Right now, Australia doesn’t know who will be Prime Minister.
This weekend, the Australian public voted in a federal election.
Votes are still being counted, and as of right now, it is an extremely (and we mean extremely) close call.
Counting stopped in the early hours of Sunday morning, and won’t resume until this Tuesday. As of the time of publication, the centre-left Australian Labor Party is just ahead of the centre-right conservative Liberal Party (50.22 per cent to 49.78 per cent). Anything could happen.
Australian politics has been a mess for years. To fill you in, The Lucky Country has had five Prime Ministers in six years, and if the opposition leader Bill Shorten wins this election, it will make it six.
Currently, the position is held by the Liberal Party leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who won the position from the unpopular Tony Abbott in a leadership spill in September 2015. Turnbull was instantly more liked, (basically because he wasn’t Abbott), but his popularity started to fall after keeping many of Abbott’s unpopular policies in place. Having trouble getting a particular reform through the senate, Turnbull called for a double-dissolution election, which was held on Saturday.
A double-dissolution election is structured differently to most other elections held in Australia and means that both the House of Representatives and members of the Senate were able to be voted for and elected.
Voting is compulsory for everyone over 18 in Australia, and so over 15.5 million were given a comically large piece of paper and a pencil – and a sausage sandwich – to cast their vote this Saturday.
So far, several Senate positions have been confirmed, but there are still nine seats undecided in the House of Representatives. Both Turnbull and Shorten believe their parties will win the majority. On Sunday, Turnbull told reporters “based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government”, while Shorten told media “one thing is for sure, the Labor party is back”.
This election is particularly important for Australians because both parties have differing policy promises on topical issues, including same-sex marriage. Labor promises to legalize it within 100 days of taking leadership, and the Liberal party has pledged to put it to a nation-wide vote in a plebiscite that will not be politically binding. Other policies dividing the two parties include Australia’s controversial treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and the National Broadband Network (which remains an ongoing point of embarrassment for many of the country’s perpetually frustrated internet users).
For now, followers of Australian politics will have to remain on the edge of their seats for at least another couple of days until a leader is decided.
Comment: Who has been your fave Australian Prime Minister?