Australia PM seeks to sell voters on Budget breaks
Global Times

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacting during a press conference at Australia's Parliament House in Canberra on March 22, 2021. (Photo: VCG)

Trailing in the polls, Australia's Liberal National government on Wednesday sought to sell A$8.6 billion($6.46 billion) of budget giveaways as necessary to meet a cost of living emergency and not a transparent attempt to buy votes.

Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison, facing a tough election in May, led the marketing blitz with a barrage of media interviews saying relief was needed to meet rising fuel prices.

Other countries including New Zealand, Japan and South Korea have announced measures to counter soaring energy prices in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.

Some were skeptical, however, with one interviewer asking: "With this Budget, are you addressing the cost of living or is it just the cost of winning?"

Opinion polls show the opposition Labor Party ahead by anywhere from 4 to 16 points, while bookmakers on Wednesday announced odds had just widened sharply against Morrison returning to power.

The government's careful messaging campaign was also blindsided by claims from one of Morrison's own Liberal senators that he was a "bully" with "no moral compass."

Morrison rejected the accusation from Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, saying she was "disappointed" at losing selection for her seat.

The economy has recovered faster than anyone expected in 2021, with unemployment hitting 13-year lows of 4 percent and projected to soon reach levels last seen in the 1970s at 3.75 percent. Wage growth was also forecast to accelerate but not by enough to outpace inflation, meaning real incomes were set the shrink in 2022.