CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's prime minister used his official campaign launch on Sunday to warn against a change of government during the economic fallout from Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
Polls project Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition is widely expected to be returned next Saturday for a second three-year term with a reduced majority.
Turnbull said his government was better placed to strike vital new trade deals with the EU and Britain after the separation forced by a British referendum.
Australia had brokered free trade deals with major trade partners China, Japan and South Korea and renegotiated a pact with Singapore during the government's first term, he said.
"The shockwaves of the past 48 hours from Britain's vote to leave the European Union are a sharp reminder of the volatility in the global economy. Always expect the unexpected," Turnbull said.
"Our clear economic plan is more essential than ever as we enter this period of uncertainty in global markets following the British vote to leave the European Union," he added.
Australia's only two surviving conservative prime ministers — John Howard and Tony Abbott — had front row seats at the campaign launch.
Howard is Australia's second longest serving prime minister, lasting almost 12 years before his government was defeated at 2007 elections. Abbott lasted only two years before he was overthrown by Turnbull in an internal government showdown in September.
Turnbull became the fifth prime minister since Howard in an extraordinarily volatile period of Australian politics.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the government was divided between Turnbull's supporters and those who support Abbott.
"Mr. Turnbull says this is the time for stability. You cannot have stability without unity," Shorten said.
An opinion poll published in Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph newspaper found the government and the center-left Labor Party opposition running neck and neck with each supported by 50 percent of respondents. The newspaper did not publish a sample size or margin of error. But such Galaxy Research polls are usually nationwide with margins of error smaller than 3 percentage points.
While earlier polls have shown the parties are similarly close, analysis has shown that Labor is unlikely to win the 21 extra seats it needs to form government.