Australian PM Scott Morrison declares victory; Bill Shorten steps down as Labor leader
Melbourne, May 19: Australia's ruling Conservative Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday made a "miraculous" comeback in the general election, defying exit polls and devastating the opposition Labor Party, forcing its leader Bill Shorten to step down.
Around 16 million Australians swarmed to the polling booths across the country on Saturday to elect the nation's 31st prime minister, in what was widely referred to as the climate-change election.
The latest results showed that the Conservative Coalition has won 74 seats while labour secured 66. A party needs 76 seats for a simple majority in the 151-member House of Representatives. It was not clear if 51-year-old Morrison will require the support of independent MPs to govern.
But an independent, Helen Haines, who won from the seat of Indi, said that she would be working with the Coalition in the scenario of a hung parliament. Haines said she was very determined to work with the government on addressing climate change.
Morrison along his wife Jenny visited a church in Sydney's Sutherland Shire on Sunday in his electorate of Cook where he thanked his local voters.
"I have always believed in miracles... for me and for my government, for all of my team it's all about you...tonight is about every single Australian," a beaming Morrison told his supporters.
"You don't get to be a Prime Minister and serve in that capacity unless you first are a member for your local electorate. I want to thank everybody here in my local electorate and local team," said Morrison, who has only led the government since last August, when Liberal Party colleagues lost confidence in his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull.
Morrison had wooed voters by saying if re-elected, the Coalition would deliver a stable economy, more jobs and tax cuts. He also promised funds for women's career initiative and domestic violence and conservative plans to deal with climate change.
"Our government will get back to work just as Gladys Berejiklian got back to work in New South Wales, just a few months ago," he told his supporters.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump congratulated Morrison on his election victory.
President Trump congratulated Prime Minister Morrison on his Coalition's victory in Australia's federal election, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.
"The two leaders reaffirmed the critical importance of the long-standing alliance and friendship between the United States and Australia, and they pledged to continue their close cooperation on shared priorities," Deere said.
Center-left Labor Party leader Bill Shorten, who campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conceded his defeat and said he would resign as the party leader.
"I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him... wished him good fortune and good courage in the service of our great nation. The national interest required no less," Shorten said while addressing his supporters in Melbourne.
A Nine-Galaxy poll released shortly before the voting stations closed in the east of the country showed a victory for the Labor party and Liberal Party-led coalition losing its bid for a third three-year term.
The poll showed the Labor winning as many as 82 seats, beating the ruling Coalition.
On Friday, media reports also endorsed Labor leader Shorten as the best chance to end a "cycle of instability" in Australian politics.
Before elections, the Coalition held 73 seats, while Labor 72 in the House of Representatives.
According to media reports, the ruling Liberal supporters started celebrations at the party headquarters after it became clear that it may form the next government.
The Greens, Centre Alliance and other Katter's Australia party has all taken one seat each. The Coalition managed to make significant gains in Queensland and Tasmania and limited its loss in New South Wales and Victoria.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who once described climate change as "crap", lost his seat of Warringah in northern Sydney to independent Zali Steggall, a lawyer and Olympic medallist in Alpine skiing, after suffering a swing of over 13 per cent votes against him.
"This is really extraordinary results, it is a stupendous results, it is a great result for Scott Morrison and the rest of the Liberal team, and Scott Morrisson will quite rightly enter the Liberal Pantheon forever," Abbott said, conceding his defeat.
According to last week's Newspoll survey, even though Labor took the swing in its favour, the leader approval rating favoured Morrison with 45 per cent saying he would make a better prime minister as compared to Shorten.
Anger over the government's inaction on climate change is said to prove the real difference between the two parties. Australia has experienced some of the worst effects of climate change in recent few years, from deadly bush fires to the destruction of natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef.
Concern about climate change is now at a 10-year high among Australians, with 64 per cent believing it should be a top priority for the government, according to an Ipsos poll released in April.
The Labor party is promising to cut Australia's carbon emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels, compared to the government's minimum pledge of 26 per cent.
Australia has compulsory voting and a complex system of ballots ranked by voter preference. The political, economic and cultural differences varies from state to state on the vast island-continent.