe in. It's not where your
address is, but rather what you're prepared to do when you're put to the test.

KEVIN RUDD: The Government has run from beginning to end a negative, fear-based campaign. That's
their substitute for a positive plan for the country's future.

DANA ROBERTSON: There's less than 10 hours until the nation's 13.5 million voters begin to cast
their ballots. And in fewer than 24, the identity of the next prime minister will be known. But
John Howard's not yet ready to pass judgement on how the campaign has played out.

JOHN HOWARD: If I'm not in to retrospectives.

DANA ROBERTSON: There'll be time enough for that on Sunday, whichever way it goes. Dana Robertson,
Lateline.