Australian voters will go to the polls on May 21.
The government enters the battle trailing the opposition 46-54% in the latest Newspoll, conducted after the budget, with Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese virtually level as preferred prime minister. Labor is also ahead in the other major polls.
After flying from Sydney, Scott Morrison visited the governor-general on Sunday morning, paving the way for a six-week campaign. The Coalition is seeking its fourth term, while Morrison is leading the government into his second election as prime minister.
Morrison later told a news conference at Parliament House: “This election is a choice. It’s a choice between a strong economy and a Labor opposition that would weaken it.”
“It’s a choice between a strong and tested government team that has demonstrated our ability to make difficult and tough choices in tough times and a Labor opposition who has been so focused on politics over these past few years that they still can’t tell you what they do, who they are, or what they believe in, and what they stand for.”
“It’s a choice between a government you know and a Labor opposition that you don’t.”
Albanese declared his message to “fellow Australians” was “this is our time, our time to seize the opportunities that are before us, our time to create a better future where no one is held back and no one is left behind”.
He said the government “doesn’t have an agenda for today, let alone a vision for tomorrow”.
“The problem for this government is that it has stopped governing some time ago. I think that Australians want a government that does its job,” he told his news conference in Sydney.
Labor needs a uniform swing of 2.6% to finish with more seats than the Coalition, on ABC election analyst Antony Green’s pendulum. But it needs a 3.2% swing – and a net seven seats gain – to secure majority government. Swings, however, are seldom uniform.
After the redistribution the government goes into the election with 76 seats in the 151 House of Representatives. (This includes notionally the NSW seat of Hughes, presently held by Craig Kelly who defected to the crossbench.) Labor starts with 69 seats.
All seven lower house crossbenchers, including Kelly, are recontesting, with most (but not Kelly) expected to be returned.
Morrison will have at the centre of his campaign pitch economic management, with the Australian economy coming back strongly after the pandemic and unemployment at 4% and set to fall further. The Coalition is also running hard on national security. A big infrastructure program is aimed at appealing to voters in the regions.
The opposition has the theme of “Labor cares” with major policies on child care and aged care, as well as a suite of policies for the nation to “build back better” after COVID-19.
Both sides will release more policies during the campaign.
Much interest will be in the high profile so-called “teal” independent candidates standing in Liberal-held “leafy” suburbs seats on platforms that highlight climate change and integrity issues. A number of these independents are receiving funds from the well-resourced Climate 200.
The formal campaign is starting off the back of the government’s giveaway budget which contained big ticket items, including a cut in petrol excise for six months, to ease financial pressures on families as the cost of living has escalated as an issue.
The government is defending only five seats with two-party preferred margins under 3% (one of them, Wentworth, against a “teal” independent) compared with Labor’s 12.
There will be a special arrangement for people who contact COVID or find themselves suddenly in isolation as a close contact – for them, there will be a 72-hour window for telephone voting after postal vote applications close.
SEATS TO WATCH
Lilley (ALP 0.6%); Blair (ALP 1.2%); Longman (LNP 3.3%); Defence minister Peter Dutton’s seat of Dickson (LNP 4.6%); Leichhardt (LNP 4.2%); Griffith (ALP 2.9%); and Brisbane (LNP 4.9%). The Coalition is relying on Queensland to shore up its support.
Cowan (ALP 0.9%); Swan (LIB 3.2%) where MP Steve Irons is retiring; a radically re-drawn Pearce (LIB 5.2%) where former minister Christian Porter is retiring; Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck (5.9%); and Special Minister of State Ben Morton’s seat of Tangney (LIB 9.5%). Labor is hoping for gains in WA.
Bass (LIB 0.4%), and Braddon (LIB 3.1%)
Chisholm (LIB 0.5%); Deakin (LIB 4.7%); Casey (LIB 4.6%); La Trobe (LIB 5.1%); Higgins (LIB 2.6%); Indi (IND 1.4% V LIB).
New South Wales
Macquarie (ALP 0.2%); Greenway (ALP 2.8%); Parramatta (ALP 3.5%); Dobell (ALP 1.5%); Eden-Monaro (ALP 0.8%); Gilmore (ALP 2.6%);
Reid (LIB 3.2%); Banks (LIB 6.3%); Robertson (LIB 4.2%); Lindsay (LIB 5.0%); Wentworth (LIB 1.3% v IND). The parties are expecting seats to go both ways in NSW.
Boothby (LIB 1.4%).
Solomon (ALP 3.1%); Lingiari (ALP 5.5%).
As at December 31 2021, 17,032,907 Australians were enrolled to vote.