Rudd finds a friend … just

Opinion polls point to his defeat on September 7 but Kevin Rudd appears to have found a begrudging friend.

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The Economist magazine believes the prime minister “just about” deserves another turn.

But in its latest edition that will hit newsstands on Saturday, it says the choice for voters between Mr Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott “frankly, is not great”.

The centre-right Liberal-National coalition would normally get the magazine’s vote with a tradition of being pro-business and against big government.

But it says Mr Abbott does not seem a instinctive fan of markets, and questions his hugely expensive paid parental leave scheme.

“That may help him persuade women voters that charges of misogyny are unfair, but he has not properly explained how he intends to pay for it,” it says.

Neither is it drawn to Mr Abbott’s social conservatism – he opposes gay marriage and supports populist measures against those seeking asylum into Australia.

“Indeed his promise to turn back the boats seems to be his only foreign policy.”

The Economist’s main mark against Labor’s policy card is that it has shifted a long way towards Mr Abbott’s position on asylum-seekers.

Aside from that, the magazine believes Labor has a reasonable record, not least putting a price on carbon when it is the world’s biggest coal exporter and heavily reliant on coal for its electricity.

“This is a laudable achievement,” it says.

But it says the trouble with Labor is two-fold.

“Its internecine (destructive internal) strife makes the Chinese Communist Party look harmonious – warfare within its ranks has undermined Labor’s governance during its six years in office – and there are questions over the character of its mercurial leader, Kevin Rudd.”

It says the choice of a man with a defective manifesto and one with a defective personality is not appealing, but Mr Rudd gets its vote, largely because of Labor’s decent record, and his numbers look more likely to add up than Mr Abbott’s.

Despite his high-handed style, his strategic skills will be useful as Australia has to balance its economic dependence on China with its security dependence on America.

“It would be nice if he revived his liberal approach to asylum-seekers. And, who knows, he may even live up to his promise to be less vile to his colleagues.”

Growth data highlights challenges: Bowen

Federal Treasurer Chris Bowen believes the latest national accounts highlight the challenges facing Australia as the economy moves from the mining investment boom to broader economic growth.

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Even so, the data released on Wednesday shows the economy has grown continuously over the six years Labor has been in power “in the face of the most difficult global circumstances since the Great Depression”, he told Sky News on Wednesday.

The national accounts show the economy grew at a slightly stronger pace than economists expected – by 0.6 per cent in the June quarter and by 2.6 per cent annually.

While this was below the long-term trend of above three per cent, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the data still showed Australia’s comparative strength in an uncertain global economic environment.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday found that while there has been an improvement in growth momentum among major economies, “a sustainable recovery is not yet firmly established and important risks remain”.

Mr Rudd said Australia had posted 22 years of continued positive growth – 11 under Labor.

“This is a good record for Australia,” he said.

“What I fear most of all is if the consequence of (Opposition Leader Tony) Abbott’s massive cuts, his hidden massive cuts, impact the health of our economy and run the risk of triggering a recession.”

But Mr Abbott called Labor the “recession experts”, noting the last one was under former prime minister Paul Keating.

He said growth remained subdued, demonstrating the need for a coalition government to abolish the carbon and mining taxes, cut red tape, and shift the industrial relations pendulum back to the sensible centre.

“This it what our country needs if we are going to have the growth and prosperity and the decent government services that people have a right to expect,” he told reporters.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey also pointed to the World Economic Forum’s latest global competitiveness report for 2013/14 in which Australia dropped one place to a ranking of 21.

Mr Hockey said that was influenced by wasteful government policy.

“The Australian economy continues to be fragile and business confidence remains below long term averages as business and consumers deal with a chaotic and dysfunctional government,” Mr Hockey said in a statement.

Australian Industry Group chief economist Innes Willox said there was also further slippage in cost competitiveness.

“These results highlight … the pressing need to improve key areas, including industrial relations, business regulation and company tax in order to lift our international competitiveness,” Mr Willox said in a statement.

Professional accounting body CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said the continued slide in competitiveness should be a wake-up call for urgent and decisive action by an incoming government.

“It shows that the election campaign’s fixation on costings has been at the expense of a genuine policy debate on substantive and necessary reform issues,” he said in a statement.

