CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s embattled prime minister officially launched his Conservative party’s campaign Sunday less than a week before the election, highlighting the country’s early success in containing the pandemic and its strong economic recovery.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition trails the centre-left Labor Party opposition in most opinion polls as the administration seeks a fourth three-year term in elections on Saturday.
Morrison focused the launch of the party on economic management, which has traditionally been seen as the strength of his conservative Liberal Party.
He described the choice as “a choice between a strong economy or a weaker one that only makes your life harder, not better.”
“A choice between a stronger future or a more uncertain future in an already terribly uncertain world,” Morrison added.
The government is counting on voters to opt for familiarity over change after the upheaval of a series of disasters of almost biblical proportions since the last election in 2019.
In addition to the pandemic, Australians have been hit by unprecedented bushfires, floods, droughts, heat waves and an infestation of mice.
The Morrison government was widely praised for keeping Australia’s COVID-19 death toll relatively low during the first two years of the pandemic. But the more transmissible variants have overwhelmed defenses and Australia now has one of the highest infection rates in the world.
Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic had been faster and stronger than that of the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, a government minister boasted at the campaign launch.
But rising inflation has made the cost of living for Australians, including housing costs, a prominent election issue.
Morrison announced on Sunday that a re-elected government would allow Australians to use their retirement funds to buy a home, an option rejected by government leaders for decades.
The contentious policy could lead to a rise in home prices, which soared 24% last year and are a major driver of inflation.
Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare condemned the policy as “adding fuel to the fire”.
The decline in Morrison’s personal popularity since Australia’s vaccine launch was delayed for months last year is increasingly seen as a hindrance to his government’s re-election chances.
Morrison’s critics say he acknowledged his popularity was a drag on his government last week when he promised to be a more empathetic leader if re-elected.
Morrison said the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic had forced him to be “a bit of a bulldozer” as prime minister during his first term.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese responded that “even Scott Morrison is distancing himself from Scott Morrison.”
“This prime minister will not change, that’s why we need to change the government,” Albanese said.
Albanese attended a Labor rally in Brisbane, the same city in Queensland state where Morrison launched his party’s campaign.
Queensland is key to the elections. The government holds 23 of the 30 seats in the coal-rich state. Labour, which has more ambitious plans to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions, has just six seats and none outside of Brisbane, the state capital and largest city.
Labor launched its campaign last week in Western Australia, the other major mining state where the government also holds the vast majority of seats. The government has 11 and Labor has five in the iron ore state.
Morrison takes solace in his narrow victory in the 2019 election against opinion poll forecasts.
The vote split between Government and Labor in 2019 was 51.5% to 48.5%, the opposite of the result predicted by Australia’s five leading polls.
Research by Australia’s leading market and social research industry body found that Labor voters were over-represented in survey samples.
The 2020 study was unable to determine whether “herding,” a process in which pollsters manipulate results to match others’ results and avoid credibility damage from being the only one wrong, played a role in the failure. of 2019 because pollsters refused to reveal their opinion. raw data.
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