Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vowed Friday to fight to the end despite polls showing him heading for an election wipe-out as rival Tony Abbott looked forward to getting straight to work.
A Galaxy survey in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a day before voters cast their ballots, found Rudd had failed to make any inroads on the conservative opposition leader.
On a two-party basis, the ruling Labor party was trailing 47 to 53 percent, with the newspaper saying Abbot’s Liberal/National coalition could pick up as many as 20 to 25 extra seats in the lower House of Representatives.
This would give them more than 90 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
An overwhelming 78 percent of the 1,503 people questioned said Abbott had performed better during the election campaign. Just eight percent said Rudd, with the rest undecided.
But the prime minister, who has struggled for traction after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female leader, just weeks before calling the election, said he was not ready to give up.
“I believe I can win the election,” Rudd said Friday evening.
“The people of Australia will ultimately decide but my message… is very simple… if on the day before election day you still have doubts about how Mr Abbott’s massive cuts will affect your jobs and job security, your hospitals and schools, then don’t vote for him.”
The economy has been a key election battleground and the opposition on Thursday pledged Aus$40 billion ($37 billion) of savings if it wins.
Rudd added: “We continue to fight right through till 6:00 pm tomorrow,” when polls close, and seized on the coalition announcing then retracting on Thursday night plans for a mandatory Internet porn filter.
He called the policy backflip a “debacle”.
“How many other policies do they have in their bottom drawer that they don’t want to tell Australians about?” he asked.
Despite his fighting words, Rudd appears to have an insurmountable task with all the nation’s main newspapers — bar The Age in Melbourne — backing Abbott in election eve editorials.
Yet Abbott, speaking on Network Ten late Friday, said the election was still “anyone’s to win” and urged voters to bring in a new government led by him.
“I will be an orthodox prime minister, because I want to lead an adult, grown-up government,” he said.
“And that’s why I think Australia can’t have another three years like the last six, because I don’t believe we have always had an adult, grown-up government over the last six years.”
Abbott said if he won office, the first thing he would do would be to go for a bike ride “with the guys I’ve been riding with for years”.
“Then into the office to do briefings because you can’t muck around with something as important as the future of our country.”
But he cautioned that it was too early to start celebrating.
“It’s like being in a grand final, five minutes to go, only a goal or two in it, anything could happen,” he said.
“If it happens I will be extraordinarily conscious of the heavy burden of responsibilities, of duties, that will have descended on my shoulders.
“Inevitably, anyone who is suddenly given a big job, even if you have been preparing for it for years and you know you are ready for it, when it happens, if it happens, you are conscious of being on a great threshold.”
Voting is mandatory in Australia and by Friday afternoon some three million of the 14.7 million enrolled voters had already cast their ballots at pre-polling stations and via postal votes, the electoral commission said.