Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint press conference: Melbourne: 29 August 2013: Syria; $10 billion error in the Oppositions savings; Campaign.



Download PDFDownload PDF

Campaign Transcript

TRANSCRIPT OF PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD PRESS CONFERENCE COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY OFFICES, MELBOURNE 29 AUGUST 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Syria; $10 billion error in the Oppositions savings; Campaign. _____________________________________________________________

PM: I would like to make some remarks this morning about Syria and then some remarks about the debate for the future direction of the Australian economy.

On Syria, as a number of you would know, I’ve just come from Canberra and had a further set of briefings together with the Foreign Minister on circumstances unfolding in that region and international responses.

The Australian Government's conclusion is that, our belief is that, the Syrian regime is responsible for these chemical weapons attacks against the Syrian people. We have been in the process in recent days of testing these assumptions with a range of institutions, organisations and Governments around the world and we are confident of this conclusion. The evidence, in our judgment, is now overwhelming.

The Australian Government condemns the Syrian regime for the use of chemical weapons against its people in what is a most flagrant breach of international law. It is an offence against humanity and arguably is a crime against humanity.

Therefore, it is now critical that the international community move towards agreement on a robust international response to the regime. In the absence of such a response, the problem is this - the regime would then take succour that it could do this again. We do not believe that is the right course of action. There is a further argument as well. If the regime, this regime, was seen to be able to get away with such an attack on its own people using chemical weapons with impunity, it would also give succour and encouragement to other regimes around the world in the future that they could do the same.

What the Syrian regime has done is in grave breach of both the Geneva Convention on the use of chemical weapons of 1925, as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1992. These are the most flagrant breaches.

Therefore the question now turns to the question of an appropriate international response. In New York, at the United Nations, we've been in discussions again with

all countries who are members of the UN Security Council, including the Government of the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom is at present seeking to frame a draft resolution for the Council's consideration. This has been the subject of discussions in New York and so far it has not been possible to secure the support of the Russians, in particular, for such a resolution. Those efforts continue in New York.

Our view, as I stated before, is that there is an overwhelming case in support of a robust international response to the Syrian regime in the framework of international humanitarian intervention. The Syrian people's lives are at stake, and a broader principle applying to all peoples, as well.

On the economy, and the debate on the economy, which is occurring in this election campaign, I believe it was important today that we spoke to you and the Australian people in the company of both the Treasurer and the Finance Minister.

Last night, Mr Abbott and I had a debate about the future of the economy and jobs and his approaches and my approaches.

Our priorities as a Government are clear for the future. We are about building for the future. The industries and jobs of the future; the schools and hospitals of the future; the National Broadband Network of the future, and a clean energy future for all Australians.

Mr Abbott has equally made clear his priorities which are for cuts, cuts and more cuts and that again was in evidence in his remarks last night. What I found particularly remarkable - particularly remarkable about the priorities of the Liberal Party in the last 24 hours is their confirmation of cuts to small business.

Small business in Australia are struggling. Small business are struggling because we have challenges, which are impacting on the Australian economy from the international economy and as a result we therefore should be doing everything we can to support small business, not to cut support to small business. So the idea that Mr Abbot is now, judging that it is a priority of his to impose in effect a $4 billion tax hike on small business through the measures he's going to remove from them, is in my view absolutely the wrong priorities for the economy and the wrong priorities for jobs.

We take the economy, small business, and jobs seriously.

I believe the qualities the Australian people expect of their Prime Minister are those of good judgment-

(Microphone falls off podium)

PM: - I'm going to start that bit again. Which outlet was that? Ok, let me start that bit again and we will attend to the funding levels for that particular media outlet later, particularly if it was Government-funded.

I believe the Australian people, when they look to the question of who should be their Prime Minister, they do make some very basic judgments.

They want their Prime Minister to be a person of good judgment - good judgment on the priorities of the nation. They also expect their Prime Minister to be truthful with them about the costs associated with those priorities for the future.

Mr Abbott's judgment has been that his number one priority for Australia is his unaffordable, uncosted, unfair, economically irresponsible Paid Parental Leave Scheme. That is also the judgment, I think, of practically everyone else in Australia - that they think that this policy priority of his is just dead wrong. How can you justify spending $22 billion on a Paid Parental Leave Scheme which provides $75,000 payments to millionaires to have a baby? Nobody has an answer to that, except Mr Abbott and if you watched him in the debate last night, he didn't really have an answer either. Everyone knows this policy is wrong and it's time that Mr Abbott was brought to account for a fundamentally wrong call of judgment as to where the priorities of the nation lie.

