Ruling coalition elected to shock third term
Australia’s ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the centre-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
Opposition Labour Party leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat late in the evening as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party-led coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Morrison told supporters at a victory party in Sydney, adding, “Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first. And that is exactly what we are going to do.”
“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,” Shorten told distraught supporters.
The tight race raised the prospect of the coalition forming a minority government. The conservatives became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull for Morrison in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the bloodletting that followed.
Pre-election opinion polls had suggested that the coalition would lose its bid for a third three-year term, and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
There was so much public confidence of a Labour victory that Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out AU$1.3 million (US$900,000) to bettors who backed Labour two days before the election.
A rival betting agency said he had accepted a record AU$1-million wager on Labour.
Senior Labour lawmaker Chris Bowen said his party may have suffered from what he conceded was an unusual strategy of pushing a detailed policy agenda through the election campaign.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten campaigned hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Labour promised a 45 per cent reduction in the same time frame.