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Australian opposition targets inflation in campaign launch

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s opposition party officially kicked off its election campaign on Sunday with a focus on lowering the cost of living for voters as inflation hits its highest rate in 21 years .

The centre-left Labor Party has launched its campaign in the west coast city of Perth for the first time since World War II, demonstrating how important the state of Western Australia is to the party’s ambition to take control of the government in the May 21 elections.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has promised cheaper childcare and medicine if he becomes prime minister.

With many aspiring homeowners out of the housing market, a Labor government would buy up to a 40% stake in homes bought by thousands of eligible low- and middle-income people. Labor has also promised to raise standards of care for the elderly and to raise staff salaries.

“We can do better than this, so much better than this,” Albanese told supporters, referring to the Conservative government’s nine years in power.

“We’re going to look after the young, we’re going to look after the sick, we’re going to look after our older Australians. No one has been held back and no one has been left behind,” Albanese added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attacked Labor’s plan to take a stake in the houses, arguing that a Labor government would expect to make money from such deals.

“They will have the equity in your home. And as… your capital grows, they will keep it,” Morrison said.

“I don’t have a plan to make money from people buying houses. Rather the opposite. I want them to own their own home,” Morrison added.

Official data released last week showed Australian inflation hit 5.1% in the year to March. This is the highest annual rate since 2001, when a new 10% federal consumption tax created a temporary hike. Inflation in the last quarter of March was significantly higher than that of 3.7% three months earlier. The March result was driven by higher fuel and housing costs as well as food shortages created by recent flooding in Australia.

With inflationary forces largely beyond Morrison’s control, some observers suspect rising prices are undermining his coalition’s claim to be the best economic managers.

Most economists expect Australia’s central bank to raise a benchmark interest rate on Tuesday for the first time since November 2010. The overnight rate is at a record low of 0.1% since November 2020 .

The Reserve Bank of Australia last raised interest rates during an election campaign in 2007. Two weeks later, the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard was ousted after more than 11 years in office. able.

Morrison has set the election date for April 10. But parties officially launch their campaigns closer to Election Day when voters begin to focus more on their choice.

Morrison is not expected to launch his Liberal Party campaign until the weekend before the election.

His coalition won 77 seats in the 2019 elections for the 151-seat House of Representatives where a government must control a majority. The government majority shrunk to a bare minimum of 76 seats when a lawmaker left the Liberal Party last year.

Labor won just five of Western Australia’s 16 constituencies in the last election. Morrison’s coalition won the rest.

Albanese hopes that the Labor Party’s extraordinary popularity in the state legislature will trickle down to its federal candidates.

The Labor state government used tough border restrictions to keep Western Australia largely free of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic until the more infectious delta and omicron variants took hold in recent months. .

Labor was rewarded with a record 53 seats in the 59-seat state legislature in an election in March last year, 13 more than in previous elections.

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