Voters have just five weeks to decide which party will be best to govern the nation for the next three years.
Kicking off the campaign, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the economy will be a key issue.
Sonja Heydeman reports.
Mr Rudd says slogans won’t solve problems and he says the Australian people will now decide who’s best to navigate the big issues.
“So this election will be about who the Australian people best judge to get the balance right, by keeping our economy strong while at the same time protecting jobs, ensuring we have fair wages and fair conditions, continuing to invest in health and education and above all ensuring there’s a fair go for all. Managing the big economic transition that lies ahead will be difficult but it is definitely do-able. Charting a course through the choppy economic waters that lie ahead will require a steady hand and a clear cut plan for the future.”
Mr Rudd says his economic strategy is clear.
“By responsibly returning the budget to surplus over the economic cycle. Supported by moderate budget savings which don’t hit jobs, health or education. That’s our economic plan for the future. Mr Abbott’s plan by contrast is a 70 billion dollar slash and burn austerity drive which will cut jobs and cut deeply into basic services in health and education.”
As the fight begins to secure crucial votes, Mr Rudd says
it’s time for positivity to return to politics.
“One thing I know for certain is that the old politics of the past just won’t work for the future. Wall to wall negativity doesn’t create a single job, negative personal politics doesn’t build a single school. The old politics of division doesn’t build a single hospital. Clinging to the past is not going to help build a national broadband network of the future.”
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Tony Abbott is promising real change as he heads toward the poll.
Mr Abbott says the coalition is ready to lead but has warned that he will not do a deal to lead a minority government if the election results in another hung parliament.
He says the decision on who’ll govern the country will now move away from the faceless men and to the will of the Australian people.
“And the choice couldn’t be clearer. The choice is between the positive plans of the Coalition and more of the same under the Australian Labor party and Mr Rudd. I am determined, my team is determined to build a better with specific improvements that we will deliver. We will build a stronger economy, so that everyone can get ahead , we will scrap the carbon tax, we will get the budget back under control, we will build the infrastructure of the future and we will stop the boats.”
Mr Abbott is asking voters who they feel is more genuine, the people who stopped the boats in the past or the person who started them up again.
He says his party and its policies will be open to proper scrutiny.
“They will know exactly how it will be funded because what I want to do is to re-establish the bonds of trust that should exist between a government and a people … between a prime minister and citizens and sadly those bonds of trust have been repeatedly broken by the current government.”
The Australian Greens are asking the Australian people to look past the two main parties on election day.
Greens Leader Christine Milne says this is the time to choose between compassion or cruelty.
“Rather than the growing gap between the rich and the poor .. the cowardice in standing up to the old vested interests and seeing the future compromised as the old parties push out more coal mining, more fast track coalseam gas. This is the election where people can choose to protect the Tarkine rainforest and vote for the Greens or not. They can choose to protect the Leadbeater possum, they can choose to look after the Great Barrier Reef.”
Ms Milne says while she support vigorous debate all parties should be able to have a voice.
“How ridiculous would it be in a debate to have only Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd trying to out-do each other on how cruel they can be to refugees. One upmanship in terms of how many people we are prepared to send to Manus Island, how many people they’re prepared to send to Nauru. Why they both think it’s okay to resettle people in those countries why they both think that breaking international law is okay.”
Asylum seeker advocates say the election can’t come soon enough and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Carr says she’s relieved.
Ms Carr says Australia is currently on a knife edge.
“This country is a country of migration. We are many who have come together and have lived in harmony. What the politicians are doing is destroying the social fabric of our nation and it is a shocking thing. We would hope that after this election that we can start to repair the trust and the cohesion of this country.”
The Australian Electoral Commission says it’s well prepared to handle the 14.5 million people who’ll turn out to vote on September 7th.
More than seven thousand polling places will be set up and more than 500 mobile polling teams will be sent to rural and remote Australia to manage the numbers.
Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn has told the ABC people need to promptly enrol to vote, with the rolls closing on the 12th of August.
“We think that it’s important to for them to get on the roll. One of the best things we’ve done most recently is to allow people to get on the roll through an application. they can go on their mobile phone or a tablet and they can not only update their address through that facility but also to enrol for the first time because it allows the person to digitally render their signature which is then transmitted to the AEC.”
The September 7 election means the planned referendum on the constitutional status of local governments will not go ahead.