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May 18, 2019: Australia elects 46th Parliament – economy vs. climate?

AUSTRALIA - The governing Liberal-National Coalition is extolling its economic credentials as Australia heads into the 2019 federal election, but climate change might resonate more for voters after yet another summer of searing heat and extreme drought. Taxes, health and immigration round out the main campaign issues.

The country will elect half of its 76-seat Senate and the full now-151 seat House of Representatives.

The Coalition took a battering in the polls from the recent leadership strife that brought Scott Morrison to power as prime minister. It is now riding into the election on a strong economy, which might undo the damage. “We are delivering the first budget surplus in more than a decade, and unemployment is low, ” Morrison proclaimed at the start of campaigning. “With a stronger economy... we will maintain those budget surpluses without increasing taxes and pay down the debt.”

Britain’s Guardian reports that both the Coalition and the opposition Australian Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten, have put tax cuts at the center of their pitches.

Morrison is under pressure to acknowledge that climate change is a major driver of the drought gripping parts of regional Australia. All-time temperature records were broken recently in South Australia, with Adelaide reaching 46.6C, while Melbourne had its hottest day since the catastrophic 2009 bushfires, and more fires swept through Tasmania.

The controversial National Energy Guarantee (Neg), which purported to address emissions reduction and energy reliability, has been hobbled by a backlash from the Coalition’s right wing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and it is unclear whether the Morrison government intends to revive it.

The Coalition plans to reduce emissions by 26 per cent in line with the country’s Paris Climate Agreement targets. Labor, which has embraced Neg, is aiming for a higher emissions reduction target – 45 per cent by 2030 – as well as a national electric vehicles target of 50 per cent new car sales by 2030.

Shorten presents the government’s tax cuts as impediments to improvements in the country’s vital infrastructure and other systems.

The coalition and Labor are swapping policies in a bid to score votes ahead of the 2019 election, according to News.com.au. It notes that the Government is concentrating on Labor’s long-term dominance of health policy, while Labor has been asserting itself in the area the Liberals and Nationals had considered their own – new capital works. The opponents sound a similar note on secure borders and immigration.

Neither party can ignore a potential threat from the country’s many small parties. Labor has to contrast with the Coalition, and is also competing with the Greens for the votes of younger Australians. The Coalition, meanwhile, has to be mindful of sections of its base moving to the minor parties on the far right, such as One Nation, while not losing the moderate end to independents and Labor.

#22799 Updated: 04/15/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE 11 APR TO REFLECT DEVELOPMENTS

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