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Meet Australia's new prime minister - but can he govern in his own right?


Congratulations are pouring in for Anthony Albanese, who will become Australia’s 31st prime minister and just the fourth person to lead Labor to government from opposition since World War II.

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While his prime ministership is almost certain, less clear is whether Labor will be able to govern in its own right, or whether it will need the help of an expanded crossbench.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles remained hopeful on Sunday that his party could rule in its own right rather than relying on a larger crossbench, after Saturday’s election brought an end to Scott Morrison’s prime ministership.

Liberal senator Jane Hume also hoped Albanese could form a majority Labor government, saying a hung parliament would be dysfunctional.

The coalition is projected to hold just 59 seats, with as many as 15 crossbenchers including four Greens MPs, according to election analyst William Bowe.

However, as vote counting continued the Australian Electoral Commission officially listed Labor as holding 75 seats and the coalition 51, with 12 crossbenchers and the remaining undecided.

Labor could still fall short of a majority, meaning it would need crossbench support to govern as it did between 2010 and 2013.

Speaking to almost 1000 party faithful at Labor’s election night event in Sydney’s inner west, Albanese said he was humbled by the victory.

“No matter how you voted … the government I lead will respect every one of you every day,” he told the crowd.

“We can have an even better future if we seize the opportunities that are right there in front of us.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the head of Aotearoa’s Labour Party, said she was looking forward to working with her new Australian counterpart.

“Australia is our most important partner, our only official ally and single economic market relationship, and I believe our countries will work even more closely together in these tumultuous times,” she said.

Catholic Social Services Australia chair Francis Sullivan said Mr Albanese’s upbringing through public housing will help him relate to people currently struggling.

“Today must be the start of a new beginning for the aged and infirmed, the single mothers, the poor and isolated, the underpaid and the over-worked, the disabled and the dispossessed,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation head Kelly O’Shanassy urged Mr Albanese to start getting to work on cutting pollution, with the science backing tougher targets than Labor’s plan to curb emissions by 43 per cent by 2030.

“The new government must reconsider its position on new coal and gas projects – it’s not what Australians want, nor what our environment needs,” she said.

Labor made several gains across NSW, Victoria and South Australia, taking seats in Reid, Robertson, Boothby, Chisholm and Higgins.

However, it was large swings in Western Australia that brought the result home for Labor, with marginal seats Hasluck, Swan and Pearce all falling to Labor, along with the formerly safe Liberal seat Tangney.

Albanese, 59, said the election win was a significant achievement and vowed to get to work immediately.

“Friends, we have made history tonight, and (on Sunday), together, we begin the work of building a better future, for all Australians,” he said.

The Labor leader vowed to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, along with establishing a national anti-corruption commission.

Despite the gains made by Labor, it was not all positive news for the party on election night.
Labor looks set to possibly lose the seat of Gilmore on the NSW south coast to former state MP Andrew Constance.

Kristina Keneally is also on track to lose in the former safe Labor seat of Fowler in Sydney’s southwest, to independent Dai Le.

Keneally attracted controversy by being parachuted into the seat from outside the electorate at the expense of a local candidate.

Some Labor seats in Queensland may also be at risk to the Greens, who have already picked up an additional lower house seat.

Albanese is set to be sworn in as prime minister on Monday, ahead of an expected trip to Tokyo for the Quad Leaders’ Meeting.

In his victory speech, he said his rise from humble upbringings to prime minister said a lot about the nation’s equality.

“I hope there are families in public housing watching this … because I want every parent to be able to tell their child no mater where you live or where you come from, in Australia the doors of opportunity are open to us all.”

Scott Morrison is set to remain in parliament, having retained his Sydney seat of Cook, but will step down as leader at the next Liberal partyroom meeting.

He and his family left Kirribilli House, the prime minister’s official residence in Sydney, on Sunday morning.

Labor’s primary vote of 32 per cent was lower than it achieved when the party lost the 2019 election, while the coalition scored 35 per cent.

On ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Marles said:”I think there is a bit of counting to go, and we are hopeful that we can achieve a majority in our own right”.

“The point that we’ve made all through the campaign is that what we are taking to the Australian people is what we will take to the parliament, so there is not going to be any deals in forming government,” he said.

Hume conceded the so-called teal independents had an “incredible night”.

“I am desperately hoping though there is not a hung parliament, I hope that it is in fact a Labor government,” the outgoing financial services minister told Sky News on Sunday.

“A hung parliament is dysfunctional and won’t serve the country well.”

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who is stepping down as deputy prime minister, said Mr Albanese has a “mighty task” in front of him to make Australia as strong as possible.

Asked if he would continue at Nationals leader, Mr Joyce said: “That’s a decision for the party room.”

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