At the beginning of the final week in the Australian General Elections, the contesting parties are anticipating a close finish.
At the beginning of the final week in the Australian General Elections, the contesting parties are anticipating a close finish. Though inflation has dominated much of the campaign argument so far, the final leg is expected to produce much more bitter attacks between the two main parties - the Labour Party and the Liberal-Country Party.
The poll takes place on Saturday (18 May) and Australians will be electing members for both Houses of Parliament - the Senate and the House of Representatives. The election followed the double dissolution called by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, after a hostile senate had adopted tactics that amounted to a refusal of supply to the 16-month-old Labour Government.
The balance of power in the Senate was held by the Democratic Labour Party - a break away group - and independents. Matters came to a head when the Government appointed Senator Vincent Gair, the leader of the Democratic Labour Party, as Ambassador to Eire. His acceptance gave the Labour Government the opportunity to have their own candidate selected for the vacancy under the senate's proportional representation system.
However, the Queensland State Country Party Government immediately issued five instead of six writs for the Senate vacancies. The Government had not had time to act and so Mr. Whitlam once again faced the prospect of having a minority in the Senate. By virtually witholding supply in the Upper House, the coalition took action unprecedented since Federation, and Mr. Whitlam felt compelled to ask the people for a new mandate.
The Labour Party campaign has concentrated mainly on the Government's record in the fields of social services, education and foreign policy. The two leaders of the cealition - Mr. Billy Snedden of the Liberal Party and Mr. Doug Anthony of the Country Party - have fairly successfully directed the argument on to the current rate of inflation, which has been running at between 10 and 14 per cent.
The 498 candidates - a record number - are contesting 127 seats in the House of Representatives. In the Senate election, 343 candidates are contesting 60 seats.
Though 19 political parties are represented, there are also a great many independents standing. Most of them are running on one issue. Mrs. H.M. Berrill of Adelaide, for instance, has adopted an unusual strategy for getting her policy printed on the ballot paper. For the campaign she has changed her name by deed poll to "Mrs. Stop Asian Immigration Now. H.M. Berrill".
Four referendums are being held at the same time as the elections, and in New South Ales it has been estimated that voters will have to spend up to fifteen minutes filling in the forms.