Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Australian Labor Party appeared certain to form an interim government. However, counting continued and it was not clear if the party would have enough votes to become a majority according to projections made by three news networks.
To form a majority government, parties need to have a majority of at least 76 seats. According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Labor currently has around 70 seats.
Early counting showed a strong swing towards Independents as well as Greens candidates. They demanded emissions cuts much higher than the Morrison’s coalition had committed to.
Amanda McKenzie (CEO of the Climate Council), declared climate action the winner.
“Millions upon millions of Australians have put the climate first. “Now, it’s time to do a radical overhaul of how this great nation acts on the climate challenge,” she stated in a statement.
Albanese was a minister in the Labor government under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, before becoming Labor leader following the party’s latest election loss in 2019.
Labor lost that election and returned to the campaign with less bold promises to keep voters from being scared by radical change.
This election was about the character and leadership of the leaders, other than climate. Morrison was deeply dispopular among voters. He seemed to admit this when he said that he was a “bite of a bulldozer” during the final week of the campaign. Although he was referring to taking difficult decisions during the pandemic, and cutting a submarine agreement with France, it was also a reflection of his leadership style which is more authoritarian than collaborative.
Morrison spoke to his supporters late Saturday night and said that he had called Albanese. He also congratulated him for his election victory. He said, “I have always believed in Australians’ judgment and I’ve always been ready to accept their verdict.”
Albanese walked out just before midnight to cheers from his supporters. He said he would try to unite the nation. “I will work every morning to bring Australians together. I will also lead a government that is worthy of the people of Australia.”
He said: “I can guarantee all Australians that, regardless of how you voted today. The government I lead will respect each one of you every single day.”
What Albanese will do for the Prime Minister?
Albanese’s first priority as Prime Minster will be to reestablish relations with foreign leaders, something he claims Morrison has neglected in recent times. These include leaders of Pacific Island nations, including the Solomon Islands leader, who signed a security pact to Beijing, fueling fears that China might build its first military base there.
Albanese will travel to Tokyo on Tuesday with Penny Wong, the Foreign Minister of Japan, in order to meet with Quad members from India, the United States and Japan. They’ll discuss priority measures to ensure free passage in the Indo-Pacific.
According to polls, the climate crisis was one the most important issues in the election. It was one of few points of difference between Labor and the coalition, and a key concern for voters.
Marija Taflaga, a lecturer in politics, international relations and politics at the Australian National University, said that the swing towards the Greens was amazing. “I think everyone has been taken aback by these results…It will mean there will more and faster action on the climate change issue more broadly.”
Labor has pledged to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, and to reach net zero in 2050. This is partly due to strengthening the pressure mechanism on companies to make reductions.
Climate Analytics, a research institute, says Labor’s plans don’t seem ambitious enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius as required by the Paris Agreement.
The institute found that Labor’s policies are consistent with a rise by 2 degrees Celsius and marginally better than the plans of the coalition.
Labor plans to modernize Australia’s energy grid and to roll out solar banks as well as community batteries to speed up the transition towards renewable energy. Labor, despite its net zero commitment to new coal projects, says it will approve them if they are economically and environmentally viable.
Results show that voters in inner-city seats voted for Independents, mostly female candidates with high education, who advocate higher greenhouse gas emissions cuts and integrity in government. They targeted traditionally safe Liberal seats and challenged voters to stand against decades of government inaction. They’ll be among those Labor will likely be negotiating alongside as they seek government formation.
Albanese supports a minimum wage increase of 5.1%. However, he does not have the power to impose it. The Fair Work Commission has the authority to recommend that the minimum wage keep up with inflation.
A modest upbringing for PM
Albanese often speaks out about his upbringing as the only child of a single mother in order to show his commitment to helping struggling Australians.
Maryanne, his mother, had rheumatoid and lived on disability while Maryanne raised him in council housing in the 1960s.
“It gave me the determination to help those like me grow up and to make their lives better. He told the National Press Club in January that he believes that’s what Australians want.
Albanese repeatedly thanked his mother for her strength throughout his campaign, and most recently paid tribute to an “incredible” woman on Friday.
He said, “She’d be proud of herself because she made the brave decision in 1963 to keep an unwed child,”
Albanese’s father was a cruise ship steward, and the new Australian Prime Minster was born from a brief relationship that was scandalous for a single Catholic woman.
He replied that his father had been killed to save him from the truth.
He said that it was a difficult decision. “It speaks volumes about the pressures placed on women and the pressures that women face when faced with difficult circumstances. It speaks volumes about her courage and about the country.
Albanese may have won over Australians but one of his challenges will be to unite his party’s factions as Prime Minister, according to Zareh Ghazarian (a Monash University lecturer in politics).
“He has shown himself to be a strong leader. He stated that the biggest challenge for him is to keep up with the Labor party caucus.
Paul Williams, a Griffith University political science professor, stated that Albanese lacks experience in major portfolios. However, he predicted that he would “grow into his job.”
“I think Albanese will have a steep learning curve, as he hasn’t had a senior portfolio like treasurer and foreign affairs minister. He’ll be joining the Quad meeting next Wednesday. He said that it would be “baptism by fire”.
Albanese said that he hoped his win would demonstrate to young Australians, “the doors of possibility are open to all.”
“Every parent wants more for their children than they had. My mother wished for a better life. I hope that my life journey will inspire Australians to aim for the stars.