SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vowed to fight to the end on Friday despite polls showing him heading for an election wipe-out as rival Tony Abbott said he would get straight to work if he wins.
A Galaxy survey in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a day before voters cast their ballots, found Rudd has failed to make any inroads on the conservative opposition leader.
On a two-party basis, Labor was trailing 47 percent to 53 percent, with the newspaper saying the Liberal/National coalition could pick up as many as 20 to 25 extra seats in the lower House of Representatives.
This would give them more than 90 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
An overwhelming 78 percent of the 1,503 people questioned said Abbott had performed better during the election campaign. Just 8 percent said Rudd, with the rest undecided.
But the prime minister, who has struggled for traction after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female leader, just weeks before calling the election, said he was not ready to give up.
“I’ve seen those sorts of gaps made up in the past and I think there are so many people undecided out there about what Mr. Abbott’s massive cuts mean to them,” he said.
“I think as we get closer to the vote tomorrow, people will say ‘will these massive cuts hurt my job, hurt my hospital, will they hurt my school?’ . . . And I think those are the questions that will focus undecided voters as they go to vote.”
The economy has been a key election battleground and the opposition on Thursday pledged Aus$40 billion ($37 billion) of savings if it wins.
Rudd added: “We continue to fight right through till 6 p.m. tomorrow,” when polls close, and seized on the coalition announcing then retracting on Thursday evening plans for a mandatory Internet porn filter.
He called the policy backflip a “debacle.”
“How many other policies do they have in their bottom drawer that they don’t want to tell Australians about?” he said.
Abbott said if he won office, the first thing he would do would be to go for a bike ride “with the guys I’ve been riding with for years.”
“Then into the office to do briefings because you can’t muck around with something as important as the future of our country.”
But he cautioned that it was too early to start celebrating.
“It’s like being in a grand final, five minutes to go, only a goal or two in it, anything could happen,” he said.
“If it happens I will be extraordinarily conscious of the heavy burden of responsibilities, of duties, that will have descended on my shoulders.
“Inevitably, anyone who is suddenly given a big job, even if you have been preparing for it for years and you know you are ready for it, when it happens, if it happens, you are conscious of being on a great threshold.”
Despite his fighting words, Rudd appears to have an insurmountable task with all the nation’s main newspapers—bar The Age in Melbourne—backing Abbott in election eve editorials.
“Australia is crying out for a stable government that can be trusted to deliver what it promises. The Herald believes only the coalition can achieve that,” The Sydney Morning Herald said on its front page.
Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph, which has been running an anti-Rudd campaign since the election was announced, said its stance had been justified.
“Following two terms of Labor chaos, infighting, confusion and lack of focus, this election campaign has demonstrated Labor’s terminal dysfunction in concentrated form,” it said.
“Australia genuinely does need a new way. The men and women who are best able to deliver it come from the coalition.”