Scott Morrison has pulled off one of the most memorable victories in Australian politics to secure the Coalition a third consecutive term.
In a tight result which saw little change from the status quo, Labor failed to meet its own expectations and underperformed in every state.
In what Mr Morrison called a miracle, the nation is headed for either a minority Coalition government, or a Coalition government with a small majority in its own right.
With more than two-thirds of the vote counted, the Coalition had secured 74 seats, one more than it started with and just two short of the bare majority of 76.
Labor was on 65 seats and there were six crossbenchers. One of these was Zali Steggall, who inflicted a rare loss on the Coalition by defeating Tony Abbott in Warringah and ending the former prime minster’s 25-year career.
Another six seats were too close to call. These were Boothby (Lib, SA), Cowan (ALP, WA), Wentworth (Ind, NSW), Lilley (ALP, Qld), Macquarie (ALP, NSW) and Chisholm (Lib, Vic).
Bill Shorten conceded defeat just after 11.30pm and, after two terms and two elections as leader, he stepped down.
“Without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count and important seats yet to be finalised, it is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government,” he said.
“This has been a tough campaign. Toxic at times. But now that the contest is over, all of us have a responsibility to respect the result, respect the wishes of the Australian people and to bring our nation together.”
Mr Morrison, who received a hero’s welcome from the party faithful, labelled his win a “great victory” for what he has referred to throughout the campaign as “the quiet Australians”.
“I have always believed in miracles,”he said.
“How good is Australia and how good are Australians?”
Nationally, the Coalition’s two-party preferred lead over Labor was a slender 50.7 per cent to 49.3 per cent, virtually identical to the 2016 election result.
Labor’s primary vote was down 1.6 percentage points to 34 per cent; the Coalition’s primary vote was 43 per cent; and the Greens were on 10.4 per cent. Again, these were hardly unchanged from 2016.
Clive Palmer spent $60 million on advertising and failed to win either a lower house seat or a Senate spot.
The Senate count, while not final, looked like 34 LNP Senators, 27 Labor, nine Greens, two One Nation, two Centre Alliance, Jacqui Lambie and Cory Bernardi.
The government needs five extra votes to secure the 39 votes needed to secure its tax cuts and other legislation.
Reasons cited for Labor’s performance were the unpopularity of Mr Shorten, its big target policy agenda – especially ending cash refunds for franking credits – and its equivocation over the Adani coal mine which saw Labor perform terribly in Queensland with a primary vote of just 27 per cent.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen defended the policy agenda. “I don’t regret a second of it; I would not be part of an Opposition that hid its plans,” he said.
But he added Labor would have to review its policy plans.
“I’m not going to pretend that we don’t have some thinking to do.”
Despite the Coalition not leading for a single opinion poll for the entire term, Mr Morrison closed the gap on Labor during a strong campaign.
Senior Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos said Mr Morrison’s authority within the party was now absolute.
Labor entered the campaign as favourites but suffered heavier losses than it anticipated, especially in Queensland, and failed to make sufficient gains in Victoria and failed to win Coalition seat in Western Australia to offset the losses, as it had hoped.
Labor lost Bass and Braddon in Tasmania, Lindsay in NSW and Longman and Herbert in Queensland.
It won Dunkley and Corangamite in Victoria, and Gilmore in NSW.
Mr Abbott was trounced by Ms Steggall in Warringah, bringing to an end a 25-year career, but that loss did not dampen the Coalition’s night.
Even Mr Abbott said while he was disappointed, the “good news” was there was “every chance the Liberal-National Coalition has won this election”.
He noted working class seats had shifted to the Coalition whereas the wealthier seats had shifted towards the green left.
“We can see that there is something of a realignment of politics going on right around this country. It’s clear that in what might be described as working seats, we are doing so much better,” he said.
“It’s also clear that in at least some of what might be described as wealthy seats, we are doing it tough, and the green left is doing better.”
Queensland was huge for the Coalition and terrible for Labor.
Labor, which went into the campaign holding just eight of the state’s 30 seats, had been hoping to break even there or pick up Forde and Dickson for a net gain of two seats. It failed to win either.
Aided by preferences from One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, there were massive swings towards the Coalition in its marginal seats in the state’s north and west.
This suggested the Queensland state government’s antipathy towards the Adani coal mine backfired badly against federal Labor, which was equivocal in its support for the project.
Elsewhere in Queensland, it lost Herbert as expected but Labor was shocked to also lose the Queensland seats of Longman and possibly Blair, the latter of which was held by frontbencher Shayne Neumann.
In Queensland, Labor suffered a 4.4 percentage point primary swing against it.
The coal backlash against Labor which reinforced the Coalition’s grip on Queensland could cost veteran ALP frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon his safe NSW seat of Hunter.
It was one of about a dozen Labor seats on the critical list following a massive 21 per cent vote for One Nation.
This translated into a two-party swing against Mr Fitzgibbon of almost 10 per cent and left his future in doubt.
The Coalition held the rural seats of Farrer and Cowper despite strong challenges by independents.
Despite a good result for the Nationals, which did not lose a seat, Barnaby Joyce refused to endorse the leadership of Michael McCormack, saying the “National Party team” had done very well.
In the 151-seat Parliament, 76 seats are needed to form a bare majority, while 77 will enable the winner to appoint a Speaker and have a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
This story originally appeared on the AFR. Read the original here.
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