HEALTH Minister Abbott says a video which shows him saying workers had lost protections under the Coalition's industrial relations changes is a "cut-and-paste" trick by the Labor Party.
Mr Abbott, a former workplace relations minister, is seen making the comment in amateur video of him speaking at a local electorate function three days ago.
The ABC said the video, which was broadcast last night, had been obtained by the Labor Party.
"I have been outrageously verballed by the Australian Labor Party," Mr Abbott said today.
"The footage that they released to Lateline last night was a cut-and-paste job which completely distorts what I said."
On the video Mr Abbott is seen saying: "I accept that certain protections, in inverted commas, are not what they were."
"I accept that that has largely gone. I accept that."
Mr Abbott said a full transcript of his remarks to the electorate function, released by his office this morning, showed he said there was a lot more fairness in the workplace today "than ever before" because there were more chances of finding employment.
The transcript shows that Mr Abbott said: "I accept that certain protections (in inverted commas) are not what they were.
"That whole raft of regulation expressed in awards that sometimes ran into hundreds, even thousands of pages, I accept that that has largely gone. I accept that.
"I accept that the Industrial Relations Commission doesn't have the same power to reach into the nook and cranny of every business that it used to have. I accept that."
Mr Abbott said in the transcript that the best protection for a worker who felt he or she might be under pressure was the chance of a better job elsewhere.
"That is the best protection. Not going off to some judge or industrial commission that might order your employer, who you don't like and he doesn't like you, to keep you in an unhappy partnership forever.
"So that is the best protection that we can give people, the protection of an abundance of jobs, the protection of an economy which is crying out for more workers. That is the best protection and I think that has been delivered in spades locally and nationally."
Mr Abbott denied ever conceding workers had lost protections and claimed the Labor 'cut-and-paste job' clearly omitted important parts of what he said.
"Kevin Rudd should be ashamed at what his dirty tricks department has done," he said.
On Channel 9, Mr Abbott described his comments about Work Choices as "excellent''.
"That was a terrific statement because I was making the absolutely self-evident point that under Work Choices you've got more work, you've got more jobs, and the best protection for someone who's unhappy in their current job is the chance of a new one,'' he said.
"These so-called protections were counterproductive and the fact that we've had two million new jobs under the deregulated coalition system, unemployment at 34-year lows, shows that this new system is much better for workers than the old one.''
Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Howard is under pressure to explain an audit report which accuses the coalition of using a government program to pork-barrel $328 million in regional electorates.
Branding the episode "massive rorting on a grand scale", opposition regional development spokesman Simon Crean today called on Mr Howard to explain how such corruption could occur under his watch.
There was also little solace for Mr Howard in the Nielsen poll published today in Fairfax publications, with the coalition only gaining a point after his campaign launch to trail Labor 54-46 on a two-party preferred basis.
The bad news comes on top of yesterday's revelation that Ron Walker, the Liberal Party's most successful fundraiser, told radio host Derryn Hinch and staff at 3AW that John Howard would lose the election.
Mr Walker told 3AW staff at a private boardroom meeting yesterday that the polls looked bad for the Government and that it "probably won't win".
When contacted by the Herald Sun about the meeting, the chairman of Fairfax and former treasurer of the Liberal Party confirmed the behind-closed-doors prediction, but said it was only based on opinion polls rather than private or party assessment.
"Derryn Hinch asked me whether the incumbent government would win the election and I told him that, based on the current polls, I don't think so," Mr Walker said.
"It's pretty blatantly obvious . . . that's what the bookies are telling us."
But Mr Walker insisted he was not predicting a Coalition loss, but making a frank and honest assessment based on current opinion polls.
However, later during an on-air interview with Mr Hinch, Mr Walker made things worse by saying Mr Howard might have stayed in power too long.
"The same thing happens all around the world. Political leaders who are gifted like John Howard sometimes stay too long," he said on 3AW.
"But that's their judgment to leave or stay."
Mr Walker said his comments were bland and uninformed and based only on what everyone was reading in the newspapers.
Mr Walker was visiting 3AW in South Melbourne with Fairfax CEO David Kirk after the company's recent takeover of Southern Cross Broadcasting.
His comment came as Labor leader Kevin Rudd took to campaigning in safe Coalition seats.
Yesterday, Mr Rudd visited the Brisbane seat of Bowman - held by the Liberals by 8.9 per cent - and the Nationals' north Queensland stronghold of Dawson, held by former minister De-Anne Kelly by almost 10 per cent.
After both leaders have spent much of the week in Queensland, Mr Howard will be in Adelaide today and Mr Rudd in Perth.
How can anyone vote for these bluggers.liberals have got to go..Posted by: glenn of 11:14am November 18, 2007
Tony is a bit rich. All the ALP did was watch coalition tactics and 'me too.' Coalition leadership is happy to only be on the giving end of a 'fair-is-far' slog. That is why we no longer respect them. And that is a core statement.Posted by: phil of 6:42am November 18, 2007
I believe that Tony Abbott that his comments were taken out of context with an edited version of what he said which the Labour party allegedly leaked the media. But it is no good Tony Abbott now blaming Labour for taking advantage of his sloppy speech preparation. The Liberals jumped all over Peter Garrett for his loose lips. Tony Abbott must tighten up what he says because perception is reality to the listeners who do not have the advantage of a written transcript. In the heat of this battle the catch cry "is take no prisoners" - any ambiguities in speeches will be taken up by the enemy and used as evidence against you. So Tony please , pretty please, engage your brain before you speak.Posted by: John of Brisbane 4:02pm November 16, 2007
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Lynne of Beaumaris, isn't it funny the way ALP/Union supporters (Mike F comment 124) have a go at you because you live in a "nice" area and may have made some money along the way to afford to live there!!! Tall poppy syndrome at it's best. At least if the ALP is voted in and then when they stuff things up, they can't say the Libs left them with a huge debt, a la Hawke/Keating, or high unemployment, or high interest rates or high inflation. They will only have themselves to blame.Posted by: Gavin of Caulfield 3:56pm November 16, 2007
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