Australia’s 2022 federal election takes place on Saturday, with climate change emerging as a key issue.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces Anthony Albanese in the final vote, the incumbent prime minister hoping for a rare fourth term in a political system that has been plagued by turbulence in recent years.
Here, Sky News examines who Australians vote for, how the electoral system works and what the main issues are.
Who do people vote for?
Australia has its own distinct electoral system.
Voting in the elections is compulsory for anyone over the age of 18, with 26 million adults due to take part in the next vote.
The current government is a right-wing coalition between Mr Morrison’s Liberals and the National Party.
Labor is in opposition, with at least two polls currently pushing it to win. The other major parties are the Australian Greens, United Australia and One Nation.
The Australian Parliament is made up of two chambers. The lower part is the House of Representatives and the upper part is the Senate.
The House of Representatives consists of 151 deputies, each of whom represents an area of about 140,000 people.
As in the UK, people vote for their local representative and if a party reaches the minimum threshold of 76 seats they can form a majority government.
If one party fails, it can form a coalition with another, as the Liberals and Nationals did in the 2019 election.
The 151 seats have a maximum term of three years, but the government can call an election earlier to increase their chances of re-election. This means that in every election, all 151 seats are contested.
The Senate operates under a different system, whereby only half of its 76 seats are elected every three years.
Each of the six states has 12 senators, while the two mainland territories have two. On May 21, 40 Senate seats are up for grabs.
How does voting work?
In Australia, there are three ways to vote: in person on election day, early by mail or early in person.
More than 7,000 polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 21.
But for those who can’t make it due to mobility issues, coronavirus concerns, work or travel commitments, they can vote early by mail or at 500 ‘early polling’ stations across the country. May 9.
For the House of Representatives vote, people must number the candidates in order of preference, with one being their favorite.
If a candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes, he is automatically elected.
If they receive less than 50%, the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated and their other preferences are reallocated until one emerges with more than 50%.
When voting in the Senate, there are two ways to vote — by party “above the line” or by candidate “below the line.”
For the first, voters number the parties in order of preference from one to six, and for the second, they do the same, but must rank at least 12 candidates.
A candidate must obtain 14.3% of the vote – or 33% in mainland territories – to be elected.
If one does not initially cross the threshold, the other preferences are shifted until they do.
Climate change a key issue: Adele Robinson, Sky correspondent
Kate Crowley, associate professor of public and environmental policy at the University of Tasmania in Australia, describes voters as being “hyper-concerned” about climate change.
She says it turned into “a kitchen table problem, kind of a common, everyday problem.”
“When your kitchen table is the one washing up the street,” she adds, “it’s really a kitchen table problem…a lot of people in the country are very scared.”
Independent politicians, with climate change at the forefront of their agenda, are emerging as a major threat to mainstream parties.
So-called “teal” activists, representing a greener shade of blue than the Liberal Party’s traditional color, are turning voters away from Liberal candidates.
They are partly funded by Climate 200, which is financially supported by a former Liberal Party donor, Simon Holmes à Court.
These activists are believed to have the potential to tip the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament and push for a greener agenda.
The main political parties have been described as ‘downplaying the importance of the climate as an issue’.
Ketan Joshi, an author on climate change, says politicians “try not to talk about it too much…they don’t really introduce major new policies…(they) try to minimize the problem as much as possible”.
Who are the ones to watch – and what are the issues?
National polls put Labour’s Antony Albanese comfortably ahead of incumbent Prime Minister Morrison as the likely winner.
But given that Mr Morrison was in a similar position when he won three years ago in 2019, Labor cannot afford to be complacent.
Calling the election as late as possible to give maximum time to discredit his opponent, Mr Morrison is the first Australian Prime Minister to serve a full three-year term in 15 years.
If Labor wins, it would be their first time in power for nearly a decade.
They currently have 69 seats in the House of Representatives, so seven more are needed to form a majority government and five to form a coalition with another party.
The current coalition, made up of 60 Liberal and 15 National seats, cannot afford any net losses and should make up for them with new seats in other areas.
A suspended parliament would need independent support
Some commentators are predicting a tight race followed by a hung parliament, which would make the growing number of independent candidates very important to any attempt to form a coalition.
Former TV correspondent Zoe Daniel is running as an independent candidate in Goldstein against current Liberal MP Tim Wilson, while Allegra Spender, daughter of late fashion designer Carla Zampatti, is running in Wentworth, in the affluent eastern suburbs from Sydney.
The Australian Greens, Center Alliance, Katter’s Australian Party and United Australian Party all currently have one MP.
But the Greens are currently polling higher at 10% as voters prioritize climate change after suffering devastating wildfires and floods in recent years.
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party votes 4% and Pauline Hanson’s right-wing populists One Nation 3%.
Former Australian tourism boss Scott Morrison took office in 2018 after his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull was kicked out of the Liberal Party over infighting.
He has been in politics since 2007 when he became MP for Cook in the south of the country.
The 53-year-old made a name for himself as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s immigration minister who doggedly enforced Australia’s ‘stop boats’ policy on asylum seekers – one of the toughest in the world.
In the top job, he continued to take a tough stance on immigration, facing criticism for reports of inhuman and degrading treatment in detention centres.
He is a religious conservative, closely linked to the Australian Pentecostal movement and has presented himself as a typical suburban family man.
His campaign will focus on the economy, as economic activity in Australia is now higher than before the pandemic and is expected to grow another 4.25% by the end of this year. Unemployment also fell by 4% and is at its lowest level since 2008.
Mr Morrison is also likely to defend Australia’s low coronavirus death rate as evidence that he has successfully managed the pandemic.
But state leaders have often gone against his decisions, with the federal government being criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines and lack of testing during the country’s Omicron wave.
Last year, he successfully brokered the Aukus defense pact with the UK and the US, which could be rewarded by voters increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence in the world. region.
But that led to France’s famous snub and a $37billion (£27billion) submarine deal it had earlier promised President Emmanuel Macron, leading Mr Macron to call him a liar.
Another scandal he struggled to shake off was his untimely family vacation to Hawaii during the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020.
He was also accused of being too slow to declare a national emergency during widespread flooding in Queensland and New South Wales in March, which could mean the loss of climate-conscious voters to Labor or Greens.
A 25-year veteran MP, Mr Albanese was elected to Parliament in 1996.
When Kevin Rudd brought Labor to power in 2007, he served as its Minister for Infrastructure and Transport – and Deputy Prime Minister when he returned to power in 2013.
He only held the post for 10 weeks, before the party lost the next election.
After initially being beaten by rival Bill Shorten, his defeat in two subsequent elections saw the 59-year-old chosen as Labor leader.
Once considered a prominent member of the Labor left, he has increasingly moved to the centre.
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Afraid of losing centre-right voters, his current campaign is one of “safe change” and “renewal not revolution”.
Promising small but significant changes on the issues of climate change, the cost of living and wage growth, Mr Albanese is keen to underscore his centrist beliefs – insofar as he wrote an article titled “I am not woke up” in an Australian newspaper.
Having become known for advocating for free healthcare, the rights of the LGBTQ community and immigrants, he has now endorsed Australia’s controversial policy of flipping boats of asylum seekers, to which he previously opposed.
Although he has ammunition to shoot at Mr Morrison’s failings, his modest aims still may not inspire some of Australia’s most passionate voters.
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