Labor party wins Australian elections

In elections held on Sunday, the conservative coalition led by the Liberal party lost its majority after being in office for almost a decade. The new prime minister will be Labor party leader Anthony Albanese who will replace Scott Morrison.

Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s next prime minister, leaving the Coalition in disarray after it lost more than a dozen seats to Labor and independents in an election that has transformed the country’s political landscape.

Declaring victory shortly before midnight on Saturday, Albanese thanked voters for the “extraordinary honour” of becoming the nation’s 31st prime minister, and said he would work in government to bring Australians together.

With 60% of the vote counted, Labor was ahead in 73 seats and on track to win enough seats to form majority government, with huge swings in Western Australia likely to flip at least three seats to Labor.

The Liberal party was also expected to lose six previously safe inner city seats to so-called teal independents, including Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong, with the Coalition’s numbers likely to fall to the low 60s in the 151 seat house of representatives. There could be as many as 16 MPs on the crossbench, a record number.

In remarks, Albanese said “We are the greatest country on earth, but we can have an even better future if we seize the opportunities that are right there in front of us”. What? How dare he? Doesn’t he know that the the US is the greatest country on Earth as its political leaders continuously keep saying?

So what does this mean? Katharine Murphy says that it represents a rout of the right-wing-friendly ‘moderate’ policies promoted by Morrison and former prime minister Tony Abbott.

When Tony Abbott invented a carbon tax to win an election in 2013 – an act of political bastardry that poisoned our politics for a decade – I doubt he understood the climate wars he ignited would recast the electoral map and engineer a new progressive consensus in Australia.

But that’s what happened. The events of Saturday night represent the most profound electoral realignment in Australian politics since the Liberals splintered to form the Democrats in the 1970s, conservative Catholics migrated from Labor to the Liberal party, and the environmental movement became the Greens and claimed a chunk of Labor’s vote.

The Liberal party has been routed in its metropolitan heartland. Abbott and Scott Morrison have emptied the broad church.

The moderate wing has been decimated. Jewels in the Liberal crown – Kooyong, North Sydney, Goldstein, Higgins, Curtin, Mackellar – have fallen. The teal independents have put down roots in Liberal territory, and electoral ground, once ceded, is incredibly hard to reclaim.

The Labor campaign, led by Paul Erickson, managed to swim across the rip of this electoral realignment and the ALP will return to government, despite recording a primary vote of just over 30%.

Erickson and Anthony Albanese’s campaign creates a new rule book for Labor victories – not an inexorable sense of a social democratic moment, but an alignment of interests between progressives from the centre right and the centre left.

I hope that the Australian readers of this blog will add their insights.


  1. consciousness razor says

    In remarks, Albanese said “We are the greatest country on earth, but we can have an even better future if we seize the opportunities that are right there in front of us”. What? How dare he?

    It’s hard to imagine how, but perhaps you’ve somehow forgotten that Australia has the tallest inflatable waterslide in the world. There is no denying that. 22.4 meters … this is just science, because it’s the metric system.

    Only an utterly pathetic country like the US would have a corporation (Freestyle Slides, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL) make the tallest inflatable waterslide in the world and then send it off to Perth, when the previous record (only half as tall) had just been made by an Australian company not long before, in Adelaide.

    And what have we done about it since? Nothing, that’s what.

    It’s clear that as a country we’re totally outmatched, both in terms of tall inflatable waterslides and in the sheer enthusiasm with which we pursue ever taller inflatable waterslides. So I don’t know how we could possibly hope to catch up now. It won’t be long before they’ve got tall inflatable waterslides with nuclear capabilities, ones that can do quantum computing, perhaps someday even ones that can cure Alzheimer’s or write music or explore the cosmos. At this point, I think our best chance is just to try to stay on their good side as long as possible.

  2. billseymour says

    I hope that the Australian readers of this blog will add their insights.

    Yes, please.

    There could be as many as 16 MPs on the crossbench, …

    Is being “on the crossbench” like what we in the US call being an “independent”?

