The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, says he is confident he can form a government, but results are still too close to call as counting continues in tightly run seats.
The leader of the Liberal-National coalition needs to win 76 out of 150 lower house seats to form a ruling majority.
The Labor Party will not gain enough seats to form government. But it has improved strongly on its 2013 election result of 55 lower house seats, making particularly strong gains in Tasmania and New South Wales.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told party faithful at a function in Victoria that the close result was a vindication of Labor’s policies.
“There is one thing for sure, the Labor Party is back,” he said.
“Three years after the Liberals came to power in a landslide they have lost their mandate. And Mr Turnbull’s economic program, such as it was, has been rejected by the people of Australia, whatever happens next week,” Shorten stated.
Labor was decimated at the 2013 election, when Tony Abbott led the party.
Postal and pre-poll votes
Postal and pre-poll votes are now being counted as a number of important seats go down to the wire.
More than 10 million people cast ballots on Saturday, on top of four million who voted early.
All 150 seats in Australia’s lower house, the House of Representatives, are up for grabs at the election, as are 76 seats in Australia’s upper house, the Senate.
Minor party success
Results so far suggest Australians voted in large numbers for independents and minor parties.
Senator Nick Xenophon has been pegged as a potential kingmaker after his newly formed political party took the lower house South Australian seat of Mayo, formerly a safe Liberal seat.
Mr Xenophon is expected to be returned to the Senate and his party may gain additional upper house seats, particularly in South Australia.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has polled strongly in Queensland and although it has not won a lower house seat, its preferences have tended to flow to the opposition Labor Party.
Ms Hanson, who gained notoriety for her anti-immigration views in the 1990s, told the Nine Network that, based on early results, she was likely to secure two spots in the Senate.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claims that the government intended to dismantle Australia’s public health system, Medicare, was widely being credited with creating a late swing to Labor. But then there was a gradual realisation that an overall win was beyond them as Labor’s momentum stalled.
The former lawyer and investment banker vowed to deliver tax cuts for workers and small businesses.
In contrast, Mr Shorten has promised to “make his first priority legalising same-sex marriage.”
The government and Labor have sparred over the economy, healthcare, immigration and same-sex marriage during the campaign.