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Australians to go to the polls on Sept. 7

CANBERRA, Australia – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called an election on Sept. 7 and said Sunday that it will be fought over who can be trusted to manage the Australian economy as it transitions from a decade-old mining boom fed by Chinese industrial demand that is now fading.

In starting the five-week election campaign, Rudd said the economy can no longer rely on Chinese demand for iron ore and coal that made the country one of the few wealthy nations to avoid a recession during the global economic downturn.

“The boom, of course, has fuelled so much of our nation’s wealth,” he told reporters at Parliament House. “That boom is over.”

“Who do the Australian people trust to best lead them through the new economic challenges that lie ahead?” he asked.

Rudd conceded that his center-left Labor Party was the underdog, saying his advisers had told him that if the election had been held this weekend, his government would have lost.

But opinion polls also show that more voters prefer Rudd as prime minister than opposition leader Tony Abbott.

The latest economic figures show the trend, with the Treasury Department on Friday raising its estimated deficit for the current fiscal year to 30.1 billion Australian dollars ($26.8 billion) due to the mining slowdown. The new forecast for the year ending June 30, 2014, reveals a substantial deterioration in Australia’s finances since May, when the department forecast a deficit of AU$18 billion.

The government also announced a AU$33.3 billion shortfall in the revenue forecast over the next four years – a deterioration of about AU$3 billion a week since the May forecast.

Rudd said Sunday that the date meant he would not attend the G20 meeting in Russia that week, but Australia would likely be represented by Foreign Minister Bob Carr.