Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott with Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan in Lismore this morning.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott with Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan in Lismore this morning. Jay Cronan

Abbott hits campaign trail in NSW

THE Tony Abbott campaign juggernaut rolled into the NSW North Coast yesterday, turning up the heat on Prime Minister Julia Gillard as the Federal election looms.

The Federal Opposition Leader opened a new campaign office for The Nationals' candidate for Page, Kevin Hogan, in Lismore. He then stopped off at The Northern Star before heading off to Alstonville to meet with Parents and Citizens committee representatives from Alstonville Public School.

In an excusive interview with The Star's new Editor-In-Chief, Stephen Miles, Mr Abbott touched on a wide range of issues, but his clear focus remained on attacking the Gillard Government's‘ incompetence, waste and mismanagement'.

Mr Abbott said despite the recent change in prime minister ‘the amateurs are still in charge'.

“The real risk in this election is an incompetent government being given a second chance,” he said.

Mr Abbott said Julia Gillard had already completed policy backflips on the mining industry tax and asylum seekers.

“She is just like a high-diver act. Will we not see another backflip with a triple somersault on emissions trading, too,” he asked.

The Opposition Leader said the Coalition would contest the election on a platform of responsible, effective government. He said the Coalition would be a leaner operation that would get the Federal Budget back into surplus by expenditure restraint.

“The people deserve a competent government that can be trusted in the security of our country and that's what they will get from the Coalition,” he said.

Unlike the Government, he said the Coalition had a strong vision for the future.

“We have a strong plan for border protection. We have a strong plan to protect our environment. In fact, we are the only major political party that actually has a plan to reduce emissions and we have a strong plan to get our Budget back into surplus by the high road of expenditure restraint, rather than the low road of increasing taxes,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the Opposition had already rolled out a numberof policies in the lead-up to the announcement of an election date and more would be unveiled as the campaign wore on.

He hinted at a move to encourage more competition in the banking industry, as well as a replacement strategy for the tele-communications industry in light of the Coalition promise to scrap the construction of a national broadband network.

Strategies rolled out over the past two weeks include a $1.5 billion scheme for expanded frontline services in mental health and a plan to halt more than $5.5 billion of school hall funding allocated by the Gillard Government that has yet to be committed.

“We have a mental health plan, we have a climate change plan, we have a border protection plan, and the Government is all at sea on all of those issues,” Mr Abbott said.

On the subject of six months'of paid parental leave, Mr Abbott described it as ‘an important economic reform'. The Coalition has proposed to lift corporate taxes by 1.7 per cent on tax above $5 million to pay for the scheme.

“As an Australian, you should want to see a better deal for families with kids and that's what this is all about,” he said.

“This (scheme) gives people the right to have a family and have a career at the same time and that's the way it should be.”

Mr Abbott also advocated the development of the eastern seaboard to accommodate the nat-ion's growing population, butadded it must be done in a sustainable way.

“Sustainable growth also needs to reflect lifestyle and community values,” he said.

Abbott fights for change in Page

Hot off the mark to hit the campaign trail, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott passed through Lismore yesterday to officially open the campaign office of the local Coalition candidate.

Kevin Hogan is The Nationals candidate for the Federal seat of Page, which was won narrowly by Labor MP Janelle Saffin in a stunning victory at the 2007 election.

Mr Abbott sipped coffee and chatted with locals at the New Tattersalls Hotel before cutting the green ribbon with Mr Hogan's family at The Nationals' campaign office in Keen Street.

“If you want to see a change in Canberra, you have to vote for Kevin Hogan,” he said.

“I am not here today to attackJanelle Saffin, as I've heard she works very hard.

“But if this current Labor government is re-elected we will get more taxes, more spending and more boats.

“Kevin Hogan is an outstanding grass roots candidate. Page is one of those seats we have to win back in order to restore good government to this country.

“If (Julia Gillard) fires the starting gun, we are ready for it.”

It is expected the Federal election will be called within days as Prime Minister Julia Gillard finishes tying up loose ends on the Government's climate change policy this week.

With an election dawning, MrHogan is advocating change.

“We need a leader of substance, conviction and we need real leadership,” he said.

“I am working very hard to winthe seat of Page and to see that Tony Abbott will be the next prime minister of Australia.”

Mr Hogan said he had seen the impact of the Government's economic mismanagement on the community.

“I have seen the discontent in the community,” he said. “I've talked to thousands of people while door-knocking and people are doing itvery tough. Governments have to be efficient on what they are spending their money on.

“We have to change the government if we want a more efficient government. We have watched Julia Gillard do multiple backflips.”

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott, the man who doesn't always tell the ‘gospel truth', spoke of dishonesty within the Government.

“The Government is not believable,” he said.

“This is a Government which tried to pretend two weeks ago its mining tax changes were only going to cost $1.5 billion.

“They have been finally forced to admit the mining tax changes would cost more like $7 billion.

“They needed to pretend they'd had some kind of a win. It wasn't a win, it was a total defeat, but this is a Government which you just can't trust with the truth.”

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