Australia's conservative prime minister claims historic election win

Australia's conservative prime minister claims historic election win
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pulled out a surprise victory in a federal election Saturday as a populist wave buoyed the conservative leader.

The election, which grants Morrison his first full three-year term since he took over in August, defied expectations that his coalition would suffer losses in the race and that the country would pivot after six years of tumult under conservative leadership.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Morrison said at a victory party. “It has been those Australians who have worked hard every day. 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, and to ensure that when you’re in your retirement you can enjoy it, because you’ve worked hard for it.”

“These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight,” he added.

The Australian election posed the question to the populace if it wanted a rightward coalition that vowed to promote economic stability, grow jobs and cut immigration or a liberal body that would dedicate more energy to climate change and income inequality.

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Voters appeared to prefer to stay the course and try to bolster an economy that has not had a recession in almost 28 years.

“Australians are just deeply conservative – wherever possible, we cling to the status quo,” Jill Sheppard, a lecturer in politics at the Australian National University, told The New York Times. “While we want progress on certain issues, we don’t like major upheavals.” 

Morrison bested Bill Shorten, the head of the center-left Labor Party, who vowed to increase government efforts to combat climate change and was openly skeptical about Australia’s relationship with the U.S. and Trump.

However, the Australian leader was anchored down by poor approval ratings and hammered by criticism that his spending plans for education and health programs would blow up the country’s budget.

"While there are still millions of votes to count and important seats to be finalized, it is obvious Labor will not be able to form the next government," Shorten told supporters after the vote. "This has been a tough campaign, toxic at times, but now that the contest is over, all of us have a responsibility to respect the result."

Despite intraparty disputes that have led to three prime ministers in six years, Morrison cast his coalition as a steady presence in Canberra that would fatten Australians’ wallets.

“Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first. And that is exactly what we are going to do,” Morrison said. “We’re going to get back to work for the Australians we know go to work every day, who face those struggles and trials every day. They’re looking for a fair go and they’re having a go and they’re going to get a go from our government.”