First published in the on March 14, 1993
The Keating Government enters a record fifth term this week after an extraordinary boilover in yesterday’s Federal election.
At the close of counting Labor had won, with the majority put as low as three and as high as 11. John Hewson’s Coalition was struggling against impossible odds to win the net five seats it needed to oust Labor, although at midnight last night Dr Hewson did not fully concede defeat.
As expected, the swing varied sharply from State to State, favouring Labor in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, with lesser swings against the Government in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
Overall, the Federal result was an umbrella for what was effectively six State elections.
Appearing before ecstatic supporters at 11.30pm last night, Prime Minister Paul Keating claimed Labor’s extraordinary victory was one “for true believers, the people who kept the faith through difficult times”.
Promising to return Australia to strong growth and promote more jobs. Mr Keating said: “We thank you and we won’t let you down.”
Dr Hewson effectively conceded defeat at midnight last night, although he did not formally acknowledge that Labour would continue in office.
He told cheering supporters: “We are going to continue to fight.” He did not indicate whether he would stand down from the leadership of the Liberal Party, which he acceded to in 1990.
National Party Leader Tim Fischer claimed his party had gained seats but admitted that, overall, the Coalition could not claim victory.
The result shows an electorate more fearful of the Coalition’s radical proposed changes, including a goods and services tax, and massive changes to industrial relations, Medicare and education, than angry at the crippling recession and one million unemployed.
Labor gained seats in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania but lost in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. However, SA and WA did not deliver the Coalition as many scats as it required.
The result in about a dozen marginal seats will not be finalised until the distribution of preferences later in the week.
Labor went into the election with 77 seats plus one “notional” seat. Wills, which was left vacant after Phil Cleary’s election was declared invalid by the High Court.
The Coalition held 68 seats before the election and one seat was held by the Independent Member for North Sydney, Ted Mack. Both candidates look set to hold their seats.
The election is the first time since 1966 that a government has increased its primary vote. Labor’s rose almost six per cent, and the Liberals by more than 1pc. The Democrats support in the House of Representatives collapsed and backing for the National Party slipped.
The outcome is a disaster for the Coalition which will be thrown into despair — its leadership and policies in disarray. It represents a stunning rejection of Opposition Leader John Hewson and his policies, particularly his plans to introduce a goods and services tax.
After a decade in office, a victory for Mr Keating — Prime Minister for only 15 months — represents a defiance of political logic.
Forming his next Government, Mr Keating will exploit his newly won prestige to place his own stamp on the Cabinet, making sweeping changes to senior posts.
Former Liberal Leader John Howard said he was “disappointed in the number of seats the Liberal Party has lost on the eastern seaboard” but would not speculate on the future of the Liberal Leadership.
Immigration Minister Gerry Hand said: “Mr Keating’s campaign has been amazing. If you had have said one year ago so late in the night about the possibility of the Government holding is nothing short of an outstanding performance by Keating.”
The Coalition required a net gain of five seats to win Government. After trailing early in the campaign. Labor closed the gap in the last few days.
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