Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called a temporary halt to his election campaign for urgent intelligence briefings about the worsening civil war in Syria.
He has the full support of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who dismissed a suggestion today that Mr Rudd’s sudden return to Canberra might be a political stunt.
‘‘No. It’s entirely appropriate when a serious international issue is unfolding for the prime minister to seek a briefing,’’ Mr Abbott told reporters in Adelaide.
‘‘Obviously terrible things are happening in that country.
‘‘I hope the international community is able to do what it can to try to ensure that the bloodshed ceases and ordinary human rights are once more respected.’’
Mr Rudd started the day in Sydney extolling the benefits the National Broadband Network could bring to small business.
He released a report on how the NBN might underpin jobs - even as a new opinion poll showed many in his Labor government might lose theirs - including him.
Today’s Fairfax-Nielson poll gave the Coalition, after preferences, a six-point lead over Labor - 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
And a Newspoll in The Australian showed Mr Rudd with a fight on his hands to hold Griffith, where his Coalition rival Bill Glasson leads 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
But international events, more than the September 7 election, appeared to be driving Mr Rudd today.
Mr Rudd said he would return to Canberra to speak with national security officials, and work on Australia’s response to claims Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people.
Horrific images of dead men, women and children in Syria have galvanised the world, and Australia has a direct interest through its seat on the United Nations security council.
‘‘I’m not about to make any rushed or rash judgments about what the country should do next,’’ Mr Rudd told reporters.
‘‘But my first responsibility as the prime minister of the country is to make sure these matters are being attended to thoroughly and carefully.
‘‘As I said yesterday it is important that we establish all facts first and in a calm and considered way respond as appropriate.’’
Mr Abbott will get an intelligence briefing in Queensland tomorrow after he officially launches the Coalition campaign in Brisbane.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne wants a briefing too.
Australia needed to be ‘‘fully informed’’ before it makes any response to avoid mistakes made in previous conflicts, she said.
Launching her party’s campaign in Canberra, she hijacked the ‘‘trust’’ theme both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott have tried to make their own.
‘‘This election, like never before, is about who you can trust,’’ Senator Milne said echoing the pair before adding the Greens difference.
‘‘Trust to care for people ... and to care for the environment.’’
Mr Abbott had a warm up for his campaign launch at events in Adelaide, where he warned supporters not to be complacent.
‘‘My friends, there is still much to be done,’’ he said in Hindmarsh, a seat the Coalition hopes to win from Labor’s Steve Georganas.
He told reporters he didn’t believe the polls and that the election was still a ‘‘very, very close race’’. - AAP