CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s center-left opposition party toppled the conservative government after almost a decade in power, and Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese in his Saturday election victory speech promised sharper reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while he faces an early foreign policy test.
Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, stated that he conceded quickly to defeat despite million of votes still not being counted. An Australian leader will attend the Tokyo Summit on Tuesday alongside Joe Biden, Fumio Kilishida, and Narendra Modi.
Albanese, who has described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed, referred to his own humble upbringing in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown.
“It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mom who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown can stand before you tonight as Australia’s prime minister,” Albanese said.
“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mom hoped for a better world for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” he added.
Albanese, his Labor party won its first win in an election since 2007. He will be the Prime Minister.
Australia is facing high inflation and skyrocketing housing prices, and Labor promises more financial aid and social security net.
The party also plans to increase minimum wages, and on the foreign policy front, it proposed to establish a Pacific defense school to train neighboring armies in response to China’s potential military presence on the Solomon Islands on Australia’s doorstep.
The government also plans to address climate change by aiming for a 43% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and net zero emission by 2050.
Morrison’s Liberal party-led coalition was seeking a fourth three-year term. It held the narrowest of majorities — 76 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Early Saturday counting showed that the coalition had 51 seats and Labor 72. Ten of these were Labor-aligned legislators, while 18 others were close.
Votes were transferred from the major parties to fringe and independent parties, increasing the chances of a hung parliament or a minority government.
Australia’s most recent hung parliaments occurred in 2010-13 and World War II.
Minor Australian Greens appeared to have increased their representation from just one seat to three.
In 2010, the Labor minor government was supported in Greens’ support. They will continue to support Labor administrations if they are unable to win a 76 seat majority.
As well as campaigning against Labor, Morrison’s conservative Liberals fought off a new challenge from so-called teal independent candidates to key government lawmakers’ reelection in party strongholds.
At least four Liberal lawmakers appeared to have lost their seats to teal independents including Liberal Party deputy leader Josh Frydenberg, who had been considered Morrison’s most likely successor.
“What we have achieved here is extraordinary,” teal candidate and former foreign correspondent Zoe Daniels said in her victory speech. “Safe Liberal seat. Two-term incumbent. Independent,” she added.
The teal independents are marketed as a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color and want stronger government action on reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than either the government or Labor are proposing.
The government’s Senate leader Simon Birmingham was concerned by big swings toward several teal candidates.
“It is a clear problem that we are losing seats that are heartland seats, that have defined the Liberal Party for generations,” Birmingham said.
“If we lose those seats — it is not certain that we will — but there is clearly a big movement against us and there is clearly a big message in it,” Birmingham added.
Due to the pandemic, around half of Australia’s 17 million electors have voted early or applied for postal votes, which will likely slow the count.
Two weeks ago, early polling began for travel and work reasons. The Australian Electoral Commission will collect postal votes for two more weeks.
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