Sleeping tablets in NRL a worry for Farah

Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah says he’s concerned about NRL players regularly taking both caffeine and sleeping tablets.

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Speaking at an anti-doping roundtable alongside disgraced Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson in Sydney on Thursday, Farah said he was among many athletes who used caffeine tablets before a game.

“I think caffeine’s widely accepted,” he said.

“(But) I worry about players I do know of that do take downers, or sleeping tablets after games.

“I notice when I take caffeine tablets before a game, I’m awake in bed at four in the morning staring at the ceiling. You just can’t get to bed.

“There have been times where I’ve had to take something when I go to bed. I don’t do it regularly but I do know of players that are doing it week-in, week-out. It does become a concern.

“… I don’t want it to become a widespread issue.”

Farah said it was purely his decision to take the caffeine tablets, which are offered to players by doctors and trainers and are a legal substance.

“It’s our choice, it’s not forced upon us.

“There’ll be games I don’t take it. But some games I’ll feel the need or I feel like I want to take it to get my energy levels up a bit.”

Farah also opened up about “absolute shock” he felt when learning of the doping allegations that sparked ASADA’s investigations into the NRL and AFL, saying before this season he didn’t even know what a peptide was.

“I’ve been around for 11 seasons now, and I can honestly say … I’d never seen or heard anything or suspected a player or anyone I knew of being involved in doping,” Farah told AAP.

“I was probably naive to the fact that there were players out there taking illicit drugs.

“I don’t think it’s as widespread as everyone thinks – I’m hoping it’s not anyway. From my experience, I know that 99 per cent of the people are doing the right thing.”

Farah said players, including himself, placed enormous trust in club support staff in charge of their supplements program.

“As soon as our we’ve finished our weights session we come out the kitchen and I’ve got a shake – every player’s got a shake – with their name on it with supplements in it.

“I’ve got no idea what’s in it, but we’re told to take it.

“I’d never think twice to ask what’s in it, because you just don’t expect for anything to be in there that’s illegal.

“I’m a bit older now so anything I put in my body, if I’ve got question marks over it, I will ring the WADA hotline and double check it.

“If I was told you’ve got to take a needle offsite, I’d start waving the red flag.”

“But a lot of players are at such a young age and they don’t think twice about asking questions.”

Lost votes a blow to Mirabella hopes

The bizarre discovery of more than 1000 prepoll votes has delivered a blow to Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella’s re-election hopes.

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Ms Mirabella had been gaining ground on her independent opponent Cathy McGowan as postal votes were counted on Wednesday, reducing the margin to just 500 votes.

But electoral officials noticed a disparity between the number of votes cast in the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Victorian seat of Indi and found a pile of 1003 votes favouring Ms McGowan had not been entered in the system.

The missing votes had been cast at a pre-poll centre in Wangaratta.

As of 6pm (AEST) on Wednesday, Ms McGowan was leading Ms Mirabella by 500 votes with more than 82 per cent of the vote counted, but the missing votes have not been added to the tally.

Victoria’s closest contest, the seat of McEwen, has got even tighter.

Liberal candidate Donna Petrovich’s lead over incumbent Rob Mitchell has been reduced to just 116 votes, with 78 per cent of the vote counted.

In 2007 the contest in McEwen took months to resolve and ended up in the Court of Dispute Returns.

Ms McGowan said it was possible that Indi could go the same way in 2013.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did,” she told AAP.

Ms McGowan found out about the extra votes on Twitter and described the discovery as “amazing”.

“You wouldn’t want it to be the other way, would you?” she said.

“It would be shocking.”

Ms McGowan said it could be up to a week before the result was known, but she was enjoying the wait.

“I think that it has still got a bit of up and down to go before it gets sorted out,” Ms McGowan said.

An AEC spokesman said the error was discovered as part of a number of checks and balances that take place during counting.

A spokesman for Ms Mirabella would not comment on the development, instead directing calls to Liberal Party headquarters.

Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach said there was no doubt the votes had given Ms McGowan a clear advantage in the count.

“Despite this turn of events, we’re hopeful of making up ground with the thousands of votes that are still to be counted,” he said in a statement.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said on Tuesday he expects Ms Mirabella will still get over the line.