Australians are voting in a federal election on Saturday that bookmakers predict will return the Labor Party to power after six years in opposition.
A victory would put Labor leader Bill Shorten on course to become the country’s next prime minister, following a campaign in which he highlighted climate change and tax reform.
“I am nervous because it’s a big day, it’s a very big deal,” Shorten said on Saturday. “But I’m confident that we have done the homework.”
His rival is the current prime minister Scott Morrison. His conservative Liberal-National coalition has held power since 2013, but has struggled in the opinion polls over concerns about instability and party infighting.Voting is compulsory across the country, meaning a high proportion of the 17 million eligible voters is expected to turn out for this election.
But the polls also indicated Morrison narrowed Labor’s lead during the campaign, even though many voters are still angry about the ousting of his socially moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in a backbench revolt last August.
Turnbull was the second prime minister to be ousted while in office by the ruling Liberal Party amid deep divisions over climate and energy policy.And while polls show most Australians support stronger action to tackle climate change, Morrison’s coalition strongly supports the coal industry.
Morrison has pledged to meet Australia’s commitment under the Paris Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 26% and 28% on 2005 levels, but says more ambitious targets would damage the economy.
Shorten said that, if elected, his government would aim to cut emissions by 45% by 2030.
Polling stations will close first in the more populous east of the country, two hours before voting ends in Western Australia.