Australias conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term – ABC News

Australia\s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term - ABC News

Australia Election Results: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Seizes a Stunning Win

SYDNEY, Australia — Scott Morrison, Australias conservative prime minister, scored a surprise victory in federal elections on Saturday, propelled by a populist wave — the quiet Australians, he termed it — resembling the force that has upended politics in the United States, Britain and beyond.

The win stunned Australian election analysts — polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrisons coalition for months. But in the end, the prime minister confounded expectations suggesting that the country was ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under the conservative political coalition.

"I know that you're all hurting, and I am too. And without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count … it is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government,” he said. “In the national interest, a short while ago, I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him.”

I have always believed in miracles, Mr. Morrison said at his victory party in Sydney, adding, Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first. And that is exactly what we are going to do.

The election had presented Australia, a vital American ally in the Asia-Pacific, with a crucial question: Would it remain on a rightward path and stick with a political coalition that promised economic stability, jobs and cuts to immigration or choose greater action on climate change and income inequality?

By granting Mr. Morrison his first full term, Australians signaled their reluctance to bet on a new leader, choosing to stay the course with a hardworking rugby lover at a time when the economy has not suffered a recession in nearly 28 years.

Australians are just deeply conservative — wherever possible, we cling to the status quo, said Jill Sheppard, a lecturer in politics at the Australian National University. While we want progress on certain issues, we dont like major upheavals.

The triumph by Mr. Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed admiration for President Trump, comes at a time of rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region. A trade war between the United States and China has forced longtime American allies like Australia to weigh security ties with Washington against trade ties with Beijing.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called Prime Minister Scott Morrison to congratulate him on the election victory. He told Labor party supporters that his party didn’t win enough seats to form a coalition government.

Judd Deere, White House deputy press secretary, said Mr. Trump had called to congratulate Mr. Morrison.

Australia’s ruling conservative coalition defied polls and scored a stunning political victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, with the main opposition party officially conceding the defeat.

The two leaders reaffirmed the critical importance of the longstanding alliance and friendship between the United States and Australia, and they pledged to continue their close cooperation on shared priorities, Mr. Deere said.

The win defies pre-election opinion polls that suggested the conservative coalition would lose the election, with Morrison having one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of Australia.

The conservative victory also adds Australia to a growing list of countries that have shifted rightward through the politics of grievance, including Brazil, Hungary and Italy. Mr. Morrisons pitch mixed smiles and scaremongering, warning older voters and rural voters in particular that a government of the left would leave them behind and favor condescending elites.

“It's Australians who have worked hard, started a business, started a family, bought a home,” he said. “These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight.”

The candidate Mr. Morrison defeated, Bill Shorten, the leader of the center-left Labor Party, offered an alternative path for Australia: a return to more government intervention on climate change and the economy, and intensified skepticism about the United States and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Shorten, despite being the face of the political opposition for six years, was not an easy sell to voters. His personal approval ratings never matched Mr. Morrisons, and he relied on the more popular and diverse members of his party to score points with the public.

Its Australians who have worked hard, started a business, started a family, bought a home. These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight.

On Saturday night, he conceded defeat and said he would no longer serve as opposition leader. I know youre all hurting, he told supporters in Melbourne. And I am, too.

Mr. Morrison, who kept policy proposals to a minimum during the campaign, rode a singular message to victory: that the Labor Partys plans to raise spending to bolster public health programs, education and wages would blow up the budget and end Australias generation-long run of economic growth.

But there was at least one casualty on the conservative side. Former prime minister Tony Abbot conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.

Ignoring the turmoil that has led his coalition to churn through three prime ministers in six years, he promoted his center-right Liberal Party as a steady hand on the tiller, and made promises of cheaper energy and help for first-time homeowners.

He lost to the independent candidate and Olympian Zali Steggall amid his opposition to the climate change action, a cause many of his voters cared about.

The intraparty tumult came to a head last year when the Liberals right flank ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He was toppled in August after his moderate plan to address carbon emissions was rejected by his coalitions right wing as going too far.

Their climate change policy and stance on Adani cost them dearly and was at odds with many voters who wanted the new coal mine as it promised to provide hundreds of jobs in regions struggling against drought and high levels of unemployment.

The party coup soured many Australians on the countrys political system and helped contribute to a degree of voter apathy and anger that colored Saturdays election.

