Leaders slug it out
Tony Abbott had to deal with a blunt attack on his paid parental leave scheme and Kevin Rudd hinted at limits on foreign land ownership as the leaders met for a third campaign debate.PT3M19S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2sr6j 620 349 August 28, 2013
Two blue ties - though perhaps a pedant would call the Rudd accoutrement shiny aquamarine - and two dark suits.
One hundred voters, said to be undecided.
Slow blows on fight night: Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott pose for a photo with Nada Makdessi at the Rooty Hill RSL leaders' forum. Photo: Andrew Meares
Hardly fight night at Festival Hall, though Rooty Hill is bare knuckles territory, right in the centre of that near-mythical land called Western Sydney, where 10 per cent of Australia's population lives, a lot of it restive as the election approaches.
Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard went at it there three years ago, in the same theatre on the first floor of the giant RSL club, upstairs from hundreds of poker machines flashing and beeping and blurting electronic music.
Gillard came back a few months ago, camping out for a week, at least half the country rolling its collective eyes; the start of the end for her. Which, of course, is why Kevin Rudd was there this time, declaring he had done the right thing by his party and his country when he finished Gillard off. A democratic ballot, he called it.
ELECTION 2013 - Day 24
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is presented with ingredients to make his own 'Marvellous Creations' block during his visit to the Cadbury factory in Hobart, Tasmania. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Abbott was still there. The contender who had seen Rudd off once, seen Gillard come and go and now, trying to put a final end to Rudd, the Comeback Kid.
Rudd danced, guzzled water, jabbed, stepping to the front foot. Abbott stood there, stolid, trying to soak up Rudd's enthusiasm.
The crowd took time to warm. Downstairs, a giant screen relayed the action. A smattering of the bemused took to chairs, beers, schnitzels and bingo markers.
Upstairs, the questioners were proving alarmingly even-handed. A small business owner tackled Rudd about the need for a surplus.
Abbott relaxed - until the fellow suddenly wrong-footed the Opposition Leader by switching to the paid parental scheme, declaring it a good idea but - and here was his own jab - he didn't think a forklift driver in Mount Druitt would be impressed by its benefits to a well-heeled lady-lawyer from the North Shore who wanted a baby.
A young woman clearly felt things were too slow. She wanted the contenders to tackle each other with a question each.
Abbott stuck to his theme that the Prime Minister was mired in scare campaigns.
Rudd took his chance, offering Abbott three reasons (naturally) why he should vote Labor: schools and hospital plans and the NBN. And then the double whammy: he asked Abbott to explain how he was going to pay for 200 allegedly unexplained policies. There he goes again, Abbott countered: more scare.
Rudd, it appeared clear, thought he had the judges in his pocket. He kept talking. And talking. Abbott blocked.
Downstairs, the two leaders on the big screen were suddenly replaced, mid-sentence, with a giant Power Bingo display. The crowd cheered and the sing-song caller revved up.
At Rooty Hill, they've got their priorities.
And the forum audience? Once they had finished chatting with the politicians afterwards, they gave it to Rudd, 45-38, with 19 remaining undecided.