Gillard denies Green preference promises

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has denied making promises to the Australian Greens in return for a deal on preferences at the August 21 poll.

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But Ms Gillard has told Channel 7 she has not put any policy promises on the table in return for the preferences.

“If you’re asking me as Prime Minister have I made any promises or pledges to the Greens in relation to preferences, the answer is absolutely not, no,” she said.

“Every policy I put forward in this election campaign will be a policy that I believe is important to shaping the future of this nation and taking us forward.”

Labor and the Greens have hatched a preference deal which aims to shore up the government’s hold on key lower house seats and bolster the minor party’s chance of holding the balance of power in the Senate.

Gillard’s first day of campaigning in NSW

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is in Sydney today for her first day of campaigning in NSW, where the state Labor government is far from popular.

The prime minister will be keen to distinguish between state and federal issues after a by-election in the state seat of Penrith last month resulted in a 25.7 per cent swing against Labor.

Federal Labor MPs are also facing a backlash with the member for Lindsay David Bradbury facing a 12 per cent swing against him in the August 21 election. Mr Bradbury only holds the seat with a margin of 6.3 per cent.

It is likely Ms Gillard will address asylum seeker policy which is a major issue in western Sydney.

Abbott campaigns in Victoria

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who visited western Sydney on Sunday, remains in Melbourne.

Mr Abbott is likely to be questioned again on industrial relations policy with Work Choices on Monday continuing to dog his campaign despite the opposition leader’s best efforts.

“It’s dead today, it’s dead tomorrow, it’s dead the day after, it’s dead in three years’ time,” Mr Abbott said on Monday after he was asked if the coalition would ever seek to revive its old workplace regime.

While both sides of politics have given little away in terms of their campaign agendas, it appears agreement may have been reached on the terms of the leaders’ debate.

Leaders to face off Sunday night

Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott are expected to go head to head at the National Press Club in Canberra on Sunday night. It is likely to be the only leaders’ debate of the 2010 election, despite Mr Abbott having called for three.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says that prospect will lead to higher energy prices and a bigger resource rent tax on the mining sector.

“These preferences don’t come for free,” he said.

“What they will mean is a higher mining tax, they’ll mean a carbon tax if Labor wins the election and that means higher prices for consumers, particularly higher electricity prices, that have already risen by 35 per cent since Labor got in.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan dismissed any suggestion the government planned to compromise on the mining tax.

“We won’t be negotiating with the Greens, what we will be doing is taking our proposal to the Senate,” he told ABC Radio. “It will be a proposal we will fight for … that we won’t compromise on.”

The deal has sparked a war of words between the Greens and Family First senator Steve Fielding, who will be a likely casualty of the deal. Senator Fielding was elected to the Senate at the 2004 election on the back of a Labor preference deal which shunned the Greens.

The senator says if Labor is re-elected it will be held to ransom by Greens leader Bob Brown and his “gang of hippie friends”.

Senator Brown hit back saying the Victorian senator had “nothing to crow about” because he was elected through “the grubbiest preference deal in history”.

“And that’s one of the reasons why we’re not going to see Steve Fielding in the next Senate,” he told ABC Television. Thousands of voters were “duped” by Labor because they not aware their preferences had gone to Senator Fielding through a backroom deal, Senator Brown said.