MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australians go to the polls on Saturday to choose between extending the six-year rule of the conservative Liberal-National coalition or electing the centre-left Labor party.
The coalition has been trailing Labor in opinion polls for years but the gap has narrowed during the campaign.
Following are some key facts about the two men leading their parties, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor’s Bill Shorten.
- Born in 1968 in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Morrison earned an honours degree in Applied Economic Geography and later had management positions in Australia and New Zealand’s tourism industries and in the Liberal party.
- Morrison became prominent in 2013 when, as immigration minister, he enforced the government’s hard-line strategy of offshore detention and processing centres for asylum seekers.
- Treasurer from September 2015 to August 2018, Morrison emerged as a surprise leader after a right-wing uprising forced Malcolm Turnbull from office.
- A strident supporter of traditional energy industries, Morrison brought a lump of coal to the parliament in 2017 and taunted the opposition by saying: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you.”
- Morrison is a Pentecostal Christian and told parliament his beliefs are personal and not a political agenda. He and his wife of 29 years live in Sydney with their two daughters.
- A native of Melbourne, Shorten and his non-identical twin brother were born in 1967 and spent their childhoods in the southern city’s suburbs.
- Shorten earned a bachelor of laws degree from Monash University and later completed an MBA at the Melbourne Business School. He spent most of his early career rising through workers’ union ranks.
- His public profile was boosted in 2006 when two miners were trapped underground in a mine in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. As union secretary, Shorten became the unofficial spokesman for the families and the community in the two weeks before the men were rescued.
- A Labor member since the age of 17, Shorten became opposition leader after the party was voted out of office in 2013.
- Shorten, raised Catholic, converted to Anglicanism before marrying his second wife in 2009. He lives with his family in Melbourne. Asked in 2014 how long he had wanted to become prime minister, he said: “I don’t remember now.”
Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Paul Tait