Gillard, Abbott speak to breakfast shows about 'governing'

IT had all the hallmarks of an election campaign - interviews on morning television, countless radio interviews, press conferences, photo opportunities and handshaking.

Australians woke on Monday to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott using the breakfast show circuit to spruik their credentials to the people of western Sydney.

Western Sydney was the "the Australian heartland", Mr Abbott said, while Ms Gillard talked about the area having the "third biggest economy in Australia".

Asked if the campaign had begun, Mr Abbott told the Today show audience the moment Ms Gillard revealed the election date "she moved from governing to campaigning".

But Ms Gillard assured reporters her first full-day of a week-long blitz of western Sydney was all about "governing".

"I've been very clear - we have got a lot of governing to do," Ms Gillard said.

"As we govern, we make announcements which are important for the people of our nation, including the announcement we are making today about infrastructure in western Sydney."

In fact in wasn't so much an announcement as an ultimatum.

Ms Gillard, flanked by Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese and a string of western Sydney Labor MPs, said the Federal Government would help fund the New South Wales Government's WestConnex road project, but only once Premier Barry O'Farrell submitted a plan extending the M4 to the city and the M5 to Port Botany, all without additional tolls.

Despite media reports earlier in the day indicating the Federal Government would kick in $1 billion, Ms Gillard said the Commonwealth contribution would only be determined after Mr O'Farrell submitted a revised plan.

The Prime Minister, who said the federal offer would be contained in the May budget, denied she was playing politics on the issue.

"In order to make a difference for the people who get in their cars every morning and try and get to Sydney's CBD for work, they need a better way of getting there," she said.

"For the businesses in Sydney's west that need to get products to the port, I want to see them get their products all the way to the port, not to some other location.

"I do not have a plan before me that does that. It's in the interests of the people and businesses of western Sydney that we see an infrastructure proposal that gets people to the city, freight to the ports, and doesn't charge them tolls on roads that are currently there."

Mr O'Farrell said he was not consulted prior to the Ms Gillard's announcement and described it as "back of the envelope stuff" aimed at winning the favour of western Sydney voters.

Extending the M4 and M5 would add $5-8 billion to the project, Mr O'Farrell said.

Earlier on Monday the war for the west began with Treasurer Wayne Swan claiming an average western Sydney family would be $2300 a week worse off under a Coalition government.

He said the figures were based on "new analysis of ABS data".

Axing the Schoolkids Bonus and Household Assistance Package family payment, as well as scrapping the tripling of the tax free threshold, would hurt families in the city's west, Mr Swan said.

Meanwhile, the latest Essential poll released on Monday had the Coalition retaining its commanding 56-44% two-party-preferred lead over Labor.

Essential also asked whether respondents had locked in how they were planning to vote on September 14, with 46% indicating they had "firmly" made up their mind.

A further 31% said they were leaning in one direction, but it could change, 16% were undecided and 6% didn't know.

No prizes for guessing which of the above groups are being targeted in the western Sydney blitz.



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