Warnings about the Opposition Leader featured heavily in the Prime Minister’s speech – a crucial address, especially given there are just five days left in the campaign.
Preparing for a final-week “blitzkrieg” of key electorates, Mr Rudd headlined the slick campaign launch, which was held in an arena-style auditorium at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
His warm-up acts were Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his wife, Therese Rein, who spoke to a crowd full of Labor luminaries and faithful, including former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
The launch focused on jobs and training, with Mr Rudd announcing “major” changes to the employment services system, and promising “rapid response” assistance for the newly-unemployed within two days of losing their job.
He has also pledged to change the law to ensure that any major projects, including mines, ports and roads worth more than $300 million, must adopt Australian Industry Participation Plans.
“This measure is expected to generate up to $624 million in extra work for Australian industry and jobs every year,” Mr Rudd said.
Apprentices will also receive more assistance with a boost to the Tools for Your Trade cash payment and more job opportunities on commonwealth-funded building projects.
States and territories have also been given a warning on commonwealth funding for TAFEs, with Mr Rudd threatening to directly fund the vocational education system.
“I will simply not stand idly by and continue to hand over Commonwealth funds to state governments to run TAFE colleges while those state governments cut their own TAFE funding,” the Prime Minister said.
“A re-elected Labor government will require that state governments maintain and grow their funding of TAFE.”
But Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne has questioned Labor’s ability to deliver on its new training promises, saying Mr Rudd has made empty threats about taking over hospitals.
He says Mr Rudd has not made the case for a takeover of TAFEs.
“It is just another Labor thought bubble, just another Kevin Rudd distraction because he hasn’t actually laid out the grounds for why the national government would do a better job with TAFE than the state governments,’ he said.
Small business to get tax boost
Small businesses will also receive a temporary tax boost if Labor is re-elected – which the ALP has highlighted as a key point of difference with the Coalition policy to scrap to the small business Instant Asset Write-Off.
“As Prime Minister of Australia I see my job as protecting your jobs, your pay and your basic conditions,” Mr Rudd said.
“We believe in building the future, whereas Mr Abbott believes in $70 billion worth of cuts to your future.”
Mr Rudd said he had “never seen a decent reform that the conservatives haven’t set out to destroy”.
“Whereas we, for all our faults, are always having a go at building a better Australia,” he added.
“Yes, that means we don’t always get it right. Yes, that means we have made mistakes.”
Despite the smooth presentation and the jobs focus, one key Labor party insider has shared a dire assessment of the party’s chances at the election.
The former office holder told the ABC the situation was “pretty grim” for the ALP, stating that “the electorate is still determined to rid themselves of a Labor government”, even after the leadership change.
He could not name a seat that the ALP would gain in any of the crucial east coast states, pointing to the WA seat of Hasluck and the NT seat of Solomon as the only potential bright spots for the party.
Mr Rudd pointed to Labor’s poor standing in published polls, opening his speech with the phrase: “we are in the fight of our lives”.
He closed, with a warning to “never, ever, ever underestimate my fighting spirit as your Prime Minister”.
“I have been in tougher spots before and come back from behind,” he added.
Rudd pays tribute to Gillard’s NDIS
A notable absence at the launch was Mr Rudd’s predecessor, and opponent in recent leadership battles, Julia Gillard.
She released a statement earlier this week, saying she would not attend because she did “not want to distract in any way from Kevin Rudd’s powerful message to the Australian people”.
Ms Gillard was mentioned in Mr Rudd’s speech once, as he paid tribute to former Labor prime ministers and the “Labor values” they held.
“Values that built DisabilityCare for all under Julia Gillard,” he said to applause.
The former prime minister also earned a mention in a lively address from Anthony Albanese, who said it had been his “great honour to serve both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard”.
“Both of them have led good nation-building governments that saw us through tough global economic times,” he added.
Mr Albanese, naturally, had a less-than-flattering assessment of the alternative prime minister.
“If you want a bloke who can jump through tyres, vote for Tony Abbott,” he said to laughter.
“But if you want a bloke who can guide you through the next financial crisis, vote for Kevin Rudd.”
But the final introduction to the Prime Minister was left to his wife Therese Rein, who struck a personal note, talking about her husband’s childhood and his home life.
“I want to introduce a husband who, when sent to Bunnings for a mozzie candle, comes back with Roman flares, blue tack, an extension cord, potting mix, a step ladder – no mozzie candle,” she said.
The launch was attended by the much of the Labor frontbench, including Finance Minister Penny Wong, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Employment Minister Bill Shorten.
Former Treasurer Wayne Swan was also there, sitting further back with the member for the Queensland seat of Oxley, Bernie Ripoll.
But one notable absence from the Cabinet line-up was Treasurer Chris Bowen, who is in danger of losing his seat of McMahon in Western Sydney, currently on a margin of 7.8 per cent.
A spokesperson has told the ABC that Mr Bowen had longstanding commitments to attend community functions in his electorate.Source: ABC News – Labor Party launch: Kevin Rudd makes jobs, training the focus
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