Australian election plan boomerangs

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has abandoned plans to hold an Australian national election this year.

Apparently the feisty leader of the Liberal-National Country coalition government found that his electoral strategy - to hold elections when the opposition was in disarray - would have boomeranged on his own party.

Political insiders say Mr. Fraser was gearing up for an election at the end of this year - one year earlier than originally scheduled - to take advantage of deep splits within the opposition Labor Party and before Australia's economic outlook worsened further.

But a government political scandal and a poor Liberal Party showing in a state election forced Fraser to reappraise the idea. His own hospitalization complicated matters. So the prime minister decided to pass up an early election.

In state elections in South Australia, a state that has been seriously affected by unemployment levels 1 percent higher than the national average, the incumbent Liberal Party was defeated by a 7 percent swing to Labor.

Economic conditions have been a principal cause of popular sentiment against the Fraser government. The consumer price index for the third quarter ending in September showed an increase of 3.5 percent, giving an inflation rate for the year ending in September of 12.3 percent.

The latest figures on unemployment have also been far worse than the government predicted. The number of unemployed has topped 500,000 for the first time since before World War II. On a seasonally adjusted basis, unemployment is now running at 8.2 percent, and there are daily reports of more people being sacked as automakers, steel mills, and manufacturing generally reduce output, or as businesses go bankrupt.

The federal government is being urged to hold a conference with all the state premiers to come up with a job creation program.

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