CANBERRA, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- As Australia enters the final days of its federal election campaign, the major parties are pitching for every last vote before Saturday's polling day.
But opinion polls indicate a sound defeat for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, despite gross domestic product (GDP) growing by 0.6 percent in the March quarter, slightly higher than the 0.5 percent most economists had predicted. It takes the annual GDP growth rate to 2.6 percent for the year, defying speculation of a much deeper slowdown.
The latest Newspoll showed that Labor now has 33 percent of support, the lowest since Rudd returned as prime minister in June, comparing with the Liberal-National Coalition's 46 percent in primary vote. Election analysts estimated that the Coalition may get 96 out of the total 150 seats in the House of Representative, leaving Labor with only 51 seats, a dramatic fall from 71 seats of the current parliament.
Rudd pointed to international comparisons on Wednesday to show the Australian economy has been strong under Labor's centre-left government.
"As of this year, since we came to office in 2007, the Australian economy is 15 percent bigger than it was," he said. "I draw to your attention the fact that the British economy has shrunk 3 percent over that time. There, the economic credentials of this nation run by this government over this period of time are strong."
But Tony Abbott's conservative Liberal-National Coalition says the size and growth of public debt in Australia is perhaps the economy's greatest vulnerability. As part of its promise to "get the budget back under control", it has promised to start paying off the debt.
Both parties accept that voters feel under pressure about the cost of living despite studies showing the average Australian household is in fact 5,302 AU dollars (4840 U.S. dollars) better off in real terms than in 2008.
Labor faces a voter backlash after 6 years of leadership instability, despite Australia recording 22 years of consecutive economic growth, and a relatively low unemployment rate of 5.7 percent.
Rudd was toppled in 2010 by Julia Gillard, who became Australia 's first female prime minister, but then pushed Gillard out again earlier this year after bitter public infighting.
Abbott's core message to voters is that he will end the instability of Labor's leadership feuding and the perceived instability of the minority parliament.
The Coalition would unwind carbon taxes aimed at protecting the environment, while scaling back the tax-funded broadband network under construction.
But Abbott's biggest election promise is a more generous paid parental leave scheme, offering mothers up to 75,000 dollars (68, 475 U.S. dollars) for six months' leave at an annual cost of 5.5 billion dollars (5 billion U.S. dollars).
The Coalition has already announced over 31 billion dollars (28. 3 billion U.S. dollars) of savings, with a second tranche worth 9 billion collars (8.2 billion U.S. dollars) announced on Thursday, from a proposed cut in Australia's foreign aid budget.
"Together with modest adjustments for interest saved on reduced debt, these bring total savings announced by the coalition to 42 billion (38.3 billion U.S. dollars) in fiscal terms," Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said.
Labor has focused its campaign on job creation and traditional Labor values such as universal healthcare, education and the rights of workers.
But as voters lose faith in Rudd's pledge to improve lives through better transport, health and education, they have also grown resentful of asylum seekers seen as potential security threats, immigration queue jumpers and rivals for jobs.
As a result, both parties have lurched to the right on the issue of asylum seekers, with the Labor government saying all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and settlement. Those found not to be refugees will either be held in detention, sent home or to a third country.
In contrast, Abbott has pledged he will turn back boats to Indonesia, their main embarkation point. As part of this policy, the Coalition has pledged to provide support to transit countries including Sri Lanka and Indonesia, where possible, to intercept boats leaving their shores.
Abbott has also promised a military-led response to deal with the issue of people smugglers and to protect Australia's borders.
Australian opposition releases costing figures if elected
CANBERRA, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Australian opposition on Thursday released the costing figures if elected, two days before the polling day.
The costing figures were released by Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb. Full story
Australian PM fails to lift Labor support in Queensland: poll
BRISBANE, Australia, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has failed to lift Labor support in his home state Queensland since his return to the party's leadership in June, according to a new Nielsen poll published on Tuesday by Fairfax Media.
The poll results show Labor's primary vote is languishing at 31 percent while primary support for the Coalition in Queensland is down at 45 percent. Full story