Australians voted in Saturday’s national election, and opinion polls have shown that the opposition Labor Party is just ahead of the ruling Conservative coalition, although a strong move by independent climate-minded people could mean a suspended parliament.
Center-left Labor has held decent leadership in the campaign after nine years in the opposition, but recent polls suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s liberal-national government has narrowed the gap in the last leg of a tough six-week campaign.
A Newspoll poll conducted by an Australian newspaper on election day found that Labor’s leadership had fallen to 53-47 on the basis of a two-party advantage over the ruling coalition, largely in line with other polls.
Personal voting in the voting booths in suburban schools, pavilions on the beach and halls in the countryside will end at 18.00 (08.00 GMT).
Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese cast their ballots in Sydney late in the morning after touring marginal places in the last two days of the campaign, dominated by rising cost of living, climate change and good faith.
“Today, Australians are making great choices about their future,” Morrison told reporters near the polling station. “Australia needs a person who knows how to manage money, know how to fight national security interests, knows how to move forward and ensure a strong economy.”
Albanese said Australians wanted a change of government, which he said had nothing to “brag about”.
“I put us in a position where at worst we are competitive today. We are hunting here, ”Albanese said about his chances in the election.
“In the fourth quarter, I want to beat the wind in the back, and I think we have the wind in the back,” he said, referring to Australian football, one of the most popular sports in the country.
As Labor focused on rapid inflation and slow wage growth, Morrison made the country’s lowest unemployment rate in nearly half a century a central part of his campaign’s last hours. Inflation has risen twice as fast as wages, keeping real incomes in the red.
Although the economy is a key issue, several “tea-independent” are challenging key sites held by liberals, campaigning for climate change measures following some of the biggest floods and fires in Australia.
Three volunteers working for tea-independent Monique Ryan, who is running against Treasurer Josh Friedenberg at the former Liuyon Liberal House in Melbourne, said they joined Ryan’s campaign because they are concerned about the climate for the sake of their children or grandchildren.
“For me, this election is really hopeful,” said Reuters Charlotte Forwood, who works as a mother of three adult children.
In the outgoing parliament, the Liberal National Coalition ranked 76 of 151 seats in the lower house, and Labor – 68 with seven minor party and independent members.
Voting is mandatory, and the initial results should be known by Saturday night, although the Australian Electoral Commission has indicated that a clear winner may not be determined immediately if it is close competition, due to the time required to count about 3 million votes by mail .
More than half of the votes had already been cast by Friday evening, with a record 8 million early votes in person and by mail, the commission said.
The two-hour time difference between the East and West Coasts means that polling stations in Western Australia will still be open as initial counts begin to come from the densely populated East Coast states, which have 124 of the 151 seats in the lower house.