Australia’s conservative prime minister fired the gun on the final round of a hard-fought election campaign Sunday, admitting “not all went according to plan” during the country’s response to the pandemic.
At his party’s official campaign launch ahead of the May 21 vote, Conservative Scott Morrison acknowledged the missteps during the crisis but said “Australia prevailed.”
In fact, the campaign has been running for months, if not years, but the event has given Morrison a chance to rally the party base and appeal to voters who seem ready to oust him after three tumultuous years in office.
According to the latest polls, the center-left Labor party, led by Anthony Albanese, is expected to win Saturday’s vote.
But both sides know that an upset is still possible.
Morrison’s tenure has been driven by a series of crises, from climate-fueled droughts, fires and floods to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was one of the hardest times we’ve ever known,” Morrison said, insisting that the country was now “heading in the right direction.”
The 54-year-old from Sydney’s affluent eastern suburb was targeted for a glacial vaccine launch that helped ensure Australia’s borders were closed for most of the two years.
It is also addressing anger over the government’s handling of natural disasters and reluctance to move away from fossil fuels.
Polls consistently show that around 70 percent of Australians want more action on climate change, but Morrison has repeatedly turned down calls for ambitious climate targets or to scale back the country’s vast coal mining industry.
Seeking to make an election a choice rather than a referendum on his leadership, Morrison portrayed the Labor Party as a “loose unit” on the economy and an Albanian premier as an “experiment”.
To sweeten the deal, Morrison also announced plans to allow first-time buyers to use their retirement savings to buy a home.
This policy is likely to be popular with young Australians struggling to access a turbo-charged housing market, but it is also likely to further fuel home price inflation.