Australian PM concedes defeat, ending party’s 9-year rule; was firm backer of Israel

Scott Morrison, who recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, congratulates opposition leader Anthony Albanese, whose Labor party supports recognizing Palestine as a state

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes defeat in the national elections in Sydney on May 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Nazanin Tabatabaee)
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes defeat in the national elections in Sydney on May 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Nazanin Tabatabaee)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted defeat in national elections Saturday after a “difficult night” for his conservative government.

Morrison acted quickly after Saturday’s election despite millions of votes yet to be counted because an Australian prime minister must attend a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with US, Japanese and Indian leaders.

“Tonight I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and I have congratulated him on his election victory,” Morrison said.

The 54-year-old outgoing leader noted that voter support for major parties had fallen in the election.

“I think about the upheaval that is taking place in our nation, and I think it is important for our nation to heal and to move forward,” he said.

“And particularly over the course of this week with the important meetings that are being held, I think it’s vitally important there’s a very clear understanding about the government of this country,” he added.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will be sworn in as prime minister after his Labor party clinched its first electoral win since 2007. The party was last in power in 2013 when it led a minority government.

Morrison, who heads the Liberal Party, was considered a good friend of Israel, heading one of a handful of governments to somewhat follow former US president Donald Trump’s lead on Jerusalem, recognizing the western side of the city as Israel’s capital.

Also during his tenure, the Australian government listed all of the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Gaza Strip-based Hamas as terror groups. At the time, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Australia is a close friend of Israel in the fight against global terrorism.”

Opposition Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese casts his vote during Australia’s general election, at a polling station in the suburb of Marrickville in Sydney on May 21, 2022. (Wendell Teodoro/AFP)

Albanese in the past has described himself as “a strong advocate of justice for Palestinians,” and has said he is “very critical of a lot of Israel’s policies.”

Speaking to The Australian Jewish News earlier this month, Albanese said his party continues to support a two-state solution based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders and reflecting the aspirations of the Palestinians to statehood.

“Labor’s national platform makes clear the desire of the conference to recognize Palestine as a state while acknowledging this will ultimately be a matter for a future Labor government,” Albanese told AJN.

“And Labor governments have always understood that any just and lasting resolution to the Middle East conflict cannot be at the expense of either Palestinians or Israelis. The only way that a two-state solution can be achieved is through a negotiated outcome between the two parties,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is embraced by his wife Jenny during his address to a Liberal Party function in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, May 21, 2022. Morrison has conceded defeat and has confirmed that he would hand over the leadership of the Liberal Party following his party’s loss to Labor in today’s federal election. (AP Photo/Nazanin Tabatabaee)

In other matters, Labor has promised more financial assistance and a robust social safety net as Australia grapples with the highest inflation since 2001 and soaring housing prices.

The party also plans to increase minimum wages, and on the foreign policy front, it proposed to establish a Pacific defense school to train neighboring armies in response to China’s potential military presence on the Solomon Islands on Australia’s doorstep.

It also wants to tackle climate change with a more ambitious 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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