OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott is embarking on a marathon 36 hours of straight campaigning and Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to focus on the economy as both make last-gasp bids for victory.
With two days until the election, Mr Abbott told locals at the Brisbane Produce Market that he was planning on a “strong finish”. “It’s been a gruelling campaign, but the public expect people to work for the top job,” he said, adding he was working “every minute, every hour, every moment”. “I’m now beginning a 36-hour continuous campaign.”
Mr Abbott is expected to be in Brisbane for most of today before possibly heading south to Sydney. He is planning to visit pubs, late-night shopping centres and other functions where he intends “talking to the public where he has the opportunity to”.
He’ll be blitzing the airwaves on the graveyard shift between midnight and 3am, before hitting the road again. Mr Abbott is likely to end his campaign with an appearance on the 6pm television news tomorrow night.
Meanwhile, Ms Gillard will address Canberra’s National Press Club today to set out why voters should give Labor another term.
A spokesman for Ms Gillard said it would be a positive speech which would focus on cost of living pressures and Mr Abbott’s “lack of judgment”.
Every minute will count for both leaders with polls showing Labor has a slight lead ahead of Saturday’s election.
Facing the public
Ms Gillard’s hopes of winning over the state that has proved most hostile to her campaign were given a boost last night after floating voters declared her the winner of the second People’s Forum.
Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott both turned in solid performances in Brisbane, as more than 50 questions were fired at them from 200 undecided voters.
A straw poll gave the event to Ms Gillard, 83 votes to 75. But others left the forum without supporting either leader.
Labor is in danger of losing six seats in the battleground of Queensland, as well as losses in New South Wales and Western Australia.
But Mr Abbott still has to make up ground to win.
He may not have bowed to Ms Gillard’s challenge to turn the forum into a head-to-head debate on the economy, but cost-of-living pressures and jobs were a constant thread.
“Everything that we do is designed to help reduce cost-of-living pressures, but there is no across-the-board bit of magic that is going to dramatically reduce our cost of living,” Mr Abbott said.
In Kevin Rudd’s home state – which will decide the election – Ms Gillard continued to be dogged by four questions about the way he was deposed.
“These are things that weigh heavily on my mind, let me assure you, weigh very heavily on my mind,” she said.
The Opposition Leader was put under pressure from voters about his readiness to govern, and questioned on why he ducked an economic debate.
“I think tonight my job is to talk to you. We have lots of occasions in Parliament and in campaigns for politicians to shout at each other and for journalists to ask politicians questions,” he said.
Polling company Galaxy Research independently chose the undecided voters for the forum organised by The Courier-Mail and Sky News.