Battle lines drawn as Abbott launches the charge

Battle lines drawn as Abbott launches the charge

TONY Abbott has fired the starting gun on an election campaign on the carbon tax, declaring a Coalition government would restore ”hope, reward and opportunity” to ”a great country let down by a bad government”.

”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.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces the fight of her political life as she hit the hustings to sell the carbon price – which begins today – to an electorate nervous about its impact on their 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.

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.

”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,” Ms Gillard said.

A new Liberal attack advertisement also begins airing today. The ad begins by saying, ”It started with a lie”, and replays footage of the Prime Minister’s interview before the last election saying: ”There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”

It features ringing cash registers warning that prices for electricity and gas will go up. In his speech to the federal Liberal council yesterday, Mr Abbott seized on the issue again. ”When I say … ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead’, Australians can be 100 per cent certain that I am telling the truth,” he said.

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 it has a positive policy agenda.

Treasurer Wayne Swan hammered the government’s case that it was looking after seniors, after Treasury modelling suggested some self-funded retirees would get three times the cost of carbon-tax price rises in tax cuts and compensation payments.

”Almost every single pensioner will get compensation over and above the cost impacts, as well as a buffer of 20 per cent … on top of the historic pension increases introduced by this government,” he said.

Mr Abbott also outlined a new plan to encourage more Australians to study overseas, although the policy was short on detail, and a $4 billion infrastructure program, including $1.5 billion for the east-west road tunnel in Melbourne and $1.5 billion for the M4 East in Sydney.

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