Scott Morrison arrives to concede defeat (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)
Scott Morrison arrives to concede defeat (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

Labor is well on track to form government in some form despite recording a primary vote of just 31%.

That means that while tonight was a bloodbath for the Coalition all over the country, it was hardly a definitive victory for the opposition.

Western Australia delivered a tremendous success for the opposition that exceeded all expectations, but the rest of the country hasn’t swung definitively to Labor.

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Labor could still fall just short of the 76 seats needed to form government in its own right, with pre-election predictions of a clear majority looking uncertain. But the reelection of the Morrison government is impossible — and for Labor, that’s all that counts.

“A win is a win is a win,” Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said as the night unfolded.

The night kicked off with a sense of déjà vu, as the Liberals retained the key northern Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon. Early results also had Liberal challenger Andrew Constance gaining momentum in Gilmore, a key Liberal target.

But Labor nightmares of a repeat of 2019 soon began to fade. The key marginals Reid and Robertson fell quickly. Bennelong still looks very close, and there was a hushed feeling of “no way we couldn’t, could we?” as results showed Peter Dutton running neck and neck with Ali France in Dickson.

“He’s an arsehole,” Labor member Sharon said. “A scumbag!”

Over in Victoria, as the teals surged, Labor won back Chisholm and Higgins — the latter not considered in play until the final weeks. 

But it was WA, for so long a Liberal stronghold, that brought it home for Labor. So far there’s been a stomping 9.9% swing out west, delivering the party Swan, Pearce and Hasluck — (with Tangney and Moore looking close). 

In the final weeks, Labor insiders tried to temper expectations in the state. Now it looks like a stunning over-performance in McGowan land.

“Western Australia behaved completely differently to the rest of the country,” ABC election guru Antony Green said.

But a failure to reach a majority would be a situation entirely of Labor’s making. Kristina Keneally is on track to lose the safe Labor seat of Fowler to independent Dai Le. Like the moderate Liberals in the party’s heartland, Labor is paying the price for taking its base for granted, parachuting in an outsider to one of the most diverse electorates in the country.

In inner Brisbane, the Greens could well snatch Griffith, formerly held by Kevin Rudd, from Terri Butler. Those two losses could impede the path to a Labor majority. 

But for an opposition satisfied to just about scrape into government, none of those losses will matter too much. The Liberal Party has been demolished, particularly in the capital cities, where its base has been ripped apart by the teals and where the marginals have gone to Labor. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s desperate strategy to win over the outer suburbs has gone nowhere.

The historically large crossbench will make the 47th Parliament a potentially strange place. So long as Anthony Albanese is the next prime minister, Labor will not care.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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