Gillard formally launches campaign in Brisbane

4:32 pm on 16 August 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally launches Labor's election campaign in Brisbane on Monday, with opinion polls confirming Saturday's election is likely to be a cliffhanger.

While the Sydney Morning Herald's Nielsen poll showed Labor on 53% support and the Coalition on 47%, other polls released over the weekend told a different story.

A Newspoll survey had Labor just hanging on to power, while a Galaxy poll indicated the Coalition would win enough extra seats to win back the Treasury benches.

Both surveyed voters in only marginal seats across the country, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, which will be crucial to deciding who will run the country.

Julia Gillard concedes Labor faces real problems and blames unpopular Labor State governments for the problems the party faces in the federal election.

The closeness of the polls makes her campaign launch in Brisbane crucial to Labor's chances of getting some momentum before voters go to the polls on Saturday, Radio New Zealand's political editor says.

When the Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott, formally launched his campaign last week he got front page coverage. Ms Gillard will get the same, putting Mr Abbott on the back foot somewhat as he tries to have his voice heard in the last few days.

In response he has challenged Ms Gillard to take part in a second town hall community meeting, where the leaders separately answer questions from ordinary voters.

Ms Gillard is prepared to do so but only if Mr Abbott will engage in a debate with her for the first half of the meeting. So far he refuses to do so.

Labor wants to engage Mr Abbott in a debate because it believes he is weak on the economy.

Ms Gillard says only she has an economic plan for Australia's future, while Mr Abbott accuses her of wasteful spending and unnecessarily driving up government debt.

Both leaders are this week focussing solely on those key marginal seats where a swing against Labor could put it back into opposition after just one term.

And considering Mr Abbott is the Liberal Party's third leader since former Prime Minister John Howard was defeated in 2007, the prospect that he could become Prime Minister is extraordinary, says Radio New Zealand's political editor.

If the Coalition does become the Government Labor will rue its decision to dump Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister just weeks before the election.

Just as the Liberals broke the rule book with the number of times they changed leaders since the last election, so too did Labor MPs when they moved against Mr Rudd.