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Asia Minute: National elections in Australia may turn on the economy

Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese australia politics
Jason Edwards/AP
News Corp Australia Pool
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, and leader of the Labor Party Anthony Albanese, left, share a laugh during a debate in Brisbane, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Australia will have a national election on May 21. (Jason Edwards/Pool Photo via AP)

Two weeks from Saturday, Australia will hold national elections. Prime Minister Scott Morrison would like to continue in office, but one complicating factor is the economy.

The cost of living is at or near the top of voter concerns ahead of Australia’s national elections. That’s according to several recent polls and local political reporting across the nation of more than 26 million.

The ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison called elections last month, setting the polling date at the last possible day to stretch out the campaign as long as possible.

The Labor Party is the main opposition — led by Anthony Albanese — who has been deputy prime minister and a cabinet minister in previous Labor governments.

Economic concerns have been underlined by a couple of recent developments.

Last week, Australia reported consumer inflation topped 5% on an annual basis, its highest level in more than 20 years.

This week, Australia’s central bank raised interest rates for the first time in more than 10 years.

Both the inflation rate and the move by the central bank were a bit steeper than most analysts had expected — and the economic developments are continuing to play a key role in national politics.

A Guardian Essential poll this week showed Labor leading overall by 49% to 45%.

Perhaps more concerning to the ruling coalition, over the past two weeks a growing number of those surveyed say Australia is heading in the wrong direction.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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