Crikey asks the sharpest political commentators which leader got the best of the campaigning day yesterday, plus we track where the leaders are and what cash promises they’ve made … 

WHO WON THE DAY ON WEDNESDAY?

Bernard Keane, Crikey Canberra correspondent: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a clear winner, for once: three days on from its announcement, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave (PPL) scheme continues to dominate election discussion, and the angle that emerged yesterday — retirees being slugged via the cut in franking credits — was painful. That was before Rudd won last night’s debate, which was far superior in format to the waste of time of 10 days ago. As for Abbott’s “does this guy ever shut up” line, it only adds to the lingering impression that stretches back to the 2007 campaign that Abbott doesn’t cope at all well with pressure.

Richard Farmer, Crikey election analyst: I was bemused at the commentary comparing Kevin Rudd’s recent performance to that of former pollie John Hewson. The only thing Rudd this week had in common with Hewson was that both were speaking outdoors. Hewson ranted and raved; Rudd showed a bit of passion, but his enthusiasm did not extend to shouting. Rudd’s campaigning repertoire leading up to his evening debate was extended as he mingled, tie-less, sausage in hand. Abbott stuck to his tried-and-true routine of a factory visit and a press conference. A winning day for Rudd without even needing a competent debating performance.

Norman Abjorensen, visiting fellow at the ANU and former Liberal speechwriter: If the so-called People’s Forum in Brisbane was the political event of the day, as fatuous as it was, it served to highlight public uneasiness about the Coalition’s budget cuts and effectively turned the spotlight on Abbott to provide more detail. By default, it went to Labor.

Nick Economou, senior lecturer in the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University: Rudd keeps winning small battles, but Abbott looks like he is winning the war. Labor is hitting the Coalition hard on accountability, but Abbott’s parental allowance scheme will appeal to the outer-suburban electorates, notwithstanding the intense dislike of the scheme across the political and business community.

John Connolly, founder of John Connolly and Partners public relations firm: As the recently late Elmore Leonard wrote, “you thinkin’ bout the time I shot you and you rose from the dead? It only happens once in your life.” KRudd rose on last night’s debate. Of course Abbott had handed him an opportunity with his plan to give youngish people on $150,000 a year $75,000 for six months with baby, but dud pensioners on $19,000 a year. But as Elmore says, the dead only rise once. The election won’t be close, but the LNP won’t control the Senate, so Kevin has made a difference. Win: Rudd.

CASH TRACKER

With the Coalition releasing its manufacturing policy yesterday, it’s moving further into the red and has now made  $36.84 billion in promises since August 2. Watch for the formal announcement of spending cuts towards the end of the campaign — that will send the Coalition towards the black. We’re also waiting for clarification from the Coalition on what its controversial plan to tinker with superannuation fund earnings (through changes to franking credits, to partially pay for the paid parental leave scheme) would net. We’re updating our online Cash Tracker daily so you can monitor what the parties want to do with your money.

On Labor’s side, a few “rats and mice” promises yesterday (and there’s been an awful lot of those) have left Labor with $15.13 billion in the election warchest. Here’s the state of play as of this morning:

And here are the cash promises made over the last day … 

Labor:

  • $3 million for the Broncos Junior Rugby League Academy;
  • $1.8 million to upgrade Thangool Aerodrome (Queensland); and
  • $2 million to upgrade town square in Adelaide.

Coalition:

  • $10 million for road safety (training young drivers and reviewing road safety);
  • $50 million manufacturing transition fund;
  • $50 million for export market development program; and
  • $1 billion for car makers, through to 2015-16.

CAMPAIGN DIARY (THURSDAY)

Kevin Rudd: After the excitement of the leaders’ debate in Brisbane last night (which it seems like only die-hard political tragics watched; it was televised on the big screen at Melbourne’s Federation Square, where two people stopped to admire it), Rudd headed to the marginal Geelong seat of Corangamite today. He geed up union members and ranted about WorkChoices, but will that souffle rise twice? He also talked about small business.

Tony Abbott: Forget about Abbott. John Howard was given a rock star reception this morning when he launched low-profile Coalition MP Steve Ciobo (remember him? No, nor does anyone else) on the Gold Coast. Abbott was at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital releasing policies on health and road safety, with the rarely sighted threatened species Peter Dutton (that’s the Coalition health spokesman to you).

Christine Milne: The Greens leader was fired up this morning about the Coalition’s costings and Labor’s cuts to uni funding. She took a train to Ballarat — lamenting that it wasn’t high-speed rail.

Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks Party is imploding. Let’s see the internal evidence detailing what went wrong; perhaps they could post it to the WikiLeaks site? Senate candidate Julian Assange hit the Australian media this morning in damage control mode.

PIC OF THE DAY

Thanks to @CanberraInsider for tweeting this. Ah, Kim Beazley; he might have had egg on his tie, but there was something inspiring about him. Is that a youthful Mike Carlton listening in, as Kim speaks to the media on board a RAAF VIP jet during the 1998 election campaign?

TWEET OF THE DAY

Yes well, if you were WikiLeaks you’d be focusing on Bradley Manning today too, rather than what’s happened to your fledgling party …

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Peter Fray
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