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Just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed the biggest come-from-behind win in decades, his Liberal-National coalition said it aimed to deliver tax relief for about half of Australia’s 25 million people when Parliament reconvenes, perhaps as soon as next month.
‘‘That is our priority piece of legislation,’’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters. Rebates of as much as $A1080 ($NZ1143) could deliver a crucial boost to consumer spending and help buoy an economy in its 28th year of unbroken growth.
Morrison’s pitch for economic stability was at the heart of his coalition’s successful bid for a third term in office, as he urged voters to reject the most progressive agenda in decades from the opposition Labor Party.
Despite the coalition trailing in most opinion polls for years, Morrison closed the gap with a relentless attack on Labor’s pledge to take tougher action on climate change and strip tax perks from wealthy Australians.
The victory turned Morrison into a conservative hero, and United States President Donald Trump tweeted ‘‘Congratulations to Scott on a GREAT WIN!’’ For Labor leader Bill Shorten (52) the loss was akin to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 failure to win the US presidency. He ended up resigning as party chief on a night he expected to celebrate a resounding win.
With 75% of votes counted, the coalition was on track to win at least 73 seats in the 151-seat lower house, eking out a victory via gains in the mostly rural states of Tasmania and Queensland, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp projections. Labor was on 65 and minor parties on six, with seven seats in doubt.
It may be days before it is clear whether the coalition gained the 76 seats needed to form an outright majority. Similarly, vote counting is continuing for the Senate, where minor parties and independents may hold the balance of power and influence the legislative agenda.
Morrison received a rock star’s reception from the party faithful on Saturday night as he claimed victory. Colleagues were effusive in their praise of his campaign strategy, in which he urged voters not to risk a change of government just as the economy stutters.
Wage growth is stagnant, households are saddled with record debt, and Australia risks getting caught in the crossfire of the trade war between its most important ally, the US, and biggest trading partner, China.
Liberal lawmaker Arthur Sinodinos, a former adviser to prime minister John Howard, lauded Morrison’s tactical prowess in mapping out the regions the coalition needed to concentrate on to boost its chances of re-election.
A One Nation campaign truck was set on fire outside a Hobart shopping centre yesterday. Party leader Pauline Hanson blamed the ‘‘Left’’ for the blaze.