Make-up of parliament unclear as vote count goes on, coalition a possibility
New Australian leader Anthony Albanese has promised to make a big shift in energy policy to end the country’s “climate wars”.
Mr Albanese’s Labor Party ended almost a decade of conservative government after the country’s ruling coalition was swept away by a wave of support for candidates pledging more climate action.
He will be sworn in as prime minister today, after his party clinched its first electoral win since 2007. However, it is not yet clear whether Labor will have a majority in parliament or if it will have to enter a coalition to form a government.
“We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia,” Mr Albanese said after his victory.
“Australian business knows that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.”
The prime minister-elect has also promised to adopt more ambitious emission targets, although he has so far refused to phase out coal use. After the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020, the Scott Morrison government was accused by scientists of being “wilfully negligent” on climate and of failing to protect biodiversity.
Labor has set a target of cutting greenhouse gases by 43pc by 2030, which business groups support, but environmentalists say it should be nearer 60pc to 75pc. After taking an oath today, Mr Albanese will fly to Tokyo to attend the Quad summit with leaders of Japan, India and the US. He is expected to outline his goals on climate during the talks.
“Obviously, the Quad leaders meeting is an absolute priority for us,” he said yesterday.
“It’s an opportunity for us to send a message that there is a change of government and there will be a change of policies on things like climate change. I will return to Australia on Wednesday and then we’ll get down to business.”
Nicknamed Albo, the Labor leader had promised Australians “safe change” and unity in an election campaign that was dominated by the post-pandemic recovery, a cost of living crisis and national security, against the backdrop of China’s increasing dominance in the region.
Although Mr Morrison has conceded defeat, millions of votes were yet to be counted.
Mr Albanese could end up as the leader of a minority government, with Greens and independents holding the balance of power. Neither of the major parties appeared certain to win the minimum 76 seats required for a majority in the 151-seat Australian parliament.
With 70pc of votes counted, Mr Morrison’s Liberal coalition yesterday had 51 seats while Labor had 72. Independents and the Greens held 14. A further 14 seats remained in doubt.
The gains by the Greens and independents, according to Labor former deputy party leader Tanya Plibersek, showed there was now a clear message on climate action from the electorate.
During his victory speech, Mr Albanese, a 59-year-old career politician who described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years the office has existed, referred to his humble upbringing in the inner-Sydney suburb of Camperdown.
He thanked electors for making him the country’s 31st leader.
“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,” Mr Albanese told his jubilant supporters.
“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars.”
Australian National University constitutional law expert professor Donald Rothwell said Australia’s governor general, the representative of the country’s ultimate head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, would “only be prepared to swear in Mr Albanese as ‘Acting PM’ until such time as the results are much clearer”