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Govt fires back at Turnbull criticism -

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Govt fires back at Turnbull criticism

The World Today - Monday, 20 October , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: Lyndal Curtis

ELEANOR HALL: Words are bullets in politics and the Federal Opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, is
being criticised for firing one shot too many with his accusation that the Prime Minister is
'hyping' the financial crisis.

The Government has responded by launching an assault on Mr Turnbull over his language.

But far from backing down, the Opposition leader is intensifying his attack, saying Mr Rudd's
choice of words is creating anxiety in the community.

In Canberra, chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis, reports.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Prime Minister has been using the language of national security and defence in
the debate over the financial crisis.

He has called the $10-billion economic rescue package, the economic security strategy and has
talked about deploying the surplus.

Malcolm Turnbull's restricted his language to just one arm of the services.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The Prime Minister has said we are in a rolling national security crisis. What I
have said is we are in a storm, we will get wet but we won't sink.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But his suggestion yesterday that Kevin Rudd has hyped up the financial crisis and
tried to present himself as a war-time Prime Minister was being shot down this morning by Labor
MPs.

One, Damian Hale, was prone to a touch of the nautical himself.

DAMIAN HALE: He flips and flops around like a barramundi on a boat ramp up in the Northern
Territory.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Out of touch with voters is how Labor is painting Mr Turnbull. Ordinary voters who,
according to Labor's Amanda Rishworth, are already up in arms about the Opposition's leader's
claim.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It was quite disappointing I think and quite perplexing to many people in my
electorate that Malcolm Turnbull came over and said that this global credit crunch was over-hyped
and I think clearly he is out of touch and not listening to people that are concerned about things
like their superannuation. Concerned about their future and are feeling quite nervous in these
uncertain economic times.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But Mr Turnbull's troops including frontbenchers Andrew Robb and Andrew Southcott
were coming to his defence accusing the Government of trying to stifle debate.

ANDREW ROBB: We are spending half the surplus in one hit. Now that needs to be discussed, it needs
to be examined. At least it needs to be on the table for an open debate. It shouldn't be, as the
Government is trying to do, expunge any criticism, any discussion, any debate of the initiatives
that are being taken.

ANDREW SOUTHCOTT: What Malcolm Turnbull has said is that it was, it is a serious financial crisis
but we are not at war. Wayne Swan needs to get the tin hat and the bayonet off. We are not at war;
it is a serious financial crisis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The man himself was standing by his language and taking it further telling Radio
National Kevin Rudd's choice of words has made people more anxious rather than confident.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Is it calculated to maintain confidence in the Australian community and the
Australian economy to compare this financial crisis to and I quote "a rolling national security
crisis". By using that type of language to evoke memories of 9/11, of terrorism, of wars.

I have to say moving through the community and particular talking to small businesses last week in
Sydney, there was considerable anxiety caused by some of the Prime Minister's language.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The latest opinion poll will have the Prime Minister feeling confident. The Nielsen
survey in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age shows 76 per cent support for Mr Rudd's handling of
the crisis and for the economic stimulus package.

Mr Rudd himself is doing well with a 71 per cent approval rate.

Malcolm Turnbull's getting a bit of a pat on the back from voters as well, with his approval up ten
per cent to 55 per cent. Perhaps a little comfort for him as the Government takes him to task for
his response to the package.

But the political sparring over language will prove just a sideshow as the real pain from the
financial crisis begins to spread.

The National Australia Bank is predicting economic growth could slow to a crawl and unemployment
could rise to six per cent by the end of next year, at a cost of 200,000 jobs.

Labor backbencher Doug Cameron, a former senior union official, says it will be important for the
Government to look after people as unemployment rises.

DOUG CAMERON: The Government is looking at what we can do to make sure that everyone gets looked
after in this economy. It is about time that we looked at not just the market but society as well.
It is very important that society gets looked after in this current situation.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Liberal frontbencher Tony Abbott is already working on the words the Opposition will
use if things turn bad.

TONY ABBOTT: It is not what Kevin Rudd says now that matters, it is what his policies produce in 18
months' time. And if Australia does slide into a recession and let's hope we can avoid it, people
will judge Kevin Rudd very harshly, particularly given the economic inheritance that he has had.

ELEANOR HALL: Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott ending that report by Lyndal Curtis.