I said before that the Australian people expect of their Prime Ministers sound judgment on questions of policy and priorities. They also expect their Prime Ministers to be truthful about what their priorities cost. Here, again, I believe we have important conclusions to make from Mr Abbott's performance last night and more generally on the costing of his overall promises.

Last night, I posed a very simple and direct question to Mr Abbott and I asked him just to give a straight answer to a straight question - ‘why won't you release all your costings now? You say you've done them, why are you evading an answer to this question?’ He had no answer to that question.

That's not just being clever. That's not just being evasive. That's being untruthful with the Australian people. He said that there are some 200 other policies out there of theirs which are costed, but not to be shown to the Australian people. Well, I believe the Australian people will start to feel increasingly anxious, worried and uncertain about where all that leads for them because they have a legitimate right in this democracy to know where his $70 billion worth of cuts will fall on their jobs, their schools, their hospitals, their NBN.

The second point is this - yesterday we also had released by the Shadow Treasurer what he claimed to be $30 billion worth of savings for the Coalition. In a minute, I'm going to ask the Treasurer and the Finance Minister to attend to that, but the summary conclusion is this: based on a very simple analysis and subjecting these numbers to any modest level of scrutiny, it is quite clear that there is now a massive $10 billion hole in the $30 billion that they are claiming, and beyond that, what are the rest of the cuts necessary to make up the $70 billion which Mr Hockey and Mr Robb have claimed unnecessary for the Coalition for the future?

So, I conclude with this, on the question of the economy and jobs, our priorities are clear. Our costings are clear. They're out there in the economic statement released by these two Ministers some weeks ago, prior to the election campaign commencing. Yet here we are, less than 10 days before an election, and all we have from Mr Abbott so far I believe are deep questions about his judgment on policy priorities and now deep questions about his truthfulness in levelling with the Australian people about what all this costs and where precisely he's going to cut.

Over to the Treasurer, and then over to the Finance Minister and then I'll take some questions.

BOWEN: Thanks, Prime Minister.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the Opposition attempted to shut down discussion and avoid scrutiny about their cuts by releasing a table of cuts that we already knew about and releasing what the Opposition alleges are the costings of those cuts. But there is a problem with that table.

There is an error of $10 billion in the claimed $30 billion of savings the Opposition released yesterday. This is based on advice from the departments of Treasury and Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Office which we are releasing today. These $10 billion errors will, of course, need to be made up with other cuts before the election.

Yesterday, Mr Robb said, “This is the most rigorous, most comprehensive process ever undertaken by an Opposition in the lead-up to an election.”

Of course we've heard that before.

We heard that in 2010. In that election Mr Hockey said, “We've released the most comprehensive analysis of a political party's costings and policies ever.” Almost word for word. This a little bit of history repeating, because last election we saw, after the election, the Department of Finance identify an $11 billion black hole in the Opposition's costings and the accountants who did the costings were fined $5,000 for breach of professional standards. Here we go again.

This time, we've been able to identify the black hole before the election and it's a substantial one. I'll go through some of the errors and the Finance Minister will go through some of the others.

The Opposition claims a $3.7 billion saving from abolishing the low-income superannuation payment. Treasury advice that I'm releasing today clearly shows this saves $1.7 billion - there is a $2 billion shortfall on this particular saving. If the Opposition wants to claim a $3.7 billion saving, there's only one way they could do it - make the tax change retrospective. Go back and take tax off people, payments off people that they've already received through the tax break that we have provided. Make a retrospective tax change back to 2012. The Treasury advice makes it clear that if the tax change comes in from the 1st of July 2014, the saving is only $1.7 billion.

The Opposition has already introduced double taxation in Australia. If they're going to introduce retrospective taxation changes, Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott should hold a press conference today and be upfront about it and they should say to the one in three Australian workers who are entitled to the low-income superannuation tax cut, that they are taking money off them retrospectively. If they don't do that, then they can't claim the $2 billion in savings.

We're releasing these minutes today not lightly, not lightly, but in the face of these grievous errors by the Opposition.

This is advice given to the Government prior to going into caretaker period. Of course the Minister for Finance and I are authorised to released advice to us when we choose to do so and we're taking the serious step of releasing that advice today transparently and openly to everybody here today in the interests of public disclosure and the interests of full transparency.

