CANBERRA – Australia’s longest running election in fifty years has come to an end with the Liberal Party claiming victory for a consecutive term.
Several electorates remain undecided with votes still being counted, however the Coalition have secured the 76 seats required for a majority government.
In a press conference earlier this week Malcolm Turnbull declared victory after receiving a phone call from Labor leader Bill Shorten who conceded defeat.
“We have resolved this election and have done so peacefully, it’s something we should celebrate and not take for granted,” said Mr Turnbull.
The election race was tight with several days of uncertainty over which major party would come out in front.
Politicians and the public criticised the AEC for the time taken for votes to be counted, with both sides of parliament calling for an electronic voting system to be considered.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said it caused the nation to “drift.”
“We’re a grown up democracy it should not be taking eight days to find out who has won and who has lost,” he said.
Despite losing the election the Labor Party has increased their public support since the last election and claimed a close 67 seats.
Mr Shorten said he is willing to work with the government to make a “functioning” parliament after initially stating the Australian public had lost their faith in the government.
“I am proud Labor is back and that Labor is united. I’m proud that Labor has found its voice in this election,” he said.
Mr Shorten said they would continue pushing the key issues which influenced voters’ opinions through parliament.
Most significantly Mr Shorten says they will “stick true” to Labor’s election centrepiece “Saving Medicare.”
During the eight week campaign, Labor claimed the coalition planned to scrap Medicare with cuts of over $3.2 billion over four years.
Despite controversy surrounding an alleged Labor tactic which saw voters receiving text messages seemingly from Medicare confirming the cuts, the issue increased Labor support and gave them an initial swing of 3%.
Other key issues pushed in the campaigns included Coalition plans to re-establish a construction watchdog, which triggered the double dissolution election.
The industry bill would include reviving the Howard-era Building and Construction Commission and setting up a Registered Organisations Commission to monitor union power.
In education, Labor pushed the continued implementation of Gonski while the Liberal Party promised $1.2 billion extra funding for schools over three years and a possible partial deregulation for universities.
Immigration again raised debates both between and within the major parties and the Greens, with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, who ran an anti-Islam and zero-net immigration campaign, claiming three Senate seats.
The Coalition’s plan for a same-sex marriage plebiscite remains on the table, however Labor gained support particularly among younger voters for their promise to legislate the change within 100 days of taking office.
As always the economy remained one of the biggest issues, and while the Coalition centred on a “jobs and growth” budget, including cutting company tax, Labor focused on restricting negative gearing of existing households.
Superannuation cuts proposed by Mr Turnbull caused some controversy within his own party and in a press conference Mr Shorten urged the PM to reconsider his proposed changes.
4 independents claimed seats and the Greens won just one seat, however party leader Richard Di Natale remains positive about the Green’s future.
“We were coming from a mile behind… these seats will turn Green. There’s no question about that. The momentum is all our way,” he said.
The Prime Minister is expected to be sworn in by the Governor General next week after his party reaches a new coalition agreement with the Nationals.
– Viki Gerova, Correspondent (Oceania)