SYDNEY: Australia's opposition leader Anthony Albanese claimed victory on Saturday in national elections. "The Australian people have voted for change. I am humbled by this victory," he told cheering supporters in Sydney after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat.
Albanese vowed to make Australia a renewable energy "superpower", give indigenous people a voice in national policy-making, and make equal opportunity for women a national priority.
Albanese recalled his childhood, brought up by a single mother in Sydney public housing.
"My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars," the 59-year-old said. "I want Australia to continue to be a country that no matter where you live, who you worship, you would love, or what your last name is, that places no restrictions on your journey in life."
Australian Prime Minister Morrison conceded defeat in national elections, saying it was a "difficult night" for his conservative government.
"Tonight I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and I have congratulated him on his election victory," Morrison said.
Labor will at least be able to form a minority government, but may also get enough votes for a majority government, according to broadcaster ABC.
According to the preliminary figures, the party can count on at least 71 seats in the Senate, where 76 seats are necessary to reach the majority. The conservative coalition Morrison has only won 49 seats, according to the data.
More than 17 million people were called upon to vote on who will fill 151 seats in the lower house and half of the 78 seats in the Senate.
More than half of eligible voters cast ballots in advance, leaving about 8 million people to vote on Saturday, national broadcaster ABC reported citing the Australian Electoral Commission.
Voting is compulsory in Australia. The 2019 turnout was around 92 per cent. Elections take place every three years.
In the last election in 2019, the Liberals, who are in a coalition with the even more conservative Nationals and have been in power for almost a decade, had a surprise win after Labor was long expected to come out top.
The key topics in the election campaign were the economy, climate change and national security.
Many Australians see the climate crisis as a huge problem, especially after recent extreme flooding on the east coast.
The country has also suffered from other extreme weather events and climate-related disasters including severe bush fires, drought and coral bleaching in recent years.
Morrison is a staunch supporter of the coal industry. The pandemic has hardly been discussed during election campaigning - though the country recorded more than 50,000 new infections on Friday.
Melbourne IT consultant Jeff Scicluna, 55, said he was casting his ballot for Labor. "We need a change of policy direction towards improving real wages, more immediate and direct climate change actions and a more humane refugee policy," he said. - AFP/dpa