Australia elections: Candidates in final push

CANBERRA - Australian political rivals Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott have hit the campaign trail in a final push for votes ahead of Saturday's election.

Opinion polls place the opposition coalition, led by Mr Abbott, ahead of the ruling Labor party.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appealed to undecided voters, saying they could close the gap.

The economy, asylum policy and carbon tax are amongst the key issues concerning voters.

Latest polls suggest the opposition Liberal-National coalition will take 53% of the vote to Labor's 47%. All the major papers, except newspaper The Age, are backing the coalition.

On Friday Mr Rudd was campaigning in the New South Wales Central Coast, while Mr Abbott spoke at a guitar factory in Melbourne.

Mr Rudd emphasised the Labor government's economic record and said his priority was "jobs, more jobs and jobs, health, hospitals and broadband, and to keep support for cost of living pressures".

He also criticised the coalition's U-turn on internet policy as a "debacle".

The opposition on Thursday announced a policy to filter adult content from the internet, with customers having to opt-out for access. The policy was retracted a few hours later.

Mr Abbott said a failure of "quality control" was to blame for the fact that the policy was "poorly worded".

"We don't support filtering the internet," he said.

Mr Abbott said the coalition would "end the waste, stop the boats, and build roads of the 21st Century".

He also warned voters against "another hung parliament, and a weak and divided Labor-Green government".

"[The] only way to have a new way is to choose a new government," he said.

The opposition released more of its planned cuts and policy costings on Thursday, including a A$4.5bn ($4bn, £2.6bn) cut in foreign aid over three years that would be diverted to domestic infrastructure projects.

The proposed cut has been criticised by NGOs and rights groups.

Norman Gillespie, chief executive of Unicef Australia, told Radio Australia: "This has come as quite a shock, the size of it, the scale of it and simply the giving up of the principle of a civilised nation helping those who are in extreme poverty and in need," he said.
Asylum deals

The election comes after Kevin Rudd toppled his predecessor Julia Gillard in a leadership ballot in June, amid dismal polling figures. Ms Gillard had herself ousted Mr Rudd as prime minister in 2010.

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