Australia to go to polls on Aug 21

PM Gillard to focus on economy and climate

Australia to go to polls on Aug 21

Australia’s first woman prime minister was appointed three weeks ago by the ruling Labour Party as the government faced electoral defeat. Since then Gillard has resurrected support, putting Labour narrowly ahead in opinion polls. But conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott needs to win only nine seats to form a government with four independents, or 13 seats to take office outright.

“Today I seek a mandate from the Australian people to move Australia forward,” Gillard told a news conference.

“Moving forward means moving forward with budget surpluses and a stronger economy,” said Gillard, who toppled leader Kevin Rudd in a party coup on June 24.

Financial markets are not expected to react much to the election given there is little to choose on core economic policy.

“The main concern for financial markets is an inconclusive election result like a hung parliament,” said Craig James, chief economist at CommSec.

Online betting sites made Labour a clear favourite, although some analysts tipped it to be a tight race.

Gillard said her re-election platform would focus on creating jobs, boosting education, improving health care, fighting climate change and strengthening border protection.
Australia’s robust economy will be key to the 2010 election.

Despite Labour steering the economy through the global financial crisis and avoiding recession last year, opinion polls show voters view the opposition as better economic managers. Both the government and opposition have vowed to return to a budget surplus.

The choices
Yet, voters will be given stark choices:
1) Gillard plans a 30 per cent mining tax, raising A$10.5 billion ($9.12 billion) from 2012. Abbott plans to dump it.

2) Gillard believes a carbon price to fight climate change is inevitable, with a emissions trading scheme possibly brought in after 2012-13. Abbott does not.

3) Gillard has proposed a possible East Timor regional asylum processing centre to stop boat people arriving in Australia, although she said in an interview with Sky TV there was “no quick fix”. Abbott plans to reopen Pacific island detention camps.

Octopus predicts Gillard victory
So what if Octopus Paul has retired after the FIFA World Cup, Australia’s own psychic devilfish has staked claim to being its successor, predicting the victory of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the country’s general election next month, IANS reports from Melbourne.
According to Cassandra, the very own octopus of Australian daily The Sydney Morning Herald, the prime minister’s rival candidate Tony Abbott will be inked out in the poll to be held on August 21. When Cassandra was consulted at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, she wrapped her long arms around Gillard’s picture.

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