Abbott opens up on campaign life

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Mr Abbott tried to have a normal day in his electorate of Warringah on Wednesday, talking to passers-by as he took the ferry from Manly to central Sydney before walking to his office.

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But with 40 reporters and cameramen jostling around him, many people on the street kept their distance.

Mr Abbott said he enjoyed “taking the pulse of the electorate” and it was “very grounding”, but it was hard to penetrate the election-time media scrum.

When he did have a genuine conversation, he said, some people raised issues that could not be solved, or were not the provenance of the federal government.

Others heckle: one passer-by yelled out “You’re a butcher, Abbott” and accused him of taking away health funding when he was the minister.

Not that all street interactions are hostile – another person hit back at the heckler with “You’re a moron”, while others wanted to discuss their concerns over Labor’s debt, or their support for the Liberals’ paid parental leave proposal.

Overall, Mr Abbott kept a low profile on Wednesday as Labor tried to contain the damage from leaked allegations about prime minister Julia Gillard opposing paid parental leave.

The opposition leader announced he would cut the company tax rate to help small businesses if he won the election, to counteract Labor attacks that the coalition would tax businesses more and force up prices and inflation.

In a conversation with reporters on the Manly ferry, Mr Abbott reflected on the 11 days of the election campaign that could install him as prime minister.

The renowned fitness fan said he had kept up the exercise, although “I haven’t got the (surf) board out during the campaign”. Nor has he been spotted in his famous budgie smugglers. He’s been riding his bike most mornings and hitting the hotel gyms as he travels around the country.

Sleep-wise, Mr Abbott said he aimed for one good night a week and otherwise got by with “10-minute catnaps” on flights.

Mr Abbott happily talked about his musical preferences when he met a visiting American drummer on the ferry. He likes Elvis and the Beach Boys – “there’s a timelessness about that stuff” – and enjoys karaoke, although he claims to be an enthusiastic rather than a strong singer.

There may have been some time for reflection on Wednesday but then it was back to campaigning, with Mr Abbott flying to Melbourne in the afternoon to hit the hustings.