PM demands another debate

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has thrown down the gauntlet to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to debate the economy before polling day.

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Mr Abbott on Sunday said he was willing to have another town hall-style forum.

Campaigning in Victoria, Ms Gillard went a step further.

She said she would be at the Seven Network’s Brisbane studios at 6.30pm on Sunday and ready to debate him before a forum.

ALP national secretary Karl Bitar has written to his federal Liberal counterpart Brian Loughnane backing a format where Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott would appear together on stage in Brisbane.

But the first half would be a debate on the economy before the forum’s opened to the audience for questions in the second half.

Liberal strategists believe Mr Abbott won last week’s forum at the Rooty Hill RSL in western Sydney, a view supported by a show of hands at the club.

Abbott keen for another go

Mr Abbott is keen for another go, telling ABC TV it’s good to see fair-dinkum Australians questioning the candidates for prime ministership, rather than politicians shouting at each other in a leaders’ debate.

“I think it’s good to see the public questioning the candidates for prime ministership,” he told ABC Television on Sunday, adding the town hall-style format was good.

The opposition leader previously rejected a challenge from Ms Gillard for a second leaders’ debate, limited to the issue of economic management.

“In the end, it’s not about politicians shouting at each other that should determine the election,” Mr Abbott said. “It’s politicians answering questions from fair dinkum

Australians.”

Liberal strategists believe their man won the Rooty Hill forum, a view backed by a show of hands for him following the appearance of both leaders.

Polls favour coalition

Meanwhile Labor has concede Mr Abbott would be Australia’s next prime minister if the result of the latest opinion poll is played out on election day this Saturday.

Three opinion polls over the weekend are painting a confused picture of the election outcome as the campaign begins its final week.

Two leading analysts have queried the findings of the latest Galaxy poll, published in News Ltd papers on Sunday, showing the coalition is on track to win the 17 seats it needs for government.

The poll of 4000 voters in 20 marginal seats found the two-party preferred vote for the coalition was 51.4 per cent to Labor’s 48.6 per cent.

The government is taking seriously the poll’s finding.

Gillard accepts polls

“If today’s polls are right then Mr Abbott could end up prime minister,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Nine Network on Sunday.

Half-an-hour earlier her deputy Wayne Swan was saying much the same thing.

The Galaxy poll finding though is not supported by analysts Antony Green and Andrew Catsaras.

Mr Green says he comes up with a different result when entering the projected Galaxy swings into his election calculator.

“Someone has made an absolute howler in trying to turn polls in 20 marginal seats into a national figure,” the ABC expert wrote on his blog, adding whoever calculated the vote committed serious errors.

Mr Green says his calculation from the Galaxy poll shows Labor at 51 per cent, not 48.6 per cent.

Mr Catsaras, a strategic marketing consultant and polling analyst, described the findings as “a bit misleading”.

The Newspoll of marginal seats, published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday, was far more instructive of what was happening in the electorate, he said.

That poll showed Labor losing three or four seats in Queensland and about the same in NSW.

“That sounds more realistic than what’s being reported this morning,” Mr Catsaras said.

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