By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is on course for defeat at this weekend’s national election, a political poll showed on Friday, as campaigning ahead of the ballot was overshadowed by the death one of the country’s most beloved former leaders.
An Ipsos poll for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers shows Australia’s Labor ahead of Morrison’s coalition government by a margin of 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis where votes are distributed until a winner is declared.
The Ipsos findings echo similar polls as Morrison fails to woo voters with a campaign centred on his government’s projection to deliver Australia’s first budget surplus in more than 10 years.
Labor, which lost the last two elections in 2013 and 2016, has promised to match the government’s 2019-20 surplus and then deliver a bigger surplus in 2020-21.
Should the opposition Labor party win, Australia will likely have its seventh prime minister since 2010.
While campaigning continues ahead of polls opening on Saturday, Morrison’s last-minute pitch to voters has largely been overshadowed by the death of former prime minister Bob Hawke.
Hawke, a transformative and charismatic left-wing lawmaker with the character of a lovable rogue, who served as Australian prime minister from 1983 to 1991, died aged 89 at his Sydney home on Thursday, his family said.
Both Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten praised Hawke on Friday.
“He was a man of enormous intellectual capability,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“But he could combine that with his deep appreciation of the character, of love of life for every Australian. That’s why he, I think, will be remembered so fondly.”
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by James Dalgleish)