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Brexit's even affecting the Australian elections this Sunday

In the last few days before Australia’s federal election, Brexit is starting to sway voters.

Image: Associated Press

WITH THE WHIRLWIND brought on by Britain’s EU referendum, the resignation of their Prime Minister David Cameron, and the ensuing debates over the future of the EU, it’s not surprising we haven’t heard much about Australia’s Federal election this Sunday.

There have been a number of policies at the heart of the election debate: immigration, the end of the country’s mining boom, and marriage equality to name but a few. It’s also been a close race: no more than five percentage points have separated the parties in any given jurisdiction – up until last Friday, that is.

Brexit has now become a core issue for Australian voters, and has even caused a swing towards the current government, who traditionally have a strong track record on economic matters.

Polls

Today the Australian leaders made last-gasp pitches to woo voters on the eve of elections as polls pointed to a swing behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, where previous polls showed them locked in a dead heat on a two-party basis.

But the survey of 1,377 people also said that when all candidates were included, 27 percent planned to vote for the Greens or other minor parties and independents, raising the prospect of a hung parliament where no side commands a majority in the 150-seat lower house.

Turnbull, who has capitalised on the instability sparked by Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, said the uncertainty of a hung parliament would be a disaster as he appealed for voters not to go down that road.

“We have seen that film before. It’s not a pretty one,” he said, referring to the 2010 elections where a similar scenario occurred after Julia Gillard failed to win majority rule.

“Right now, Australia needs strong majority government, a clear national economic plan. That’s the economic leadership only the coalition can deliver.”

He added that the alternative was “chaos, uncertainty, dysfunction, higher deficits, higher debt, higher taxes, less investment, less jobs”.

“That’s what Labor and the Greens and independents are offering,” he said.

The opposition

Australia Election Australia's opposition Labour Party leader Bill Shorten. Source: Rick Rycroft/PA Images

Economic management has been a key election battleground with last week’s shock decision by Britain stoking anxiety about pressures facing Australia’s economy.

Ex-union chief and leader of the Labor party Bill Shorten has campaigned on improving health and education while pledging more renewable energy and a fairer tax system, and remained upbeat that Labor could cause an upset.

“I am talking to millions of Australians who want to see Labor lunge with every inch of energy towards the finishing line,” he said.

“I say to these people, we do not give up and we are confident and we believe there’s a good chance we can win the election.”

Shorten also argued that there were parallels between the two countries’ leadership.

“Mr Turnbull just says because there has been an upset you should vote for him. The problem is the nature of the upset we have seen arises out of weak leadership and a divided government.”

Media swing to Turnbull

Another poll in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph has Turnbull’s conservatives 51-49 percent in front on a two-party basis, as the country’s major newspapers also rallied behind the ruling party, with News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media mastheads citing the need for stability.

Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian said Turnbull offered “a path to national economic success”, a stance backed by its tabloid stablemate The Daily Telegraph.

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“The prime minister has demonstrated he knows the importance of a firm rein on public spending and offering a leg up for private sector growth,” The Australian said in an editorial about the former banker.

The Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning Herald also endorsed Turnbull on its front-page.

“Given the choice between a coalition led by the socially progressive economic reformer Mr Turnbull, and a Shorten-led Labor party backed by reform-resistant unions, we support the election of a Turnbull government,” it said.

Home and away

Voting is mandatory in Australia and by mid-week some 2.2 million of the 15.6 million enrolled voters had already cast their ballots at pre-polling stations and via postal votes, the electoral commission said.

These votes will be coming from as far afield as Antartica, where three polling booths have been set up for the 70 researchers who are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

“They spend about six months of the year cut off from the outside world, so it’s a bit of fun for them,” said a spokeswoman for the Australian Antarctic Division.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Australians can vote for the Sex Party, Hemp Party and Smokers’ Rights Party in this week’s election

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