Day 25 was another eventful day yesterday, as Julia Gillard took her campaign bus from Melbourne to the ever-popular battleground of western Sydney. Meanwhile, Tony Abbott was at the mouth of the Murray River, where he announced his party’s response to the Murray-Darling Basin crisis. The two leaders then faced off in a question and answer forum amongst the ring of 800 pokie machines at the Rooty Hill RSL.
So, after 25 days of awkward backbenchers, Julia Gillard’s Equality Entourage have covered 33,841km, while Tony Abbott’s Prosperity Posse have seen 34,122km. Together that’s an astounding 67,963km — the equivalent of 63 million pokie machines.
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- Tony Abbott was on South Australia’s Hindmarsh Island yesterday, where he announced a $750 million investment in infrastructure and basin communities to help rescue the ailing Murray-Darling river system. Abbott also promised to immediately purchase an extra 150 billion litres of water to save the Lower Lakes and Coorong wetlands at a cost of $20 million. Abbott also warned the Coalition would hold a referendum on federal control of the Murray-Darling Basin if states fail to deliver water reforms.
- Abbott then flew to Sydney, where he made made a speech on promoting opportunities for Aboriginal people. Abbott noted indigenous issues had not played much of a role in the election campaign, saying Aboriginal people should be treated like normal members of society and not as a “cultural curiosity”.
- Abbott then took the short trip to Rooty Hill RSL, where he held a “town hall” style question and answer session with Julia Gillard. Abbott faced questions on WorkChoices, his toppling of Malcolm Turnbull, property values, his alternative to the national broadband network and how to tackle the problem of illicit drug use. According to a post-forum secret ballot of the audience of 200 swinging voters, Abbott won the night by 35.5% to 30%, with 34.5% still undecided.
- Julia Gillard began her day in Pakenham, in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, where she announced a string of welfare reforms, including $6000 for unemployed people to relocate for work, a $2500 incentive for employers to take on relocated workers and tougher penalties for jobseekers who skip employment service appointments. The PM also announced that there would be cuts to income support payments for parents who did not take their children for health checks.
- Gillard then took the flight north to Syndey, where she visited Parramatta railway station to announce a $2.6 billion plan to build a Parramatta to Epping rail link. The prime minister faced inevitable questions about whether the project would actually go ahead, particularly given NSW’s poor record when it comes to delivering transport projects. The project, which has been abandoned in previous years, will see the federal government kick in $2.1 billion, with the NSW government covering the remaining $520 million.
- At Rooty Hill, Gillard endured a tougher grilling than Abbott on the treatment of Kevin Rudd, climate change and same-sex unions.
- There was no clear winner from yesterday’s policy debate between Health Minister Nicola Roxon and her shadow Peter Dutton, with the two trading blows over mental health, GP super clinics and other areas of health policy. Dutton attacked the government for not doing enough to improve mental health services, while Roxon said the Coalition’s plan will result in cuts elsewhere in the health sector.
- Tony Abbot won the stunt of the day yesterday, when he decided to take the battle of Rooty Hill to the people. After Gillard took all her questions from the stage, Abbott climbed off the stage and stood on the floor, close up and at eye-level with the crowd. It must have helped, because Abbott received a rapturous applause at the end of his turn.
- Julia Gillard took the opportunity to chow down on a good old meat pie in Melbourne yesterday. Happily the Daily Tele snapped this shot for posterity:
Where they are today:
- Julia Gillard has flown to Tasmania to spruik the national broadband network. She’s in Scottsdale, in the electorate of Franklin in the north-east of the state, to open an office for the network.
- Tony Abbott was out early in Sydney, dragging the media to Pymble Public School for a pre-9am pitch on economic wastage. The opposition leader announced a Coalition government will set up an office of due diligence to oversee spending.
- Bob Brown is campaigning in Sydney, apparently with a call to save the koalas by listing them as a vulnerable species.
- Meanwhile, today’s National Press Club duel will see Stephen Smith and Julie Bishop debate foreign policy.
What is the tracker?
Crikey tracks each leader’s amazing race across the country via our Election Tracker. Each day we’ll plot the leaders’ movements, feeding in the key policy announcements and spending commitments, the best media coverage and social media chat, plus the campaign stunts and bloopers. You can also use the tracker as a hub for the best Crikey coverage.
Click on the tabs across the top to watch how many kilometres Gillard and Abbott have clocked up, the movements of other key players and finally our bloopers and stunts bonanza on the right. You can click on each stop to see what they’re up to, with links to extended coverage and detailed electorate information.