Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s next prime minister, leaving the Coalition in disarray after it lost more than a dozen seats to Labor and independents in an election that has transformed the country’s political landscape.
Declaring victory shortly before midnight on Saturday, Albanese thanked voters for the “extraordinary honour” of becoming the nation’s 31st prime minister, and said he would work in government to bring Australians together.
He pledged to implement the Uluru statement of the heart in full – which includes constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians – promised “kindness” to those in need, and declared that “together we can end the climate wars”.
“Tonight the Australian people have voted for change. I am humbled by this victory and I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to serve as the 31st prime minister of Australia,” Albanese said.
With 60% of the vote counted, Labor was ahead in 73 seats and on track to win enough seats to form majority government, with huge swings in Western Australia likely to flip at least three seats to Labor.
The Coalition lost a swag of key marginals to Labor, including Chisholm and Higgins in Victoria, Reid and Robertson in NSW, Boothby in South Australia, and Pearce, Swan and Hasluck in WA. A dozen more seats were too close to call.
The Liberal party was also expected to lose six previously safe inner city seats to so-called teal independents, including Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong, with the Coalition’s numbers likely to fall to the low 60s in the 151 seat house of representatives. There could be as many as 16 MPs on the crossbench, a record number.
Albanese said that as leader he would respect all Australians, including those who had not voted for him, saying he would “seek to get your vote next time”.
“We are the greatest country on Earth, but we can have an even better future if we seize the opportunities that are right there in front of us,” Albanese said.
“I want to seek our common purpose and promote unity and not fear. Optimism, not fear and division.
“It is what I have sought to do throughout my political life and what I will bring to the leadership of our country.
“I want to find that common ground where together we can plant our dreams, to unite around our shared love of this country, our shared faith in Australia’s future, our shared values of fairness and opportunity and hard work, and kindness to those in need.”
Albanese said arrangements were in place for him and incoming foreign affairs minister Penny Wong to be sworn in on Monday to allow him to travel to Tokyo for the quad meeting with the US president, Joe Biden, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, on Tuesday.
Albanese, who becomes only the fourth leader to win government for Labor since the second world war, also pointed to his beginnings as the son of a single mother on a disability pension, saying he hoped his backstory would inspire Australians.
“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamt of a better life for me and I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” he said.
“I want Australia to continue to be a country that no matter where you live, who you worship, who you love or what your last name is, that places no restrictions on your journey in life.”
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, made his concession speech shortly before 11pm on Saturday, describing the result as a “very difficult” night for the Liberal and Nationals MPs who had lost their seat.
“I have always believed in Australians and their judgment and I’ve always been prepared to accept their verdict, and tonight they have delivered their verdict and I congratulate Anthony Albanese and the Labor party and I wish him and his government all the very best,” Morrison said.
He confirmed he would stand down as leader at the next meeting of the Liberal party room. Without Frydenberg in the parliament, Peter Dutton is seen as the most likely MP to replace him as leader.
Reflecting on the result, Morrison said he accepted the “burden of responsibility” of the loss, but also pointed to the “time of great upheaval over these past few years”.
“It has imposed a heavy price on our country and on all Australians and I think all Australians have felt that deeply, and we’ve seen in our own politics a great deal of disruption as the people have voted today with major parties having one of the lowest primary votes we’ve ever seen.”
Nationally, the Liberal party recorded a 4.5% swing against it on primary votes, while Labor’s primary vote was also down about 2%.
The result showed both major parties posting their lowest primary vote in the modern era, with Labor’s primary vote at 32% and the Coalition’s primary vote at 35%.
The Greens recorded a 2.3% lift in their primary vote, enjoying a boost among the record high level of support for independents and minor parties.
Labor was increasingly confident it would be able to win the 76 seats needed to form majority government after a massive primary swing against the Coalition in WA of 11%, with Labor confident of picking up at least three seats in the state and as many as five.
The devastating result for Liberals in teal seats looked likely to unseat Frydenberg in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, with the independent Monique Ryan ahead, along with the Liberal MP Tim Wilson who was defeated by the independent Zoe Daniel in the seat of Goldstein.
In Sydney, the moderate Liberals Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Falinski were also forecast to lose their seats to Climate 200-backed independents, as was Celia Hammond in the previously blue-ribbon seat of Curtin in Perth.
The Greens were expected to pick up the seat of Ryan from the Liberal party, and are neck and neck with the Labor party in the seats of Brisbane and Griffith.
While stopping short of conceding the seat, Frydenberg said it would be very difficult for him to make up the lead enjoyed by Ryan, who was ahead by about 4% with most booths counted on Saturday night.
“While it’s mathematically possible that we win in Kooyong, it’s definitely difficult,” he said.
“To be the deputy leader of our party has been an enormous privilege and to serve as Scott Morrison’s deputy, a person of great decency, a person who loves his family, a person who is of deep faith and a person who has shown extra ordinary leadership in extraordinary times.”
Morrison praised Frydenberg’s role as treasurer, describing him as a “brother”, and said he wanted his former treasurer to remain in parliament – endorsing him as a future leader.
“I am looking forward to those counts improving because Josh Frydenberg should be remaining in this Liberal party and remaining in the federal parliament because he is an outstanding individual and leader of our country.”
After spending close to $100m during the election campaign, Clive Palmer was only able to secure about 5% of the vote, despite its vote topping 10% in a swag of outer metropolitan seats in Sydney and Melbourne.
Despite its election loss, the Liberal party will win back the seat of Hughes from the United Australia party defector Craig Kelly, and was also on track to pick up the seat of Gilmore on the NSW south coast, which was contested by the former NSW transport minister Andrew Constance.
The result was too close to call in a swag of other key seats, with Lyons in Tasmania another possible gain for the Liberals, and Labor still hopeful of picking up Tangney in WA and Bennelong in NSW.
In a shock result for Labor, its home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, was likely to lose the previously safe Labor seat of Fowler to the independent Dai Le, after the party suffered a 20% swing against it.
But in Parramatta, a seat targeted by the Coalition after Labor parachuted Andrew Charlton in, Labor secured a swing towards it and was on track to comfortably hold the seat.
Labor may also face the prospect of a progressive-leaning Senate, with the Greens set to pick up a seat in Queensland and SA, while Labor is likely to win a seat from the Liberals in WA.
Labor has lost a Senate position to the Greens in NSW, while the Liberals are also set to lose a number of seats to minor parties, including the UAP in Victoria, One Nation in Queensland and the Jacqui Lambie Network in Tasmania.
This would give Labor, the Greens and the progressive independent David Pocock a slim majority, controlling 39 votes in the 76 seat upper house.