  3. fentex says

    Those comments about “realignment” and significant changes are utter nonsense -- it’s an election, one side won over the other -- that doesn’t represent anything especially meningful, just a change.

    Morrison waspersoanlly unpopular, every government that had to muddle through Covid is going to unpopular because of emergency powers they had to use and resentment they didn’t avoid commercial harmsto peoples income -and with the housing bubble apparently bursting in many places and inflation rampant everywhere (well, price rises -- what’s happening isn’t technically inflation) change was quite likely anywhere.

    There’s nothing apocalyptic or earth shattering about rutine change in an election in stable countries and journalists pretending there is are revealing they’re not journaiists reporting but story tellers dramatising.

  4. another stewart says

    @2: As I understand the US’s two Senate independents caucus with the Democrats. A crossbencher in the UK, and I presume Australia, is aligned neither with the government nor with the official opposition. In the UK the term is usually encountered in reference to members of the House of Lords.

  5. billseymour says

    @4:  Thanks.

    So US “independents” who “caucus with” one of the two parties are more like Greens being part of a mostly Labour government coalition.  Does that sound right?

  6. davor says

    Okay, my 2.2 cents worth, Mano, @2 billseymour @4 another stewart.

    This Sunday morning, we know Anthony Albanese will be the 31st Australian Prime Minister. We won’t know the final election results for some days yet. Happy to discuss why, but pretty esoteric. And I will respectfully dispute @3 Fentex’s conclusion of a ‘routine’ change in a second post.

    What we do know is that Labor is a progressive party, and that the conservative Liberal party has lost it’s progressive voters to Teal independents. About 8 seats have switched. The Teals’ common policy goals are action on climate change, a robust Federal integrity commission, expanded and cheaper child care, and women’s safety. These align with the Labor agenda, so there should be action. As long as the Senate is amenable -- this chamber can delay legislation for many months.

    Big challenges include cost of living (wage growth under 3%, inflation over 5%), climate adaption (economic and physical), COVID-19, and the next election in three years. Responding to these may also disrupt the planned policy agenda.

    All parties were disgracefully silent on inflatable water slide infrastructure funding. Sparing us images of flabby fiftyish male politicians in budgie smugglers.

  7. davor says

    I agree with @3 fentex’s analysis. Doubly so by implying that most of our pollies are useless at improving our lives.

    My quibble is that the votes split roughly equally between Coalition, Labor and Other in this election.

    From the 1950s to 2000 first preference votes were split about 40 / 40 / 20. So the major parties held government, swapping from time to time. Over the last 20 years there’s been a decline in the major party votes. Thanks to our voting system (compulsory, preferential) the votes have ended up with the major parties. The factional daleks could run their party machinery to suit themselves. Until 2022.

    Voters have enough confidence in the independents to elect them. And once elected, independents tend to get re-elected. Cathy McGowan is/was a role model and template for this community led approach (and has a book out). There is a good chance that future Australian governments will be based on a large party and aligned independents.

    Optimistically, this will mean lobby groups and special interest groups are less influential, since independents are tied to the needs of their community. There will be more discussion about legislation and the impact. A more representative democracy, because our elected representatives are more focussed on us.

    Of course, money changes a parties’ policies. (Bring on the federal integrity commission!)

  8. Ruoert says

    I doubt this means much more than people are fed up with o è side and they want a change (possibly just to give the Cons a wake-up call). They could easily change back ne,xt time.

  9. prl says

    Is being “on the crossbench” like what we in the US call being an “independent”?

    No, it’s pretty much the same as what the British would call being “on the cross bench”. They are neither part of the government nor part of the opposition. If Labor fails to get a majority in its own right (76 seats), it will need to negotiate with either enough cross-benchers, or with the opposition, to get legislation passed.

    Some of the cross-benchers are likely to be in the Greens Party and other small parties, as well as some independents.

