Left Menu
Development News Edition

Voting under way in climate-dominated Aussie election

PTI | Sydney | Updated: 18-05-2019 09:16 IST | Created: 18-05-2019 08:59 IST
Voting under way in climate-dominated Aussie election
Image Credit: Pexels

Australians flocked to the polls Saturday capping a bitterly fought election that may be the first anywhere decided by climate policy. Between 16 and 17 million people are expected to vote across the vast island-continent, with the opposition centre-left Labor party tipped for victory.

Casting his ballot in Melbourne, would-be prime minister Bill Shorten was bullish about forming a majority government after a final poll showed his lead increasing. "Today is the people's day," he said. "Be it buying a 'democracy sausage', the kids having a bit of a sugar cake or what have you, and voting." "In the event that the people of Australia voted to stop the chaos and voted for action on climate change, we will be ready to hit the ground from tomorrow." Weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's conservative Liberals had been heading for an electoral drubbing.

But he has closed the gap with a fiercely negative campaign -- backed by powerful right-wing media -- targeting older, wealthier voters who face fewer tax breaks under Labor. On the eve of the election, Morrison predicted it would be "the closest election we've seen in many, many years".

But anger over his government's inaction on climate change may prove the difference between the two parties. A season of record floods, wildfires and droughts have brought the issue from the political fringes to front and centre of the campaign.

In traditionally more conservative rural areas, climate-hit farmers are demanding action. And in several rich suburbs, a generational shift has seen eco-minded candidates running Liberal party luminaries close. In northern Sydney, former prime minister Tony Abbott -- who once described climate change as "crap" -- appears at risk of losing a seat he has held for more than two decades to independent challenger Zali Steggall, a lawyer and Olympic medallist in Alpine skiing.

Early rising voters in the constituency trickled into a beachside surf club to cast their ballots, as volunteers wearing bright orange "I'm a climate voter" t-shirts handed out pamphlets. "I'm worried about the climate and that Australia is not doing enough," volunteer Catherine Willis told AFP.

Shorten has pledged quick legislation to increase renewable energy, while the Liberals said they would not risk the coal-fuelled economy's health to make the air cleaner. Australia is among the world's largest exporters of coal, providing thousands of jobs in the northeast of the country.

A final survey by Newspoll published Saturday showed voters still deeply divided, with Morrison's coalition trailing Shorten's Labor 48.5 to 51.5 percent. The campaign has been an often ill-tempered pitched-battle. Candidates have been egged and abused, and a slew has resigned for racist, sexist and otherwise jaw-dropping social media posts.

In Abbott's battleground seat, a 62-year-old man was arrested and charged with thrusting a corkscrew into the stomach of someone putting up campaign banners on the eve of the election. If Morrison wins, it would be a monumental comeback, having scraped for his political life in the hope of not entering the history books as one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in Australian history.

He took office last August after a party room coup by conservative hardliners that ousted moderate pro-climate leader Malcolm Turnbull -- the latest in a series of political fratricides that have made Canberra politics look like "Game of Thrones" meets "The Hunger Games". Much of Morrison's cabinet has resigned or gone into virtual hiding during the campaign because of their unpopularity.

If Shorten is elected, he would become the sixth prime minister sworn into office in a decade. The former union leader has struggled with low personal approval ratings but has become a more polished campaigner as the election has neared.

Still, his relative lack of charisma was underlined Thursday by the death of much-loved former prime minister Bob Hawke, an Oxford-educated lovable rogue, equally at home chugging a pint or debating Keynesian economics. But the upswelling of sadness about Hawke's death could remind voters of less contentious times under Labor.

Should Labor win, Australia will likely get a vote on becoming a republic and, as Shorten put it, returning a head of state that the country has borrowed from the other side of the world for more than two centuries. Polls opened at 8:00 am (2200 GMT) and the first exit polls are expected around 10 hours later.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Rethinking Rural Livelihoods in the Times of COVID-19

The reverse migration caused by COVID 19 pandemic has put an additional burden of about one crore people on Indian villages particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Odisha. Besides increasing the risk of spreading the ...

‘Discounted Deaths’ and COVID 19: Anthropology of Death and Emotions

Death is a social event rather than the mere cessation of biological functions. As seen by anthropologists, death is not just physical but intensely social, cultural, and political....

Indigenous knowledge of communities a must for maximizing impact of community work

Generally, it has been observed that the majority of the academicians in higher education institutions neglect the wisdom of community people and throw their weight around thinking that they know everything and the community knows nothing. ...

In rebuking FBR, Pakistan’s courts take a stand for public health

The system, if implemented effectively, will allow Pakistans revenue service to combat the illicit trade in tobacco products and potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars to the states budget each year. ...

Videos

Latest News

Mamata trying to create division between migrants and non- migrants: Adhir

Continuing his tirade against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the issue of migrant workers return, leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Choudhury on Saturday alleged that she was trying to create division between ...

2,940 new coronavirus patients reported in Maharashtra alongwith 99 deaths on Saturday; case count reaches 65,168 and death toll 2,198: health department.

2,940 new coronavirus patients reported in Maharashtra alongwith 99 deaths on Saturday case count reaches 65,168 and death toll 2,198 health department....

Kerala Chief Secretary given send off

Thiruvananthapuram, May 30 PTI Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose, who is retiring after 36 years of service on May 31, was given a warm send off by the state government on Saturday evening. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lauded the services ...

British competitive sport given green light for June 1 restart

After a near three-month shutdown, all competitive sport in Britain can resume from June 1 behind closed doors provided strict conditions are met, the government said on Saturday. The first major live event is expected to be the 2000 Guinea...

Give Feedback