Rudd rolls into town

By BELINDA SCOTT

STARTLED shoppers found themselves the centre of a national media circus yesterday as the travelling political bandwagon charged through Park Beach Plaza shopping centre during an unexpected visit to Coffs Harbour.

Accompanied by a 35-strong travelling media flotilla augmented by local journalists and photographers, the scrum was such that it almost obscured the small, silver-haired man at the centre of it all, Kevin Rudd.

But the Federal Opposition leader seemed relaxed and at ease as he greeted families and after-school shoppers, many of them too young to vote.

Fifteen-year-old singer Gillian Higgins asked for his vote on Australian Idol next year and she and friend Nikkii Gray introduced him to their pet mouse; electrician Peter Borovac told him Work Choices were affecting local apprentices; Roberto Fajardo offered him a vote and he got down to five-year-old level to pose for photos with Matilda Lugg and Kate Parker.

Julie Mitchell said he was much better looking in person than on television.

Leanne Harpur, who admired the natty tailoring of his suit, asked him to buy a diamond ring for his wife when he breezed into Michael Hill jewellers he said he might consider it for Christmas, but he did make a purchase he bought a copy of Judy Nunn's bestseller Floodtide after he signed come copies of books about himself at Dymocks.

Dr Christina Yelf wanted the ALP to look at rewarding long-staying doctors in country practices and to look at locum relief.

Mr Rudd's media adviser Fiona Sugden, said the Labor leader flew into Coffs Harbour and drove to and from Grafton yesterday so he could visit both Cowper and Page electorates and so he could talk to people and hear for himself the issues on the ground.

She said the impact of Work Choices and the cost of living were among topics raised with him, with one man in Coffs Harbour saying his penalty rates had been cut, but he was working the same hours.

Cowper ALP candidate Paul Sekfy discussed health issues with him and how regions could leverage Federal money efficiently with clever solutions to local problems.

"I talked to him about Coffs Harbour hospital I was part of building it, and how we managed to get two lots of radiotherapy (Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie) out of one lot of Commonwealth funding with a dual strategy," he said.



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