Australia’s Morrison to secure majority as shares rally on win

The victory is the biggest come-from-behind win in a generation after Morrison successfully urged voters not to risk a change of govt

By BLOOMBERG

CANBERRA • Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison’s centre-right government will command a parliamentary majority, the Australian Broadcasting Corp projected yesterday, fuelling a stock market rally as investors welcomed his surprise victory in the weekend election.

The Liberal-National coalition will secure 77 seats in the 151-member lower house to Labor’s 68, the broadcaster’s elect ion analyst Antony Green said. The victory is the biggest come-from-behind win in a generation after Morrison successfully urged voters not to risk a change of government amid a slowing economy.

The local currency rose as much as 1% before paring gains to trade 0.8% higher at 69.20 US cents (RM2.89) as of 4:15pm in Sydney yesterday, reflecting relief that the Opposition Labor party’s election platform of redistributing wealth and boosting the minimum wage was rejected by voters.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 1.7% to close at the highest since December 2007 as banks, health insurers and property stocks rallied on the coalition’s victory.

Morrison’s pitch for economic stability was at the heart of his coalition’s successful bid for a third term in office, as he warned voters against backing the most progressive agenda in decades from Labor.

Despite the coalition trailing in most opinion polls, 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 coalition is getting straight back to business pledging to pass signature tax cuts to shore up the economy.

Just hours after claiming victory, the coalition said it aims 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 on Sunday. Rebates of as much as A$1,080 (RM3,132) could deliver a crucial boost to consumer spending and help buoy an economy in its 28th year of unbroken growth.

The victory turned Morrison into a conservative hero, with US President Donald Trump tweeting “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.

Morrison received a rockstar’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.

“He criss-crossed the country with great energy, belief and conviction,” Frydenberg said. “He was assured, he was confident, he was across the detail.”

The victory, and the fact that party rules have now been amended to make it harder to topple leaders, may ensure Morrison is the first PM since 2007 to survive a full term.

The jubilation in the government’s ranks contrasts sharply with the soul-searching among Labor lawmakers.

Shorten ran on Australia’s most progressive agenda in decades, including tax cuts for low income workers, increases to the minimum wage, sweeping emissions curbs and scaling back concessions for property and stock market investors. That presented a big target for Morrison, with blanket TV ads warning Shorten was “the Bill Australia can’t afford”.

Shortly after conceding defeat, Shorten announced he would step down as Opposition leader until the party selects a new leader. His deputy Tanya Plibersek said she wouldn’t stand, though infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese has thrown his hat in the ring. — Bloomberg