Rudd to put an economic “stake in the ground” as Abbott finally shows his numbers

Kevin Rudd prepared for his address today to the National Press Club, with an early morning Canberra walk. AAP/Lukas Coch

Kevin Rudd will claim the mantle of superior economic management and try to pin a European-type austerity label onto Tony Abbott, in the PM’s last major speech of the campaign at the National Press Club today.

It comes as the Coalition will finally reveal its long awaited costings, which reportedly leave the budget bottom line some $6 billion better off over four years than the government’s numbers.

While the government will try to shoot holes in the Coalition figures, which include new savings, it has virtually no time and limited ability to get a message out because the advertising ban has come into force.

It also has to tread carefully following last week’s disaster when senior bureaucrats distanced themselves from Labor’s attempt to claim the Coalition’s savings package had a $10 billion hole.

With the ALP headed for defeat, Rudd now has to concentrate on trying to contain the size of the loss.

Credibility on the economy is a central issue for Saturday’s poll and a government spokesman said today’s speech was designed to “put a stake in the ground on Labor’s economic management over the last six years”, comparing its handling of the global financial crisis fallout to an earlier historic Labor reform.

“It is the 30th anniversary of Medicare on Friday and Labor is as proud of our decisions during the global financial crisis and our management of the economy during these last six years, as we are of Medicare,” the spokesman said.

Rudd will compare what Labor says a Liberal government would have done in the GFC – cut deep and look after the interests of the few.

He spokesman said he would set out the economic choice facing voters. On the one hand, there was “the small and mean vision” of the Liberals - “big cuts to the budget, cuts that will hurt ordinary families” – which followed in the footsteps of governments in Europe and had led to recession there.

Or there was a Labor vision of planning for new jobs beyond the mining boom, investments in nation building, infrastructure and education.

Rudd is expected to highlight that Labor’s strategy during the GFC was opposed by the Liberals – who thought the second stimulus package spent too much - and that history will recall that Abbott fell asleep during these historic decisions.

Abbott missed several votes on the 2009 $42 billion stimulus package because he was asleep in his office. This was before he became leader.

One of Labor’s political problems is that it has not been able to get enough credit for its handling of the GFC.

Rudd will argue that issues such as managing the GFC and introducing Medicare represent the Labor legacy – big decisions that have been delivered for the benefit of ordinary Australians and for the nation.

He will say that in handing the GFC the government did the Labor thing – putting jobs first and keeping people in employment. This kept a pay packet coming in to many hundreds of thousands of Australian families.