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Friday night forum with Bob Carr and Michael -

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VIRGINIA TRIOLI: By this time tomorrow you'll have had your say and we should know who will be
getting the keys to the lodge and also to Kirribilli House.

Either John Howard will have defied a year's worth of bad polls and pulled off an escape worthy of
Harry Houdini, or Kevin Rudd will have got Labor into power for the third time since World War II.

Galaxy and Newspoll are saying it will be tight, whilst the AC Nielsen poll is predicting a blood
bath for the Coalition.

To review the campaign, I'm joined now by Michael Kroger, former president of the Liberal Party.
He's in our Melbourne studio. And with me in Sydney is the former Labor premier of New South Wales,
Bob Carr.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

MICHAEL KROGER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE LIBERAL PARTY: Pleasure to be here.

BOB CARR, FORMER NSW PREMIER: Thank you.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bob Carr, does tonight's Newspoll ring true to you, 52 - 48, just as this
morning's Galaxy poll had it, a potential cliff hanger, apparently?

BOB CARR: It reminds me of what Kevin Rudd has said from the day he took over the leadership of the
Labor Party, there will be a lot of polls but it will end up being close, it will end up being this
close, it could even be closer.

Every vote will count and there is a real possibility people could wake up on Sunday and John
Howard is still Prime Minister and that Australia could still be drawn back to the politics of the
past. But everything in this campaign that I have witnessed has confirmed that this is a choice
between the past and the future. And I think, even if by a small margin, the Australian people will
choose the future.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Do you trust or believe this Newspoll? We'll speak about the AC Nielsen poll in
just a moment, which has equally startling figures.

MICHAEL KROGER: Well it's dramatically different from the other poll published today. Do I believe
it? I hope it's true and I hope it indicates in the last few days the campaign is swinging back to
the Coalition.

Don't forget, Virginia, this poll is two days old so it may well indicate that from Wednesday,
Thursday onwards people are now focusing on their decision, this large group of undecideds, and
that they are moving towards the Coalition. If that's the case, they will be moving to the
Coalition because they're concerned about the economy.

That will be the sole reason they're actually going back to the Coalition at this late stage.
Without any other dramatic developments having taken place to affect the national result in the
last few days, that would be the reason they're come back to the Coalition.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: That was always going to be the Coalition's line, that when it comes down to it,
you've got to make a choice about who you trust with the economy. Do you think that's what is going
on with these figures?

BOB CARR: No, I don't. I think Kevin Rudd, quite brilliantly - and this is the Labor high point, in
my view during the campaign - made a decision to err on the side of economic responsibility. I
think his proudest moment in the campaign was to say I will spend less than John Howard. Labor's
commitments will be markedly less than those of the Prime Minister.

I think the low point for John Howard was the policy launch where he spent so much money in such a
short period of time. And as a Liberal friend of mine said only last night with that, the Liberal
side lost the terrain it had always occupied, that is, of economic responsibility.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Let's talk about the AC Nielsen poll though, for just a minute Michael Kroger:
57-43. If that turns out to be the right one and as everyone's saying, one of these polls is going
to be right and one of them is going to be really wrong, that's a bloodbath for the Coalition. Is
that beyond the realms of possibility?

MICHAEL KROGER: I don't think it can be 57-43. I think the campaign started with Labor well above
55, one poll had them 58-42 - a 16 per cent gap.

If you believe Newspoll tomorrow, that gap's gone from 16 to three, which belies any suggestion
that the Liberals are on a campaign, in fact, exactly the opposite is the case.

As for Bob's point, by the way, about spending, well a friend of mine was in the Labor Party
audience at the launch in Queensland and said that when he announced he was going to spend less
than John Howard, there was this pregnant pause before everyone started clapping. And my friend
said I was trying to see Gough Whitlam to see whether he was clapping at the time when Kevin Rudd
was saying we're going to be very fiscally responsible -

BOB CARR: Well, you've got a keen interest in Labor Party history, Michael, but the people in
Australia are interested in their future. And in Kevin Rudd they've got a leader who's saying 'I am
a fiscal conservative, I will be hard-nosed about economic policy-making and I will spend less, not
more than the Coalition'.

