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Rudd takes poll hit ahead of first battle wit -

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Rudd takes poll hit ahead of first battle with Abbott

Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: We begin today in Canberra where Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are preparing for their
first head to head confrontation in the Federal Parliament.

The Opposition Leader is buoyed by an opinion poll out today that shows that the Coalition's
primary vote is outstripping Labor's for the first time since the election, although the Government
is still in front after preferences.

The Prime Minister is nonetheless telling his colleagues that they will need to fight hard to be
re-elected and he is not ruling out calling a double dissolution election if the Senate continues
to obstruct the Government's legislation.

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

(Church music)

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Before hostilities start this afternoon, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott attended the
traditional ecumenical service that heralds the start of the parliamentary year.

KEVIN RUDD: Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth.

TONY ABBOTT: Now, as always, Christ will be honoured in my body whether by life or by death. This
is the word of the Lord.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: It was still dark when the Opposition Leader started his day with a bike ride. He's
also riding high in the polls. Today's Newspoll shows the Coalition's primary vote has overtaken
Labor's for the first time since the election.

TONY ABBOTT: Look it is encouraging but there is a long way to go.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Outside the church Kevin Rudd acknowledged his opponent's poll fillip.

KEVIN RUDD: Yeah, yeah. A good start mate. Well done.

TONY ABBOTT: It has been okay.

KEVIN RUDD: Are you running still.

TONY ABBOTT: Still a bit scary but there we are.

KEVIN RUDD: Okay. See ya.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: MPs from both sides read different things into it.

DON RANDALL: Australians are not stupid. They are waking up to the spin doctor.

SHAYNE NEUMANN: Well, the polls come and go. Every election is hard but I know that on election day
we will have made tough decisions, hard decisions in the national interest and we believe that the
Australian people will support us.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Party machines view 40 as the magic number. A primary vote of at least that is
needed to have a shot at winning so Newspoll's 41 points for the Coalition's lifted their spirits.

But Labor's is still four points ahead with preferences. One former Turnbull supporter reckons it
will work wonders to galvanise MPs behind Tony Abbott because when he sees an opening he goes for
the knock-out punch.

Kevin Rudd's still trying to get his new opponent's measure and wants to make sure his troops are
working hard.

KEVIN RUDD: We should all be very mindful of what happens to first-term governments and so this
will be a very, very tight election. Remember the Government's majority is what, eight seats, two
or three percentage points. It doesn't take much to move that. If two or three people in 100 change
their vote then Mr Abbott is the prime minister.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Right now he's fighting on two fronts - climate change and health. He says it's not
about winning the popularity stakes but about doing the right thing for the long term.

KEVIN RUDD: The Government has been doin' a lot.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister says whatever climate change policy Tony Abbott unveils today,
it will cost working families more than his emissions trading scheme.

KEVIN RUDD: You can't just go out there and say, "Hey look, I'm Tony Abbott. I have just invented a
solution to climate change and guess what? It involves no cost to anybody. That is a magic pudding

TONY ABBOTT: I think there will be a big sigh of relief from the Australian people today because
they will finally have a policy which is clear, which is simple and which is vastly cheaper than
the $120 billion money-go-round that Mr Rudd wants to foist on people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government's bid to means test the health insurance rebate looks as doomed to
Senate defeat as his emissions plan, as the Health Minister Nicola Roxon sought to convince key
Senators to change their vote.

NICOLA ROXON: We are not looking for a double dissolution trigger on this. We are looking to get
the measure passed. We think it is sensible and fair. We think it makes the health expenditure more
sustainable into the future and we think it frees up money to spend it on more strategic and
legitimate if you like support perhaps across the system. Maybe it is for cancer patients, maybe it
is for new drugs, maybe it is for new technology - something that everybody will benefit from and
ultimately I actually have great faith that the public are with us on this.

Should a taxi driver have to pay for and support, you know, me getting private health insurance or
a millionaire getting private health insurance? It is actually quite a simple argument to make.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says he's keen for more information, if the
Government can provide it but remains unconvinced.

NICK XENOPHON: My fear is that it is a case of cost shifting. The Government doesn't take into
account that you will end up having people who may not shift but who will downgrade their cover
significantly which will end up putting pressure on the public system whether it is for ancillary
services such as physiotherapy and a whole range of other services that people limit their cover
and that, I think, is a very real risk.

And I think it is also important that at the last election the Federal Government made an explicit
promise not to change that and I think that governments ought to be kept to their promises unless
there are extraordinary circumstances and I don't see any extraordinary circumstances here.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The impending US presidential visit is better news for Mr Rudd as he faced the
media this morning.

KEVIN RUDD: Welcome back to the ranch.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: He was clearly getting in the mood.

KEVIN RUDD: The President will be in welcome company here in Australia. It will be good to have him
among us. This is the 70th anniversary this year of the establishment of diplomatic relations
between Australia and the United States. Way back in 1940 when life was looking pretty grim around
the world was when we opened our first mission in Washington.

Things have come a long way since then, formalised with the ANZUS treaty in 1951, but this is still
by far and above our most important foreign relationship.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ending that report from Alexandra Kirk in