Australia will host the second leaders’ debate today ahead of the May 21 general election.
Centre-left Labor party challenger Anthony Albanese needs a commanding performance in this debate because, despite being a veteran politician, he is still largely unknown to Australian voters and has been gaffe-prone in recent weeks. Incumbent centre-right Liberal party Prime Minister Scott Morrison—whilst unpopular with segments of the country for perceived arrogance—has a reputation for being a formidable election campaigner.
Expect foreign and security policy to be one of the major debate issues. Particularly, the South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands’ recent security deal with China—potentially resulting in a Chinese naval base just 2000km from Australia’s north-eastern coast.
Albanese will paint the deal as a failure of Morrison’s leadership in the region and his prescription to prevent a naval base—increased aid to the pacific—is popular with Australians. Despite this, Morrison is expected to exude a tough stance on China—another vote-winner—and will likely apply significant diplomatic pressure on the Solomon Islands plus step-up Australia’s regional military presence.
Regardless, expect a close election decided in key marginal seats, but Albanese cannot afford any further gaffes in the final two-weeks.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.