Australian prime minister calls election for May 18th

Both major parties call for ‘fair go’ for voters, with ruling coalition trailing in polls

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas via Reuters

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas via Reuters

 

Australians will go to the polls on May 18th after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, visited the governor general – Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Australia – to ask that parliament be dissolved.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition has clung on to power as a minority government since losing a byelection last October, caused by the resignation of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull after he was deposed in an internal Liberal coup.

Both major parties used the phrase “fair go” in making their pitch to voters.

“I believe in a fair go for those who have a go. And what that means is, part of the promise that we all keep as Australians is that we make a contribution and don’t seek to take one,” said Mr Morrison.

Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten said his party believes in ensuring “the economy works in the interests of working and middle-class people – when everyday Australians are getting a fair go, this economy hums”.

The coalition has been in power since 2013 and has had three different prime ministers in that time. Tony Abbott was replaced by Mr Turnbull, who in turn was replaced by Mr Morrison. The previous Labor administration also saw two changes of prime minister, going from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in 2010 and back to Mr Rudd in 2013.

If the polls are correct, Mr Shorten will become Australia’s sixth prime minister in six years. Labor has led in almost every poll over the past three years. In two polls published this week, Labor led 53 per cent to 47 per cent after preferences in one, and 52-48 in the other.

Climate change

Climate change is shaping up to play a major role in the campaign. The coalition said it expects electric vehicles to make up 25 per cent of new car sales by 2030, while Labor has set a target of 50 per cent of all new cars being electric by the same year. This led Mr Morrison to say Labor’s “detail of it is all fluff”.

“Bill Shorten wants to end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles where you’ve got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives. He wants to say see you later to the SUV when it comes to the choices of Australians. And this is fundamentally the difference between us and Labor when it comes to these issues.”

With the election campaign’s initial focus being on the two contenders for prime minister, it was difficult for minor parties to get a look in. But Greens leader Richard Di Natale did his best to offer an alternative to the old guard. “We believe that the foundations of a decent society are providing services for people, so while Liberal and Labor want to have a fight about tax cuts, we’re saying let’s invest in the foundations of a decent Australia,” he said.

Voting is compulsory in Australia, with about 96 per cent of eligible voters already registered. Australians living abroad can vote at embassies and consulates for up to three years after they have left the country.