Australia will go to the polls on July 2 after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called an election that will likely focus on the flagging economy and hot-button issues like the country’s tough asylum seeker policy.
Turnbull, whose Liberal-National coalition is running neck-and-neck in opinion polls with the center-left Labor opposition, visited Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove in the capital, Canberra, to seek the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament.
He told a media conference that Australians faced a clear choice: “To stay the course, maintain the commitment to our national economic plan for growth and jobs, or go back to Labor with its higher taxing, higher spending, debt-and-deficit agenda.”
The official start to the two-month election campaign was widely expected after Turnbull confirmed last Wednesday he would seek a July 2 poll to cash in on a budget plan outlined the day before aimed at creating jobs and spurring growth.
A Seven-ReachTEL poll published on the weekend – the first to factor in a reaction to the budget – had Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition and Labor both on 50 percent support on a two-party preferred basis, under which votes for minor parties are redistributed to the two main blocs.
Turnbull has consistently out-polled Labor leader Bill Shorten in terms of personal popularity, but his government has struggled to propose an alternative to Labor’s big-spending promises on health and education.
A decade-plus mining boom in resource-rich Australia and plummeting commodity prices have left the government struggling to raise revenue. As a result, Treasurer Scott Morrison was unable to offer too many vote-winning incentives in Tuesday’s budget.
With the polls narrowing, the government is keen to persuade voters that it alone can be trusted to manage an economy hampered by a once-in-a-century mining downturn.
Australia has gained a reputation in recent years for unsettling investors with a revolving door of prime ministers – Turnbull became the fourth leader in two years when he deposed predecessor Tony Abbott in an internal party coup in September.
Under Australia’s political system, the governor-general is the representative of the head of state, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.