CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s opposition party officially launched its election campaign on Sunday with an emphasis on cutting costs of living for voters as inflation surges to its highest rate in 21 years.
The center-left Labor Party launched it campaign in the west coast city of Perth for the first time since World War II, in a demonstration of how important Western Australia state is to the party’s ambition to win control of government in May 21 elections.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese promised lower-cost childcare and medicines if he becomes prime minister.
With many aspiring home owners priced out of the housing market, a Labor government would buy a stake of up to 40% in dwellings bought by thousands of eligible low- and middle-income earners. Labor also promised to raise standards in aged care and increase pay for staff.
“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 will look after the young, we will look after the sick, we will look after our older Australians. No one held back and no one left behind,” Albanese added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attacked Labor’s plan to take a stake in homes, arguing a Labor government would expect to make money out of such deals.
“They will have equity in your home. And as … your equity goes up, they’re going to keep it,” Morrison said.
“I don’t have a plan to make money off people buying homes. Quite the opposite. I want them to own their own home,” Morrison added.
Official data released last week showed that Australia’s inflation rose to 5.1% in the year through March. It is the highest annual rate since 2001 when a newly-introduced 10% federal consumption tax created a temporary hike. Inflation in the latest March quarter was sharply higher than the 3.7% three months earlier. The March result was driven by a surge in fuel and housing costs as well as food shortages created by recent Australian floods.
While inflationary forces are largely outside Morrison’s control, some observers suspect rising prices undermine his coalition’s claim to be the superior economic managers.
Most economists expect Australia’s central bank will on Tuesday raise a benchmark interest rate for the first time since November 2010. The overnight cash rate has been at a record low 0.1% since November 2020.
The Reserve Bank of Australia last raised interest rates during an election campaign in 2007. Two weeks later, Prime Minister John Howard’s conservative government was voted out of office after more than 11 years in power.