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Economy, China, climate prevail as Australia settles for polls

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Australians will go to the polls on Saturday after a six-week campaign focusing on pandemic-driven inflation, climate change and fears of a Chinese military post less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Australia. breg.

Prime Minister Scott Morrisons Conservative coalition is seeking a rare fourth three-year term.

He launched the campaign in April urging voters to stay with a government that delivered one of the lowest pandemic death rates in any advanced economy instead of endangering the center-left Labor Party.

An early election late last year was widely predicted with Morrison expected to reap political capital from the success of his governments in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic.

But his nickname ScoMo was changed by critics at SloMo a year ago when the introduction of the vaccine in Australia fell months behind schedule.

Australia has recorded more than double the number of deaths from COVID-19 so far this year than during the first two years of the pandemic. About 8,000 people have died of COVID-19 among Australia’s 26 million people. Only 2,239 died in 2020 and 2021. Most transmissible variants of the virus have broken the government record for the pandemic.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese noted on Friday that he was the first non-Anglo-Celtic candidate to run for prime minister in the 121 years since the office was established.

Albanese was raised in Sydney by an Irish-Australian single mother, who became pregnant in 1962 by an Italian during a trip to Europe. She took her father’s name and lied that they were married before he died in a car accident. Father and son first met in 2009.

Albanese recounted his childhood difficulties in defending labor policies for cheaper childcare for low- and middle-income families and better home care for the elderly.

Part of what Ive said during this campaign is: no one stopped and no one was left behind, Albanese said. No one is left behind because Labor will always take care of the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

The government changed voting regulations on Friday to allow thousands of people who have recently been infected with COVID-19 to vote by telephone.

Some polling stations would close on Saturday because many of the 105,000 election workers were infected with the virus or the flu. Army reservists have been asked to fill in, an official said.

The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have raised the cost of living and have cast doubt on conservatives who boast that they are better economic managers than Labor.

After the annual inflation rate rose to 5.1% in the March quarter, the central bank raised the key interest rate for the first time in more than 11 years from 0.1% to 0.35%.

Two weeks after cash rose by a quarter of a percentage point to 6.75% in November 2007, the conservative government of Prime Minister John Howards was voted out of office, ending more than 11 years in power.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers described the rate hike this month as a complete cost-of-living crisis in Scott Morrisons.

Labor has also targeted the foreign policy credentials of governments after China and the Solomon Islands confirmed during the election campaign that they had finalized a bilateral security pact. Labor describes it as the worst failure of Australia’s Pacific foreign policy since World War II.

Australia already has a security pact with the Solomons and is the impoverished island nation of the South Pacific, the most generous provider of foreign aid.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne had proposed in November the doubling of Australian aid to the Pacific to A $ 2.88 billion ($ 2 billion) a year to counter China’s growing influence, the Australian newspaper reported on Friday, citing unidentified sources. But she was rejected by colleagues in her cabinet’s national security committee.

Morrison declined to confirm or deny the newspaper report because of the secrecy surrounding the committee discussions.

Morrison dismissed the premise of a question when a reporter asked him if he would consider doubling the Pacific’s aid to counter Beijing’s moves.

You are suggesting that if you simply double the funding in the Pacific, then somehow the Chinese government has no influence or will not be successful in trying to force or exercise its influence in the Southwest Pacific, he said. This is your assumption and that assumption does not stand.

Prime Minister Solomon Manasseh Sogavare said there would be no Chinese naval base in his country and China has refused to seek a military base on the islands.

Senior government lawmakers have said the timing of the China-Solomons deal during an election campaign is evidence that Beijing was trying to undermine the prospects of governing coalitions for re-election.

The government claims Beijing wants a change of leadership because a Labor administration would be less likely to rise up against Chinese economic coercion.

In addition to campaigning against Labor, Morrison’s Liberal Conservative Party is battling a new challenge from so-called independent candidates, to the re-election of top government lawmakers in the party’s strongholds.

Coffee independents are marketed as a greener hue than the traditional Liberal Party blue and want stronger government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia than the government or Labor proposes.

The government aims to reduce Australia’s emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 43% reduction.

Recent opinion polls have put Labor ahead of the coalition. But the credibility of the pollsters has not yet been restored since their spectacular failure in the 2019 elections.

The split of votes between the government and Labor in 2019 was 51.5% to 48.5%, the opposite reflection of the result predicted by the five most prominent Australian polls.

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