7:37 Ray Martin introduces before the toss to Canberra. Lays out ground rules, including a snide observation that "everyone's favourite - the worm" is back. JH won the toss and sent Rudd into bat first. I wrote that before the moderator called it "sending Rudd in to bat". Cricket metaphors ahoy.
7.39 We're off - or KR is. Working Family reference #1!
Nice tie. Orthodox right top-> left bottom striping.
Kyoto signing, education revolution, exit Iraq. Federalising hospitals. The worm goes wild.
7.41 JH - we've done so well over the past 10-20 years. Such hide! Eight of those were Labor. The worm didn't seem to approve of the resources boom either.
Fair go reference #1 - much to the worm's relief.
Mr Howard - is there any merit in new leadership?
JH: Only if it's better - good start. Oh man. Don't mention the Lucky Country again Johnny.
KR - hey, I'm an optimist too! Global record levels of growth and low unemployment, not because of the Australian Government. Rise of China, whooo! Worm flatlines at the top. Invest the spoils, don't squander.
7.48 Mr Rudd - why would we vote for you when you're pretty much a Howard clone?
KR - I'm an economic conservative too, (worm looks sceptical) but it goes beyond that. We need to invest! Worm back to the top.
JH - being economic conservative is more than saying you are in a TV ad. Rudd never voted like a economic reformer. Rudd is an election-eve economic conservative. I am the real deal, a jackass who doesn't care whether things are fair or not as long as it's reform. You see?
7.51 Mr Howard - given you are going to hand over to Costello, isn't a vote for you a vote for the unknown?
Uh oh - the Worm does not like Costello very much.
Um, when did economic conservatism become a sexy pre-election sweetener?
7.53 KR oooh, the gloves are off. When Howard Was Treasurer. Nice tactic!
7.54: Unions! Are Labor's frontbenchers out of whack with community standards?
KR - most of the Liberal frontbench are former Liberal Party staffers. (Worm: duh.) But back to unions. We have lots of experience, and a rockstar, plus I speak Mandarin. What more do you want? Also, unions aren't all bad, right? Worm: right!
JH - union members do not join Liberal party. They wouldn't dare. (Damn straight). Checks and balances, State vs Federal: the worm is cautiously approving.
Mr Howard - despite the economy, some people are struggling. T/F?
JH: True, but we have tax breaks. Here's some extra money. You choose how to address your cost-of-living pressures.
KR: There is no such thing as a cost-of-living pressure affecting people making $180k. Laptops and software for working families. (The Worm goes wild.) And I notice Mr Howard didn't answer Alison's question. Hee! Howard stole Rudd's tactic!
Mr Rudd, will your spending initiatives make it hard for the Reserve Bank to keep rates down?
KR: No because we're just saying that before the election, silly. Also, we are investing in infrastructure, which will help productivity. And Mr Howard was irresponsible when he said he'd keep interest rates low. The Reserve Bank is independent, but we can invest in skills to make the Bank's job easier.
JH: Everyone knows that Labor governments equal budget deficits. Liberal governments equal budget surpluses. Hey that's my talking point. I wonder if JH reads this blog. Hi John!
17% interest rate reference.
Mr Howard, will you apologise to home buyers for the five rate rises since the last lesson?
JH: I believe in accountability, which means I don't blame the media or my staff or my shadow ministers. (Howard has a shadow ministry now?)
Mr Howard, don't your tax cuts contribute to rate rises?
JH: My tax cuts are not inflationary, because they are mine, and not commie Rudd-like tax cuts, because I have industrial relations reform too. Long discussion of IR and flow through. Worm retains a bemused flat plane along the middle. I don't think people understand Howard's macroeconomic thesis.
KR: More Howard as Treasurer talk. Four of your five budgets were deficits, dude, so don't come over all high and mighty economic conservative on me. You need to invest in skills and infrastructure, like the RBA says. Also, did I mention broadband? Because I feel I ought to.
8.12 But Mr Rudd, isn't education a poor second priority for you?
KR: Not compared to Howard it's not. The OECD says we have disinvested in universities under Howard. We're taking it in the right direction. And it is an education revolution. I keep saying it, for starters.
JH: Well that report you mentioned does not include technical education. KR is a liar.
KR: Well if you want to say the OECD is lying...
Moderator: Enough, kids. This is pointless.
8.15 [missed the question]
KR: Well, it's tough. But Howard has mentioned unions about 67,000 times this week. But Hawkie was union, and look how he embraced Reaganomics!
Moderator: audience please keep remarks to yourself til the end of the broadcast. This is politics, it's not supposed to be fun.
KR: did you just reprimand the Treasurer?
JH: You're kind of a jackass, Kevin. I don't object to unionists being in Parliament, except they do so tend to be Labor, and I do object to that. Also it's a question of balance.
Mr Howard, are you planning more IR changes? Nick Minchin says you are.
JH: No. We have got the balance right now. The reforms have been good for the economy. (The worm: booo hiss!) WorkChoices has been good for the economy. Why do the Labor party want people to be unemployed? Because unions are more important to them, that's why. The Liberal and National parties are the parties of full employment.
