Face off: Kevin Rudd vs Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Photo / Supplied
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Photo / Supplied

VOICE

Rudd: A polished instrument that's tightly tuned. Caramel in the grip of tweezers. Speaks in heavily emphasised, correctly punctuated, complete sentences.

Abbott: Nervy, reedy with liberal use of "ah ..." suggesting Abbott thinks his way along his words.

LOOK

Rudd: His light thatch is a great asset, floating sunnily through the grey political landscape. But the thick mane, wide grin and glasses on his beach-ball head suggest a cartoon schoolboy nerd. Or worse: the Milky Bar Kid.

Abbott: He has suffered stick for strutting in budgie-smugglers. Sure he's not ooh ah Obama but very few politicians could do such a passable impression of the bronzed Aussie surfer, complete with retro chest hair.

CHARISMA

Rudd: A mystery. He effortlessly reels off mock gravitas, steely calm and official self-importance like the former mandarin he is.

Perhaps he taps into Australia's need to be taken seriously as a player in the world. But a ball of fluff in a bag would have shone against little Johnnie Howard's bean curd appeal. Rudd was the former uncool paper shuffler made cool - a fresh breeze blasting a stale government. He then saw off wooden Brendan Nelson and blustery Malcolm Turnbull but Abbott is a tougher proposition.

Abbott: He appears to have a link into the country's collective DNA the way John Key does here. That dinkum quality and ability to explain positions suddenly makes Rudd appear more pompous in comparison and should help to make this year's election closer than it had appeared possible. The former trainee priest tries to have it both ways by preaching morality but saying he was never such a saint himself. His apparent gaffes - "virginity is a gift that should not be given lightly" - and support for the death penalty represent firm - if extreme - positions, and people know where he stands.

THE FUTURE

Rudd: Although Rudd's poll numbers have been slipping, they remain high. He has the advantage of incumbency and historically Australians give new governments a second term. Rudd and his ministers have worked hard to present the Government as safe, competent managers. The insulation scandal blows a hole in that screen, which the opposition could exploit. But if the economy is in reasonable shape come election time, the advantage is with Rudd.

Abbott: He has revitalised and unified his scrappy party and showed with his pared-back climate change policy that he could put Rudd under pressure. He will be the underdog for the election though the Australian electorate's ability to vote conservative should not be underestimated. But do Abbott's beliefs and positions really chime with the electorate, or are voters broadly still with Labor?

- NZ Herald

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