Labor on Australian election high
Australian PM Julia Gillard has staked her government's campaign for victory in a tight election race this week on its economic record in steering the country clear of recession during the global downturn.
She used a speech to her Labor Party's official campaign launch to describe how her government had prevented hundreds of thousands of Australians from losing their jobs through stimulus spending that carried Australia through the crisis with a single quarter of economic contraction.
"I acknowledge not everything went according to plan, but look at what we achieved together," Ms Gillard said. "We emerged from this global economic crisis... stronger than any other major economy in the world."
She also used her 40-minute speech to praise the legacy of Kevin Rudd, the prime minister she overthrew in an internal party coup in June. She explained at the time that she had ousted Mr Rudd because the government "had lost its way".
But she described Mr Rudd, who sat among 500 party faithful at the launch and received a standing ovation on arrival, as "a man of great achievements with great achievements to lie in the future for our nation".
Ms Gillard excluded Mr Rudd, the main architect of the government's 52 billion Australian dollars (£29.7 billion) in stimulus spending, from her cabinet but has promised him a senior position if Labor is re-elected.
The opposition argues that Labor is addicted to spending and has sunk Australia too deep in debt with wasteful stimulus programmes.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said Ms Gillard's plan announced last month to put a 30% tax on iron and coal miners' profits would deter investment while failing to deliver the 10.5 billion Australian dollars (£6 billion) in revenue that the government promised. Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney. "It's a government that can't be trusted with Australia's prosperity, which is so dependent on the mining industry."
Labor's campaign kick-off in the Queensland state capital Brisbane, only five days before Saturday's vote, was aimed at attracting an 11th hour surge of support for the centre-left party and deliver it a second three-year term in office. But the vote is expected to be tight, with Labor campaign spokesman Chris Bowen predicting that it would be Australia's closest election result in almost 50 years.
A new survey by the respected pollster Newspoll showed Labor ahead of the conservative coalition led by the Liberal Party with 52% of voters' support - a four point lead over the opposition.