May 23, 2019
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Who is who in the Australian elections

Sydney, Australia, May 17 (efe-epa).- Australia, a country that has had five different prime ministers in six years, will go to the polls again on Saturday.

The Prime Minister of Australia:

Scott Morrison, who took the reins of the executive in August after an internal Liberal Party revolt to unseat Malcolm Turnbull, is hoping to lead the ruling coalition to victory despite unfavorable pre-election polls.

The 51-year-old practicing Christian has socially conservative ideas, is a defender of economic liberalism and has made tax reduction and management of the national economy his main priorities, while showing a firm hand to illegal immigration and the return of Islamic fundamentalist fighters from countries like Syria and Iraq.

Leader of the opposition:

Bill Shorten has been presented as the unifier of the Labor Party after a period of internal revolts between 2007 and 2013, which resulted in the alternation in the position of prime minister between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Shorten, a former trade union leader who supports Australia becoming a republic, advocated in this election campaign in favor of gender equality, free access to daycare, improvements to healthcare and public education and drastic action against climate change.

Former prime minister:

Ex-journalist Tony Abbott was first elected a Member of Parliament in the district of Warringah in 1994.

He orchestrated a revolt against Malcolm Turnbull last year after Abbott himself was removed from power in 2015.

Abbott, who leads the most conservative faction of the Liberal Party, is opposed to the legalization of marriage between people of the same sex, which was approved in 2018, and, as one of the main supporters of the use of coal as an energy generator, denies or questions the harmful effects of climate change.

Leader of the Green Party:

Richard di Natale, leader of the Green Party, comes to the elections with the risk of losing ground due to the vote that the independents can obtain, a possibility that coincides with a greater citizen awareness on the fight against climate change.

Since he became leader of his party in 2015, the former family doctor and son of Italian parents has been key to promoting the legalization of homosexual marriage, investigations into the banking sector and healthcare for people with disabilities, and better conditions for asylum seekers and refugees detained in centers in the Pacific.

The ultranationalist:

Pauline Hanson, leader of the far-right One Nation Party, is a former fish and chip shop owner.

Her fiercely anti-immigrant stance, first against Chinese immigrants and now against Muslims, has caused a stir since her first appearance in politics in 1996 and her return 10 years later.

She once appeared in the Senate wearing a burqa as part of a controversial campaign to have the garment banned in Australia.

Hanson tabled a motion called "It's OK to be white" which condemned "anti-white racism".

She also questioned a massacre that in 1996 led to the banning of arms in Australia and was accused by the television channel Al Jazeera of seeking funding from the National Rifle Association of America.

The eccentric millionaire:

Mining and real estate mogul Clive Palmer, who won a seat in the 2013 federal elections and was listed as one of the 200 richest people in Australia in 2016, returns to the electoral arena with his United Australia Party, with a conservative populist discourse and the slogan "Let's make Australia great," similar to that of United States president Donald Trump's successful "Make America Great Again" rallying cry in 2016.

In Australia’s complex electoral system, in which ballot votes with multiple options vary until a candidate reaches 50 percent, Palmer made an agreement with the Liberal party, which could facilitate a ticket to parliament in which independents are expected to have a key role.

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Key issues in Australia election, a country with 30 years of economic growth

Sydney, Australia, May 16 (efe-epa).- Around 16.2 million Australians will be called to vote on Saturday in legislative elections in the country, which has had almost 30 years of uninterrupted economic growth but faces issues like immigration and climate change.

Here are five key points in the election:

1.- The "games of thrones"

Since 2007, no Australian prime minister has been able to complete an entire term.

In 2010, Julia Gillard ousted the then head of government, Kevin Rudd, and internal squabbles in the Labor Party led to Rudd being removed from office three years later.

After winning the elections in 2013, the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott also went through a turbulent time, which resulted in his departure in favor of Malcolm Turnbull, who was later ousted by Scott Morrison.

Abbott, who was behind the latest revolt against Turnbull, has not ruled out taking on the leadership again, although in these elections he runs the risk of losing the seat he has occupied since 1994.

2.- Climate change and energy policy

Climate change and energy policy have been the Achilles heel of both the Labor and Liberal-National coalitions for more than a decade.

The Gillard government was strongly criticized for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, while the Conservative coalition favors the use of coal for power generation, arguing that renewable energy increases the price of electricity.

The elections fall amid a rising protest movement, which features a strong contingent of school students, which has called for measures to tackle climate change and the rejection of a coal mine project near the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site located off the northeast coast.

3.- An economy that resisted the crisis

Australia, which has enjoyed almost three decades of uninterrupted economic growth, expects that trend to continue, forecasting a slight improvement in GDP, which last year grew 2.3 percent, to reach three percent in 2021.

While unemployment remains stable at five percent, workers face a stagnation of rising wages and the high cost of living, especially housing.

The coalition proposes maintaining economic growth and reducing taxes, in addition to generating more jobs with mining projects and the development of its shipyards.

