Australia election: conservative government voted out after nearly a decade | Australian election 2022

Australia’s rightwing Coalition government has lost power after nearly a decade in office, with Saturday’s election showing a sharp shift to progressive parties that will see a Labor administration formed – possibly with the support of climate-focussed independents or Greens.

Within hours of polls closing, multiple election analysts said it was clear the ruling Coalition – led by Scott Morrison’s conservative Liberal party and the rural-based National party – could not retain the 76 seats it held, which is the minimum required to form a parliamentary majority.

Just before 11pm on Saturday, Morrison conceded defeat, and announced he would step down as leader of his party.

“We’ve seen in our own politics a great deal of disruption as the people have voted today with major parties having one of the lowest primary votes we’ve ever seen,” Morrison told supporters at his election night reception in Sydney.

“I know about the upheaval that’s taking place in our nation. And I think it is important for our nation to heal and to move forward,” Morrison said.

The Labor opposition outperformed the Coalition, but by Saturday evening it was not apparent it could win a majority of seats to be able to claim victory – which would have been its first at an election since 2007.

Morrison and Albanese offer last election pitch to voters before casting their votes – video

Labor leader Anthony Albanese is seen as being the most likely to be able to form government, with results after four hours of vote counting indicating he could need the support of independent or minor party MPs to reach a majority.

Albanese told his supporters in Sydney that his government will be “as courageous and hard working and caring as the Australian people”.

“I want to find that common ground where together we can plant our dreams. To unite around our shared love of this country, our shared faith in Australia’s future, our shared values of fairness and opportunity, and hard work and kindness to those in need,” Albanese said.

The biggest surprise out of the election was the surge in support for the Greens party. By Saturday evening, the party – which has struggled to win more than the one seat it first picked up more than a decade ago – was on track to win as many as three additional seats, all focussed in progressive areas of Brisbane.

While both major parties were at pains throughout the campaign as to not appear overly ambitious on climate action, the legacy of recent natural disasters across several states, including deadly bushfires and floods, appeared to have resonated with inner city voters.

Labor’s target of cutting emissions by 43% by 2030 was more ambitious than the Coalition’s goal of a 26-28% reduction, however less than what the independent and Greens were demanding and below what scientists claimed was needed.

However when declaring victory on Saturday evening, Albanese said “together we can end the climate wars”, and said Australia can be a “renewable energy superpower”.

“Together we can work in common interests with business and unions to drive productivity, lift wages and profits. I want an economy that works for people, not the other way around,” Albanese said.

Morrison’s Coalition appeared to have lost several seats to the “teal independents” – candidates running in traditionally safe Liberal party seats on a strong climate action platform, some backed by substantial funds from the Climate 200 organisation.

Many adopted the colour teal, nodding both to the traditional Liberal blue and their green credentials, and performed well in seats in affluent parts of Melbourne and Sydney.

Early results indicated the teal independent movement could have taken as many as five seats from the government. If their leads firm up, it would mean a decimation of the moderate faction of the Liberal party.

Liberal losses to these independents include prominent government MPs, including the country’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who appeared to have lost his wealthy Melbourne seat of Kooyong to independent Zoe Daniels, a former journalist.

During the campaign, several of those facing challenges from these MPs warned party supporters frustrated with the Liberal party’s position on climate that their ousting would only serve to shift the party further to the right.

Rather than shift policy to appeal to moderate Liberals concerned about climate, Morrison was seen to focus on voters in outer metropolitan, regional and mining seats, some former Labor strongholds, others held by the Nationals.

Albanese, who made much of his upbringing as the child of a single mother in Sydney public housing throughout the campaign, is a party stalwart from Labor’s left faction, although far from a radical firebrand.

A near-fatal car crash near his home last year made him refocus his life, he says, and he has since made a point of his healthier diet and lifestyle, while acceding to superficial image changes.

But he has struggled to inject inspiration into Labor’s campaign, which has kept its policy offering to a minimum after the ambitious program of his predecessor, Bill Shorten, was effectively torn down by Morrison at the 2019 election.

Throughout the campaign, major parties sought to address the spiralling cost of living, including centrepiece policies to help first home buyers into the market.

While Morrison sought to allow people to access their retirement benefits early to pay for a home, Albanese put forward a plan for the government to contribute to the purchase price of a home in exchange for an ownership stake.

Foreign policy, and Australia’s role in the pacific, also featured heavily in the campaign, after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China in late April.

Labor seized on this development and sought to link it with anger among pacific nations at the reputation of Australia as a laggard on climate action that developed during Morrison’s time as leader.

However the opposition broadly backed the Morrison government actions that has seen the relationship with China sour since Canberra called for an independent inquiry into the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in early 2020.

Albanese is expected to be swiftly sworn in as prime minister, before travelling to Tokyo for a Quad leaders summit on Tuesday, where he will meet with US president Joe Biden, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, on Tuesday.

Voting in Australia is compulsory for those aged over 18, with special provisions in place to allow those isolating with last minute Covid infections to vote via phone.

Following six gruelling weeks on the hustings, both leaders began election day with a last-minute campaign stop in marginal seats in Melbourne, before they flew to Sydney to vote in the electorates they represent.

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