An Australian general election has been confirmed for July 2 after the governor-general on Sunday accepted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s long anticipated recommendation to dissolve both houses of Parliament. The election campaign will be tightly fought, and at eight weeks the longest anyone can remember.
Turnbull said the election would be fought on the economic issue of jobs and growth, although Australia currently has reasonable statistics on both counts, with GDP rising to 3% in the first half of the financial year, unemployment at 5.8%, and inter4est rates at record lows.
Turnbull called what is termed a double-dissolution election because his government was continually being frustrated by its measures being blocked in the Senate, where it has not enjoyed a majority. The irony is that although a July 2 poll may put that right, there is a strong possibility that it will lose control of the main legislature, the House of Representatives, either by being beat by a resurgent Australian Labor Party(ALP), or by an ALP alliance with cross-benchers.
The ALP needs to win 21 seats to return to government in its own right, and if it succeeds it would be the first opposition in 85 years to do so after only one term in opposition. At the turn of the year, such a concept would have been unthinkable, with Turnbull riding so high in the polls that commentators were talking of the Liberal-National party coalition winning an increased majority, leaving Labor with even fewer than the 35 seats it held until the weekend. But the current polls put the parties neck and neck, as ALP leader Bill Shorten has seized the initiative as Turnbull has appeared to stumble, announcing new poliies one week and then abandoning them the next.
The epicentres for the campaign will be in New South Wales and Queensland, with the sharpest focus in the western suburbs of Sydney.