SYDNEY – Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat in an election on Saturday, and the opposition Labor Party is set to end nearly a decade of conservative rule, possibly in support of environmentalists.
Partial results show that Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition has been punished by voters in Western Australia, and especially the affluent urban constituencies.
“Tonight, I have spoken with the Leader of the Opposition and the incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. And I congratulate him on his election victory this evening, “said Morrison, who resigned as party leader. Labor has yet to reach 76 of the 151 lower house seats needed to form a government alone. The final results could take time as a record number of postal votes are counted.
Greens and a group of so-called “Till Independents” who campaigned for integrity, equality and the fight against climate change mean that the makeup of the new parliament looks far less climate-skeptical. Which supported Morrison’s pro-coal mining administration.
The center-left Labor gave a decent lead in opinion polls, although recent polls show that the Liberal-National government has narrowed the gap in the final spread of the six-week campaign.
A Newspole poll of Australian newspapers on election day showed that the Labor lead over the ruling coalition fell to 53-47 points on a two-party basis, with the votes of unsuccessful candidates being redistributed between the top two contestants.
With at least five affluent Liberal-dominated seats, the so-called “Till Independent” seems poised to win, tapping voters’ anger at Australia’s inaction on climate change after some of the worst floods and wildfires.
Treasurer Josh Friedenberg said one of the biggest blows to the government would be to make it “difficult” for an independent newcomer to hold the long-held Liberal seat in Melbourne’s Koeng.
Three volunteers working for Till Independent Monique Ryan, who are challenging Friedenberg, joined Ryan’s campaign because they were concerned about the climate for their children and grandchildren.
“For me, this election actually looks promising,” Charlotte Forwood, a working mother of three adult children, told Reuters.
Early returns suggest that the Greens have also made ground, looking to get three seats in Queensland.
Greens leader Adam Bandet, who holds the Melbourne seat in his hometown, says climate is a major problem for voters.
“There have been attempts from Labor and the Liberals to bury it, and we have been very clear about the need to tackle the climate by tackling coal and gas.”
Morrison and Albanese previously voted for them in Sydney after a whistle-stop tour across the marginal seats over the last two days of the campaign, influenced by rising living costs, climate change and integrity.
As labor focused on rising inflation and wage growth, Morrison turned the country’s lowest unemployment in nearly half a century into the focus of the last hour of his campaign.
(Reporting by Renju Jose, John Myer and Byron Kay in Sydney and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Writing by Lincoln Fest; Editing by Richard Pulin, William Mallard and Ross Russell and Timothy Heritage)