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Australian prime minister launches campaign days before poll

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Australia’s embattled prime minister yesterday officially launched his conservative party’s campaign less than a week before elections, highlighting the nation’s early success in containing the pandemic and its strong economic recovery.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s (AP; pic below) coalition trails the centre-left Labor Party opposition in most opinion polls as the administration seeks a rare fourth three-year term in elections on Saturday.

Morrison focussed the party launch on economic management, which has traditionally been regarded as the strength of his conservative Liberal Party. He described the election as “a choice between a strong economy or a weaker one that only makes your life harder, not better.”

“A choice between a stronger future or a more uncertain one in an already terribly uncertain world,” Morrison added.

The government is counting on voters opting for familiarity rather than change after the turmoil of a series of disasters since the last election in 2019.

Australians have been battered by unprecedented wildfires, floods, drought, heat waves and a mouse plague. Morrison’s government was widely praised for keeping Australia’s COVID-19 death toll relatively low in the first two years of the pandemic.

But more transmissible variants have overwhelmed defenses and Australia now has one of the world’s highest infection rates.

Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic had been faster and stronger than the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, a government minister boasted at the campaign launch.

But rising inflation has made Australians’ cost of living, including housing costs, a prominent election issue.