Gillard keeps campaign small

Julia Gillard’s small target strategy continued to be writ large during the fourth day of the campaign.

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The PM was in western Sydney on Tuesday but she didn’t mention asylum seekers – an issue which the ALP believes is worrying local voters and contributed to Kevin Rudd’s demise.

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Tony Abbott helped a Vietnamese grocer stack fruit, with the man later telling reporters he arrived on an asylum boat in 1986 but hadn’t wanted to mention it.

Abbott’s election campaign includes a promise to ‘stop the boats’.

Ms Gillard visited a high school to announce new national trade cadetships and later delivered a speech on sustainable population that was similar to Sunday’s.

It was all carefully planned – with the possibility of slip-ups kept to a minimum.

Indeed, the continuing low-key approach led one reporter to suggest the campaign was “overly stage-managed”.

When was the Labor leader going to mingle with regular punters in shopping malls, he wanted to know.

“I’m surprised to hear you ask that question,” Ms Gillard replied.

“Because I got out on the streets in Townsville yesterday.

“Had a coffee and met with a number of locals – many photographs taken.”

The Prime Minister was fielding questions in the middle of Richmond High’s school yard.

Classes had broken for morning recess but students were kept well back by watchful teachers.

Nevertheless, one managed to get his message through loud and clear.

“Go Prime Minister! Hell yeah!” he yelled from a classroom, as furious teachers charged towards the open window.

Without missing a beat, the PM noted: “We’re getting some great encouragement.”

Earlier, the media contingent travelling with the PM had its own run-in with authorities.

Reporters weren’t happy when told they’d be denied access to a trade training centre construction site at the school because there weren’t enough hard hats to go around.

On Monday, only a few reporters were allowed into a Townsville home because of “space constraints” when Ms Gillard met a working family.

They weren’t about to be denied twice and after some argy bargy were allowed to rotate through the site – sharing the available hard hats.

Under construction was a metal workshop and hospitality area.

They’ll play a key role in the new trade cadetships, which aim to ensure vocational education and training undertaken by Years 11 and 12 students count towards future apprenticeships.

“This is an important step forward to make it easier for kids who want to go into the trades to actually get a qualification that counts in the world of real work and real skills,” Ms Gillard said.

The cadetships will cost just $3.1 million to establish.

The PM insisted there were 22 trade training centres already completed with another 46 to be finished by January, but the opposition isn’t so sure.

“Senate estimates revealed that Labor has built only 13 operational centres in three years,” education spokesman Christopher Pyne said, adding the new cadetships were a “con”.

“Young people who want to take up a training place will have to be lucky enough to go to one of the few schools which actually have access to an operational centre.”

Gillard on Tuesday night flew to Melbourne to attend former ACTU president Sharan Burrow’s farewell bash.

But before she left she reminded people looking for big announcements on a daily basis that “in this campaign there will be no old-fashioned election spend-a-thon”.

She also gave an update on how she was coping with the relatively sedate pace so far.

“I’m feeling fine, thank you very much,” she said. “Thank you for inquiring. Full of energy. Yes.”