So Gough Whitlam, fine figure of Labor Party history, but Kevin Rudd is saying this economy is the
basis of all else and we will get it right.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Let's try and trawl through some of the moments in the campaign, and as much as we
can leave the electioneering to the two main figures who have done very well for themselves, during
the last few weeks - we've heard all of their speeches.

But how is it then, in a time of great prosperity when the perceived wisdom is that the Government
has done a good job with the economy, how is it then that we've got to the point where the Labor
Party could actually snatch this from the Coalition? What's brought us to this point? Michael
Kroger?

MICHAEL KROGER: Well it happens to any government in the Western world when you've been in office
10 or 11 years. In this case 11.5 years. The Blair Government ran out of puff, or he ran out of
puff, Margaret Thatcher left after 11 years. Bob Carr left after how many, Bob? Too many.

In John Howard's case -

BOB CARR: History again, Michael. History all the time - let's thing of the future.

MICHAEL KROGER: He's still going very strongly after 11.5 years. But if the Coalition is to lose
tomorrow, it's basically because people think well, it's time for a change.

What you're seeing perhaps with that Newspoll tomorrow, and as I said that's three days old by
tomorrow, is people thinking maybe we know now the Federal Government is responsible for two
things, the economy and national defence, and it's done them well.

So we're going to vote for Howard because ultimately we know that the states are responsible for
health, education, transport, water and that these things haven't been done well. Maybe they're the
factors in the last couple of days, in seeing the argument swing back to the Coalition.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It could just be, as Michael Kroger has indicated, just a slight boredom factor in
this election - in this result, or the way it looks in the polls for Labor right now, couldn't
there be, Bob Carr? Simply that you've just had enough of them -

BOB CARR: No, I think it's more substantial than that. I would nominate three factors, the most
important is WorkChoices. The Australian people want a sensibly regulated labour market. They do
not like the idea of youngsters being exploited when they take jobs in sandwich stores or workshops
or anywhere else.

They want a decent level of protection and too many people have witnessed unscrupulous employers
claw basic conditions that in Australia have always been regarded as basic, to the humanity of an
industrial relations system that tames, that civilises capitalism. That has been, that motion is
over 100 years old -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And the others two points?

BOB CARR: The other one is climate change. Here you've got a Prime Minister, I heard him give a
speech to the Centre for Independent Studies as recently as May last year, openly scorning the idea
that climate change was upon us.

I think the scramble you've seen from them in recent months to try to get ahead of this issue has
been pathetic and has sort of mocked the majority of Australians who, according to some polls, by a
level of 92 per cent regard climate change as serious and why wouldn't they? After the most
scorching drought in 100 years.

The other issue is of course Iraq. He's a prime minister who, flattered by the attentions of a US
President who enjoys a 10 per cent approval rating in this country, marched Australia into this
war. It was a craven exercise in foreign policy making -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Iraq hasn't really featured in this campaign, but Michael Kroger, those first two
certainly have - climate change and WorkChoices. We discussed this at the beginning of our talks
during this campaign about just how significant WorkChoices would be. How have you rated this as a
factor in Labor's success in the polls so far to bring us to this point?

MICHAEL KRUGER: I'll forgive Bob for his extremism in relation to the views expressed about
WorkChoices - industrial revolution, 100 years blah, blah, blah, I mean Bob that's all extreme
scaremongering and you know that.

The Government's not been dismissive of climate change, despite wonderful efforts by Peter Garrett
to suggest that they have. They're important issues of course, but I don't think in the end they
are the determinant factors in this election. What will decide the election is the following
whether enough people in the end want to stick with the proven record of the Howard Government, or
whether more people think it's better to shrug your shoulders and say, the other bloke's probably
had a good go, it's time for Kevin Rudd to have a chance. For me it boils down to that.

All these other issues which are very important in their own right, whether it's Tony Abbott or
Malcolm Turnbull or Peter Garrett or the Lindsay leaflet or any of these things that have happened
over the last six weeks, in the end it comes down to a choice as to whether people think, 'well,
I'll stick with the tried and true or I'll try the new option that's on the table'. That's
basically what this election is about.

The Coalition, if you believe Newspoll, are on 48.5 per cent. There have been five elections since
the war where the Government has won with less than 50 per cent of the vote. One of those was
Labor, four of those in the Coalition.

The Coalition won the 1998 election with 49 per cent of the vote. If you believe Newspoll, they're
only a smidgin away from that and that poll was taken a day or so ago. If that trend continues, the
Government is in with a real fight tomorrow - a real chance.

