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Prime Minister says Liberal Party is facing electoral annihilation; Opposition Deputy Leader criticises spending on industrial relations advertising.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

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

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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PM

 

Tues day 22 May 2007

Prime Minister says Liberal Party is facing electoral annihilation; Opposition Deputy Leader criticises spending on industrial relations advertising

 

MARK COLVIN: The Pri me Minister gave his MPs a verbal cold shower today. 

 

Mr Howard told a meeting of the Coalition party room that the opinion polls suggested not just a loss for the Government, but a rout. 

 

And if that wasn't enough to scare them, the leader who's won four elections on the trot, said he didn't have a rabbit to pull out of a hat this time around. 

 

From Canberra Peta Donald reports. 

 

PETA DONALD: Another day brought another bad opinion poll for the Government. 

 

Today it was Newspoll, giving Labor 57 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. 

 

If it keeps going like this, the Prime Minister told his troops, the Government faces annihilation at this year's election. Not only that, if they expect him to pull a rabbit out of a hat, well he doesn't have a rabbit. 

 

Mr Howard was addressing a meeting of Coalition MPs, but his message was designed to reach a much bigger audience. He's painting himself as the underdog, fighting hard to be re-elected. 

 

The Prime Minister also told his party room voters think the economy is so good the Labor party couldn't muck it up. 

 

So when it came to Question Time his aim was to cast doubt over the Opposition's ability to manage the economy. 

 

John Howard ridiculed Labor's TV ad featuring Kevin Rudd proudly claiming to be a fiscal conservative. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: Well I am a fiscal conservative, because my party left a $96 billion national debt. I am a fiscal conservative because I and my colleagues opposed every attempt by the next government to get rid of that debt. 

 

PETA DONALD: The Treasurer Peter Costello weighed in, attacking the Opposition for not having an income tax policy, and not planning to release one before the election. 

 

PETER COSTELLO: It's not like a sun roof on your Commodore. It doesn't come along as one of the options. It's like the steering wheel, it's like the engine. A political party without a tax policy is like a soloist turning up to go on It Takes Two on a Tuesday night. It can't be done, it's lonely! 

 

PETA DONALD: Labor is trying to undermine the Government's claim to superior economic management, accusing it of wasting money on government advertising - ads that the Opposition says are political, and should be paid for by the Liberal Party, rather than the taxpayer. 

 

Labor's deputy leader Julia Gillard: 

 

JULIA GILLARD: How is wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars on pre-election PR campaigns compatible with prudent economic management, and how is it justifiable to working families under pressure? 

 

PETA DONALD: As the Prime Minister has been quick to point out, many a Labor government has spent up big on advertising. In the lead up to the recent New South Wales state election, ad breaks were filled with government ads.  

 

Mr Howard: 

 

JOHN HOWARD: Absolutely ludicrous ads from the New South Wales Government that were pure puffery. They provided no information, and it was ultimately revealed that the cost of the advertising campaign exceeded the cost of the plan. You are total hypocrites on this subject. 

 

PETA DONALD: It's not just New South Wales to annoy the Federal Government with its advertising spend. The Finance Minister Nick Minchin is hot under the collar about South Australia. He was appearing before a Senate Estimates inquiry to answer questions about the $4.1 million the Government has spent this week, advertising changes to the laws that used to be known as WorkChoices. 

 

NICK MINCHIN: Look, don't give me any hypocrisy, Senator. You come from a state where your state premier puts himself in the ad, so don't give me hypocrisy about government advertising. What the South Australian Labor Government does is quite appalling. You've not seen John Howard in any ads, you see Mike Rann in all the government ads paid by taxpayers of South Australia.  

 

So don't give me any lectures about government advertising.  

 

PETA DONALD: All the while Labor Senator John Faulkner has been digging away. Today he extracted a useful figure for the Opposition - the amount the Government has spent on the 18 different ad campaigns it's running at the moment. 

 

JOHN FAULKNER: What's the total figure for those active campaigns as of yesterday, please? 

 

GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE: $111.2 million. 

 

JOHN FAULKNER: $111.2 million. 

 

PETA DONALD: Expect to hear more about that $111 million spent on ads. 

 

And as the election draws closer, expect more advertisements. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Peta Donald.