Sept 7 in doubt as Rudd has things to do
Kevin Rudd says he has “made no determination whatsoever” on when the federal election will be held, throwing doubt on the likelihood of a September 7 election.
The prime minister also told reporters on Saturday he wanted to attend a G20 summit just days before what had been considered the favoured poll date, raising the prospect the election could be pushed out to at least September 21.
Speculation had been building that Mr Rudd was planning to visit the governor-general on Sunday or Monday to seek approval for a September 7 election.
But Mr Rudd said the government had yet to conclude negotiations with Victoria over schools funding, with Western Australia on disability care, and with NSW over new environmental assessment procedures.
“We have a few things to attend to yet,” he said after signing a new asylum-seeker resettlement agreement with Nauru on Saturday.
“So therefore on your question (about September 7), I’ve made no determination whatsoever in terms of the date of an election.”
Whether Mr Rudd would attend the upcoming G20 leaders summit had also been a source of constant speculation, as the St Petersburg meeting is being held on September 5 and 6.
Mr Rudd confirmed it was “my intention to be in St Petersburg”.
“But I’m very mindful also of the challenges that lie ahead of us as well,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“I place enormous priority to the G20 and its agenda.
“At the same time I will always balance that against other considerations before us as well.”
If Mr Rudd does still decide on a September 7 election, it will need to be called by Monday to cover the minimum 33-day campaign period.
With September 14 all but ruled out because it had been chosen by his predecessor Julia Gillard, a September 21 election would be the next possible date.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott declared his team ready for the campaign.
“We’ve been ready for a long time,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne, when asked about a September 7 election.
“I think the Australian people are eager to seize the chance to control the government once more.
“This election is a choice between strength and stability under the coalition, or more chaos, division and dysfunction under the Labor party.”
Speculation over the election date came a day after the government’s economic update, which predicted weaker economic growth, growing unemployment and more government debt, as well as a $33.3 billion writedown in revenues.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said he expected the prime minister to “run to the polls in the next two days”.
“Because the boats keep coming, the debt is blowing out by $3 billion a week and unemployment continues to rise, heading towards 800,000,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“If I were Kevin Rudd I would be going to the polls as soon as possible.”
But foreshadowing how central the economy will again be during the campaign, Finance Minister Penny Wong released government analysis which, she said, uncovered a $70 billion hole in the coalition’s fiscal credentials.
“The government has laid out our plans and our budget,” Senator Wong told reporters in Melbourne.
“It’s time Tony Abbott did, because what this document shows against what Tony Abbott has said is that he would have to make $70 billion worth of cuts.”