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Rudd signals foreign investment shift in lead -

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SCOTT BEVAN: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is back in Canberra this morning to receive another briefing on the conflict in Syria.

Foreign affairs, however, did not feature heavily in last night's people's forum in Sydney's west. But the Prime Minister did appear to signal a shift in Labor's approach to foreign investment in agricultural land.

Both Mr Rudd and the Coalition Leader Tony Abbott confronted some uncomfortable questions from the audience of undecided voters, but there was no knockout blow.

Naomi Woodley reports.

NAOMI WOODLEY: A people's forum in Sydney's west for undecided voters is on its way to becoming a campaign institution - last night the Rooty Hill RSL with its hundreds of poker machines was once again the venue.

(Sound of poker machines)

There were competing protestors out the front.

(Sound of protesters)

NAOMI WOODLEY: And some curly questions inside.

QUESTIONER: My question this evening is directed towards Kevin Rudd. Do you honestly believe you were not destabilising the Gillard leadership during the months leading up to your return to the prime ministership, and do you honestly believe the Australian people didn't see through it?

KEVIN RUDD: I can say that through all of that I believe I was doing absolutely the right thing by the party and by the country.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Labor has built its campaign around attacking Tony Abbott's proposed paid parental leave scheme, so it would have been pleased with this observation.

IAN: Your policy of paid parental leave is a great policy but I just think that the forklift driver in Mt Druitt shouldn't be paying his taxes so a pretty little lady lawyer on the North Shore earning $180,000 grand a year can have a kid, just to be fair.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, that's a fair point Ian, if it were true, but you see it's big business that will be paying the levy.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Both leaders used their now familiar refrains but they also broke new ground.

Last week Tony Abbott wouldn't guarantee that a Coalition government would keep open all of Labor's health services hubs known as Medicare Locals. Last night, he was unequivocal.

TONY ABBOTT: We are not shutting any Medicare Locals.

NAOMI WOODLEY: And Kevin Rudd appeared to develop a new, tougher approach to foreign investment in Australian land.

KEVIN RUDD: I reckon joint venture approaches are much better where you've got equity in it from farmers, maybe even through farming cooperatives. And if you need a whole bunch of capital to develop a land further, domestic investment or some external investment.

But I am a bit nervous, a bit anxious frankly, about simply an open slather on this.

NAOMI WOODLEY: At the end of the night the audience awarded the debate to the Prime Minister. He scored 45 votes to Tony Abbott's 38, with 19 still undecided.

Craig Lambert is a swinging voter who was leaning towards the Liberals because of their pledge to fund dementia research, but he was impressed by Kevin Rudd's approach to aged care.

CRAIG LAMBERT: They've got some, all sorts of dramas with other stuff, but I'm going to have to look beyond that because aged care is important to me at this moment of my life.

NAOMI WOODLEY: One of Labor's key messages resonated with Rachael Ward.

RACHAEL WARD: Probably need to review what Tony Abbott's actual cost cuts are before then, when they're, you know, provided. But I did like Kevin Rudd's delivery tonight.

NAOMI WOODLEY: But Meena Awad wasn't overly impressed with either.

MEENA AWAD: Because it seems as though it's more of an act for these guys than serious answers and it's sad that Australia is run by actors and actresses and as if the country is just a big soap opera.

NAOMI WOODLEY: And Melissa Abrahams agreed.

MELISSA ABRAHAMS: Really, who's interested in politics when this is what you watch?

NAOMI WOODLEY: She says the campaigns focused too much on personalities.

SCOTT BEVAN: Naomi Woodley reporting.