Two leaders, two promises to slash immigration and ease growth

Where do Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott stand on the big election issues? The Herald provides a snapshot as the countdown to August 21 nears.DEFICIT Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott know what they’ll do if the global recession returns. Or if they do, they won’t say. Both are committed to returning the budget to surplus in three years’ time.Asked whether they would amend the timetable if conditions turned nasty, neither would countenance the possibility. Ms Gillard simply reiterated the commitment, and talked about how Kevin Rudd had done the right thing last time.Surprisingly, Abbott agreed. The Coalition had supported the measures that pushed the budget into deficit, but not all of them.But when it comes to the present, lingering deficits are bad. What neither would do was acknowledge the question asked.The world economic outlook is uncertain. Last week seven European banks failed so-called stress tests. Seven US banks were taken over by regulators. Are they prepared to reassess their determination to return the budget to surplus if those developments drag down the global economy?Presumably the answer is yes, but without departing from their scripts, neither would say. Mr Abbott talked about debt, Ms Gillard talked about Mr Rudd’s wisdom in deploying it well. Both seemed to wish future economic problems away.Peter Martin IMMIGRATION A sustainable population with a reduced immigration intake was the promise from both sides, in a conscious departure from previous bipartisan rhetoric about population growth.”A prosperous Australia and a sustainable Australia, not a big Australia,” was Ms Gillard’s pitch to the people, promising ”record investments” in solar and renewable technologies.Mr Abbott said population was inextricably tied to immigration which had risen to unacceptable numbers under Labor. ”From about 200,000 when the Howard government left office to about 300,000 under the current government.”This is unsustainable,” he said, repeating his pledge to bring immigration down to 170,000 a year.Ms Gillard said Labor had brought immigration down from a 2008 high of 300,000 to 230,000 last year. Final net migration numbers this year would be down to 175,000 and as low as 145,000 next year, she said. BORDER SECURITY Mr Abbott has an ”action plan” for asylum seekers and it involves returning to the Pacific solution of the Howard government.Ms Gillard wants to stop the flow of asylum seekers before they get onto boats.”It’s not safe to stop the boats because the boats are destroyed before your very eyes. That’s why we need a better solution about stopping the boats before they even leave,” she said. Ms Gillard said she had increased surveillance of borders and was working with Indonesia to target people smuggling.Speaking of Ms Gillard’s ”boat people fix that got lost somewhere in the Timor Sea,” Mr Abbott declared there would never be offshore processing in Timor. ”The Indonesians don’t like it and the East Timorese don’t want it,” he said.Mr Abbott suggested if Ms Gillard was ”fair dinkum” about wanting to stop the boats she would abandon the ”fanciful” Timor solution and place a detention centre on Nauru, which, he said, was willing to reopen its Howard-era camp.But Nauru’s government is in a caretaker mode and its Parliament is deadlocked, Ms Gillard said. ”It is not in a position to deal with these kinds of positions,” she said.Dylan Welch COST OF LIVINGBoth leaders say they are concerned about the price of bread, but neither has much idea about how to restrain it. Mr Abbott said he wouldn’t promise a Grocery Choice website and he wouldn’t run up government debt. Ms Gillard said she wouldn’t impose Mr Abbot’s proposed parental leave tax. Perhaps both of them should visit shops. The Bureau of Statistics reports that the price of bread climbed just 1.7 per cent in the year to March. The overall food price index climbed a mere 0.7 per cent. By contrast Sydney electricity prices jumped 18 per cent, gas prices 15 per cent, and water prices 14 per cent. It’s because investments in new plants are stalled until our leaders make up their minds about emissions trading. It would do more to restrain our cost of living than needless fretting about bread.Peter Martin HEALTH While Ms Gillard warned about what Mr Abbott would do to health if he won power, he cited his own record as health minister to argue his credibility.Ms Gillard attacked Coalition plans to dump Labor reforms for local medical services, but neither made more than a brief mention of health issues.But Mr Abbott said that as health minister he had lifted bulk billing rates to record levels and expanded Medicare to cover allied health services, including dentistry. The Coalition would provide community-run hospitals with more beds.Mark MetherellEDUCATIONJulia Gillard used her opening statement to remind viewers of Tony Abbott’s plans to cut Labor programs to improve teaching and to provide computers and trades training centres to secondary schools.Mr Abbott focused on the government’s school building program, through which he said it was ”wasting billions on overpriced school halls”. If voters elected the Coalition, he said, they would get ”schools run by parents, not bureaucrats”.When asked for an example of when she had the courage to take a decision at odds with public opinion, Ms Gillard nominated setting up the My School website, which allows people to compare the performance of schools. When moderator David Speers suggested public opinion had been on her side and she had only faced opposition from teacher unions, she countered that if school transparency had been so easy, why had it not been achieved until now.Dan Harrison ENVIRONMENTOn climate change, Mr Abbott accused the government of a talkfest but Ms Gillard spoke of the need for community consensus.Mr Abbott dismissed Labor’s plans for a Citizens’ Assembly to develop a consensus on carbon reduction measures as nothing more than talk.Ms Gillard said climate change was real and she believed that her bid to achieve community consensus on the issue would bring about a long-lasting solution.”If we are going to have deep and lasting change I do want Australians to come with me.”She pointed to her policies to stop the construction of dirty power stations, plans to convey electricity from remote sources to the national grid and to spur greener cars and buildings.Mr Abbott said the Coalition would deliver a 15,000-strong ”Green Army” as part of its action on climate change.Mark Metherell BROADBAND Ms Gillard sought to use the issue of broadband to bolster her broader narrative that Labor would take the country forwards, while Mr Abbott would take it backwards.Labor’s $43 billion National Broadband Network was ”so important to the jobs of the future, and how we will live in the future”, she said in her opening statement. She returned to it in her closing statement, reminding the audience that the Coalition had promised to scrap it.Tony Abbott did not mention broadband specifically, but several times restated his pledge to end wasteful spending and repay government debt.The Coalition is yet to announce its broadband plan, but it is expected to use the existing cable used to deliver pay television to deliver fast broadband in metropolitan areas.It has also flagged the use of targeted government funding to deliver broadband to regional areas where services might be commercially unviable.Dan Harrison
Nanjing Night Net