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Aussie Election Starts; Opposition Tipped To Win

"I have to say, there are higher immediate priorities" than reaching the 0.5 percent target, Abbott told reporters last week. "The best thing we can do for our country and ultimately the best thing we can do for people around the world is to strengthen our economy."

The money saved will be reallocated to road projects in the country's three biggest cities â¿¿ Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The plans have been condemned by opponents and aid groups, who dubbed it short-sighted and contrary to the nation's image of global cooperation, particularly in light of Australia's recent appointments to presidency of the U.N. Security Council and the G20 in 2014.

"I think it says a great deal about the man, Tony Abbott, and his principles if he is prepared to attack the poor â¿¿ home and abroad â¿¿ and is prepared to jeopardize the long-term standing of our country while he is at it," Greens leader Christine Milne said last week.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Friday that cuts to planned spending will strain small Pacific island nations, a major beneficiary of Australian aid.

"These are countries that need a lot of support and help, so if there is less money coming their way, they'll obviously feel that over time," Key told reporters in the Marshall Islands, where he was attending the Pacific Islands Forum. "It will certainly make the money that we spend here even more valuable."

The coalition also aims to save money by stopping the AU$10 billion government-run Clean Energy Finance Corp. from investing any more money on low-pollution power generation technologies.

It is unclear whether the collation can fulfill that election promise before it passes legislation.

The coalition appears unlikely to win a majority in the Senate. But the election could deliver some conservatively minded senators for minor parties that Abbott could deal with.

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