Australian Elections: Ousted Prime Minister Morrison Defends His Record

SYDNEY –

Scott Morrison said his Conservative government had left Australia in sound condition, even as voters chastised him on Saturday for his handling of issues like climate change and the pandemic that helped bring the centre-left opposition back to power for the first time in almost a decade. .

Morrison, 54, said he would step down as leader of the Liberal Party, the leading member of the Conservative coalition that had governed since 2013, after conceding defeat to the Labor Party and its leader Anthony Albanese.

A former tourism marketer before switching to politics, Morrison was labeled the “accidental prime minister” in 2018 when his government colleagues chose him to replace then-leader Malcolm Turnbull. Morrison pulled off a major upset by leading the coalition to victory in a 2019 election that was said to be unwinnable.

Since then, he has been deeply criticized for dragging the chain on climate change and failing to establish the promised integrity and corruption watchdog that oversees national politicians.

He was also scorned for taking a vacation to Hawaii during Australia’s great bushfire crisis in the summer of 2019-20, for his government’s bungling of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program, and more recently for to be in command as South Pacific neighbors the Solomon Islands entered into a strategic partnership with China.

Morrison was also widely criticized for a perceived lack of empathy in relation to the treatment of women in Australian society, an issue that drew intense scrutiny through damaging revelations of sexual harassment scandals that rocked the federal Parliament. Analysts pointed to this area as part of the reason for such a strong vote for so-called teal independents in Saturday’s election, the majority of whom were women.

Even Morrison, after congratulating Albanese, struck a proud and defiant tone as he defended his record and that of his government, focusing on the economy, his administration’s work to prevent refugees from arriving by boat and bolstering defenses. of the nation.

“We handed over this country as a government in a stronger position than when we inherited it when we came into government (in 2013),” Morrison told a gathering of Liberal supporters in Sydney on Saturday night.

“Unemployment today is at the lowest level in 48 years,” he said, referring to a rate of 3.9%.

“Australians who come out of school, come out of university, get their trades, know that they have the confidence to be out there and be able to get a job and be able to realize their aspirations, and that’s what I wish for them, that’s what I wish for this country”, he said.

“We left government, having secured our borders many years ago, and we left government having restored our nation’s defenses,” he added, mentioning the newly created security alliance known as AUKUS that also includes the United States and the United Kingdom.

Morrison also praised his government’s work on health issues, particularly mental health.

He said that it had been a “privilege to lead this great party and to lead this great nation”, but that he, as leader, would “take responsibility for the victories and the defeats”.

“As a result, I will hand over the leadership at the next meeting in the party hall, to ensure that the party can move forward under new leadership,” he said.

“It’s a night of disappointment, but it’s also a time for coalition members and supporters across the country to hold their heads high. We’ve been a strong government. We’ve been a good government. Australia is stronger as a result.” of our efforts.” in these last three mandates”.

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