Opposition leader Tony Abbott in Rockhampton to announce coalition plans to upgrade the Bruce Highway.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott in Rockhampton to announce coalition plans to upgrade the Bruce Highway. Chris Ison

Abbott's last pitch fails to reveal new policies

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott mentioned the carbon tax no fewer than 38 times in his 26-minute National Press Club address on Monday, his final major set piece before Australians head to the polls on Saturday.

In what could best be described as a safe performance, Mr Abbott did not take the opportunity to reveal any new policies.

He, instead, trotted out his tried and tested vows to scrap the carbon and mining taxes, "stop the boats", cut red tape and "build the roads of the 21st century".

His expensive paid parental leave scheme, opposed by some within the Coalition, was contained to just two sentences.

And in a move no doubt designed to keep the Nationals happy, Mr Abbott said there would be a "new focus on regional Australia" with almost half of his Cabinet living outside of a metropolitan area.

But the carbon tax was the dominant theme, and Mr Abbott's intent was clear from the outset.

Despite spending much of the past three years railing against the carbon tax, it had barely featured as a major campaign issue during the past four weeks.

Until today.

Mr Abbott spent most of the first 15 minutes of his speech talking about the carbon tax and laid out his reasons for wanting to scrap the measure.

In doing so he painted a grim picture for Australia's economy if the carbon tax remained in place.

"Australia's annual GDP growth might only be 0.1% lower every year with a carbon tax than without one but small reductions eventually add up so that total GDP in 2050 is almost 3% lower with a carbon tax than without one," Mr Abbott claimed.

"The cumulative loss in GDP between now and 2050 is $1 trillion. It's as if the entire country were to stop work at some stage over the next 40 years for the best part of a year."

Mr Abbott claimed real wages would be 6% lower in 2050 with a carbon tax - the equivalent of a $4000-a-year pay cut now for someone on the average full-time wage.

In a pre-emptive strike he cautioned Labor against any attempts to block the tax being repealed, which would be his number priority in government, saying it was "unimaginable that a defeated Labor Party would persist with the carbon tax".

He also used Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's vow to introduce an emissions trading scheme in July next year - a year earlier than planned - as ammunition.

"Mr Rudd knows that the carbon tax is an act of economic self-harm - that's why he has pretended to abolish it," he said.

After his speech Mr Abbott negotiated the question-and-answer sessions, successfully avoiding any major gaffes or "gotcha" moments.

This included deflecting a question about the public rift which has emerged in Coalition ranks in Western Australia in recent days.

Mr Abbott said there was no chance of the animosity seeping into the Coalition at a national level.