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.