Labor also said it will offer better opportunities for workers with free access to nurseries, investments in hospitals and schools, and an increase in salaries.

4.- Fear of immigrants

With a population of around 24 million, settled mainly in a southeastern coastal strip of 7.6 million square kilometers, immigration and population control is one of the main hotbeds of political controversy.

The arrival of foreigners, especially in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and the pressure on infrastructure led the government to reduce the annual quota of permanent immigrants from 190,000 to 160,000 and to adopt measures to promote migration to intermediate cities, the interior and rural areas.

Immigration policies, marked by the sending of asylum seekers to island detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific, reached a turning point following the demands of doctors, politicians and the public to improve the treatment of detainees, which resulted in a law to facilitate medical transfers to Australia.

The Conservative government defends the border controls as a way to prevent the entry of potential terrorists, but has softened its rhetoric since the Christchurch mosque attacks in March, in which an Australian killed some 51 people.

5.- Alliance with the United States and a love-hate relationship with China

Australia is a historical ally of the US, a country with which it maintains a long and solid military, security and intelligence alliance, and with which it currently participates in campaigns in the Middle East.

The Oceanic country is also seen as the "gendarme" of Washington in this region of the Pacific marked by territorial disputes and China's growing influence.

Beijing is Canberra’s main trading partner, while Australia is the main source of natural resources for the Asian giant.

The two enjoy a tense relationship, with the recent laws against Chinese interference in Australian domestic politics and Canberra's suspicions of espionage and hacking activities against Beijing.

Australia is also concerned about Chinese investment in the country, the militarization of the South China Sea and the detention of Sino-Australian activists in the Asian nation.

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Climate change and immigration dominate Australia electoral campaign

By Rocío Otoya.

Sydney, Australia, May 15 (efe-epa).- Immigration and climate change are two of the most polarizing issues in Australia and over which the new government elected in Saturday's elections will face increasing public pressure.

During the last decade, energy policy has been the Achilles' heel of the successive Labor and Conservative governments in the Oceanic country, an important coal exporter and one that feels the effects of global warming more strongly than others in the developed world.

Last year was Australia's third warmest since records began and its southeastern region suffered the worst drought of the last century, while one of its most famous natural assets, the Great Barrier Reef, was hit by two episodes of mass coral bleaching due to warmer water temperatures.

This has meant that Australians some of the most concerned about climate change in the world - 44 percent of its citizens compared to a global average of 37 percent.

The government of prime minister Scott Morrison, who is running for re-election with the Liberal–National Coalition, proposed to reduce gas emissions by between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Morrison, who as treasurer appeared in parliament with a piece of coal to defend its use to generate electricity, has promoted an incentives-based system to reduce emissions, which has been questioned by experts.

"The emission of polluting gases has increased steadily since 2013 (the year the conservatives returned to power)," said the director of the Climate Change Institute, Professor Mark Howden, who added that the current energy policy "does not work".

The Labor Party, which leads the polls, has responded with a proposal to increase emission reduction by 45 percent in the next decade and promote the use of electric vehicles.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has instead avoided recovering the tax on carbon dioxide emissions introduced in 2012, which was harshly criticized by Conservatives despite the fact that it had been accepted by large companies and ended up contributing to the fall of the last Labor government.

The other major issue in the domestic debate was immigration, dominated for the last seven years by the controversial policy of putting asylum seekers in offshore detention centers on the islands of Nauru and Manus in the Pacific Ocean.

The widely criticized policy was reintroduced in 2012 after 17,000 people "without papers" arrived by boat, the majority from conflict zones.

After criticism by the UN and human rights groups, Australia agreed this year to evacuate all children from the centers and move adults in need of medical treatment to Australia after a campaign by doctors.

The two main parties share a firm position on border control, which in April led Morrison to freeze the annual refugee admission quota at 18,750, while Labor advocates reaching more agreements to accommodate refugees with third-party countries, such as New Zealand.

Morrison has also reduced the entry quota of permanent immigrants from 190,000 to 160,000, in the face of growing unrest due to increasing demographic pressure on infrastructure and services in major cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia, a country of immigrants which is located close to Asia, has received migrants from all over the world, including Europeans who arrived under an assisted program more than 50 years ago, Vietnamese and Latin American refugees.

Despite having a territory of more than 7.6 million square kilometers, more than 24 million of its inhabitants are clustered in cities along a coastal strip to the southeast of the country, to the detriment of the development of rural areas and the interior.

To this end, the last government introduced new requirements for granting visas to applicants whose professions are required in Australia, including the condition of residing for at least three years in rural or medium-sized cities and a system of incentives to redirect the migratory flow.

"They offered us all the migratory guarantees, a work visa for him, the sponsorship for me, economic help for the tickets and relocation expenses," said Colombian Juliana Moncada, who settled in Wagga-Wagga, 460 km southwest of Sydney, with her husband, an electronic engineer.

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