Australia election: PM Scott Morrison concedes defeat as Labor set to win

But both ruling coalition and opposition lose ground to Greens and independents, which could mean a hung parliament

Jane Dalton
Saturday 21 May 2022 13:00
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Anthony Albanese set to be next prime minister of Australia

Australia’s Labor Party is set to end almost a decade of conservative rule after the country’s ruling coalition was swept away by a wave of support for candidates campaigning for more climate action.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has conceded defeat in the national election, and opposition leader Anthony Albanese will be sworn in as prime minister after his party clinched its first electoral win since 2007.

But with millions of votes still to be counted, Mr Albanese’s new government could end up a minority one, with Greens and independents holding the balance of power.

Boris Johnson congratulated Mr Albanese on his election, citing the UK’s new free trade agreement with the country.

Mr Morrison said as he conceded: “Tonight I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and I’ve congratulated him on his election victory this evening.”

Both main parties lost ground to smaller rivals, which could lead to Labor failing to win enough seats for a majority, resulting in a hung parliament.

A strong showing by the Greens, and by a group of “teal independents”, who campaigned on policies of integrity, equality and tackling climate change, means the make-up of the new parliament looks set to be much less climate-sceptic than the one that supported Mr Morrison’s pro-coal-mining administration.

Mr Morrison had vowed to work to keep coal mines operating for as long as possible, refusing to commit to phasing out environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

After the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, Mr Morrison’s government was accused by scientists of being “wilfully negligent when it comes to climate”, and of failing to protect biodiversity.

Labor had promised a plan to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by 43 per cent by the year 2050. And the extensive fires three years ago, which wrecked 3,000 homes and killed or displaced 3 billion animals, sent the climate crisis up the election agenda.

But in campaigning, the major parties had to tread a tricky path on the environment. People say they want action on climate, but are not always keen to pay for it.

In his victory speech, Mr Albanese said: “It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mom who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown, can stand before you tonight as Australia’s prime minister.

“And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars.”

He said people had had enough of division, and he wanted to unite the country.

Labor has also promised people more financial assistance, as Australia grapples with inflation at its highest since 2001 and soaring housing prices.

The Greens’ Elizabeth Watson-Brown celebrates winning a Queensland seat

The party plans to increase the minimum wage, and has proposed establishing a Pacific defence school to train neighbouring armies in response to China’s potential military presence on the nearby Solomon Islands.

Mr Morrison defended his actions in power, saying: “We hand over this country as a government in a stronger position than when we inherited it when we came to government (in 2013).

“Unemployment today is at the lowest level in 48 years. Australians leaving school, leaving university, getting their trades, know they have the confidence of being out there and able to get a job and to be able to realise their aspirations, and that’s what I wish for them, that’s what I wish for this country,” he said.

Mr Johnson said in a statement: “Our countries have a long history and a bright future together. As thriving like-minded democracies, we work every day to make the world a better, safer, greener and more prosperous place.

Some voters in Sydney went to the polls in just their trunks

“As we reap the rewards of our comprehensive free trade agreement, the Aukus partnership and the unmatched closeness between the British and Australian people, we do so knowing that the only distance between us is geographical.

“I look forward to working with prime minister Albanese in the weeks, months and years ahead, as together we tackle shared challenges and demonstrate the importance of our shared values.”

Labor will form the next government

Neither of the major parties appeared certain to win the minimum 76 seats required for a majority in the 151-seat parliament.

With 60 per cent of the vote counted, Labor had 72 seats and Mr Morrison’s coalition 55. Independents and the Greens held 11, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation projected. A further 13 seats remained in doubt.

Mr Morrison, who became prime minister in 2018 after several leadership changes within the Liberal Party, is standing down as its leader.

The pandemic led to a record proportion of postal votes, which will not be added to the count until Sunday.

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