Australians flocked to the polls Saturday capping a bitterly fought election that may be the first anywhere decided by climate policy.
Between 16 and 17 million people are expected to vote across the vast island-continent, with the centre-left Labor party tipped for victory after six years in opposition.
Casting his ballot in Melbourne, would-be Prime Minister Bill Shorten was bullish about forming a majority government after a final poll showed his lead increasing.
“Today is the people’s day,” he said. “Be it buying a ‘democracy sausage’, the kids having a bit of a sugar cake or what have you, and voting.”
“In the event that the people of Australia voted to stop the chaos and voted for action on climate change, we will be ready to hit the ground from tomorrow.”
Weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative Liberals had been heading for an electoral drubbing.
But he has closed the gap with a negative campaign and backing from the country’s biggest media organisation owned by Rupert Murdoch, mainly targeting older, wealthier voters who face fewer tax breaks under Labor.
After casting his vote in the Sydney suburbs, Morrison acknowledged the challenge his coalition faced, saying, “I don’t take anyone’s support in this country for granted.”
“Australians know very well what it is we are saying in terms of keeping our economy strong, keeping our budget under control… keeping Australians safe and secure,” he said, hitting the conservatives’ key talking points against Labor.