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Election 2007: Prime Minister and Treasurer discuss their leadership plans; Shadow Minister says a Howard Government will change WorkChoices.

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Tuesday 20 November 2007

Election 2007: Prime Minister and Treasurer discuss their leadership plans; Shadow Minister says a Howard Government will change WorkChoices


TONY EASTLEY: Just four days before Australians cast their vote, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have taken the highly unusual step of appearing in a joint television interview as they fight for the Government's survival. 


The duo is trying to blunt Kevin Rudd's claim that Peter Costello may not keep John Howard's election promises. 


They're also having to deal with revelations that in 2005 the Prime Minister's department drew up plans for more industrial relations changes.  


It's not the sort of problem the Government needs as the latest Newspoll in today's Australian newspaper shows Labor maintaining a commanding eight-point lead after preferences. 


From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Still way behind in the polls, just days before the election, the Prime Minister and his Liberal deputy have put on a united front, sitting side-by-side in a television interview discussing their achievements, their political "marriage" and warning against the economic threat of a Labor win.  


JOHN HOWARD: I like Peter as a bloke. He's very bright. I mean, he's a seriously intelligent person. And he's also very funny. Peter's got a natural talent for wit and humour, which is much greater than mine. I mean, I'm lousy at telling jokes. 


PETER COSTELLO: He has the most amazing work ethic that I've ever seen. 


JOHN HOWARD: It's a pretty good marriage. I mean, it's lasted a long time, and … 


PETER COSTELLO: Yes, real marriages have certain other attractions though. 


JOHN HOWARD: (Laughs). Yeah, that's right, which (laughs) can't be matched. 


You disagree on things that you get cranky about and say, you know, "blah blah blah" … 


PETER COSTELLO: When he doesn't put the cap on the toothpaste. 


JOHN HOWARD: No, that's right. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Appearing last night on Today Tonight, they talked of renewal in the face of Kevin Rudd's "new leadership" pitch. Mr Howard says Australia will be in good hands when Mr Costello takes over.  


JOHN HOWARD: Inevitably, because he's different, he's not me, you bring different and new perspectives. He'd be elected unopposed when I go, if we're re-elected, there'll be a transition, and Peter will be elected unopposed. 


He'd make an excellent prime minister, and he will bring enormous experience. And he will bring a difference, and that's a good thing. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: In the past, Mr Howard has said Mr Costello should succeed him but the decision lay with the party room.  


Labor's continuing to target Mr Howard's retirement plan. 


Deputy leader Julia Gillard. 


JULIA GILLARD: What was offensive about it was that the Prime Minister basically declared the prime ministership was his to give away. At no stage in this campaign has Peter Costello submitted himself to the sort of scrutiny and the sort of judgement from the Australian people, which should come if he wants to be Prime Minister. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor's campaigned hard on industrial relations, claiming a vote for Mr Howard is a vote for Peter Costello, who wants to take WorkChoices further. It's been revealed the Prime Minister's department canvassed more changes in 2005. The Government's blocked a freedom of information request from the Seven Network, saying Cabinet shelved the options and the information isn't in the public interest.  


The Prime Minister insists the Government's decision not to change WorkChoices is set in stone. 


JOHN HOWARD: Yes, it certainly is. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor's Julia Gillard, though, accuses the Government of a cover-up.  


JULIA GILLARD: Why should we believe anything that comes from this government about WorkChoices, when they didn't tell Australians the truth before the last election? If they had nothing to hide then they would be releasing those documents.  


Instead, they've fought tooth and nail for more than two years to keep those documents secret, and they certainly don't want Australians to know the truth about their plans to take WorkChoices further if they're re-elected. 


TONY EASTLEY: Labor's deputy leader, Julia Gillard, ending Alexandra Kirk's report. And later in the program we'll hear from Labor's Treasury spokesman, Wayne Swan, about his spending plans and his economic conservatism.