Hope … Tony Abbott at the party meeting in Melbourne yesterday.Tony Abbott has fired the starting gun on an election campaign, declaring a Coalition government would restore ”hope, reward and opportunity” to ”a great country let down by a bad government”.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, also faces the fight of her political life as she begins the task of selling the carbon price – which begins today – to an electorate already nervous about its impact on the cost of living, something she must pull off if she is to restore Labor’s standing in the polls and quell the chatter about her leadership.
”The next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax and on prime ministers who tell lies,” the Opposition Leader told the annual meeting of the federal council of the Liberal Party in Melbourne yesterday.
From today Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott and their MPs will fan out across the country in what will feel like a forerunner to the election campaign – not due until next year – with each pinning their political fortunes on the carbon price.
Ms Gillard said: ”Ultimately, when the dust settles following the furious debate we have had about carbon pricing, I think Australians will come to see that this was an important reform at the right time.”
Mr Abbott said that ”soon enough the Australian people will pass judgment on this bad tax based on a lie”.
Speeches given by Mr Abbott and senior frontbenchers all used the phrase ”hope, reward and opportunity” – a key slogan the Coalition will use to try to convince voters they have a positive policy agenda.
Mr Abbott said he was ”ready to serve” and repeatedly stressed the ”hope” he had for Australia.
”My hope is that Australians will come to think of starting a business as readily as they think of taking a job; and of buying shares as readily as they contemplate buying a new kitchen appliance,” he said.
In another sign the opposition is already on a campaign footing, each delegate to the council was given an 11-page document that outlined ”Labor lies” made about Coalition policies and how to counteract them.
A new television advertising campaign will also begin today, emphasising what it portrays as Labor’s untrustworthiness.
”It started with a lie,” the advertisement says.
Mr Abbott also outlined a new plan to encourage more Australians to study overseas, though the policy was short on detail.
”A modern version of the Colombo Plan [a Menzies era program that brought regional students to study in Australia], operating as a two-way rather than a one-way street, and funded from existing resources, should reinforce our own and overseas’ future leaders’ understanding of the things we have in common,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott detailed a $4 billion infrastructure program, including $1.5 billion for the M4 East in Sydney and $1.5 billion for the East-West Link road tunnel in Melbourne. The NSW government welcomed Mr Abbott’s roads pledge.
The money is rebadged funding from the Auslink program, a bid to counter claims from Mr Abbott’s critics that he is too keen on big spending policy announcements.
Mr Abbott said the projects would all start working within the first year of a Coalition government. ”Almost nothing builds confidence more than seeing cranes over our cities and almost nothing signifies progress more than new roads,” Mr Abbott said.
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