A survey midway through the election campaign found one-third of voters were questioning the franking credit plan, which is more than the proportion of those who would have actually been impacted by it. 

The campaign was short — just over a month, as is the standard in Australia. And Mr. Morrisons effort was defined mainly by energy, with folksy events and handshakes for voters, coupled with stiff criticism of Mr. Shorten and a determination not to take no for an answer.

Opinion polls, critics and bookmakers all pointed towards a sweeping win for the Labor Party, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison defied the odds and has been handed another three years in power. 

His combative style was especially clear during the second of three televised leadership debates, when he stepped close to Mr. Shorten, who accused him of being a space invader.

It seems the party crumbled under its out of touch policies, unlikeable leader and lack of communication with farmers, the elderly and blue collar workers – alienating many of their key seats

To those who opposed Mr. Morrison, it was a sign of his bullying tendencies; to those who supported him, it was seen as evidence of passion and conviction.

As Australians wake up to the fact Labor and Bill Shorten have spectacularly lost the unloseable election, many are wondering what went so wrong for the Opposition 

He portrayed himself as the good bloke, the good father, the buddy, the mate that Australians would like to have, said Patrick Dumont, a professor of political science at the Australian National University.

Mr. Morrison, 51, is a veteran politician who has occasionally sought out a provocative role on hot-button issues.

Older Australians in particular appeared to turn on Labor over the controversial plan to scrap franking credits for self-funded retirees.

He entered Parliament in 2007, representing a suburb of Sydney. As immigration minister in 2013, he proudly embraced a stop the boats policy that denied asylum seekers arriving by sea the right to apply for settlement in Australia.

Australians awoke on Sunday morning to a Coalition government led by Scott Morrison after Labor lost the unloseable election.   

Under his predecessor, Mr. Turnbull, he served as treasurer, appearing in Parliament at one point with a lump of coal to deliver a message to those demanding stronger action on climate change.

The policy was so complex that many voters did not understand what it would mean and many feared they would be left out of pocket. 

Dont be afraid, he told lawmakers, without mentioning that the coal had been shellacked to keep his hands from getting dirty. Dont be scared.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured with his wife Jenny) defied the odds and is set to remain in power for another three years

Though he has an image as a political brawler, Mr. Morrison has proved adept at the insider politics of Canberra, Australias capital. He was a loyal foot soldier under Mr. Turnbull until the party pushed to oust the prime minister, at which point Mr. Morrison successfully offered himself up as an alternative.

Labor had hoped to secure seats in Queensland to push them over the line, but unfortunately witnessed big swings against it.

In August, he became Australias fifth prime minister in five years — a sign of how volatile the countrys politics has been over the past few years.

Labor pitched a transformative slate of policies aimed at stamping Mr Shortens vision on the country

The fact that he escaped punishment from Australian voters for his actions during the party coup surprised many experts.

I think were just getting used to the politics of the absurd, said Susan Harris-Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University in Queensland. It just seems like its been a long time since politics was normal anywhere.

Mr. Morrison, however, rode a wave of conservative support. The coalition of the Liberal and National Parties maintained seats in closely contested suburbs from Perth to Melbourne, and picked up support across rural areas.

In the northeastern state of Queensland, which stretches from Brisbane to the tropics near the Great Barrier Reef, several Liberal Party candidates won handily. That suggested that in the battle over the proposed Adani coal mine, which would be among the largest in the world if it receives final government approval, voters favored immediate concerns about jobs over the risks of climate change.

The Liberal Party did suffer some setbacks. Tony Abbott, the divisive former prime minister, lost his race in a Sydney suburb, where voters demanded more action on climate change. He was one of several conservatives who had argued that most Australians were not willing to trade immediate needs for more distant global concerns.

Its clear that in what might be described as working seats, we are doing so much better, he said in his concession speech. Its 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.

Mr. Morrison, who has been cautious on climate change, arguing that current policy is enough, can now claim that his mix of enthusiasm and his appeal to working-class economic stability — focused on a fair go for all — is what Australians wanted.

Australian voters ultimately stuck with what they knew, while also tilting toward personality. They rejected policies that would have altered the financial status quo, including efforts to cut back on tax perks for older and wealthier voters, and went along with the more energetic politician.

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