8.21 But Mr Howard, but you always say you don't want further IR reform. Why should we believe you this time?
JH: Because we've gone far enough this time. Promise! We have a higher minimum wage and more protected IR system than just about anywhere in the Western world. (But if you still think that, why should we believe that you won't try to take it further?)
KR: First, I want to talk about interest rates again, and how JH broke his promise five times. Also, WorkChoices is ideological, extreme, right-wing. Costello only wants a minimum wage - that's his whole IR system. And Nick Minchin is scary. Which brings us to Joe Hockey, who is kind of a lightweight if you ask me. So in conclusion, you can't trust them.
Mr Rudd, what is your real plan for reducing carbon emissions? Interim targets?
KR: I don't get why we didn't ratify Kyoto. It's beyond me. Howard won't set a carbon target. We have a clearcut target: 60% cuts by 2050 against 2000 levels. We have someone analysing interim targets and that report will be out by mid-next year. Plus I can wonkishly quote parts per million targets.
Paul Kelly: you can't have a plan until you have a 2020 target.
KR: They will be set in June. Also we should have a carbon trading scheme by now. Heaven knows we tried.
JH: I accept climate change. We have to be responsible. (The worm loves it! JH is beating Rudd on climate change... oh wait, he's getting bogged down in specifics now.) If reelected, we will in 2011 establish a climate change fund with money from auctioning carbon permits. That will help people with the costs, especially pensioners, of which I will probably be one. And Kyoto doesn't cover the US or China. Which is like having a World Cup in cricket without Australia or India.
But Mr Howard, Turnbull says we need binding targets for all major emitters but Bush won't agree to binding targets. Who's right?
JH: Turnbull; he's in my cabinet, and I have a lot of sway with the US and might very possibly be singlehandedly responsibility for China and the US both agreeing to binding targets.
KR: We have a moral responsibility to sign Kyoto, so does the US. One can hardly blame China for not agreeing to anything in the current situation. And we are going to invest in clean energy technology. (The worm LOVES it. )
Mr Howard, are you for real, you think you can change Bush's mind?
JH: I think his attitude is changing, I do. (The worm is at rock bottom. Talking about Bush is not a winning strategy.)
Mr Howard, terrorism and our involvement in Iraq: connection?
JH: The terror problem preceded Iraq. And terrorists hate everyone, not just Australians. Quite a humane reference to the recent terror attacks in Pakistan.
But Mr Howard, has the terror threat increased or decreased since Iraq?
JH: Iraq is getting better. The terrorism threat is still very real, though.
KR: JH didn't answer the question. This is why: we were told before Iraq that it would increase the terrorist threat. Greatest error since Vietnam. I am hardline about terrorism, but we also need to provide economic opportuniies for people so they don't turn to terrorism. Nice response.
KR: We will calibrate our withdrawals with the Americans.
JH: KR is not fair dinkum against the involvement. Why is he going to leave aircraft there but not troops? Our role is evolving to training and humanitarian.
Mr Rudd, you are a flip-flopper. What won't you do to get elected?
KR: Medicare safety net was a judgment call we made because of financial pressure on working families. Death penalty has always been consistent: global opposition, through the UN where appropriate. I am passionate about Australia's future.
Mr Howard, reconciliation: Why not just say sorry?
JH: I am sorry in the sense of saddened, but not in the sense of taking responsibility. Move on from guilt and blame. Practical and symbolic reconciliation gestures. The worm loves it. Oh whoops he mentioned Joe Hockey, that was a bit of a downer. But he recovered.
KR: We backed the intervention because we were horrified by the child abuse and we care about kids. The apology is about respect, building a bridge. After that, the practical stuff to bridge the gap. Reconciliation is mainly about bridges.
8.55 Enough from the journalists, now to quiz each other
KR: Is it possible for an AWA to strip away redundancy pay despite the fairness test?
JH: My government was the first to bring out redundancy benefits, actually.
JH: If you're so worried about climate change, why did you not talk about it with Bush more?
KR: That conversation was private. But it turns out Bush is kind of a redneck and he didn't want to listen to me. It's a non-issue - I think your debating skillz need some work.
9.00 KR: Why did you increase our troops in Iraq when you said you wouldn't? Why should we believe you this time?
JH: Don't politicise our brave men and women troops. That is up to our field commanders. The troops' role is evolving, is all. Al Qaeda cannot be allowed to win in Iraq, obviously.
JH: When you talk about prices, what are you actually going to do about them?
KR: I don't agree that working Australians have never been better off. I have measures to help working families. Also your petrol inquiry is totally copied off us.
9.05 closing statements
KR: I am just a simple boy from country Queensland trying to become Prime Minister. I am for kids and working families and against the staleness you see opposite. I have plans, and I don't just want to talk about unions. I am an optimist.
JH: Slogans mean nothing without a strong economy. You need to pay for things. Also back to basics in education. Reading and writing and a proper narrative of Australian history. We should be proud of our story.
Thanks to the audience for being so well-behaved!
Ray Martin: something weird about someone not liking the worm, so much for free speech?
Aww. Annabel Crabb!
Result: 29% Howard, 65% Rudd, 6% undecided.