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Opposition Leader discusses election campaign; leaders' debates; and tax policy.

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Election Campaign; Debates; Tax Policy Radio Interview 3AW Melbourne 15th October 2007

MITCHELL: On the line is the Opposition Leader, Mr Kevin Rudd, good morning.

RUDD: Good morning, Neil. Thanks for having me on the program.

MITCHELL: Thank you for coming. Edgy, a few butterflies?

RUDD: Sorry, I didn’t quite hear that.

MITCHELL: Are you edgy? Are there a few butterflies?

RUDD: Oh, no not really. I’ve been campaigning all year, I suppose it’s good to have the final act finally proclaimed. So, I’m looking forward to hitting the hustings and being out there talking to the good voters of Australia.

MITCHELL: The foreplay has been protracted. How do you make the act interesting?

RUDD: I don’t think I’ll sustain the analogy. Look, I think what I have tried to do all year, is outline my plans for the country’s future; Education Revolution, hospitals, climate change and water, fixing the Federation and getting rid of Work Choices. What we will be doing during the campaign is adding further policy elements to the plan that we’ve already put out, so that people will have a clear idea about what they are voting for from our side of politics, come the election.

MITCHELL: A debate on the weekend, is that possible?

RUDD: Well, we wrote to the PM three months ago, sorry, three weeks ago, and said how about three debates, the reason being is that it is an important election, it’s a six week campaign and, frankly, I don’t think one debate, one week in into a six week campaign is enough, particularly when most of the policies put out by myself and Mr Howard won’t have been put out by then. So, I’m waiting for his response to our proposal for three debates. I don’t know why it’s in Canberra. What’s the point of having a debate in Parliament House in the Great Hall, where you have got half the room full of Labor Party officials and the other half of the room full of Liberal Party officials? It’s kind of not real in my view. Why not have it in front of working families?

MITCHELL: So, you are still negotiating that, then? Is the weekend still a possibility?

RUDD: Well, I want to see his response first to the three debates idea. In the past,

Kevin Rudd

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Mr Howard has tended to go for one debate early on. I just think it’s a big decision for the country and I think they should have every opportunity to see us scrutinised on multiple occasions. So, my response to his reply last night will be

entirely based on how he comes back on our proposal for the entire campaign.

Also Neil, just to add one other point. When it comes to debates, they are a pretty important part of the US electoral process; they should be an important part of ours as well. And you know something? We need to have an independent prime ministerial debates commission run by the Press Gallery, so they set the rules, they set the number of debates and we just get on with it.

MITCHELL: Sorry. What is it, the independent political debates commission?

RUDD: Yes, in the United States there is an independent commission which organises the presidential debates. It’s not in the purchase of the ruling parties, as it were. Right here, if you are the Prime Minister, you say, oh well, I might have one debate, I might have it then, here are the rules. And I have got to say when we were in office before ’96, we weren’t a whole lot better on this. I’m saying for the future, let’s clean it up put it in the hands of an independent body run by the press gallery.

MITCHELL: Tax policy, when?

RUDD: Into the campaign. In ’96 Mr Howard did his more than three weeks into the campaign, so we will outline out responses on tax. Already though, I just make this point, when it comes to looking at future growth in the Australian economy I want to boost the financial services sector, turn it into an export platform for the future. That’s why in this year’s Budget Reply in May, I announced a halving of the withholding tax in order to provide that incentive for foreigners in the region to use our funds managers, and thereby earning new export revenue stream for Australia.

MITCHELL: OK, well look thank you very much for your time. I hope we can speak regularly through the campaign and the Prime Minister is listening, I’m about to speak to him, there is no plan to the order; it’s just the way it’s come down. Do you wish him luck?

RUDD: I think I wish him well and that he remains well and that I remain well through the campaign. I think if I wished him luck that would be disingenuous.

MITCHEL: Thank you for your time.

RUDD: OK. Thank, Neil.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 161 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT 2600

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