Australians vote to elect PM in climate-dominated election

Climate change activists hold placards outside a polling station in the Liberal-held Sydney seat of Warringah during Australia's general election in Sydney on May 18, 2019

Melbourne: Australians on Saturday voted to elect their next parliament and prime minister, in what has been widely referred to as the climate-change election, with the first exit poll showing a victory for the opposition Labor Party.

After five weeks long election campaigning across the country, around 16 million Australians swarmed to the polling booths across the country to elect the nation's prime minister.

A Nine-Galaxy poll released shortly before the voting stations closed in the east of the country showed a victory for the centre-left Labor party and Liberal Party-led coalition losing its bid for a third three-year term.

The poll showed the Labor winning as many as 82 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, beating the governing Liberal coalition.

To win a majority in the House of Representatives, either major party will need 77 seats. The Coalition currently holds 73 seats, while Labor has 72.

Some 16.5 million Australians were enrolled to vote on Saturday, with more than 4.7 million having already cast ballots in early voting by Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison cast his vote at Lilli Pilli Public School in Sydney while Labor party leader Bill Shorten cast his vote in Melbourne.

Morrison said this federal election was a choice about who you want to continue to be the Prime Minister of this country, myself or Bill Shorten.

Tonight the votes will be counted and we will see what the outcome is. I make no assumptions about tonight. I respect this process. It is dear to my heart, the democracy of our country. I don't take anyone's support in this country for granted, Morrison said.

Shorten after casting his vote said, "Today, vote for change, vote for real change, and vote for Labor. Vote to stop the chaos. Today, vote to stop the cuts to schools and hospitals. For a better childcare system for families. Vote to tackle climate change. Vote Labor.

Hitting out on climate change, Shorten said it wasn't the Aussie way to be missing from the big fights. We will convene the parliament as soon as possible to start action on climate change."             Anger over the government's inaction on climate change may prove the real difference between the two parties.

Australia has experienced some of the worst effects of climate change in recent few years, from deadly bush fires to the destruction of natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef.                        

Concern about climate change is now at a 10-year high among Australians, with 64 per cent believing it should be a top priority for the government, according to an Ipsos poll released in April.

The Labor party is promising to cut Australia's carbon emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels, compared to the government's minimum pledge of 26 per cent.

Meanwhile, Labor lodged an official complaint against Liberal for allegedly using Australian Election Commission (AEC) colours and telling voters to use their first choice in front of a Liberal candidate in Melbourne seat of Chisholm.

However, AEC responded that the signs were not a breach of electoral rules because they appeared to be properly authorised and there is nothing in the Electoral Act regarding use of colour.

The poll comes just two days after the death of Bob Hawke, a long-serving former prime minister whose achievements have been hailed across the political spectrum.

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