Australia’s embattled prime minister officially launched his Conservative party’s campaign less than a week before the election, highlighting the country’s early success in containing the pandemic and its strong economic recovery
Morrison focused the party’s launch on economic management, which has always been seen as the strength of his conservative Liberal Party.
He described the election as “a choice between a strong economy or a weaker economy that only makes your life harder, not better.”
“A choice between a stronger future or a more uncertain future in an already terribly uncertain world,” Morrison added.
The government is counting on voters opting for familiarity over change after the turmoil of a series of disasters of almost biblical proportions since the last election in 2019.
Morrison’s government has been widely praised for keeping Australia’s COVID-19 death toll relatively low in the first two years of the pandemic. But more transmissible variants have overwhelmed defenses and Australia now has one of the highest infection rates in the world.
Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic has been faster and stronger than the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, a minister has boasted of the government at the launch of the campaign.
But rising inflation has made the cost of living for Australians, including housing costs, a top election issue.
Morrison announced on Sunday that a re-elected government would allow Australians to use their pension funds to buy homes, an option rejected by government leaders for decades.
The controversial policy could lead to higher house prices, which soared 24% last year and are a major driver of inflation.
Labor campaign spokesman Jason Clare condemned the policy as “adding fuel to the fire”.
Morrison’s waning personal popularity since Australia’s vaccine rollout fell months behind schedule last year is increasingly seen as hampering his government’s re-election chances.
Morrison’s critics say he acknowledged his popularity was a liability to his government last week when he promised to be a more empathetic leader if re-elected.
Morrison said the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic forced him to be “a bit of a bulldozer” as prime minister during his first term.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese replied that “even Scott Morrison is distancing himself from Scott Morrison”.
“This prime minister will not change, that’s why we have to change the government,” Albanese said.
Albanese attended a Labor rally in Brisbane, the same Queensland city where Morrison launched his party’s campaign.
Queensland is the key to the election. The government holds 23 of 30 seats in the coal-rich state. The Labor Party, which has more ambitious plans to cut Australia’s carbon emissions, holds just six seats and none outside Brisbane, the state capital and largest city.
The Labor Party launched its campaign last week in Western Australia, the other major mining state where the government also holds a large majority of seats. The government holds 11 and Labor holds five in the iron ore state.
Morrison takes solace in his narrow victory in the 2019 election against opinion poll forecasts.
The vote split between Government and Labor in 2019 was 51.5% to 48.5% – the opposite mirror to the outcome predicted by Australia’s five most important polls.
A survey by Australia’s leading social and market research industry body found that Labor voters were overrepresented in survey samples.
The 2020 study could not determine whether ‘bundling’, a process in which pollsters manipulate results to match the results of others and avoid credibility damage from being the only one wrong, played a role. a role in the 2019 failure because pollsters refused to release their raw data.