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Opposition Leader wants Prime Minister to set a date for a federal election.

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Wednesday 29 August 2007

Opposition Leader wants Prime Minister to set a date for a federal election


PETER CAVE: It's three years today since the Prime Minister called the last election, an d, according to the Opposition leader, that means it's time for him to name the day for the next one. 


Choosing the election day is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, but if Mr Howard sticks to his previous form, there will be a poll well before the Christmas holidays start in the middle of December. 


Mr Howard hasn't dropped any hints today, instead joking that he's well within his rights to keep the Opposition and journalists "in misery" guessing about the date. 


From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: If the Prime Minister's experience in a Darwin shopping mall today is any indicator of campaign 2007 it's going to be a rough ride. 


DARWIN MAN 1: Mr Howard, get your grubby little hands off our Territory! 


DARWIN WOMAN: Poor job you're doing! Shocking! 


DARWIN MAN 2: Get out of here! 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: As well as being harassed by several locals, a man ran in front of the Prime Minister's car. And he faced a handful of people protesting on everything from uranium mining to WorkChoices. 


PROTESTERS (chanting): Shame, Howard, shame! Shame, Howard, shame! 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Of course this isn't even the real election campaign, just more of the faux one that's been going on ever since Kevin Rudd became Labor leader last December. 


But if Mr Rudd had his way the starters gun would be fired any day. 


KEVIN RUDD: Do you know something? Today is three years since Mr Howard called the last federal election. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: As he did the rounds of radio and TV programs this morning selling his industrial relations policy, Kevin Rudd was also trying to build the pressure on Mr Howard to name the day.  


KEVIN RUDD: And today is three years to the day since Mr Howard called the last election, and therefore this election looms therefore very close. 


I think the mood of the Australian country is they want to draw a line in the sand. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: From now on you can expect Mr Rudd to paint John Howard as a man desperately holding onto power. 


But within a certain window, it is Mr Howard's decision alone on when election day will fall. Given it's likely he will wait until after the APEC meeting to call it, the probable dates start on Saturday the 20th of October and stretch until early December.  


Some think the Prime Minister will hold the election on or before the first weekend in November to avoid giving the Reserve Bank any opportunity to raise rates when it meets on the sixth of November. 


The Prime Minister is happy for punters to speculate, but wont give an inch.  


REPORTER: Prime Minister, it's three years to the day you called the 2004 election. 


JOHN HOWARD: Is it? Really? That had passed my attention. 


REPORTER: Is there any way you could put us out of our misery?  


JOHN HOWARD: No, no, I have no intention of doing that. 


One of the few, you know, privileges people in my position have is not putting you out of your misery. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: The campaign mightn't have started but the election ads are continuing to hit the airwaves.  


This contribution from Labor will screen tonight: 


LABOR ADVERTISEMENT: Most Australians think Mr Howard's WorkChoices laws have gone too far, cutting basic rights like overtime, penalty rates, leave loadings, not to mention job security. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Both sides agree industrial relations will be central to this election. 


But the Prime Minister says Labor's policy, while promising to strike a balance between employers and employees, is really weighted in favour of the unions.  


JOHN HOWARD: We're witnessing this pantomime where the union officials are wringing their hands in front of the cameras, but they're popping champagne corks in private. 


They've got what they wanted. They've got a toehold into every workplace in the country, because under Labor's law, all you need is one unionist in a workplace and the union with coverage can be part of the bargaining process. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Kevin Rudd has followed the path of Opposition leaders before him and challenged the Prime Minister to a debate on industrial relations. 


KEVIN RUDD: I'm very relaxed about the Australian people making their decision. And if they want to, draw a line in the sand between Mr Howard's industrial relations system, and the proposals we've got to restore the balance between fairness and flexibility. 


PETER CAVE: Kevin Rudd.  


Our reporter there was Gillian Bradford.