SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s political leaders raced to get their message out to undecided voters in marginal seats on Thursday, two days before a general election, with economic problems dominating the last stretch of a tough campaign.
The election has become too close to call, polls issued on Wednesday showed, as the ruling conservative coalition narrowed the gap with the main opposition Labor Party.
Centre-left Labor has put spiking inflation and slow growth in wages at the forefront of its campaign, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison-led Liberal-National coalition has urged voters to focus on unemployment, at its lowest since 1974.
“People being in jobs is the most important thing that the economy needs,” Morrison said during a campaign stop in Tasmania, just ahead of the release of April unemployment data that showed the jobless rate dipping to 3.9%.
“I’m for higher wages by ensuring that we get unemployment down.”
About 67% of voters in a survey released by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday supported a higher base pay despite Morrison’s warning that it could strain small businesses and the economy.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has said he would support a proposal to raise the minimum wage by just over 5%.
Inflation has outstripped wage growth putting pressure on family budgets with Morrison blaming the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 lockdowns in China for the surge in living costs.
Ahead of Saturday’s vote, Albanese will make a whirlwind tour through five states as Labor tries to flip 20 marginal seats held by the coalition.
Two polls released on Wednesday suggested the election may go down to the wire with the ruling coalition narrowing the lead with Labor Party and coming within striking distance of retaining power.
“We can take nothing for granted. It could come down to a handful of votes in a handful of seats,” Albanese said in a message to Labor supporters.
Nearly 7% of voters were still undecided, a Guardian poll showed.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Robert Birsel)