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Election 2007: ALP appears to be still ahead in the campaign despite similar policies.

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Friday 2 November 2007

Election 2007: ALP appears to be still ahead in the campaign despite similar policies


TONY EASTLEY: So far in this campaign, the two leaders have generally mirrored each other in policy announcements. Kevin Rudd has matched the Prime Minister's bid for the grey vote and Mr Howard has returned the favour, equalling the Labor leader's promise of super clinics to ease the pressure on hospital accident and emergency departments. 


Voters could be excused for not being able to separate the policies of the two men, but in popularity the Labor Party remains ahead. Today's Sydney Morning Herald/Age ACNielsen poll confirms that. Almost halfway through the campaign and the ALP remains 10 points in front.  


From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government's opening gambit for the campaign was $34-billion worth of tax cuts. Within days Labor unveiled its $31-billion counter offer. Now it's matched the Coalition's $4-billion package for pensioners, the same utilities allowance, though it would be paid quarterly, with a bigger telephone allowance and seniors' transport concessions recognised nationwide. 


PAUL VERSTEEGE: All you have do is rub out the name Howard and just insert Rudd. It's "me too-ism" once again. The packages don't differ materially. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Paul Versteege, from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, has been calling for a $4,000 supplement to bridge the gap between the aged pension and what's needed to make ends meet.  


PAUL VERSTEEGE: Labor here has missed an opportunity to make inroads into the grey vote, which traditionally goes to the Coalition. Sure, they look good in the polls, but if they can make inroads into the grey vote now, that's going to pay off in the future. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government has copied Labor's promise of after hours emergency GP super clinics. Yet the copycat strategy appears to be working only for Labor. Today's ACNielsen poll has Labor inching up to 55 per cent compared to the Coalition's 45 after preferences.  


The Government is clearly irked by Labor's approach, highlighting a long list of "me-too-isms". Vocational Education Minister Andrew Robb is a seasoned campaigner. He was federal director of the Liberal Party when the Coalition won the 1996 election.  


ANDREW ROBB: Kevin Rudd said he would present an alternative not an echo. Yet, yesterday's policy by Labor on older Australians was Labor's 36th "me too" copycat of Government policy. It's sort of getting to ridiculous lengths. They are a very shallow outfit. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But if your policies are good ones, which you would argue presumably they are, why shouldn't Labor adopt them then? 


ANDREW ROBB: They have criticised the Government. They have said it's time for a change. Well, if it was time for a change, they would have a serious alternative set of policies. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Senator Penny Wong, Labor's campaign spokeswoman, says the contrast is obvious.  


PENNY WONG: There are very clear differences between Mr Howard and Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd is committed to protecting the paying conditions of working families. Kevin Rudd is prepared to take responsibility for fixing the hospitals. 


Labor has been clear that we will invest in an education revolution, make the investments that this country needs to secure our ongoing prosperity. 


TONY EASTLEY: Labor Senator, Penny Wong. That report from Alexandra Kirk.