Australian prime minister calls July 2 election
Australia's prime minister has called a July 2 election and put economic management at the forefront of his campaign to win a second three-year term for his conservative coalition.
Kicking off a two-month election campaign, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said a centre-left Labor Party win would prevent the Australian economy diversifying from a mining industry that had been hit hard by the Chinese slowdown and the associated falls in the prices of iron ore and coal.
"At this election, Australians will have a very clear choice: to keep the course, maintain the commitment to our national economic plan for growth and jobs or go back to Labor with its high-taxing, higher spending, debt and deficit agenda which will stop our nation's transition to the new economy dead in its tracks," Mr Turnbull told reporters.
Climate change, gay marriage, climbing house prices, company tax rates and union corruption in the national building industry are also shaping into key issues.
Labor leader Bill Shorten later said a re-elected Turnbull government would mean another three years of "dithering and of disappointment".
"I will fight this election to make Australia a fairer place where the needs of families, small businesses - the great bulk of Australians - are placed at the top of the priority list," Mr Shorten told reporters.
Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten recently outlined their conflicting economic policies on how Australia should rein in mounting debt without slowing an already sluggish economy.
Neither man has ever led his party into an election campaign before and the eight-week campaign is the longest in decades.
Mr Turnbull replaced his unpopular predecessor, Tony Abbott, in a leadership ballot of lawmakers in the Liberal Party in September, only two years after the coalition government was elected.
The change of prime ministers immediately boosted the government's standing in opinion polls, but recent polls suggest the government is now running neck-and-neck with Labor.
The government has released its budget plans for the next fiscal year, which begins on the eve of the election, calling for stimulus measures including income tax cuts for middle and high-income earners and a gradual reduction of the company tax rate over a decade from 30 to 25%.
Labor opposes most of the tax cuts and would spend the money saved on hospitals and schools.
Mr Shorten said the government's budget was crafted for "Malcolm's millionaires" and offered nothing for the poor. He accuses Mr Turnbull, a 61-year-old self-made multimillionaire, of being out of touch with ordinary folks.
The government accuses Mr Shorten, a 48-year-old former union boss, of inciting divisive and outdated class warfare.