Labor leader Anthony Albanese will become Australia’s 31st prime minister and the fourth person to lead Labor to government since World War II after outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat on May 21.
With 69.9 percent of the votes counted by Sunday 5 p.m., 72 of the 151 House of Representatives seats were called for Labor, 52 for the Coalition, 14 for minor parties and independents, according to an election results summary by the ABC.
Both major parties, centre-left Labor and centre-right Liberals, secured less votes than in the 2019 election, although Labor saw a smaller projected swing of 0.5 percent, while the Liberals saw a projected swing of 5.5 percent against them. These votes went instead to minor parties and independents, with the anonymously-funded “Climate 200” independents, conservative One Nation, and progressive Greens being the biggest winners.
While Labor is projected to win government, it is not clear whether it will win the 76 seats needed to govern in its own right, or whether it will have to form a minority government.
By Sunday 5 p.m., the centre-left party had won just 32.9 percent of the primary votes, while the Coalition won 35.6 percent. Minor parties and independents won 31.5 percent. The Liberal Party lost at least 15 seats, with seven going to Labor after preferences and eight going to minor parties or independents, including one to the Greens. The Nationals, which had shared government with the Liberals, held all their nine seats in the lower house.
‘No One Left Behind, No One Held Back’
Speaking to supporters at Labor’s election night event in Sydney’s inner west following Morrison’s concession, Albanese said the Australian people had “voted for change.”
“I want Australia to continue to be a country that, no matter where you live, who you worship, who you love or what your last name is, that places no restrictions on your journey in life,” he said.
Albanese, who leads Labor’s left faction, vowed to raise the minimum wage, strengthen universal healthcare through Medicare, close the gender gap in the labor market, establish a national anti-corruption commission, protect universal superannuation and childcare, and “end the climate wars” by making Australia a “renewable energy superpower.”
“No one left behind because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. But also no one held back, because we should always support aspiration and opportunity. That is what my government will do,” he said.
Albanese also announced, to much applause from his supporters, that his government will push forward the long-debated Uluru Statement from the Heart, a proposal to establish an identity-based ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution. He promised to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart “in full,” although it remains to be seen if the proposal has wide enough support to call a referendum.
The Labor leader is set to be sworn in as prime minister on Monday and to head to Tokyo for the Quad leaders’ meeting on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Morrison in his concession speech said he took full responsibility for the wins and the losses, noting “that is the burden and that is the responsibility of leadership.” He added that he was stepping down as Liberal Party leader, with outgoing defence minister Peter Dutton tipped as the front runner to replace Morrison.
“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 Liberal faithful 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.”
The former PM also congratulated Albanese, saying he “believed in Australians and their judgment.”
Morrison’s defeat has been cheered by Chinese state-run media commentators, who expect the Beijing-Canberra dialogue to resume after two years.
Splintered Liberal Party
The government’s loss comes as voters abandoned the Liberal Party in droves to favour independent parties campaigning on progressive climate action or classical liberal freedom platforms in response to the government’s heavy-handed COVID-19 management.
But this splintering of votes translated to consequential losses for the Liberals in affluent inner-city suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, where once-safe blue seats were snatched by “teal” independents backed by Climate 200 candidates, most of whom are women campaigning for climate action, integrity, and gender equality.
The early results suggest the independents may have secured as many as five electorates from incumbent Liberal MPs, including Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Jason Falinski, Dave Sharma, and outgoing treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Meanwhile, independent MP Zali Steggall, a Climate 200-backed candidate, retained the seat of Warringah contested by biological sex campaigner Katherine Deves.
Freedom platforms including One Nation, the Liberal Democrats, the United Australia Party, and the Great Australian Party—although securing a swing of at least 4.6 percent—failed to secure a seat in the House of Representatives. An earlier survey by the Spectator of 9,861 Australians had indicated that many traditionally centre-right voters would turn away from the Coalition as a result of its COVID-19 mandates.
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek on Sunday said many Liberal voters had opted for independent or even Greens candidates in an attempt to “send a message that climate change is important to them, a national integrity commission with teeth is important to them, and equality with women.”
Before election day, Australia’s longest-serving prime minister John Howard had warned voters of the “teal” movement, describing them as “anti-Liberal groupies” who want to disrupt the party.
Outgoing deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Sunday criticised the movement for “decapitating the moderates out of the Liberals.”
“I’m hoping they’re happy with their work,” Joyce said. “They’ve managed to get rid of three gay guys, one Aboriginal, and one Asian. Was that their game plan?”
In the Senate, counting at 39.6 percent counted show the Greens on track to win up to 12 seats, which would make it the third most powerful party in parliament.
Melanie Sun contributed to this report.