What the papers say on election eve

Support for the Coalition and Labor among Australia's daily newspapers appears as divided as the latest opinion polls, on the eve of the election.

Support for the Coalition and Labor among Australia's daily newspapers appears as divided as the latest opinion polls, on the eve of the election.

News Limited newspapers The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and The Courier-Mail to varying degrees have endorsed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

But Adelaide's Advertiser and Hobart's Mercury as well as Fairfax Media newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have urged readers to give Labor under Julia Gillard a second chance.

In Brisbane, The Courier-Mail - the major newspaper in the crucial seat of Queensland - said the nation could move forward only with the coalition.

The Rudd government turned out to be a bad government and it had taken too long for those who ran it to realise it, the paper said.

Instead the party replaced Mr Rudd with Ms Gillard, whose seniority in government ties her to its many failures.

Mr Abbott has emerged as an unexpected leader of the Liberals and has shown he can grow with responsibility, the newspaper says.

"Like this newspaper, he stands for the strength of free enterprise empowered by less regulation and lower taxes. So does his party.

The nation will be better for their return to government."

Comparing the leaders, The Australian said: "Mr Abbott's journey from a competent but mildly eccentric politician into an alternative prime minister is extraordinary."

Despite this, he only offered a "modest vision" for the country. On the other hand Julia Gillard has been "the best parliamentary performer on either side since the last election".

However, Kevin Rudd's notion of big government was a disaster that must not be repeated.

"It was not big government that saved Australia from economic crisis, but the courage of leaders like Bob Hawke, John Howard and Paul Keating," The Australian said.

"The true test of a prime minister is not how he or she survives an external shock, but how well they prepare us for the next one.

"It comes down to a question of trust in a contest between a leader who learned his trade under Mr Howard and one who served under Mr Rudd." On that basis, it endorsed Mr Abbott.

Daily Telegraph editor Garry Linnell, delivering his paper's verdict, was more scathing of Ms Gillard's performance, pointing to the axing of Mr Rudd and failures of the Building the Education Revolution and the insulation schemes, among others.

He conceded the opposition had not offered a great deal of vision, "but at least we have an instinctive knowledge for what Abbott represents".

"Labor is in a sick state.

It needs to heal itself and only a stint in Opposition can give it the opportunity to rediscover its moral compass."

But both The Advertiser and The Mercury said Ms Gillard and Labor should be given a second chance.

The Advertiser said Mr Abbott had made great strides as party leader and was a whisker away from leading the Coalition back into government.

And as former deputy prime minister, Ms Gillard could not absolve herself from the damaging baggage of Labor's stewardship, listing the "shambolic and tragic" $2 billion home insulation scheme, total capitulation on the environment, widespread waste with the national school building program and an inability to deliver promised reforms, against Labor.

But it said Ms Gillard had advantages that go beyond incumbency, including a markedly superior policy to return water to the River Murray, her stewardship of the schools building program and "refreshing determination" to drive reforms in the face of strong opposition.

The Mercury also backed Labor and a Gillard government, saying there was "no mood" and "no compelling reason" for a change.

The Sydney Morning Herald also pointed to the issue of trust, saying Labor had "done much to make voters pause" on that issue.

"This has been a government of broken promises and unfulfilled ambitions."

"Tony Abbott has not yet articulated a cohesive and positive plan for the nation.

"We think Julia Gillard has done enough to be given a chance to lead the nation, and not be the first Prime Minister in 80 years to lead a government tossed out after one term."

Melbourne's Herald Sun said Mr Abbott and the coalition were better placed to lead the nation, although neither of the major parties was truly up to the job.

"Australians deserve so much better than has been presented to it by both sides and the choice is not easy.

Without any great enthusiasm, we believe Mr Abbott and the coalition are best placed to lead Australia."

Crosstown rival The Age noted the billions of dollars wasted in economic stimulus packages and Labor's failure to act on climate change but said Labor had steered the nation through the global financial crisis.

"The Age believes the government should be returned, because of this successful economic stewardship and so that it can resume the project of adapting Australia to meet the challenges of the 21st century," The Age said.

The West Australian newspaper says a vote for the Coalition is the safest option for Western Australia and the nation because of Tony Abbott's promise to scrap the mining tax,

In its editorial, the newspaper says scrapping the tax will lift "a yoke that will constrain WA's prosperity". The tax is central to Labor's problems in WA, it says.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard revised the original tax but had asked voters to trust her to sort out the details after the election, the editorial says.

"This is a lot to ask on an issue which could have a huge impact on employment and economic growth," the paper said.

"The tax will generate big dollars but the cost to an industry which has driven Australia's prosperity in recent decades may be too great."

The editorial says investment in new iron ore ventures is crucial to WA and this is at risk with Australia's investment reputation already damaged.

Ms Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had played it safe in the election campaign, highlighting the negative aspects of their opponents rather than inspiring voters with a vision of why they should lead.

Both leaders are talented and ambitious but their risk-averse campaigning has left many people struggling to make an informed choice, the editorial says.

It says Mr Abbott's views on several moral issues has been out of step with many Australians, he's been tested on a return to unpopular workplace laws and his economic credentials have been under fire.

The Coalition should have allowed Treasury to examine its costings and Mr Abbott should have debated Ms Gillard on the economy to help his cause.

"That said, there is no reason to doubt that Mr Abbott could lead an economically competent government," the paper said. "We believe we can trust him on this issue."

The editorial says many voters still feel queasy about the way Kevin Rudd was dumped and it's an issue Ms Gillard has struggled with.

"Ms Gillard said the government had lost its way under Mr Rudd but it is questionable whether it has found the right path under her leadership."

The three big issues that dogged Mr Rudd's leadership - climate change, asylum seekers and the mining tax - are unresolved, the newspaper says.

Source AAP, SBS

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