Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Costello versus Swan: Head to head, today

Political junkies looking for a rematch after the Rudd versus Howard leaders’ debate in week one will get the closest thing lunchtime today.

Swan versus Costello will be treated in the same manner as the big clash. It’ll be broadcast by Channel Nine as well as the ABC and Sky News (most probably with the worm) and hosted by the National Press Club.

The broadcast will begin at 12.30pm, displacing Nine’s Midday Movie and will continue for 90 minutes rather than the typical one-hour after both Mr Swan and Mr Costello agreed to extend the usual format.

For Labor it will be an opportunity to extend the dominance that Mr Rudd gained over Mr Howard during the leader’s debate.

For the Coalition it will be a chance to give John Howard’s anointed successor Peter Costello a Prime Ministerial platform...

Wayne Swan will be making the most of the Coalition’s apparent broken promise to keep interest rates at “30 year lows” and the imminent increase in rates due next Wednesday. He will also be making use of research by Canberra’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modeling that has found that most families with school-age children would be better off under Labor's tax plan than under the Coalition's.

In research commissioned by the Labor Party NATSEM has found only the highest-earning 10 per cent of parents - those earning more than $124,775 - would be better off under the Coalition.

The remaining 90 per cent of families with school-age children would be up to $15 a week better off under Labor, according to NATSEM.

The Treasurer yesterday attacked the premise of the analysis labeling it “garbage in, garbage out”.

“Instead of comparing the two tax policies, it compared tax and education announcements of the Labor Party and tax, excluding welfare announcements, of the Liberal Party,” Mr Costello said.

But the analysis also excluded a number of Labor’s welfare measures in a bid to compare like with like, limiteing itself to the measures announced in each of the $34 billion tax packages.

Widely acknowledged as one of the Coalition’s best debaters, Peter Costello is likely to attempt to land a knock out blow on Mr Swan, as he did when he debated Labor’s then Treasury spokesman Simon Crean during the last election campaign in 2004.

In that debate Mr Costello claimed to have discovered a $700 million hole in Labor’s tax plan, a hole that was subsequently found not to exist.

His difficulty in debating Mr Swan today will be that many of the points he might want to make are technical or obscure, involving such things as the tax thresholds that would apply well into the next decade and the distinction between the underlying and headline rates of inflation.

One of Wayne Swan’s difficulties will be that he supports much of Coalition’s fiscal policy. He approved of the Coalition tax cuts in May Budget, describing them as “quality spending”. He has adopted as Labor policy 90 per cent of tax cuts promised by the Coalition during the current campaign.

The order of speaking will be decided by the toss of a coin with each speaker given eight minutes before questioning by press gallery journalists.

Each reply will be limited to two minutes, with a one minute response from the other side.