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Rudd lacks courage: Howard -

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Rudd lacks courage: Howard

Reporter: Greg Jennett

Prime Minister John Howard has accused Kevin Rudd of lacking the courage to speak about the
consequences of troop withdrawal in Iraq.

Transcript

TONY JONES: John Howard has unleashed his most ferocious attack yet on Kevin Rudd's character. The
Prime Minister has accused the Labor leader of lacking the guts to talk about the consequences of
troop withdrawals from Iraq. The Labor leader hit back, issuing a challenge for a televised debate,
but it was quickly turned down by Mr Howard. From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.

GREG JENNETT: He's taken a pounding for nearly two days for his foray into US politics. Now John
Howard places Kevin Rudd's courage under fire.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: For the last one and a half days, I have been attacked and lacerated
by the Opposition for expressing my view. The Leader of the Opposition doesn't have the guts to
express his.

GREG JENNETT: The taunts stem from Mr Rudd's refusal to say what he thinks would happen if US
troops were pulled out of Iraq next year.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: My role is not to provide a rolling commentary on the merits or
otherwise of the twists and turns in the US military debate.

JOHN HOWARD: I have been prepared to answer that question. I have been willing to cop the criticism
of the position that I have taken, but my opposite number in this place does not have the courage
to answer that simple question.

GREG JENNETT: It's a reworking of the 'no ticker' jibe Mr Howard used against Kim Beazley but Kevin
Rudd was not to be outdone.

KEVIN RUDD: Will the Prime Minister now accept an invitation from me to a nationally televised
debate on the future direction of Australia's policy in Iraq?

GREG JENNETT: "No", says the Prime Minister, that's what parliament's for. I debate Mr Rudd every
day.

JOHN HOWARD: You know as well as I do, that's the oldest stunt in the book when an Opposition
Leader isn't willing to answer a question.

GREG JENNETT: Questions over Mr Howard's weekend outburst against US presidential hopeful Barack
Obama and the Democratic Party has spread to the Liberal backbench. West Australian MP Mal Washer
has his doubts over the wisdom of linking the Democrats to al-Qaeda.

MAL WASHER: Spreading it to the Democrats probably wasn't such a good idea. There's a lot of good
Democrats who probably don't feel the same way.

GREG JENNETT: In Washington the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, pointedly refused to follow Mr
Howard's lead.

TONY SNOW: We're not commenting on Democratic candidates. People have tried to get us to bite on
that a number of times.

GREG JENNETT: The tactical twists come thick and fast. As John Howard was going for the character
debate, Kevin Rudd was pursuing him on economic credibility, intrigued that his $10 billion water
plan never went to Cabinet for approval.

MAN: $10 billion over 10 years, this is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth
of Australia for this not to happen, and you know it.

MAN: I'm not sure that's necessarily right.

GREG JENNETT: The Government maintains the package underwent appropriate scrutiny before the
decision was taken.

(c) 2007 ABC