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Election 2007: leaders disagree about use of worm during 'The great debate'; Prime Minister and Opposition Leader campaign in seats of Wakefield, SA, and Dobell, NSW.

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It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


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Monday 22 October 2007

Election 2007: leaders disagree about use of worm during 'The great debate'; Prime Minister and Opposition Leader campaign in seats of Wakefield, SA, and Dobell, NSW


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister and the Labor leader have put Canberra and last night's televised debate behind them, and headed back out to marginal Liberal held seats today for some more campaigning today. 


Kevin Rudd had a new spring in his step, after
most commentators declared him the winner of what will probably be the only debate of the election campaign. 


Channel Nine's on-screen worm also declared him the winner. 


But the channel is claiming its worm was given the bird - Nine's been spraying accusations at politicians, the National Press Club and the ABC. 


That controversy has raged all day and largely overshadowed the debate itself. 


From Canberra Peta Donald filed this report. 


PETA DONALD: With the debate over and done with, John Howard headed for Adelaide to press the flesh and look at the plants at a nursery in the marginal Liberal seat of Wakefield. 


NURSERY ATTENDANT: And it's related to the Dawn Redwood … the Redwoods that you see in America. 


JOHN HOWARD: Mmm, mmm. 


NURSERY ATTENDANT: It's actually a deciduous tree, that's a Conifer - which is pretty rare. Just a very nice tree. Unusual.  


JOHN HOWARD: Yeah, yeah. Beautiful foliage. 


PETA DONALD: His opponent was also in a marginal seat held by the Coalition. Dobell on the central coast of New South Wales. 


Kevin Rudd went to a childcare centre to spruik his $1.5-billion childcare policy, announced just before last night's debate. 


CHILD: Hello Mr Rudd. 




CHILD: I saw you on TV last night! 


(Sound of laughter) 


KEVIN RUDD: Did you? This is going to be a very dangerous question. What was I doing on TV last night?  


CHILD: Look, someone's behind you? 


KEVIN RUDD: Was I talking? 


PETA DONALD: The debate hung over everything they did. The Prime Minister having to wear the ignominious tag of being the loser. 


JOURNALIST: You've widely been, described as a loser of last nights debate, do you find that disappointing and how much of an impact do you think that will have on how people vote? 


JOHN HOWARD: I welcomed last night's debate as an opportunity of doing a couple of things, of reminding the Australian community that 70 per cent of the Labor ministry would be comprised of former trade union officials and it was also a very good opportunity to outline in some detail our practical balanced approach to dealing with issues of climate change. 


PETA DONALD: Labor requested three debates during the campaign, but it's not something Mr Howard plans to subject himself to again. 


JOHN HOWARD: Well I thought we had a very good debate last night, it was a very lengthy one. 


JOURNALIST 2: You welcome that opportunity again do you Prime Minister? 


JOHN HOWARD: I thought we had a very good debate last night; it was a very lengthy one. 


PETA DONALD: Lengthy it certainly was, running for an hour and a half. 


TONY ABBOTT: He was feisty, he was dynamic and he was focused on the future, and I thought that with this challenger it was just a whole lot of waffle and cliches, so I thought it was a really good performance by the Prime Minister. 


PETA DONALD: The Health Minister Tony Abbott disagrees with the commentators and with channel nine's controversial worm, that wriggled along the screen as a group of undecided voters responded to what the leaders where saying. 


It tended to soar when Kevin Rudd started speaking and plunge when it was John Howard's turn. 


TONY ABBOTT: The worm was simply responding, I think to preconceptions and to me it's pretty clear that, that was an audience that had already made up its mind who it was in favour of, and I wonder how that audience was selected, quite frankly because I don't think the worm was a fair reflection of the quality of the debate and the content of the two speakers. 


PETA DONALD: Channel Nine left it to an independent market research company to select the audience. The televised feed to the network was pulled twice by the National Press Club because it objected to the worm, which it says was against the rules for the debate. 


The Greens are calling for a Senate inquiry into the affair; Labor's Kevin Rudd is also concerned. 


KEVIN RUDD: This Australia, it's not the Soviet Union so if you're going to have a free debate about the country's future and the future for working families, it should be reported freely by anybody and I am just surprised that we had the plug pulled on someone broadcasting the debate. Thanks very much. 


PETA DONALD: The friend of the worm is keen to do it all again but also have a chance to debate with Mr Howard's potential successor, Peter Costello. 


KEVIN RUDD: I've got to say if you have a vote for Mr Howard, he's said he'll hand over to Mr Costello and Mr Costello will make WorkChoices much harsher, so in debate last night, it's true, you should in reality have Mr Howard there for half the time and Mr Costello for the other half of the time because that is what they are saying to the Australian people. 


An when Mr Howard says 'oh and Mr Costello won't change the industrial relations laws' well I've gotta say pigs might fly. 


JOURNALIST 3: Are you happy to debate again, if you say they should have half, half. If Mr Costello says… 


KEVIN RUDD: I'd be delighted to have a debate where they shared it 50/50. 


PETA DONALD: For his part Mr Costello is trying to the keep the focus on tax and his claim that Labor used the wrong tax thresholds for the term after next. 


PETER COSTELLO: There is s a reason why Mr Rudd then went on to announce a childcare rebate yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon before the debate. It was to try and knock focus off this error. And it was to try and salvage the situation. 


PETA DONALD: The Shadow Treasurer Wayne Swan is defiant saying Labor used the only thresholds published by treasury. 


WAYNE SWAN: What we have done is to follow the only responsible course of action. We will implement our goal in a responsible manner, following the advice of treasury in our second term and that's what we will do. 


He has no substantiated information to backup the wild allegations and misrepresentations that he has been making this morning. 


MARK COLVIN: The Shadow Treasurer Wayne Swan ending Peta Donald's report.