The Opposition is also claiming a $1.5 billion save from abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. There's a big problem with that save. The vast bulk of that saving cannot be claimed on the Budget bottom line - only $300 million of that save can be claimed because the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is an off-budget entity.

Mr Hockey has claimed a $5.1 billion saving from abolishing the issuant of free permits through the Jobs and Competitiveness Fund. He makes that saving on the basis of accrual accounting, not cash accounting. Now if we did our savings on accrual accounting, the Minister for Finance and I would have announced a Budget surplus one year earlier in 2015. If Mr Hockey wants to use accrual accounting then he needs to do it for all his policies, and it would mean other spending initiatives they have announced would hit the budget bottom line like their changes to some pensions to the tune of $1.7 billion.

This a pea and thimble trick by Mr Hockey to make his figures look better than they are.

This is a trick to hide the continuing budget black hole that the Opposition has - hiding the need to make further and deeper cuts, to make their Budget add up.

These are substantial errors and these are just errors on what was announced yesterday, on their $30 billion so-called savings.

They admit and confess they have more to go but they won't tell us until next Wednesday. They're hoping, I suspect, that we don't have enough time to identify errors in those savings, as well, but clearly we'll continue to point out to the Australian people where such errors exist and continue to point out that that will mean further cuts needing to come from the Opposition to make their Budget add up.

Minister for Finance will add some other errors.

WONG: Thank you, Treasurer.

Well it's I think nine days until election day, and we have Tony Abbott still playing hide and seek with the Australian people. Hide and seek when it comes to the full extent of the cuts that he wants to impose and that's not incompetence, that's a deliberate strategy. It's a deliberate strategy to make sure Australians remain in the dark about the cuts that are to come should Mr Abbott ever become Prime Minister.

But the reality is people are asking - starting to ask questions. Australians, rightly, are starting to ask questions about what cuts are to come.

Yesterday, as the Treasurer said, there was an attempt by the Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Finance Minister - good to see him out for a change - in a deliberate attempt to deflect questions, they announced a supposed $31.6 billion of savings.

Well, on the basis of the information that you've just received, $1 in every $3 that they counted as savings doesn't exist - $1 in every 3 doesn't exist.

The Treasurer's gone through some of the details in relation to the accrual accounting point and the free permits. The point I wanted to make relates to the press gallery - to the public service. I did want to make a point to the press gallery.

The stated policy of the Coalition is that they want to reduce Commonwealth Public Service by 12,000 through natural attrition. What I've released today is a minute from the Department of Finance which costs that policy - that is a reduction of 12,000 in the Australian public service by natural attrition. You will see from that minute that the saving there is $2.8 billion - 2.8. The claimed saving, the claimed saving by the Coalition is in fact $5.2 billion so we see clearly there's a shortfall.

Now, I also released - we have also released a costing from the Parliament Budget Office which goes higher, which says, “OK, I know that Joe Hockey said at various points, as has Mr Abbott, that the public service is 20,000 people too big. What would happen if they cut 20,000?” Well, even that saving would only be $4.3 billion. In other words even at 20,000 they can't get to the claimed saving. What they're claimed saving is, is massively ahead of what would actually occur were they to implement their stated policy of 12,000 reduction in the public service.

I think the point here is, there is a deliberate strategy by the alternative Government to hide the cuts to come from the Australian people.

What the $10 billion error in the savings - so-called savings - they announced yesterday shows is even on that, even on that batch of savings, there are $10 billion of cuts yet to come that Tony Abbott's not telling you about.

PM: Just before we take your questions therefore, and I come back to you, before we take you questions therefore - this is a question I believe of judgment and truthfulness. Judgement about wrong policy priorities for Australia - the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, massive policy of $22 billion - but also a question of truthfulness.

You can't go out there and say, “This is $30 billion worth of supposed savings,” and then within 24 hours, based on the most basic analysis driven by the advice of government agencies find that there is immediately a $10 billion hole and a $10 billion hole is clearly identified in the table circulated to you now.

It's a question of judgment, it's a question of truthfulness and can I just say this before we start, the Treasurer will soon quietly slide off. He has other commitments in Sydney so if you've got anything really curly to throw at him, do it early and then I'll start with questions here.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of costings (Inaudible) given with all the resources of Government, Labor's been out by billions of dollars in most projections over the last few years and on the issue of foreign investment, can you outline what your thinking is on that? Are you proposing or flagging a change in policy?

