Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called an official start to a six-week federal election campaign culminating in a May 21 poll.
Mr Morrison flew to Canberra on Sunday morning before visiting the Governor-General, Sir David Hurley, to ask him to dissolve Parliament.
The Prime Minister is campaigning for a fourth consecutive term for the Coalition in an election he framed as a choice between a “strong future and an uncertain one”, with a heavy accent on the classic Coalition theme of economic management.
“We are dealing with a world that is less stable than at any other time than the Second World War,” he said, speaking before reporters at Parliament House shortly after calling on the Governor-General.
“But I believe there are many, many opportunities there to be seized from the strong position we’ve put ourselves in, as a country, as we emerge strongly from this pandemic.
“Now is not the time to risk that.
“This is … a choice between a strong economy and a Labor opposition that would weaken it.”
Mr Morrison enters the campaign down by a yawning margin of 57 to 43 on a two-party preferred basis in the latest Roy Morgan poll as questions about his character and internal Liberal Party battles have intensified.
But Mr Morrison on Sunday sought to sidestep the issue of his personal popularity, framing the choice before voters as a strict referendum on competence and not character.
“Our government is not perfect – we’ve never claimed to be – but we are upfront,” the Prime Minister said.
“This election is about you – no one else.
“It’s about our country and it’s about its future.”
Hours after the Prime Minister’s press conference, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese attacked the Coalition’s lack of vision and said Australians deserved a better government.
“This government doesn’t have an agenda for today, let alone a vision for tomorrow,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.
“We can and we must do better. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to imagine a better future and Labor has the policies and plans to shape that future.”
Despite commanding a significant lead in the polls, Labor deputy leader Richard Marles told ABC’s Insiders that the election would be a “real struggle”.
Mr Marles repeated criticisms of Mr Morrison’s character that have engulfed the Prime Minister and obscured his generous, pre-election budget.
“The Prime Minister lies,” he said.
“Every time he stands up, he lies.”
In a campaign video released to social media on Saturday, Mr Morrison claimed 40,000 Australian lives had been saved and 700,000 jobs preserved because of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Soon afterwards, Labor took a snippet of the government’s video and stamped its own message on it: “No more mistakes. No more excuses. No more Morrison.”
The Coalition starts the race with 76 seats of the 151-seat lower house, with Labor on a presumptive 69.
After an unstable period in Australian politics, Mr Morrison is seeking to be the first Prime Minister to win two elections since John Howard in 1998.