AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing a stiff battle for re-election against Labor’s Anthony Albanese as voters head to the polls.
Opinion polling suggests the race will be close, with a Newspoll-YouGov poll putting the Labor at 36 per cent in first preference votes ahead of the incumbent Liberal-National Coalition on 35 per cent.
Morrison, who has held the office since Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in 2018, represents the centre-right Coalition as head of Australia’s Liberal Party.
Sydney-based journalist Richard Hansen told Redaction Report that the cost-of-living crisis is one of the defining issues of the election campaign.
“The government announced a number of temporary measures in the March budget including halving petrol excise and $250 payments to Centrelink claimants,” he said.
“Many on the left have accused the government of attempting to buy peoples votes ahead of the election.
“The election is also coming down to the likability of the leaders, with Morrison struggling to improve his numbers especially amongst women.”
Morrison led the Coalition to an upset victory in the 2019 general election – ahead of which Labor had consistently polled higher in two-party-preferred vote.
However, the Morrison also routinely led the preferred Prime Minister polls over then Labor leader Bill Shorten.
While he also held a considerable lead over Albanese in the same category in the months leading up to the campaign, the polls have narrowed – with an Ipsos poll from May putting Albanese ahead on 42 per cent to 39 per cent.
Hansen added: “The same scenario is still definitely possibly. Last time Labor were odds on to win but the Coalition secured a majority by holding on to a string of seats in Queensland.
“The Labor leader at the time, Bill Shorten, struggled with image particularly as a factional boss that was instrumental in the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd leadership fiasco of 2010-13.
“Morrison was also a new leaders and voters seemed more willing to give him a chance post Tony Abbott. This time Morrison has a more difficult record to defend including issues surrounding corruption and bungled responses to national crises – fires, floods and the covid vaccine rollout.
“At this point I’d say there is roughly a 60 per cent chance of a Labor majority, 30 per cent hung parliament and 10 per cent Coalition majority. So all three results are definitely still in play.”
Morrison oversaw Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the country’s borders closed to international travellers tough regional lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus as part of a zero-Covid strategy.
However, the government was criticised for slow progress in the initial stages of the vaccine rollout.
“Australia fared very well in the initial stages of the pandemic by using its size and relative isolation to its advantage, closing its borders and implementing a zero-Covid strategy,” Hansen said.
“The government enjoyed good electoral numbers during this period. It wasn’t until 2021 with a slow vaccine rollout and continued lockdowns while other parts of the world were opening up, that the Australian people began to get frustrated.
“The pandemic is definitely an issue but it’s not front and centre in this campaign, with the cost of living topping peoples concerns.”
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