As I mentioned in a post I made earlier, an election in Australia has been a long time coming.
On January 30th 2013, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, called an election for September 14th. Of course on June 26th, she was overthrown in a leadership spill by Kevin Rudd. For reasons I don't fully comprehend - but probably related to embarrassment as Rudd's first act was to cancel the election - Rudd called the election for September 7th, a week prior to the previously planned date. This resulted in the cancellation of a planned referendum on weather or not the feds could fund municipalities - which, like in Canada, are creatures of the Provinces/States.
One important thing to understand that separates Australia from places like Canada and the United States is the low voter loyalty shown in the states to particular parties.
Lets take Alberta for example. If you consider "The Conservative Banner" to have been carried by Harper's Conservatives, the Alliance, Reform in 1993, and the PC Party in 1988 and prior; then "The Conservative Banner" has been hoisted over Alberta in victory in every federal election since 1958. Save one election, the Republican candidate for President has carried Arizona since 1952.
Things like this do not happen in Australia on the federal level.
Starting in the 50's and 60's, Labor's vote in Victoria became split between the traditional Labor party, and the Democratic Labor Party, a socially conservative pro-Labour political party. This caused a good 3 decades or so of weak party showings in federal elections. Queensland has become the modern area of weak showings. In state elections Queensland had been a very small-c conservative state, but even that has not prevented recent Labor majorities in the state.
Tasmania has had swings of a few elections towards or away from one or another party. Both South Australia and Western Australia have generally favoured the LNP.
As a 'default' this has resulted in New South Wales being an area of strength for Labor.
Complicating factors is the fact that native sons often do get stronger votes. Gillard is from Victoria, but Rudd is from Queensland. The recent poll numbers reflect this. I'll save the state-by-state breakdowns for a post in a few days or a week or so; as I want to keep this post as a bit of a primer on this particular election; leaving the last post for a primer on the system itself.
To learn the 'big issues', I could list them and just tell them to you, but I like things which are interactive, so I encourage everyone to go and try out the Vote Compass for Australia which will also give you an idea of where you stand on the issues that matter to Australians.
Nationwide polls show Labor bouncing back a bit from their heights. They've still yet to poll ahead of the Liberals in a 2PP (save for the one polling company that has shown them ahead a few times), but when results are this close, even with the alternative vote, the winner is still unknown.
The poll average shows LNP ahead 51% to 49% for Labor. It will be interesting to see if any party can pull away into a solid lead during the campaign.