BOB CARR: I don't think you can dismiss those substantial policy questions in the way you've done.
In fact, the fact that you do dismiss them, Michael, confirms why this Government is in such
trouble, that answers Virginia's question.

MICHAEL KRUGER: Bob, I'm not dismissing them -

BOB CARR: I heard the Prime Minister saying in effect climate change was a myth. He said it at the
dinner, he said it at May last year. When Al Gore was here, a respected two term vice president of
the United States to talk about climate change, in an act of the most extraordinary rudeness, Prime
Minister John Howard said, 'I won't meet him - he's an alarmist'.

I thought that any former vice president, especially one as respected as Gore, would get to see an
Australian prime minister, especially when he had a message as important to this continent as
Gore's message about climate change. This Government was totally dismissive. When -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I just want to quickly though, because our time is limited this evening, move on
to a few of those key turning points. You've both mentioned them in passing during this election
campaign, the ones that have really made a difference.

You've mentioned the Lindsay pamphlet debacle, Michael Kroger. Is that going to play beyond the
seat of Lindsay for the Coalition vote, in your view?

MICHAEL KRUGER: I don't think so.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It's reserved only to that seat?

MICHAEL KRUGER: I think it will affect very new votes outside Lindsay and it will have some effect
in Lindsay and not much beyond that.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Okay, Bob Carr?

BOB CARR: Well here is the message of that pamphlet. When a government runs out of plans for the
future, its people on the ground resort to this kind of tactic.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I asked you to nominate, Michael Kroger, and I do want to give you some time for
this, what you think the key turning point, either way in the campaign, either to the advantage of
the Coalition, or the advantage of the Labor Party.

MICHAEL KRUGER: Well I think there's only been one major turning point and that is as the
campaign's gone on, more and more people are focused on their own economic welfare, as they should,
and the welfare of the country.

The polls have closed, the Liberal Party has stuck to that message. Labor have tried to stay off
economics as best they can and as people focus on the fact that the US economy is probably headed
into recession, which will have dramatic effects on the Australian economy, the Australian share
market, Australian superannuation funds held by older Australians, as people focus on the economy,
this gap will continue to narrow and probably has narrowed since Wednesday.

So the turning point in the campaign, given that the Coalition probably started 16 per cent behind
and are now probably 3 per cent behind is the fact that people are listening to the Coalition's
message and thinking to themselves, if I'm bored with my doctor, or my dentist or my lawyer, I
don't change them if they're doing a good job.

And Costello and Howard have done a brilliant job administering the Australian economy. That is
their job. That's the primary job.

Your job, Bob, was to fix the transport system and you failed. They didn't throw you out.

Costello and Howard have had a fantastic record in this field. To me, that is the fundamental
turning point.

I don't think Kevin Rudd has had a bad campaign at all, I think he's campaigned well. I think John
Howard has campaigned well, I don't think there have been major mistakes centrally, in either
campaign.

I think both sets of advertising have been good. But I think overwhelmingly what's happened is the
Coalition's message is probably getting through. To me that's the big turning point.

BOB CARR: I think Labor has established every day of the campaign that this is a choice between the
past and future.

MICHAEL KRUGER: That's just a platitude.

BOB CARR: Everything that's happened from the Liberal side has in fact confirmed this. Lindsay
confirmed it.

The scramble to plant a story Malcolm Turnbull had heroically battled to get ratification of Kyoto
through the Cabinet was just a party that had ignored this issue of climate change, and at the last
minute was trying to do something to save the seat of its environment minister. Take Iraq, it was a
colossal error -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It's not going to be an election issue here and the Opposition surely hasn't made
it one -

BOB CARR: No, no, no, it has been an issue that had people thinking about Howard as a man of the
past, not of the future. And Howard's tried to send a message in the campaign that he would
rearrange the deployment. That was to get him on the right side. That was to get him on the side of
the argument where the majority of Australian people have long been.

But above all, WorkChoices. This Government had no mandate to intervene. We heard nothing at the
last election about a plan to deprive workers, working families of their basic rights. And who can
trust this Government, if re-elected, not to go back and strengthen its WorkChoices legislation
even more drastically?

MICHAEL KRUGER: Oh, Bob, please.

