Abbott opens his campaign

IF the Gillard government expected a typical budget reply speech from Coalition leader Tony Abbott, it must have been severely disappointed.

Mr Abbott did much more than undermine the budget’s credibility.

The man often accused of ‘‘relentless negativity’’ and lack of positive ideas gave a full-throated rehearsal of an election campaign pitch that made him look, perhaps for the first time in a major speech, like genuine prime minister material.

Mr Abbott knocked a hole in Labor’s ‘‘skinny surplus’’, pointing out that this year’s projected deficit had blown out from $23billion to $44billion and asking why – if it believed its own story – Labor was trying to raise the government borrowing ceiling by another $50billion.

And then the Opposition Leader spelt out a surprising range of policies and promises. Gone will be the carbon tax, described by Mr Abbott as a ‘‘reverse tariff’’. Gone will be the mining tax – a penalty on success.

Back will come offshore processing of asylum seekers, with the navy instructed to ‘‘turn the boats around’’. Back will come the building industry watchdog.

A major audit of all arms of government was promised as part of a campaign to find efficiencies, and tough welfare reforms were foreshadowed.

The states would become ‘‘one-stop shops’’ for development approvals. A ‘‘green army’’ would restore the environment. Schools would be encouraged to boost the teaching of foreign languages.

Invoking the ghost of former Labor prime minister Ben Chifley, Mr Abbott went deep behind ALP lines to appeal to ‘‘real Labor people’’ whom he said were ashamed of the cynicism and opportunism of the Gillard government.

Inevitably he reprised the Prime Minister’s famous list of broken promises, before zeroing in on Craig Thomson, the Labor member for Dobell and attacking the government’s defence of the former union leader against intensifying allegations of wrongdoing.

Urging voters to judge the government’s values by its actions, he accused it of trashing a once-honourable party and of standing for nothing but staying in office.

This was one of Mr Abbott’s better performances.

The task still remains for him to explain in detail how he will achieve ‘‘at least $50billion worth of savings’’ but he has shown the electorate that he can offer more than negativity.

Council parking

NEWCASTLE City Council general manager Phil Pearce has moved quickly to assure ratepayers that he doesn’t approve of the city’s compliance officers flouting parking laws.

This week some council compliance vehicles were photographed parking contrary to notices in Laman Street, prompting a flurry of criticism from the public.

Mr Pearce’s direction to council staff – that they must abide by the same rules as everybody else – should not have been necessary.

On the plus side, the firmness of his edict suggests it won’t need to be repeated.

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