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Abbott's 'clarion call' to Labor heartland

Date

Ross Peake

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott delivers his Budget reply speech.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott delivers his Budget reply speech. Photo: Penny Bradfield

Tony Abbott's speech to Parliament last night was all politics and no economic details.

That was no surprise, because he is under zero pressure to deliver a complementary manifesto, due to the grubby allegations surrounding former Labor MP Craig Thomson.

What Abbott did do was attempt to drill into the consciousness of Labor members around the nation, with a clarion call to break their traditional bonds.

For instance, he mocked Julia Gillard for talking about the budget being imbued with ''Labor values''.

And he stole a Labor value promoted by Kevin Rudd by calling for more emphasis on the learning of Asian languages in schools.

The Opposition Leader claimed the (unnamed) ''real'' Labor people he mixed with outside Canberra despair of Gillard for selling the ''party's soul'' to the Greens.

''As someone whose grandparents were proud to be working class I can feel the embarrassment of decent Labor people at the failures of this government,'' he said.

He exposed the parallel universe operating in budget week; scrutiny of the Prime Minister's ''integrity and judgment'' and the struggle of the minority government to survive.

''I regret to say that the deeper message of this week's budget is that the Labor Party now only stands for staying in office,'' he said.

As expected, the stump speech contained well-rehearsed lines about dumping the carbon and mining taxes, criticisms of the Prime Minister's trustworthiness and rhetorical flourishes about his Liberal vision for the nation.

The strong theme emanating from the speech is that Abbott is ready, willing and able to govern.

He again gave a run-down of the first actions of an incoming Coalition government, a litany that he will repeat endless times before the election, hoping that voters will accept his view that change is inevitable.

Change would hit Canberra hard, with the promise to put a commission of audit through every government department and agency.

The 7000-strong workforce of the Defence Materiel Organisation and those in the Climate Change Department would be the first looking for new jobs.

While it's considerate of Abbott to be feeling sorry for Labor supporters at the alleged failures of the government, they are doing just that all by themselves, as they watch the government continue to tank in the polls and the fallout from the Thomson affair compete with the sales pitch of the budget.

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