PM: On the question of foreign investment, I stand by what I said last night, and when it comes to our agricultural areas I was simply stating my overall preference,

which is that we have joint ventures for the future. On the broader question of costings, can I turn to Finance Minister or Treasurer?

BOWEN: In relation to costings, the Department of Finance and Department of Treasury are the Government's costers and I would invite you to look at their methodology which is very, very sound and which is very respected.

Now, you're referring to something quite different which is estimating future revenue in a very volatile world economy - that's something very different to estimating how much a new policy will cost. And when you're estimating future revenue across the forward estimates, we've got $1.5 trillion of revenue estimated. Recently I announced a 2% change in that estimation which was $33 billion over the next four years, and that's in the face of a very volatile world economy and the world economy will be volatile on the 8th of September regardless of whether we're standing before you, or our alternatives are standing before you as the Government. But when it comes to actually costing specific initiatives of Government, the track record of the departments of Finance and Treasury is a good one, and should be respected.

WONG: Can I just make the point. I know that the Opposition want that question asked. They want to muddy up this issue by pointing to forecasting changes which occurred but regardless of your view about whether or not the forecasts could have been more accurate, and as the Treasurer said these are the best forecasters in the nation who served Peter Costello - that does not give Tony Abbott a get-out-of-jail-free card from telling people about the cost of his policies. It is a deliberate muddying of the waters in a deliberate strategy to avoid scrutiny of what cuts are to come.

PM: And projecting global economic growth into the future is a hazardous business. We all know that. Every Treasury and Finance ministry in the world goes through those challenges.

The costing of individual Government policies or alternative Government policies is a much simpler affair. It's a question of whether you're going to be truthful about that or not and what we're doing today is calling Mr Abbott on his truthfulness. This is a $10 billion fraud on the Australian people which he has sought to put before them within the last 24 hours. People just need to focus on it because other cuts will need to come.

JOURNALIST: We're now talking about an $80 billion black hole then and will you be updating your ads accordingly if you believe that's the case?

PM: The bottom line is I keep going back to $70 billion - that's what Mr Hockey and Mr Robb said. Mr Robb said it even more definitively than Mr Hockey - one's the Shadow Treasurer; one's the Shadow Finance Minister.

What we are talking about here today is the subset which they've put forward, namely, $30 billion worth of purported savings of which there is now a massive $10 billion hole up the middle.

All we’re doing is calling for some truthfulness in this debate. And some truthfulness would be had by doing two things - one, answering every question put arising from the circulated table about the accuracy of the over-estimates of what they are

claiming as saves for that $10 billion, and, secondly, to provide a straight answer to a straight question which I posed directly to Mr Abbott last night - ‘When will you come clean with the totality of your cuts so that the Australian people can have time to judge?’

JOURNALIST: If you're conceding $20 billion in savings here then isn't your figure $50 billion at the very least?

PM: Can I just say $70 billion is what they have put out there and within that it's for them to clarify, with the total release of all their cuts and costings, as to what the final Budget bottom line is.

We are going off their statement and we're going off the fact that they have to deliver a Budget bottom line.

Now, if there was to be no problem with this, if everything was to be made clear straight away, then Mr Abbott would have provided a straight answer to a straight question last night which is: ‘Will you release these 200 other measures which you say you've already costed privately but refused to release publicly for patently political reasons?’

JOURNALIST: On Syria, you say there's now overwhelming evidence - you've had two briefings. Can you perhaps give us an idea of what that evidence is? Also you say this needs a robust response. Are you now considering military action or is there any indication from the US or any of our allies that that is what they are considering?

PM: On the question of Syria, this is a major crisis facing the international community. It is not just a crisis of the Middle East. It is a broader one because it goes to the principle of the future use of chemical weapons against innocent people. That's why we as a responsible member of the international community take it seriously.

You asked specific questions about the nature of the advice that we have received. Some of it you will have seen yourselves in the public domain - that is the symptomatology which comes from people who have been the victims of chemical weapons attacks. Others of it is in the private domain and in the intelligence domain which I cannot comment on here.

Furthermore, the other half of your question dealt with responses. I have used the term ‘robust’ deliberately because I believe the regime needs to know it cannot get away with this with impunity. On the diplomacy necessary to move to a consensus on that, we are putting our best foot forward in the UN Security Council to obtain that sort of consensus. It will be hard. It will be difficult. But whatever transpires there I can say that in my own judgment and that of the Government, there is a strong and almost overwhelming case in terms of the principles of international humanitarian intervention to ensure that that response is as robust as possible.

