Economy, internet and immigration top Oz poll

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Economy, internet and immigration top Oz poll

Economy, internet and immigration top Oz poll
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Immigration, the monarchy, the internet and the economy are just some of the key issues on the minds of Australia’s 14 million voters as they head to the polls this Saturday.

While the global financial crisis crippled the world’s other advanced countries, Australia escaped relatively unscathed being the only developed economy not to fall into recession.

Despite that, Australia’s current Labor prime minister Julia Gillard has a fight if she is to win this knife-edge general election.

Unelected, she took over in June from predecessor Kevin Rudd after a series of unpopular decisions saw Labor’s poll ratings plummet.

In a campaign arguably short of big ideas, Labor has tried to woe voters with the promise of a flagship national broadband network.

At a cost of some 30 billion euros, it aims to give more than 90 percent of Australians fast internet access.

The country currently lags behind the world’s other developed economies in terms of broadband speed and cost.

More controversially, Labor has said it intends to impose a 30 percent tax on big iron ore and coal miners, angering many in that powerful industry.

Should Australia be a monarchy or a republic? That is another question dominating the campaign.

Gillard would like to see the country split the historical link with the British monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II.

In contrast, her main rival, opposition leader Tony Abbot, remains a staunch monarchist.

Dubbed “the Mad Monk” – a reference to his training as a Roman Catholic priest – Abbot has resurrected his Liberal-National coalition’s fortunes.

But the conservative politician is not without controversy. He has called for Muslim women to remove the burka and he remains fiercely opposed to stem cell research, abortion and gay marriage.

Another key battleground is immigration. This year alone Australia has stopped more than 2,500 asylum seekers on boats off its shores.

Both Labor and the opposition talk tough on halting the influx – however, the two parties have differing policies.

The conservative opposition would reopen detention camps on the Pacific island of Nauru. In contrast, Labor wants to open an off-shore processing centre in a country signed up to the UN Refugee Convention, preferably East Timor.