Australian elections: Ruling coalition pulls off shock election victory

Opposition leader concedes defeat as Liberal Party-led coalition came close to majority

Australians woke up to the news that the Liberal-led conservative government has secured a surprise win at the national election, defying unfavourable opinion polls. Video: Reuters

Australia’s Liberal-National coalition government has retained power in what prime minister Scott Morrison, who is a Pentecostal Christian, has hailed as a “miracle”.

Mr Morrison thanked “the quiet Australians” who voted for the coalition. “They have their dreams, they have their aspirations, to get a job, to get an apprenticeship, to start a business, to meet someone amazing, to start a family, to buy a home, to work hard and provide the best you can for your kids, to save for your retirement,” he said.

“These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight. Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first.”

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison (2-R) with wife Jenny (L) children Abbey (R) and Lily (L) after winning the 2019 Federal Election. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

The win seemed to shock almost everyone, as the opposition Labor Party had led in every poll for the past three years. Many were calling it “the unlosable election”.


A final poll released late on Friday night seemed to confirm that, with a Labor lead of 51.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent after preferences were distributed. An exit poll announced after voting ended at 6pm in the eastern states said Labor would win 52 per cent of the vote.

Labor winning seemed so certain, one betting agency paid out on a change of government a day before the election. This cost it Au$5.2 million (€3.2million).

But as soon as the actual voting figures started to come in, it was clear the polling numbers were wrong. Rather than gaining the seven seats it needed to win, Labor lost seats to the government in Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales in a 1.5 per cent swing to the coalition.

Six seats are still too close to call, but when the vote count is complete, the coalition is likely to be able to govern in its own right, with 77 seats in the 151-seat lower house of parliament.

The swing to the government was not uniform, though. A notable coalition casualty was former prime minister Tony Abbott, who lost his northern Sydney seat to an independent in an 18.8 per cent swing.

Labor ran its campaign with a broad policy agenda on climate change, tax and housing, in what was the most ambitious set of opposition policies in a generation.

Despite the loss, Labor leader Bill Shorten was unapologetic about the scope of his party’s plans.

"We were upfront and clear about the reforms that both sides of politics have ignored for decades. We have said loud and clear that Australia needs and needed to take real action on climate change," he said.

Mr Shorten announced he is standing down as Labor leader and one shadow minister, Anthony Albanese, has already said he will be running to replace him, signalling the party’s policy direction needs to change.

Three other shadow ministers are also expected to announce their intention to run.

Businessman Clive Palmer failed in his attempt to win a senate seat, despite spending an estimated $80 million on advertising. The polls had said he was likely to win a seat.

With millions of dollars spent on polling numbers that proved to be wildly wrong, the news organisations and political parties who paid for the research are looking for answers as to why.

Antony Green, the election analyst at the state broadcaster ABC, said the sampling method by polling companies was much more reliable in the past.

“They switched from an operator asking questions to randomly calling mobile numbers and robocalls,” he said.

“There has been a drop off in response rates and there has also been a drop off in the quality of the data.”

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins a contributor to The Irish Times based in Sydney