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Abbott campaigns to oust Australia's 'worst government'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Australia's conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, frontrunner to become prime minister in upcoming polls, urged voters Sunday to dump the Labor government which he described as the worst in the nation's history.

Opinion polls suggest Abbott is on course for victory against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the September 7 elections, and at his Liberal Party's major rally in Brisbane, he called on voters to give him a chance.

"You don't expect miracles, just a government that is competent and trustworthy and a prime minister who doesn't talk down to you," he said.

"And I'm confident that your expectations can be more than met."

Abbott, a former minister in John Howard's government, took the stage to a standing ovation from the party faithful before calling for the removal of "the worst government in our history".

"I will spend the next two weeks reassuring people that there is a better way, while Mr Rudd will spend the next two weeks trying to scare you about what might happen if he doesn't keep his job," Abbott said.

Labor has charged that Abbott, if elected, would "cut to the bone". But the opposition leader said the country could not afford another term under centre-left Labor, which has been in power for six years and has switched prime ministers twice in that time.

Rudd led Labor to victory against the conservatives in 2007, but was dumped by his party for his then-deputy Julia Gillard in 2010. Gillard won an election that year but was removed by Labor two months ago and replaced with Rudd to try to improve the party's chances at the election.

"I say: give my team a chance," Abbott said at the official launch.

"Choose change and the last six years will soon seem like an aberration."

Abbott said his plans for government under a Liberal/National coalition, which would return the budget to surplus and abolish a carbon emissions tax and a mining tax, contrasted with "a confused and chaotic Labor Party".

He pledged to fund an interest-free loan scheme to help apprentices train in certain trades, help make certain medicines cheaper for retirees and plough millions of dollars into dementia research.

Responding to the launch, Labor's Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus called on Abbott to explain his costings for his policies which he said were economically irresponsible.

"He is on track now to deliver huge cuts for a generation," Dreyfus said.

Rudd will officially launch Labor's campaign next Sunday also in Queensland, a vital electoral state for both parties.

Speaking earlier to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he acknowledged Labor had made mistakes, but said that on the "big calls" it got things right.

"On the big calls on the economy, and keeping us out of recession, we got that right. Our actions on the global financial crisis, we got that right," Rudd said.

Rudd again called on Abbott to reveal where he would make cuts to balance the budget, saying if they were too deep they risked throwing the economy into recession down the track.

Abbott's launch came one day after a Nielsen poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald put his Liberal/National coalition ahead of Rudd's Labor party by 53 percent to 47 percent.

The poll of 2,545 people also revealed that Abbott was seen as the more trusted leader, scoring 43 percent to Rudd's 36 percent.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130825/abbott-campaigns-oust-australias-worst-government