The result remains unclear today as the sun rises on a new political dawn, but a surprisingly upbeat Prime Minister rallied the party faithful in Sydney overnight.
“Based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government in the next parliament,” he said when he finally faced the crowd around midnight.
Turnbull conceded it was a “very, very close count” with 30 per cent of votes yet to be counted.
It could be several days before the results were finalised, with official counting not expected to resume until Tuesday.
He said the Coalition had been up against some of the “most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia” with Labor and the union movement spending millions of dollars feeding its Medicare scare campaign to vulnerable Australians – and warned police would “no doubt” investigate text messages sent to thousands of Australians on election day purporting to be from Medicare and warning of its privatisation by the Liberal Party.
“This is the scale of the challenge we faced and regrettably more than a few people were misled,” Turnbull said.
He accused Labor of boasting about how skilfully it had lied on Medicare, describing it as a “shameful episode in Australian political history”.
Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed the Liberal Party had referred the matter to police.
Turnbull also declared Labor had “no capacity” to form a stable majority government.
The Coalition would press ahead with its economic plan because the alternative was for Australia to fall out of the line-up of world leading nations, he said.
“The alternative is hiding under the doona and pretending the world is not what it is,” he said in Sydney.
“It’s a form of political escapism that you can only continue for as long as you can keep on running up more and more debt.”
Turnbull hit back at criticism his decision to call a double-dissolution election was a political tactic, arguing it wasn’t designed to remove crossbench senators but to restore the rule of law to the construction industry.
“Those that say we shouldn’t have called a double-dissolution election are saying we should have just let the CFMEU get on with doing what they like and never challenge them,” he said.
“That is not in Australia’s interests. It’s weak.”
But Labor leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull could no longer promise stability, with a Government that’s lost a clear mandate to govern.
The Opposition Leader was jovial as he addressed a raucous crowd of party faithful in Melbourne last night, buoyed by a tight election contest that could possibly result in a hung parliament.
Although the final numbers could be days away, Shorten declared: “One thing is for sure, the Labor party is back.”
Just three years after the Coalition won Government in a landslide, it had lost its mandate, Shorten said, adding the Prime Minister’s economic program had been rejected by the people of Australia.
“Whatever happens next week, Mr Turnbull will never be able to claim that the people of Australia have adopted his ideological agenda,” he said.
“He will never again be able to promise the stability which he has completely failed to deliver tonight.”
Shorten thanked his colleagues, volunteers, supporters and the “mighty” trade union movement for their solidarity and hard work.
There was also a shout out for his famous Bill Bus as well as wife Chloe.
“Wherever you went in this campaign, you brought the sunshine with you,” he said.
He said Labor would stand by fair pay and penalty rates, education, affordable housing, action on climate change, a fibre-based NBN and Medicare, enthusing the election result was about the Australian people – “their lives, their futures, the country that they want to live in, the dreams they have for them and their families”.
“After the longest campaign in 50 years, it is time for our parliament to get back to work,” Shorten said.
“I promise Australians that the Labor Party I lead will endeavour to find common ground with people of goodwill in the 45th parliament.”
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