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Election 2007: Opposition Deputy Leader arrives late for a debate with the Treasurer.

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Wedne sday 21 November 2007

Election 2007: Opposition Deputy Leader arrives late for a debate with the Treasurer


MARK COLVIN: It's a sign of the lacklustre nature of much of this campaign that political tardiness became a big issue. 


The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, had a day of sorries late last month, one of which involved turning up half an hour late for a live televised debate. 


Now one of his chief tormentors has done it herself.  


Labor's Deputy leader, Julia Gillard, turned up 15 minutes late this morning to debate the Treasurer, Peter Costello, live on Melbourne radio.  


All that was left for the Gillard camp to do was blame it on the rain. 


In Canberra, Karen Barlow reports. 


KAREN BARLOW: Melbourne may be experiencing welcome rain, but it's been hell on the city's roads. 


VICROADS SPOKESMAN: And they are a bit slipperier and visibility's not quite as good, so we're asking motorists to drive to those conditions by slowing down. 


KAREN BARLOW: That advice from VicRoads appears to have been taken by the Deputy Labor leader, Julia Gillard, who turned up a quarter of an hour late for a half-hour radio session with the Treasurer, Peter Costello, on ABC Radio. 


JON FAINE: A quarter to nine on 774 ABC Melbourne, Jon Faine at Federation Square. Julia Gillard, good morning. 


JULIA GILLARD: Good morning, Jon. 


JON FAINE: You gave Tony Abbott a drubbing for being late at the Press Club luncheon. You agreed to be here to debate Peter Costello for half an hour at half past eight this morning. You've just arrived. 


JULIA GILLARD: And I left in plenty of time, Jon. But I can't … 


JON FAINE: You're avoiding the debate. 


JULIA GILLARD: I'm here, Jon. Obviously that … 


JON FAINE: You are avoiding the debate. Now I've just had to spend 15 minutes with Peter … 


JULIA GILLARD: Do you want me to answer your question, or do you want to talk over the top of me? 


JON FAINE: Were you avoiding the debate? 


JULIA GILLARD: I left in plenty of time, Jon. Let me explain to you, with the rain all the access roads from Melbourne's west are just car parks. 


KAREN BARLOW: It brought back memories of the Health Minister, Tony Abbott's, late arrival at the Press Club for his nationally televised debate. 


(Sound of applause) 


TONY ABBOTT: First of all, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being so patient. I didn't wish to make such a grand entrance. I really do apologise for it, but even in an election campaign sometimes things go awry. 


KAREN BARLOW: Julia Gillard's lateness was something Tony Abbott's colleague, Peter Costello, was not going to let go. 


PETER COSTELLO: First of all, let me come to climate change, and I might get the chance to debate Julia some time. If not, I'll take the chance to debate you actually, Jon (laughs). 


JON FAINE: I'm afraid I have to play that role in the meantime. 


PETER COSTELLO: (Laughs) Because it was supposed to be a debate with Julia and she's not here. 


KAREN BARLOW: And what sort of debate did she turn up for?  


Economic conservatism and leadership aspirations were constant themes, if they could be understood over each other's voices. 




JULIA GILLARD: No it's not, it's my … 


PETER COSTELLO: No, that's an ALP minder's book … 


JULIA GILLARD: It's my notes. It's actually my book and it's my notes of what we've got in for … 


PETER COSTELLO: If you actually go to the website … If you go to the website, you will find … 


KAREN BARLOW: A few hours later, and in Sydney, Peter Costello was still rubbing in Julia Gillard's 15-minute absence in front of a loyal Liberal audience. 


PETER COSTELLO: I was in Melbourne earlier today and my task was to debate Julia Gillard. And I know this will surprise you, but the debate was to go from 8.30 to 9.00, and I arrived at 8.30 and I began the debate, and Julia didn't turn up. 


(Sound of crowd heckling and laughing) 


So I began the debate by debating myself. You'll be pleased to know I won narrowly on points. 


KAREN BARLOW: Given an opportunity in northern Tasmania to further explain the delay, Ms Gillard took it on the chin. 


JULIA GILLARD: Obviously that's my responsibility, my lookout. I accept that. 


KAREN BARLOW: And then tried to turn it on the Treasurer. 


JULIA GILLARD: Mr Costello, though, pulled up stumps at nine o'clock, when I had expected to debate him until nine-thirty, so I happily agree I owe Mr Costello 15 minutes of debating time because I was 15 minutes late. He owes me 30 minutes of debating time because he left early, and I'm happy to debate him any time, anywhere, to square the ledger. 


KAREN BARLOW: But checks by PM show that the deputy leaders' debate was arranged three weeks ago to be half an hour, between 8.30 and 9.00am. 


The Treasurer only confirmed as a guest yesterday, while Julia Gillard confirmed her attendance weeks ago.  


Tony Abbott has declined to comment on his sparring partner's lateness, but on a side note the Health Minister just avoided Julia Gillard's fate at the Prime Minister's speech in Sydney, as he was seen arriving just before the start of the national anthem. 


MARK COLVIN: Karen Barlow.