Australia election: Scott Morrison hails ‘miracle’ result for Liberals as Labor concedes defeat

Shock result after opinion and exit polls predicted win for Bill Shorten

Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison wins Australian elections

Scott Morrison celebrated a “miracle” victory in the Australian general election after defying polls predicting he would lose power to opposition Labor party leader Bill Shorten.

The prime minister thanked his jubilant supporters in Sydney as early results showed the ruling Liberal Party-led coalition was on course to win at least 73 seats, just short of the 76 required to form a majority.

It followed Mr Shorten’s announcement late on Saturday evening that he had conceded defeat. “It is obvious that Labour will not be able to form the next government and so, in the national interest, a short while ago, I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him,” the Labor leader said.

With 10 seats still to be decided by the end of counting on Saturday, it is unclear whether the ruling coalition will be able to form an outright majority or have to rely on support from independents.

There was so much public confidence of a Labor victory that, two days before the election, Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out AU$1.3m (£700,000) to those who backed Mr Shorten’s party. Sportsbet said 70 per cent of wagers had been placed on Labor.

Opinion polls also suggested the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition would lose its bid for a third three-year term. One exit poll found that the opposition Labor Party could win as many as 82 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives.

Mr Shorten, 52, had said on Saturday morning he was confident Labor would win, while Mr Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.

Mr Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, had led a rare minority government into the election after replacing Malcolm Turnbull following an internal power struggle last August.

He is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were first elected in 2013.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Mr Morrison told cheering supporters at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel as he appeared on stage with his wife and two daughters.

“I’m standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said. “Tonight is not about me or it’s not about even the Liberal Party. Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first.”

Elsewhere, Tony Abbott, who served as prime minister from 2013 to 2015, lost the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.

Polling suggested climate change was a major issue for voters, who elected an independent candidate. As prime minister in 2014, Mr Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government.

Mr Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.

Mr Shorten said one of his top priorities if he won power was to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increase wages for low-paid workers.

He also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.

“The world will know that if Labor gets elected, Australia’s back in the fight against climate change,” he said.

Clive Palmer rants about Australian election during interview

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. It is also one of the world’s worst carbon gas polluters per capita because of a heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity.

As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as wildfires and destructive storms.

After conceding defeat, Mr Shorten said he would step down as the party’s leader. “I know that you’re all hurting and I am too,” he told supporters in Melbourne.

“And without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count and important seats yet to be finalised, it is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government.”

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