Australia PM To Conduct Federal Elections On May 21
Australian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Source: Strait News
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison called federal elections for May 21 on Sunday, launching a come-from-behind battle to stay in power after three years rocked by floods, bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morrison’s conservative government is struggling to woo Australia’s 17 million voters, lagging behind the opposition Labour Party in a string of opinion polls despite presiding over a rebounding economy with a 13-year-low jobless rate of four per cent.
“It’s a choice between a strong future and an uncertain one. It’s a choice between a government you know and a Labor opposition that you don’t,” Morrison told a news conference in Canberra.
Polls show much of the electorate distrusts the 53-year-old leader, who fashions himself as a typical Australian family man and is unafraid of advertising his Pentecostal Christian faith.
Aiming to end nine years of Liberal-National Party rule is 59-year-old Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese.
The opposition leader started the six-week race to the poll pushing a message of optimism before highlighting bruising attacks on Morrison’s character emanating from his own government.
“He’s running in a federal election campaign, whereby his deputy prime minister has said he’s a hypocrite and a liar,” Albanese told media in Sydney.
“We can and we must do better. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to imagine a better future and Labor has the policies and plans to shape that future.”
A recent Newspoll survey showed Labor leading the coalition 54 percent to 46 percent on a two-party basis.
Morrison and Albanese were in a statistical tie as preferred prime minister for the next three-year term.
Multiple surveys show the cost of living, with gasoline prices notably soaring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is a key concern ahead of the election, in which voting is compulsory.
In a pre-election spree, the government announced an array of giveaways, including a fuel tax cut and a tax rebate for about half of the adult population.
But extreme weather events blamed on an overheating planet, and the government’s response, have also unnerved many Australians.
Morrison is a strident supporter of Australia’s vast fossil fuel industry.
He has vowed to mine and export coal for as long as there are buyers, touted a “gas-fired recovery” from the pandemic, and resisted global calls to cut carbon emissions faster by 2030.
As treasurer in 2017, he famously took a chunk of coal into parliament and told Labor: “This is coal, don’t be afraid.”
Morrison has been panned, too, over his handling of climate-related disasters in Australia.