    The former Prime Ministers in the Australian 43rd parliament (2010-2013), Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd (don’t ask), formed a minority government with the support of independents and the Greens on the cross benches. They guaranteed to ensure Supply (the legislation that allows the government to spend money), and all else was to be negotiated. Gillard was a very good negotiator, and managed to pass almost all the legislation in her legislative program through the lower house. However, the deal that she had to do with the Greens to get carbon pricing through played a large part in the downfall of that government in the 2013 elections.

    The ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, is less optimistic about the count than the Guardian: he’s currently calling it as 72 Labor, 51 Lib/National, 15 others and 13 in doubt. I think that it’s likely that Labor will secure a small majority (it only needs 4 or more of the remaining in seats in doubt), but the former Liberal Prime Minister has already conceded that he will not be able to form a minority government and has resigned as party leader, so the Labor Leader Anthony Albanese will become Prime Minister, and is expected to be sworn in tomorrow, Monday.

    The term comes from the seating arrangements. The government sits to the right of the Speaker, the opposition sits to the Speaker’s left, and the cross-benchers sit at the far end of the chamber, facing the speaker (or approximately: the seats are arranged in a “U” shape)..

  10. prl says

    So US “independents” who “caucus with” one of the two parties are more like Greens being part of a mostly Labour government coalition. Does that sound right?

    (Curiously, though labour usually spelt that way in Australia, the Australian Labor Party chose the North American spelling at its foundation).

    Otherwise, no, not quite. I doubt Labor they will form a formal coalition with the Greens. That would probably entail them giving the Greens cabinet postions, and I don’t think that Labor would be willing to do that. It’s not unheard of for Labor to form a coalition with then Greens, they do in the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory, where I live. I just don’t think they will in the federal parliament.

    If they were in coalition, they would probably have joint parliamentary party meetings (which I think corresponds with the US “caucus with”) to decide on details of legislation and parliamentary tactics. That’s what the various parties that make up the Liberal/National coalition do.

    Negotiations between a minority government and the cross-benchers would take place between the government and the individual independents or representatives of cross-bench parties, like the Greens, but that would be outside the parliamentary party meetings of the government. The opposition is also free to try to negotiate with cross-benchers in the same way.

    As far as the general makeup of the Australian legislature goes, the House of Representatives is very like the UK House of Commons, the Australian Senate is most like its US counterpart, and is intended to represent the states’ interests, and the executive is the Governor General (formally) and the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the head of the cabinet, but there is actually no such role in the constitution. The system is sometimes referred to as the Washminster system, taking bits from both Washington and Westminster.

  11. John Morales says

    It’s evident to me that prl probably has a better grasp of political Oz than I do, but to the extent I know stuff everything in those comments seems pretty accurate.

    One thing I’ll add: the Liberals are associated/represented with blue, Labor with red, Greens with (heh) green. So the “teal” monicker is basically just a way to denote a particular grouping (informal in this case).

    (Also, weak as my semiotics may be, I note teal is basically a light blue, and considered a mix of blue and green)

  12. prl says

    The current stand of seats in the Australian election according to the ABC’s election count pages is
    Labor: 72 with 3 more likely and is ahead in 2 more
    Liberal/National: 52, with 1 more likely and ahead in 5 more
    Others (Greens, other small parties, independents): 15, with 0 likely, and Greens ahead in 1 seat

    The seat where the Greens are ahead is a Greens/Labor final count, so if the Greens fail to win it, it will be an additional Labor seat, not Liberal/National.

    There are 151 seats to win; 76 gives a majority, 77 allows the party to have the Speaker from their own party and retain the majority.

    The Labor leader, Antony Albanese, was sworn in as Prime Minister this morning, as expected.

  13. prl says

    So the “teal” monicker is basically just a way to denote a particular grouping (informal in this case).

    I think that many of the “teals” had a common source for a portion of their election funding -- the Climate 200 group, but that’s not what I’d consider to be the defining characteristic. The “teals” are generally fiscally conservative, like the Liberals claim to be, but strong on climate and integrity issues. The failure of the coalition government to deliver on an anti-corruption body that they promised in previous elections was a major part of the campaign against them, from both Labor and the “teals”.

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