JOURNALIST: The bookmaker Sports Bet has started to pay out on a Coalition win. Are they right in calling the election over?

PM: You know something, I'm not a big punter but I think - we’ve had how many Melbourne Cups have we had so far? You're from Victoria. You'll know. 100 and what -

JOURNALIST: (inaudible).

PM: Someone told me a few days ago in 150, 160 Melbourne Cups - the favourite has won 35 times. So have a think about that.

You know something, I draw your attention, for those of you who have a memory which reaches back to 1993, that if you were to ask people then who would prevail in the 1993 election - John Hewson was the favourite. He was the favourite and regarded as a shoo-in. Well, that's Mr Abbott's attitude today and it brings it straight back to the principles we have been talking about, which is that because he believes he has the election in the bag, he believes he can get away with not being truthful with the Australian people.

You know the game. We've talked about it every day. Be quiet about it up until election day - sneak through; shock and horror; have a commission of audit; oh, dear, we've got to change everything and whack everyone with cuts that you have never dreamed of. If you doubt that, go and see what happened in Queensland. And look very carefully at Mr Abbott's direct response to the question put by a gentleman in the debate last night about whether he would stick to every one of his undertakings. What we had was waffle, waffle, waffle and waffle. It was almost edible.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the date on here says the 5th of August. Why take so long to reveal these publicly?

BOWEN: We've done so in the light of the Opposition's announcement yesterday. As I said before releasing advice to Ministers is not something we do lightly. It's something we do after consideration.

Given Mr Hockey and Mr Robb stood before you yesterday and claimed $30 billion worth of savings - issued a table with figures attached to it - in the interests of proper public debate the right thing to do is release it in response to that.

JOURNALIST: You did do these costings some time ago - do you concede there may be different assumptions put into what the Coalition did though PBO and should you be calling on them to release their actual costings?

BOWEN: Couldn't have put it better myself Alex. Couldn’t have put it better myself. They may have said to the Parliamentary Budget Office, ‘We'll take the money off low-income earners retrospectively.’ They may have said to the Parliamentary Budget Office and if that's the case they should say to the Australian people as well. If not, they're $2 billion short, just on that one measure.

JOURNALIST: When will Labor release its costings?

BOWEN: I think you'll find we have. We have. We have in the economic statement and we have as we've announced every policy.

WONG: I want to respond to that because that is another one of the furphies, in fact outright lies, that we see from the Opposition that Labor hasn't released its costings.

You have our economic statement which was confirmed in the pre-election economic and fiscal statement that the department's released. And in that you have our full bottom line and you have many of our policies which have subsequently been announced, fully costed and transparent.

Since that time, we have already, in terms consistent with the Charter of Budget Honesty, lodged costings transparently and publicly, available on the website, as they are announced.

They will be released or they are being released in accordance with the Charter, not by us, but by the departments of Finance and Treasury. Let's see how many costings with that kind of level of detail and scrutiny you get from the Opposition. So far, zero.

PM: I’ll turn to this question and by the way we're going to bid farewell to the Treasurer as he heads north across the Murray.

JOURNALIST: You've talked about a robust response, what's your definition of robust? What would qualify on Syria?

PM: I think caution is the better part of valour here. We need to work our way carefully and methodically through the options which are available and that is why President Obama is consulting with friends and allies around the world. I've referred earlier to his conversations with me and that is why the British Prime Minister and the French President are consulting with friends and allies as well.

The diplomacy is very active in New York at present. The diplomacy is not just a bunch of words, it's trying to forge a real international consensus on what we can agree on as a robust set of measures.

As I said, the response from the Russians has been reasonably negative but we'll continue to work hard on this and we will take this calmly, in a measured fashion, one day at a time.

JOURNALIST: Can I just get both of you to respond - Tony Abbott has visited a school in Sydney today, a Christian school, he's spoken to them about values and there are reports the school on its website describes homosexuality as an abomination and he's been talking to them about their values, their Christian values. Can you respond to that?

PM: Look, I'm not familiar with the school. I haven't seen the website and don't know what Mr Abbott has said. I'd much rather, frankly, be across all the facts of that before providing any further comment and if you find any, based on your knowledge of what's transpired, any questions to put to Mr Abbott, you should do so.

JOURNALIST: The money for the two supply ships, where's that coming from, about $2 billion?

