Scott Morrison calls election for May 18

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)Prime Minister Scott Morrison opening construction work for Western Sydney Airport.

Scott Morrison flew back to Canberra late on Wednesday to call the election on Thursday morning for May 18.

After the government cleared the decks with a raft of final appointments, announcements and other so-called housekeeping, the Prime Minister pulled the trigger for a five-week poll first thing.

Campaigning has been unofficially underway since last week when the government released its budget which was brought forward a month to act as an election springboard.

Labor spent the final day of the faux campaign promising higher surpluses and better services. Mr Morrison, who campaigned in Labor seats in Tasmania, said the election would be a referendum on economic management.

“You can’t pay for the healthcare needs of Australians if you can’t run a strong economy. You can’t pay for the Medicare needs of Australians if you can’t balance the budget,” he said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has been calling on Mr Morrison for several days to get on with calling the election. Each day the government delayed enabled it to spend about $1 million on taxpayer-funded advertising.

“The Australian people actually want to make a choice,” Mr Shorten said.

“Six years of instability, six years, three prime ministers. Enough is enough, time’s up, let’s have an election.”

The Coalition starts the campaign with a notional 73 seats and Labor a notional 72 out of the 151 seat Parliament.

The winner needs a minimum 76 seats.

The key battlegrounds will be Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

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