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Political year ends with a bang -

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Political year ends with a bang

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, you could never say politics is boring, at this time of the year, at least. As
usual, the political year ended with a bang, the biggest bang provided by Labor. The Opposition now
has a new leader in Kevin Rudd and at least a few new faces on the frontbench and no doubt Prime
Minister John Howard continues to reflect on his own plans for Cabinet renewal. Today amidst the
Christmas cheer and seasonal good will of the last day of Parliament, the new Labor leader began
the task of selling the substance that he says is behind his new style of leadership. He knows he
doesn't have that much time to establish the Rudd brand. Political Editor Michael Brissenden
reports.

PETER COSTELLO, TREASURER: Two steps backwards.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Oh, happy Christmas.

JENNY MACKLIN:You can't get Santa's gloves dirty!

PETER COSTELLO: I don't like people behind me. Go round the front.

BARNABY JOYCE: How are you going? You right?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Look, there's Santa and look, over there, a new Opposition Leader. It must be
Christmas again. Yes, here it is, the final day of the parliamentary year, and what an end it's
been. They must put something in the water in the parliamentary dining room at this time of year,
or perhaps it's just the overworked festive cheer. But it seems this last session is always the
year's most frantic. Like the last minute Christmas shopping rush, there's always unfinished
legislative work and, of course, unfinished politics. But by the end of today most of that was
wrapped and labelled. A new Labor frontbench, for instance.

CHRIS BOWEN, LABOR FRONTBENCHER: I'm delighted to be part of Kevin's team. I think that Kevin has
re-energised the party and now we need to give him the opportunity to re-energise the country and
the fact he's invited me onto the team, I'm absolutely delighted about.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: We don't yet know who's taken what job, but we do know who the new faces are.
Peter Garrett and Chris Bowen from NSW sit up the front for the first time. Bob McMullan and Craig
Emerson return for another go. A mix of the old and a new generation. But an important win for
Kevin Rudd over the power of the Labor factions. These were the four new faces the new leader
wanted and the caucus this morning gave him his wish.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: I'm very pleased that we go into the Christmas break a united party, firmly behind
the new leader and deputy. These things are never easy, leadership ballots, but I think there's a
lot of goodwill and support for Kevin.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Tanya Plibersek was not one of those who voted for Kevin Rudd. No doubt some
bitterness remains for some, but it has to be said the painful transition from Kim Beazley to Kevin
Rudd appears to have put to rest at least some of the divisions that have plagued Labor in the
past. In part, it was the convincing margin of 49 votes to 39. The partnership of Rudd and Gillard
is also seen as something of a bridge between the camps. And for that reason it's thought Wayne
Swan will be reinstated as Shadow Treasurer once the positions are announced. But, for now, there's
already a sense in the Opposition that the now famous fork in the road is taking them in a new
direction. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard will next week begin selling the message on a national 10
day road show and, today, the new Labor leader began putting flesh to the bones of what he's termed
his new style of leadership.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: This battle for ideas, this battle for values, this battle over
vision, the battle lines are already clear. Their vision is for an Australia which has about it the
Liberals' big three priorities. Three big priorities, me, myself and I. That is the cornerstone of
what their philosophy is all about. And all to be delivered by a form of market fundamentalism that
this country's never seen before. That's their vision. Our alternative vision is for an Australia
in which we have a strong economy based on market principles, but also a fair go for all, not just
for some. A fair go for all Australian families, not just some Australian families.

TONY ABBOTT, HEALTH MINISTER: The job will not just be to construct a wish list. It will be to
explain what real improvements he intends to make, to explain how he will actually make a
difference. He said today that he was going to produce a new policy agenda over the next few weeks
and months and, Mr Speaker, I welcome that. I welcome that and I think the Australian people will
welcome that because we are helped as a nation if there is a genuine debate between Government and
Opposition on how we can best help the Australian people. What our people will not welcome is more
name calling, more undermining.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That would be an unusual fork to take. As Yogi Berra, the famous baseball
player, once said, "If you see a fork in the road, take it". The Rudd fork, though, is a carefully
constructed one. It's not the crash and burn, frontal assault of Mark Latham, rather, a
conservative appeal to co operative federalism and family values economic rationalism without the
harsh edges.

KEVIN RUDD: How is it, Prime Minister, that as the party for family values you've brought in new
industrial relations legislation which makes it harder and harder for families during the festive
season to spend time with each other?

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: The claim made by the Leader of the Opposition is ludicrous, wrong and
completely unsupported by the facts, Mr Speaker. And I'm proud to lead a government that will go to
this Christmas, Mr Speaker, with the lowest level of unemployment in 30 years. More Australians in
jobs and able to afford Christmas presents for their children than ever before. More ordinary
Australians able to enjoy the joys of Christmas. That is what I am proud of. I can live with that,
Mr Speaker, because that is the fruits of 10 and a half years hard work for the people of this
great country and I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And that's where the questions will stay now until February next year. There
will be an election some time in the latter half of 2007 and the policy attacks and personal
animosity will be as ferocious as ever. But as every year draws to a close, a strange unreality
always sets in. Like the first Christmas of the Great War, when the soldiers on the Western Front
shared cigarettes and played football, the two sides in this no man's land also share a rare moment
of goodwill.

KEVIN RUDD: There's a humanity about this place in the fact that we have friendships across this
chamber which will endure well beyond our time in this chamber. So, Mr Speaker, with those
concluding remarks I wish you, I wish all members of Parliament and I wish those who are listening
to this broadcast all the best for the Christmas season. May we return refreshed and ready for what
lies ahead for us in the year 2007.

JOHN HOWARD: To the Leader of the Opposition on a personal basis I wish him well and I wish a merry
Christmas to the Leader of the Opposition. I congratulate those who've been elected to the
frontbench and we look forward to rejoining the battle, the struggle, the strife, the turmoil in
the interests of the Australian people when the Parliament reconvenes in February of next year.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It can't last, of course, and it won't. Just like all those years ago on the
Western Front, the lull in hostilities will be brief. They'll all be back refreshed and well armed
next year and, of course, we'll be here to report it all blow by blow as well.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Brief enough you wouldn't have to hold your breath for very long at all, really.