Australia's Labor in Poll Position to Win Tight Election Race

(Bloomberg) -- Australia looks set for a change of government on May 18, with the main opposition Labor party entering the final two weeks of the election campaign still leading in opinion polls.

Labor is ahead of the governing Liberal-National coalition on 51 percent to 49 percent, according to a Newspoll published Monday in the Australian newspaper, while a Nine Ipsos survey put it four points in the lead.

But with the five-week campaign down to its final 12 days, there’s little room for error if the left-leaning opposition, led by former unionist Bill Shorten, is to win. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put the government back in contention for a third term in office, after a Newspoll in March showed Labor leading by eight points and heading for a landslide victory.

Australia's Labor in Poll Position to Win Tight Election Race

The main message from Morrison, a 50-year-old former advertising executive, has been that Labor can’t be trusted to manage an economy showing signs of a slowdown amid record high household debt and stagnant wages. With the central bank under pressure to cut interest rates as early as Tuesday, the ruling coalition is urging undecided voters to stick with its plan to pass sweeping income-tax cuts to stimulate growth.

Shorten, 51, is aiming his promised tax cuts at the lower paid, while pledging to create a “fairer” nation and reduce generational inequality by curbing tax perks enjoyed by wealthier Australians. He’s also promising tougher action on big polluters to counter climate change.

Shorten has proven himself a capable leader since taking control of the party 2013 in the wake of a bout of crippling internal strife that saw Labor lose office. Still, voters have never warmed to him, with Newspoll showing he trails Morrison as preferred prime minister, 35 percent to 46 percent.

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