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'Come on!': Rudd baits Abbott

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd goads Opposition leader Tony Abbott into facing him in a one-on-one debate next Thursday.

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Kevin Rudd has dramatically ramped up his fight against Tony Abbott, questioning the Opposition Leader's courage for raising fears about asylum seekers and budget management while refusing to debate these issues before the people.

Casting himself as a bookish nerd up against the bullying athletic school jock, Mr Rudd said it seemed Mr Abbott was all talk and lacked heart when it came to a fight.

''Mr Abbott, I think it's time you demonstrated to the country you had a bit of ticker on this. I mean, he's the boxing Blue; I'm the, you know, the glasses-wearing kid in the library. Come on,'' he told the ABC's 7.30 program.

Tony Abbott

Accused of playing the "policy moderate" card: Tony Abbott. Photo: Penny Stephens

Arguing that Mr Abbott enjoyed a head start because Mr Rudd had been in the job for less than a week, he said it was time to give the people a series of open policy debates.

''What I'd say to Mr Abbott is, 'You've been doing this for a long time,''' he said. ''It's time we had a properly moderated debate, by the National Press Club, and that it should be on Mr Abbott's chosen subjects. He can have one on debt and deficit, and can have one after that on boats, he can have one after that if he likes on the carbon price.

''I'm prepared on each of these things to take him on directly, 'cause his whole program for government rests on a house of cards … the lie that we have a debt and deficit crisis, the lie that he can turn the boats back to Indonesia, and frankly there's another lie as well that Mr Abbott has suddenly become a policy moderate.''

Mr Abbott's standard response to the offer of debates has been to demand an election, declaring he would participate only during the campaign proper.

The interview, granted on the eve of his visit to Jakarta, rounded out Mr Rudd's first full week since deposing Julia Gillard in a change-over he promised would never occur. He denied he had broken his promise not to challenge saying Ms Gillard had declared the job vacant.

The claim his opponent lacked the necessary ''ticker'' to be a national leader was lifted straight from the successful playbook of former Liberal prime minister John Howard, who made the same ''lacks ticker'' charge against then opposition leader Kim Beazley.

Mr Abbott, who studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, was awarded a Blue for his boxing.

Earlier, Mr Rudd took advantage of Independence Day celebrations at the US embassy to speak to several foreign ambassadors and diplomatic representatives at once, telling them Australia intended to play a role as a middle-power friend to everybody from China and Indonesia to the US.

That followed ''a cup of tea'' with Beijing's ambassador to Canberra, Chen Yuming, and talks with others on the phone.

In another manoeuvre aimed at neutralising Mr Abbott's critiques of the government's failure on border control, Mr Rudd wrote to the Opposition Leader offering briefings with security agencies, from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Australian Secret Intelligence Service to Immigration and the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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