Election campaign kicks off in Australia, opposition shows lead in poll

According to polls released on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s administration may lose the federal election scheduled for May 21, despite him strengthening his position as the country’s chosen leader on the first day of campaigning.

Morrison gained a point to 44 percent in a Newspoll poll conducted for The Australian newspaper, while opposition leader Anthony Albanese fell 3 points to 39 percent, the highest advantage the prime minister has enjoyed over his challenger since February.

However, the poll found that Morrison’s conservative Liberal-National Party coalition, which holds a one-seat majority in the lower house, could lose ten seats to Albanese’s center-left Labor in a campaign centred on cost-of-living pressures, climate change, and questions about the major parties’ competence.

According to a different poll published Monday by the Sydney Morning Herald, the ruling coalition could lose at least 14 seats, including several previously thought to be secure in resource-rich Queensland and Western Australia. If Labor wins, it will return to power for the first time since 2013.

There will be elections for all 151 seats in the lower house. Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition has 76 seats, Labor has 68, and small parties and independents have seven seats.

Morrison began his election campaign in the New South Wales marginal seat of Gilmore, which he won by a razor-thin margin over the Liberal Party in the last election in 2019. He plans to spend the next six weeks on the road before the election.

“This election… is about a choice,” Morrison said at a press conference on Monday, calling Albanese’s leadership “untested and unknown.”

“It’s a choice between solid economic and financial management… in contrast to a Labor opposition that Australians know can’t be trusted with money.”

Albanese rebuffed Morrison’s criticisms of his leadership experience, saying he was “ready to govern,” but botched responses to reporters’ inquiries regarding Australia’s interest rates and unemployment figures.

“At the present, the national unemployment rate is, I believe, 5.4 percent… sorry, I’m not sure what it is,” Albanese said at a media conference in Tasmania.

As the economy recovers, Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent in February, many months ahead of central bank estimates, and seems certain to fall into the 3% area for the first time since the early 1970s.

Despite the threat from the Omicron variety, Morrison has praised his government’s handling of the economy since the coronavirus emerged, citing a speedier recovery aided by the relaxation of most COVID-19 restrictions.

Surging prices for natural resource commodities, of which Australia is a major exporter, have also aided the recovery.

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