Julia Gillard: `Don't blame me for their sins'

Julia Gillard has appealed to NSW and Queensland voters not to punish her government for the sins of state Labor as the election campaign enters its final week with both sides accusing the other of cowardice during a fight over debates.The Prime Minister will formally launch Labor's campaign in Brisbane today. Her key message will be that voters face a stark choice and Tony Abbott is an economic risk.Sources said the launch will be deliberately businesslike with no staged grand entrance by Ms Gillard, no thumping music, nor any other ''razzamatazz''. There will be policy announcements, but they will be modest.''We are fighting from behind. The last thing we want to look like we're doing is celebrating,'' said a source.There was deep pessimism in Labor ranks yesterday. One senior source said areas of Queensland and NSW were looming as a ''bloodbath'' for the government.''If the election was today, we'd get 51 or 52 [per cent of the two-party vote] and still lose because of the marginals.''Mr Abbott will mount a ''western Sydney blitz'' today, touring five marginal seats.Yesterday Ms Gillard called Mr Abbott's bluff when she agreed to meet him half way on his new demand for another town hall debate, this time in Brisbane, where each leader would face questions for an hour.Ms Gillard accepted on the condition that they appear together and not separately as Mr Abbott insisted, and only if 45 minutes was a debate on the economy and 45 minutes featured the leaders being questioned by the people.Mr Abbott has previously rejected Ms Gillard's offer of a second leaders' debate. He has refused to appear on stage with her and he baulked at her compromise offer yesterday, saying it was his way or not at all.Despite Ms Gillard's willingness to face the people's questions, Mr Abbott accused his rival of being scared of the people of Brisbane.The ALP national secretary, Karl Bitar, said in a letter to his Liberal counterpart, Brian Loughnane, that if Mr Abbott accepted Ms Gillard's offer it ''would end your candidate's cowardly avoidance of the debate on the economy and allow for a fulsome discussion with Australians on the central issue of this campaign''.Public and party polling shows that while Labor holds a lead nationally over the Coalition, it is lacking the necessary support in key marginal seats in NSW and Queensland, making Saturday's result too hard to call.In Queensland and NSW, where the state Labor governments are unpopular, the Coalition has campaigned heavily and successfully to reinforce perceptions linking federal and state Labor.''We've got our problems but we're being punished for the sins of the state governments as well,'' a senior ALP strategist told the Herald.Ms Gillard told Channel Nine she understood ''that in some parts of the nation there's disappointment with the performance of state Labor governments'' but she urged voters not to take it out on the federal government.''People can form their views about their state governments, have their say in state elections,'' she said.''The national election, this election, is about who has the best policies and plans for the nation's future and particularly the economic plan to manage a $1.3 trillion economy.''An analysis of the two most recent Herald/Nielsen polls shows Labor, which holds a notional 88 seats, is on track to lose 14 seats nationally.This includes five seats in NSW, nine in Queensland and two in Western Australia, while it would gain two in Victoria.If this transpired on election day, Labor would be reduced to 74 seats and there would be a hung Parliament.If other seats at risk in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, such as Solomon, fell, the Coalition would win.Mr Abbott criticised Labor's decision to hold its launch so late in the campaign as a cynical exercise.