Opposition confident as counting starts in Australian election

Votes are being counted in Australia’s general election, with senior opposition legislators gaining confidence that they will form a centre-left government with a focus on slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

A Galaxy exit poll found that the opposition Labour Party could win as many as 82 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form government.

“I feel positive. I feel like we are ahead, but I am more cautiously optimistic than confident,” Labour deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said.

Opinion polls suggest the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition will lose its bid for a third three-year term and Scott Morrison will have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.

Mr Morrison is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were first elected in 2013. He replaced Malcolm Turnbull in a leadership ballot of government colleagues in August.

Mr Morrison began the day campaigning in the island state of Tasmania in seats he hopes his party will win from the centre-left Labour Party. He then flew 560 miles home to Sydney to campaign and vote.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was confident Labour would win, but Mr Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.

“Tonight the votes will be counted up and we’ll see what the outcome is. I make no assumptions about tonight,” Mr Morrison said after casting his vote.

Outside the polling booth, he was approached by a demonstrator protesting over the proposed Adani coal mine that the government recently approved, but security intercepted her before she could reach the PM.

Mr Shorten contained his campaigning to polling centres in his home city of Melbourne, where he voted on Saturday morning.

He said he expected Labour would start governing from Sunday, and his top priorities would be to increase wages for low-paid workers, hike pay rates for working Sundays and reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The world will know that if Labour gets elected, Australia’s back in the fight against climate change,” he said.

He has been campaigning hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. It is also one of the world’s worst carbon gas polluters per capita because of a heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity.

As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as wildfires and destructive storms.

The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labour has promised a 45% reduction.

Mr Shorten, a 52-year-old former union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.

Mr Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, said he had closed Labour’s lead in opinion polls during the five-week campaign and predicted a close result.

He promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labour.

An opinion poll published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday put Labour ahead of the conservatives 51.5% to 48.5.

The Newspoll-brand survey was based on a nationwide canvass of 3,038 voters from Monday to Friday. It has a 1.8 percentage point margin of error.

- Press Association

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