Soldier shot dead by Taliban in Uruzgan as seven police officers killed in Kandahar.
He also offered voters $29 billion in tax cuts, but few new policies.
In contrast, the Labor leader Rudd pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
The 50-year-old former diplomat who speaks Mandarin would also be expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations.
‘Old and tired’
|Howard had made a commitment to keep
Australian troops in Iraq if re-elected
Labor needs to win an extra 16 seats to take office.
Howard could also face the humiliation of losing his parliamentary seat of 33-years after new constituency boundaries turned his Sydney stronghold into a marginal seat.
Rudd, 50, has offered voters a generational change, saying Howard was too old and tired to lead Australia.
“I offer Australia new leadership for the future, a positive plan for the future because Mr Howard’s government’s best days now lay behind it,” Rudd said on Friday.
“Mr Howard has gone stale in his government’s approach to the future.”
13.5 million people are eligible to vote from Australia’s remote outback to the Antarctic.