Australia Vote Battle Begins


"Election will determine if resources companies pay higher taxes"

Australians will vote in a national election on Aug. 21 that will decide whether mining companies share more of their wealth, who pays to clean up the environment and if the first female prime minister can keep her job.

The latest poll shows Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labour Party with an election-winning lead over Tony Abbott's Liberal-National coalition. Gillard, who ousted former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last month, set the date for the election on July 17, vowing to maintain the economic growth that helped skirt the global recession while improving education and health care.

The election will determine whether resources companies led by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group pay higher taxes, a policy championed by Rudd and since diluted by Gillard, 48, to win support. Abbott, bidding to make Labor the first one-term government in 80 years, pledged not to adopt the tax, describing it as a punishment for the nation's most profitable industry.

"There are fairly big differences in terms of health, the mining tax, which the coalition would ax, and in industrial relations and regulation generally," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors, which manages about $95 billion, said.

Gillard has widened her lead over Abbott's coalition, according to a News poll survey published in the Australian newspaper today. Labor is ahead by 10 percentage points with 55% of voters preferring the incumbent party, up from a 53% to 47% split three weeks ago, the poll of 1,140 voters on July 1618 showed. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

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