Saturday, July 12, 2014

Australian PM makes final major campaign pitch

September 01. 2013 12:36AM
Associated Press

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(AP) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made his final major campaign pitch to revive his Labor Party's chances at elections this week, promising tax breaks for small businesses and more work for local contractors on infrastructure projects if his government is re-elected.

Rudd officially launched his center-left party's campaign in his hometown of Brisbane on Sunday. It is the capital of Queensland, a battleground state for swing seats that will decide the election Sept. 7.

Rudd who was dumped as prime minister by his own government colleagues in 2010, only to regain the top job in a similar leadership wrangle in June dismissed opinion polls that show opposition leader Tony Abbott's conservative coalition is headed for a clear victory.

"I've been in tougher spots than this and have come from behind before," Rudd told his audience of party faithful.

"For those who say the fight is up, I say: 'You haven't seen anything yet,'" he added.

Labor has ruled for almost six years under the leaderships of Rudd and the deputy who replaced him for three years, Julia Gillard. He said the end of an Australian mining boom, bankrolled by China, demanded new policies that only Labor could provide to diversify the economy.

Among election promises announced Sunday, Rudd said a Labor government would increase tax deductions that 3.2 million small businesses could claim on equipment investment. The pledge would cost the government 200 million Australian dollars ($178 million) over four year in lost tax revenue.

The government would also create between AU$156 million and AU$624 million in additional work for Australian industry a year by legislating to ensure that infrastructure projects worth more than AU$300 million engage more local contractors.

The government is under fire over debt left from by stimulus spending that kept Australia out of recession during the global economic crisis. The government's efforts to deliver a surplus budget have been frustrated by the Chinese industrial slowdown, which has hurt the mining sector, slowing the economy and dampening company tax revenues.

While polls show Rudd remains a more popular choice of leader than Abbott, Labor's popularity lags below that of the opposition coalition.

Rudd's return to the leadership after his party dumped deeply unpopular Gillard brought a surge in Labor's polling, but Rudd has failed to maintain that momentum.

Associated Press

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