The Prime Minister has challenged Tony Abbott to a debate on the economy, just hours after announcing she would throw away the rule book and show the electorate who she really is.
Julia Gillard laid down the challenge on Channel Seven’s Today Tonight program, accepting an invitation from host Matthew White to debate the Opposition Leader on Sunday August 8 at 6.30pm AEST.
“I’d be happy to be in it. I want it to be about the economy, that’s at the centre of this campaign,” she said.
“We can’t have great schools and decent healthcare without a strong economy, so I’d be happy to debate Mr Abbott on the economy… Game on.”
At the tail end of the first week of the campaign, Mr Abbott wrapped up what was scheduled to be the only debate by calling for two more.
Ms Gillard had previously said that one would be sufficient.
Kevin Rudd and John Howard only debated once in the lead-up to the last federal election, but Ms Gillard says she wants to move beyond a traditional risk-averse campaign strategy.
“I think it’s a question of how forcefully I want to explain to the Australian people my plans for our future,” she said.
“There’s a lot of orthodoxy about political campaign, that you run a risk-averse campaign.
“For the future what I want to do is be out there very visible, and I also want to be out there on the substance, the big things that make a difference to Australia’s future.”
Earlier, Mr Abbott said Ms Gillard’s change in tactics showed Labor’s campaign was being run by “faceless men”.
He said voters could be sure the “real” Tony Abbott was always on show, and added that his restrained performance on the campaign trail was due to his position as Opposition Leader.
“Would the real Julia please stand up? What have we been seeing for the last five weeks if it’s not the real Julia Gillard,” he said.
“I think I’ve been on public display, in good times and in not so good times, for a long, long time now.
“And I’ve got a lot that’s been on the record over the years on numerous different subjects, but what you’re seeing today is a party leader, not a senior frontbencher.”
The proposed debate would occur on the same day as the Liberal Party’s official campaign launch in Brisbane, posing potential travel and timetable issues for Mr Abbott.