Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten has conceded defeat to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the country’s general election.
Shorten made the announcement to supporters of his opposition Labor Party late Saturday night in Melbourne.
“It is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government,” Shorten said, “and so, in the national interest, a short while ago, I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him.”
Late Saturday, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. called 74 seats in the 151-seat lower parliamentary house as a win for Morrison’s conservative Liberal-National party coalition, with 65 seats to Labor and 12 undecided. The Channel 9 network called 73 seats to the coalition, 61 to Labor, with 17 undecided.
A total of 76 seats are needed to form a majority government.
The conservatives in the Liberal Party-led coalition became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister for Morrison, the current prime minister, in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the blood-letting that followed.
Pre-election opinion polls had suggested that the coalition would lose its bid for a third three-year term, and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
Shorten, who has campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometres home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten had been campaigning hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor promised a 45-per-cent reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former union leader, also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.