Election campaign in Australia marked by inflation, China

By Rocio Otoya

Sydney, Australia, May 17 (EFE).- The Australian election campaign moves into its final phase ahead of Saturday’s elections, with the opposition Labor Party leading the pre-poll surveys, amid issues such as a steep rise in the cost of living and difficult relations with China, its biggest trading partner.

Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who heads the ruling coalition, suffers from a significant loss of image, especially amid stifling inflation that contradicts his claim of being a good manager of the economy.

On Tuesday, Morrison, who took office in 2018, reiterated the “strength” of the Australian economy since his party regained power in 2013 during an address in the northern city of Darwin.

Hoping to repeat the electoral victory of 2019, Morrison continues with an intense campaign focused on good economic management due to which Australia, unlike other nations, suffered only a brief recession during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the coalition campaign has been faltering against an inflation of 5.1 percent, the highest in two decades, soaring prices of fuel, food, and mortgage due to rising interest rates, while wages remain stagnant.

Added to this are the criticisms of the government’s management of the situation during successive natural disasters, climate change policies and the looming threat of China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region, following Beijing’s signing of a security pact with the Solomon Islands last month.

Home Minister Karen Andrews went so far as to suggest that Beijing sought to influence the elections by announcing this security in April, which raised fears that China would establish a military base in the little Pacific nation, which is Australia’s traditional ally.

Gender issues, which came to the forefront of politics after a Liberal Party adviser denounced that she was raped in 2019 by a former parliamentary colleague, have also been present in the campaign.

The prime minister, who was accused of not acting on the matter, has once again been criticized for defending the Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, who claimed earlier this month that transsexual minors are surgically mutilated and sterilized.

“Morrison is clearly worn down,” Ferran Martinez i Coma, an academic at Griffith University in Queensland, told EFE, adding that the coalition “has not done its homework or has not been able to do it” regarding “the treatment of women, the lack of decisive action on climate change and the issue of integrity and hence corruption.”

On the other hand, Labor party leader Anthony Albanese has not only focused on his social agenda, but also focused on changing Australia’s climate-change policies, given that it is one of the world’s biggest polluters.

Labor is also betting on a new diplomatic approach to the frozen relations with Beijing, with whom Canberra has been having diplomatic frictions for years despite being its main trading partner.

The latest pre-poll surveys give the Labor party a slight edge, and open the possibility to a minority government, as neither of the two main political forces are projected to win a majority of 76 seats in the 151-member parliament, and will require the support of smaller parties. EFE


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