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'Ball is in Prime Minister’s court'

Mr Abbot said the public had a right to be confident their politicians were “competent and trustworthy”.
Mr Abbot said the public had a right to be confident their politicians were “competent and trustworthy”. Chris Ison

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott says it is up to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to explain the circumstances surrounding her resignation from law firm Slater and Gordon in 1995.

Mr Abbott said the media interest in Ms Gillard's departure from the law firm after doing legal work for her then boyfriend, union official Bruce Wilson, was "perfectly legitimate".

"The ball is now in the Prime Minister's court," Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"If the Prime Minister wants to make a statement, the Coalition will gladly facilitate that. We would give her every opportunity to do so."

It was alleged in media reports over the weekend Ms Gillard's resignation from Slater and Gordon followed an internal review of the work she did for Mr Wilson.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly and strenuously denied there are any allegations to answer.

Mr Abbott reminded reporters "the person who most recently put this on the public record was none other than former cabinet minister Robert McClelland".

The former attorney general, who was relegated to the backbench after publicly backing Kevin Rudd's failed leadership challenge in February, raised the matter in Parliament back in June.

Mr Abbot said the public had a right to be confident their politicians were "competent and trustworthy".

"Inevitably, voters will have a look at the people who offer themselves for the highest job in the land and they will want to be confident that those people are people they can trust their future to," he said.

"So obviously these things are issues, and that's why I say it's perfectly reasonable for the media to look into these matters."

As the Slater and Gordon issue continued to simmer, the Coalition was eager to focus on the two-year anniversary of the 2010 federal election, which delivered a hung parliament.

Mr Abbott spent much of his day, including question time, using the occasion to remind voters of the Gillard government's perceived shortcomings.

He told his joint party room colleagues the philosophical divide between the two major parties was greater than it had been since the 1980s.

The next election, he said, would be a referendum on these differing philosophies, as well as the carbon tax.

But there are signs, albeit faint, the Opposition's anti-carbon tax crusade is running out of steam, with the Labor government enjoying its best Newspoll result for the year.

Labor's primary vote jumped two points to 35% in the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian each fortnight.

It means Labor's primary vote has risen 8% since mid-July, suggesting the Coalition's wielding of the carbon tax as a weapon is inflicting less damage than it was prior to July 1.

On a two-party-preferred basis Labor still trails the Coalition 53-47%.

The poll, while good for Labor, gave Ms Gillard little cause for comfort.

Her satisfaction rating slumped two points to 27%, while those dissatisfied with her performance was up one-point to 60%.

Mr Abbott received a slight increase to his satisfaction rating, up two points to 34%, while his dissatisfaction rating was down two points to 54%.

On who would make the better PM, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott were locked on 38%, with 24% uncommitted.

Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop told the joint party room the polls were favourable and a result of Coalition discipline.

Topics:  julia gillard slater and gordon tony abbott


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