Australia election: Malcolm Turnbull makes final pitch to voters

Early voters filling in their ballot papers at Sydney's Town Hall. Opinion polls and betting agencies indicate a victory for Mr Turnbull's ruling Liberal-National Coalition.
Early voters filling in their ballot papers at Sydney's Town Hall. Opinion polls and betting agencies indicate a victory for Mr Turnbull's ruling Liberal-National Coalition.PHOTO: REUTERS

Presenting himself as a beacon of stability, he warns a Labor govt would lead to chaos

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a final pitch for votes ahead of Australia's general election tomorrow, presenting himself as a beacon of stability and calling for a more mature political debate. 

As opinion polls and betting agencies indicated that Mr Turnbull's ruling Liberal-National Coalition was headed for victory, he used an address to the National Press Club in Canberra to warn that a Labor government would lead to "chaos". 

Appearing confident at the end of a marathon eight-week campaign, Mr Turnbull, a former investment banker, stuck to his campaign message and insisted that he will deliver jobs and growth. 

"My strong sense is that what Australians are looking for most from this election is a step up in political culture - strong, decisive, resolute leadership, yet with a focus on what unites rather than divides," he said.

 

"Our plan will give Australian families economic security in an uncertain world."

Despite national opinion polls indicating a tight result, surveys suggest that the Coalition is on track to win the bulk of the crucial marginal seats. Betting agencies, which strongly favour the Coalition, are paying about A$1.08 (S$1.08) for a A$1 bet compared with a payout of A$8 for a bet on Labor.

Mr Turnbull has announced few big policies during the campaign, instead promoting his plans to cut company taxes and boost investment in innovation and technology.

In the past week, he has seized on the global economic uncertainty following the Brexit  vote to paint the Coalition as a safer option. The Brexit result has allowed Mr Turnbull to keep the campaign focused on the economy - regarded as his strength - rather than on Labor's planks supporting health and education. 

Despite calling for an end to "juvenile theatrics" and personality politics, Mr Turnbull attacked Labor's plans to have higher budget deficits over the coming four years. Labor wants to increase spending on health and education.

"Labor has nothing to say about jobs, growth and our economic future," Mr Turnbull said. "My Coalition team will be doing everything in our power to safeguard Australians and Australian business from the risk of any external shock flowing from Britain's vote to withdraw from the European Union."

His address followed a somewhat unwanted intervention in the campaign by former prime minister Tony Abbott, who was ousted by Mr Turnbull last September.

Mr Abbott, a staunch conservative who remains a government backbencher, criticised Mr Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten for failing to focus on "big issues" such as national security.

"National security has played almost no part in this campaign - even border security… If these really big issues are not front and centre, less substantial stuff will be front and centre," he told Sky News.

Mr Shorten, a former union leader, yesterday insisted he could win the election as he began to face speculation of a leadership challenge following his expected loss.

Responding to Mr Turnbull's calls for stability, he warned that the Coalition's policies could produce greater "disadvantage and inequality". He said this could lead to the political volatility recently seen in Britain and the United States and a resort to "extreme solutions". 

"I don't think we're as far down the track but three more years of the Liberals will create more inequality," he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Turnbull is seeking to win his first election and become the first Australian leader since the 2004 election to keep his job for an entire three-year term.

Asked yesterday how he could guarantee he would remain leader, given his role in ousting Mr Abbott, Mr Turnbull said: "I am making that prediction, but only time will tell."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'Turnbull makes final pitch to voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe