Tony Abbott calls on Australians to 'choose change' at Coalition campaign launch in Brisbane
By chief political correspondent Emma Griffiths
(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has delivered a plea to Australians to "choose change" at the Coalition campaign launch in Brisbane.
In a speech focusing on his plans for office, Mr Abbott also described the Rudd-Gillard leadership as the "worst government in our history".
His launch speech, traditionally regarded as the most crucial performances of the campaign, eschewed any sign of theatrics - a move in line with Mr Abbott's desired image of offering stability.
"We will be a no-surprises, no-excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future," Mr Abbott said.
The launch, peppered by a syrupy song named after the Coalition slogan of "Hope, Reward and Opportunity", featured some new policy announcements, targeting both young and old Australians.
Coalition campaign launch key points
Mr Abbott announced that an incoming Coalition government will index eligibility thresholds for the Commonwealth Seniors' Health Card and boost funding for dementia research by $200 million over five years.
Mr Abbott also promised $85 million to support apprentices through interest-free loans.
His speech largely focused on the Coalition's big-picture promises with Mr Abbott outlining his plan for "day one" in the prime minister's job, for the first 100 days and for the first term of an Abbott government.
"From day one, it will be obvious that Australia is under new management and once more open for business," he said.
"Within 100 days, legislation to abolish the carbon tax and to abolish the mining tax will be in the Parliament."
Mr Abbott also pointed to the "$17 billion in sensible savings" already announced - including cuts to the Commonwealth public service, staying the increase to the refugee intake, scrapping the school kids bonus and the low-income super offset.
"By the end of a Coalition government's first term, the budget will be on track to a believable surplus," he said.
The alternative prime minister told party faithful and party luminaries gathered in the main theatre of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre that the election was "all about trust".
Harking back to Labor's leadership ructions, Mr Abbott asked "if the people who've worked with Mr Rudd don't trust him, why should you?"
"I say: give my team a chance," he said.
"Choose change and the last six years will soon seem like an aberration."
Julie Bishop, Campbell Newman attack 'fake' Kevin Rudd
Mr Abbott's warm-up acts included his Deputy leader, Julie Bishop, and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, who both attacked Kevin Rudd's record and character.
Ms Bishop won the crowd by calling the Prime Minister "a fake" and likening him to the Incredible Hulk.
"There is abusive Kevin," she said, listing his "multiple personalities".
"He reminds me of the Incredible Hulk, masquerading as the mild-mannered every man but instead he is actually suppressing a monster inside that can be suddenly unleashed on an unsuspecting public servant or a flight steward, or heaven help a make-up artist," she said.
Mr Newman described the Federal Government as "fallen" and said Australians "would not be fooled" by Mr Rudd.
"They have had enough of your spin, your tantrums, your amnesia," he said, to applause.
Nationals leader Warren Truss slammed both Julia Gillard and Mr Rudd for ignoring regional and rural Australia.
"Julia's idea of an expedition into the country is to spend a few days in western Sydney," he said.
"As for Kevin, he prefers to see the country from 30,000 feet while he is on his way to another country."
Former prime minister John Howard also attended the launch with his wife Janette. They entered to rapturous applause and were seated next to Mr Abbott for the event.
A personal touch was added by Mr Abbott's daughters, Frances and Bridget, who introduced their father, saying it was "our chance" to embarrass him.
In a tale about her "netball dad", Frances Abbott told how he was a "vocal" supporter of their team, Forest, and would yell out "Run, Forest, Run" from the sidelines.
"He always thought it was funny. His dad joke - week in, week out," she said to laughter.
Labor will get its chance to spruik its vision and attack Mr Abbott's next Sunday at the ALP launch, also due to be held in central Brisbane.
The Queensland capital is regarded by both parties as crucial in this election, with the seats of Brisbane, Moreton, Forde, Petrie, Lilley and even Mr Rudd's seat of Griffith in contention. Several other seats in Queensland, including Dawson and Flynn, are also in play.
Mr Abbott will receive a security briefing on the situation in Syria this afternoon.