BOB CARR: Even more radically. If John Howard were to scrape through, just imagine this, Virginia,
if John Howard were to scrape through and get re-elected, why wouldn't he see it as a mandate to
entrench WorkChoices when you've got a clear Labor alternative that says, we restore the rights of
working people and their families? I think the media, I think the media is understating -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I really have to move on here, Bob Carr.

MICHAEL KRUGER: Bob, can you put all that out as a CD? It will be a big hit. You must have been
talking to Gareth Evans. You've got relevance deprivation syndrome. That performance tonight has
just been terrible.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I have a question for you Michael Kruger.

MICHAEL KRUGER: Goodness me. You won't be ambassador to Washington if Kevin Rudd wins if you carry
on like that.

BOB CARR: Let me say this to you Michael, let me put this on the record. I'm not seeking it, nor
would I accept it. I'm too happy working in the private sector, too happy working on environmental
causes, too happy climbing the occasional mountains and writing the occasional book.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Michael Kruger, does the Coalition feel that it has received the same sort of
moral and financial support from the business sector, that the Labor side has had from the ACTU and
the union movement? Have you had a commensurate amount of support, do you think?

MICHAEL KRUGER: That's a very good question. The answer is no. The unions have spent $30 million on
their advertising campaign. Which is - nothing wrong with that, they're entitled to - good on them.

They have done it well, they've scared a whole lot of people into thinking that WorkChoices is
basically going to send them to the unemployment queues.

The business contributions to the Liberal Party are in gradual decline. One of the reasons for that
is when you have foreign corporations taking over Australian corporations, the foreign corporations
tend not to want to get involved in political donations in Australian elections. So our funding
base from the major corporates is in gradual historic decline. Labor's support from the unions is
in probably, you know, historic incline. Good luck to them.

BOB CARR: The unions are able to give support to the Labor Party because working families in work
places made donations to this campaign on WorkChoices.

MICHAEL KRUGER: What 30 million?

BOB CARR: Absolutely. It came about because ordinary people could see their working conditions, and
those of their youngsters threatened for all time -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: They're also levies extracted from union members.

BOB CARR: Those levies were met very, very willingly. Again, Michael Kroger has got no
understanding of the way WorkChoices is shifting votes. People don't like it. It is poison to the
electorate and the Government, I believe, will be held to account for it tomorrow.

MICHAEL KRUGER: What do you say to those Australian whose are now in a job? When your mate Paul
Keating was Prime Minister it was 11 per cent unemployed, now it's 4.2. What do you say to those
Australians who have a job under the Howard Government?

BOB CARR: We say there is a global economic boom -

MICHAEL KRUGER: Come off it -

BOB CARR: We say Australia is exporting its head off, because of the limitless Chinese demand for
Australian resources.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I'm going to jump right in here, gentlemen, and I'm going to cut to the chase.
It's a question that has to be asked this evening, Michael Kroger, what is your prediction for
tomorrow's election result?

MICHAEL KRUGER: Well I've never got the prediction right in the past, because the actual number of
seats is almost impossible. Anyone that gets it right is just lucky. So I'm very lamely going to
say that Australia's best prime minister since Menzies and the best treasurer ever deserve to be
re-elected and I hope they are.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Do you feel they will be?

MICHAEL KRUGER: Um, look I'm very hopeful. The Newspoll has changed a lot of things. You might be
finding that in the last three days people have finally said to themselves, we're not handing the
country to two people who have absolutely no experience in running anything in a business or
economy of this size. And despite being a little tired of the Government, they're going to say the
tried and true professionals should be put back in to office. So I'm hoping that's the case.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bob Carr, who will win the election tomorrow?

BOB CARR: I think after WorkChoices, after the decision on Iraq, after the failure to act on
climate change, after Kevin Rudd's responsible assertion that he is spending less -

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bob Carr, who will win the election tomorrow?

BOB CARR: I think there are good prospects of a Labor government, but I think it will be very
close. I think every vote will count. No one in the Labor Party is full of confidence. We hope that
this will be an election where the Australian people choose for the future over the past and for
the interests of working families.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well, if this discussion is any indication, then it is going to a desperate battle
for the very last vote. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening.

MICHAEL KRUGER: I'm exhausted. Thank you.

BOB CARR: It's been a great evening. Thank you.