Australia election announced: 10 things to know about the poll
[April 11 2019]
Scott Morrison made his announcement on Thursday morning after visiting the governor-general
Australians will vote in a general election on 18 May,
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
The poll will decide whether the conservative government wins a third
term or is replaced by a Labor administration led by Bill Shorten.
All 151 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested, and
half of the 76 seats in the Senate.
The election is expected to be hotly contested in several areas
including climate change and the economy.
"[The election] will determine the economy that Australians live in, not
just for the next three years, but for the next decade," Mr Morrison
said at a press conference on Thursday.
"We live in the best country in the world, but to secure your future,
the road ahead depends on a strong economy," he said. "That is why there
is so much at stake."
Here are some key things to know about the vote.
1. Voting in the election is compulsory
Unlike many other global democracies, Australia has mandatory voting for
people aged 18 and over - or they risk a fine.
It ensures a high turnout: 95% of people voted in Australia's last
election. The most recent US and UK elections, by contrast, drew an
estimated 55% and 66% respectively.
Advocates say it depolarises the vote and reduces the influence of lobby
groups, though critics dispute this.
2. Leadership 'madness' may haunt the government
Mr Morrison only became prime minister last August after bitter party
infighting ousted his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.
In doing so, Mr Morrison became Australia's fifth leader since 2013.
"It was a peculiarly Australian form of madness," Mr Turnbull told the
BBC in March, speaking about a coup culture which began with Labor in
It's likely to harm the government's standing with voters, predicts Prof
Sally Young, a politics expert from the University of Melbourne.
"They're sick of the sniping and undermining," she says. "Knifing a
leader - it never goes down well."
3. Climate change could sway votes - but to what extent?
Australia has just endured a year of extreme weather events, including
destructive floods, bushfires, cyclones and a severe drought. The past
summer was the nation's hottest on record.
It has made climate change a key election issue in some seats, experts
Extreme weather has pushed climate change into voters' minds, experts say
Last year, the government scrapped plans to set an
emissions reduction target in legislation - prompting fierce criticism.
"Australia's lack of action [on climate change] internationally is
becoming more recognised within this country," says Prof Young.
The University of Sydney's Prof Marc Stears agrees, but says it's
unclear how it widely it will affect voting decisions.
4. In many ways, the main battle lines are familiar
Prof Stears says the major parties are already talking up their
traditional strengths. That's subjects like jobs and infrastructure for
the government, and health and education for Labor.
They will compete fiercely on economic issues, with both parties
promising policies aimed at reducing the cost of living,
Bill Shorten has led the Labor opposition for six years
Although Australia's economy is the envy of many
countries, wages growth is flat, and there is a generational split in
attitudes to house prices.
5. There's much talk about a north-south divide
Mr Morrison is overseeing a minority government,
meaning he can ill afford to lose support anywhere in the country.
Political observers say he faces challenges from the
left and right - a debate that is often framed in geographical terms.
In the northern state of Queensland, experts say the
government fears losing votes to more socially conservative minor
parties and independents.
But in Victoria in the south, the electorate is
perceived as more progressive. It delivered a resounding victory to
Labor in a state election five months ago.
6. Will migration and refugee debates resurface?
During past elections, Australia's major parties have
employed tough rhetoric on immigration issues - particularly regarding
It has often been used to appear strong on issues such
as national security, says Prof Stears.
Australia holds asylum seekers in offshore detention, under a controversial bipartisan policy
That debate resurfaced in February, however, Prof Stears believes that last month's New Zealand mosque attacks may see
politicians tone down such rhetoric.
7. There are signs of support for minor parties
Prof Young says there is some public cynicism about
the major parties, pointing to possible increases in support for other
High-profile independent candidates have entered key
races, and in New South Wales, a recent state election saw rises in
minor party support in rural electorates.
8. Is there a risk of foreign interference?
In February, Mr Morrison said a "state actor" had
carried out a cyber attack on the parliament and political parties.
Authorities said there was no evidence of electoral
interference, but security experts have urged vigilance.
Concerns about alleged foreign interference prompted Australia to
introduce new laws last year.
9. Citizenship checks should be water-tight
In 2017, several MPs were disqualified for
unintentionally breaking a rule that lawmakers cannot be dual citizens
Fifteen parliamentarians were ousted, though six later
managed to return after relinquishing their non-Australian citizenships.
The saga sparked comprehensive checks of MPs'
10. What do the opinion polls say?
Opinion polls in recent times have consistently put
Labor in front on a two-party preferred basis.
However, those measures also say that Mr Morrison leads Mr Shorten as
preferred prime minister.