PM: Well, I'll be making a further statement on the question of Defence industry policy and with further robust elements within it, when I speak later today at

Williamstown, but I believe passionately in building the industries of the future. Defence industry is one of them. What I want to see is maximal Australian participation.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, only a few days ago in Canberra you warned against jumping to conclusions on Syria, invoking the memory of Iraq-

PM: That's correct.

JOURNALIST: - going to war on false intelligence. Yet today you've seemed to go further than most international leaders, condemning the Syrian regime for this attack. The UN investigators haven't finished their work. What do you know that they don't?

PM: The bottom line is, I think you'll find my comments are very much in line with those of international leaders. I draw your attention to a statement given by President Obama only a few hours ago in the United States and statements recently delivered by the British, particularly through the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. I think you'll find we're very much in keeping with what other governments are saying about these developments.

You will know that from day one I said, based on reflections of 2003, that we needed to proceed cautiously, that we needed to look at the evidence and we have spent the time since then doing precisely that. And we have been meticulous through our officials in sifting through all of that material, both in the public and private domain. We don't reach these conclusions lightly, nor do we intend to allow lightly to pass what I believe to be the requirement to send a resolute message through to the international community and to the regime in Syria, that if you're going to go out there and murder hundreds and prospectively thousands of people given those who’ve been injured, with a chemical weapons attack, then this is just beyond the pale. And so I think you come to a point in this where anyone could continue to raise a reservation here or raise a reservation there. If you're the father of a dead child in Damascus at the moment and have watched that child die a horrible death as a result of a chemical weapons attack, I think you would have a different view. I think we all would have a different view as a result of that.

JOURNSLIST: You mentioned you take heart from Paul Keating's performance in 1993. Can I ask how often you've spoken to him during the campaign and what has been his advice.

PM: I have been talking to Paul for a long, long time. I speak to Paul. I speak to Bob. I talk to lots of folk who have been in political life for a long time. What I know is this, and to draw inspiration from, is you fight for what you believe in. You fight for the policies you believe in. What we're talking about today is fighting about priorities for the Australian people.

I intrinsically believe it to be a wrong judgment call by Mr Abbott to say that on the one hand there's $22 billion scheme to give $75 ,000 to millionaires to have a baby justifies whacking 1.3 million families who get a modest amount through a School Kids' Bonus, or even worse, as a direct consequence of the measure, whacking more than a million self-funded retirees and pensioners with a $1.7 billion hit on them. I just think those judgments and those priorities are wrong.

My job is to stand up not just for those principles but to stand up for those people and I will do so as I continue to draw breath and what can I say is across the Australian community you see more and more people in our experience just scratching their head wondering, “What is this guy on about? What judgment does he have? And furthermore, when it comes to Mr Abbott, why is he not being truthful?”

I think for me when one of the women in the audience stood up and probably surprised both Mr Abbott and myself and said, “OK, what question do you want to ask each other?” He asked me, “Why do you, in terms of what you're positively putting to the Australian people, believe is a case for your re-election?” I gave him three reasons. Bang, bang, bang. Then I asked for his vote. He didn't give it to me.

Then I asked my question which is “why are you not being truthful with the Australian people? Why don't you release all this information you've got now?” He didn't have an answer. That's because he is being untruthful.

So you know, I'm fighting those principles. I'm fighting the questions of what I believe to be the qualities necessary in a Prime Minister in terms of judgment on policy and in terms of truthfulness with the Australian people. Most of all, I'm fighting for people who are worried about their jobs which could be cut as a result of his massive cuts; fighting for those people because if he does implement his $70 billion worth of cuts there is a grave risk of triggering a recession and let me tell you across the economy that is not a minority view when you're looking at how massive that amount is. And then on top of it, who is hurt on the way through.

I said in the debate last night if you scratch your head in a couple of years' time and ask, well what actually happened here when Mr Abbott became Prime Minister, and you can't get your kid into A&E at two o’clock in the morning, you can't get your elective surgery in a reasonable period of time and can't frankly have any prospect of connecting yourself to high-speed broadband because you live in a remote town or you live in the wrong suburbs in a city - these are the people that I'm fighting for and fighting for through until election day. And do you know something, I think you're finding that right across the board, people are beginning to pay attention to this.

You know, you're a veteran. People often switch on to election campaigns when you get down to the last 10 days or so. There's a massive number of people who haven't decided on their votes yet. They have a massive number of questions about Mr Abbott and his qualities for office and it's ultimately a choice - it’s a choice I'm very relaxed about and I submit myself happily to the Australian people's judgment.

With that we're going to zip.

ENDS