Australians look set to dump Scott Morrison’s government and elect Labor’s Anthony Albanese as their new prime minister, according to multiple election eve opinion polls, however the rise of independent and minor party candidates means there may not be a clear result by the end of Saturday.
Following six weeks on the hustings, both leaders will begin election day with a last-minute campaign stop in Melbourne. On Friday, the two leaders made their final pitch to voters, with Albanese pledging to be a leader with “integrity” and Morrison warning of the risk of change.
More than six million people have already cast a vote in the election, with 4.6 million voting at pre-poll centres in the past two weeks, and more than two million applying for a postal vote.
Despite a narrowing of Labor’s lead in opinion polls in the final week of the campaign, polling released on Friday suggested a surge in last-minute support for the Coalition would not be enough to see it retain government.
Polls from Roy Morgan and The Australian’s Newspoll released late on Friday showed a two-party-preferred vote of 53-47 in favour of the opposition – enough of a swing toward Labor for it to claim victory.
The Roy Morgan poll predicted Albanese would emerge from Saturday’s election with a majority, however the high level of support for minor parties and independents led the polling company to warn there was a strong chance its forecast majority win for Labor would not be definitively confirmed on the night, as preferences were distributed and postal votes counted.
The two polls follow Guardian’s Essential polling on Wednesday pointing to a similarly slim but sufficient Labor lead.
After a last-minute scramble by the Australian Electoral Commission to address an anomaly that would have seen a cohort of Covid-positive Australians miss out on voting, an extra 100,000 people are also expected to be able able to take part in telephone voting on Saturday.
On Friday morning, the AEC said it had identified capacity in its phone voting system, but warned voters may face delays due to the increased demand.
Labor is hopeful Albanese has run a strong enough campaign to deliver the seven seats it needs to form majority government, while the Coalition is hoping to upset that plan by winning seats off the Labor party and limiting its losses.
Labor holds a notional 69 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives, compared to the 75 held by the Liberal and National parties. A total of 76 seats are needed to form majority government.
Aside from the marginal seat contest between Labor and the Coalition, the Liberal party will also be watching closely what happens in the so-called teal seats of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, where independent candidates are threatening to knock off the incumbents.
This includes the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, in Kooyong, who is under threat from the independent candidate Monique Ryan, who on Friday was gathering support for an urgent federal court case against the special minister of state, Ben Morton, to fix the AEC voting issue.
In the event of a close contest, it is unlikely a result will be known on Saturday night, with counting of postal ballots not to begin until Sunday.
On Friday, Albanese campaigned in the marginal seat of Boothby with the former prime minister Julia Gillard, who urged a vote for Labor in the must-win marginal seat in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.
Albanese spoke emotionally about his journey from being the son of a single mother in Camperdown to now running to become prime minister.
“She’d be proud as punch, because she made the courageous decision in 1963 to keep a child that she had out of wedlock,” Albanese said.
“The fact that young kid is now running for prime minister says a lot about her and her courage, but also says a lot about this country,” he said.
Albanese said Morrison was offering “three more years of the same”, and believed people were walking away from the Liberal party after three years of division, while he wanted to “bring the country together”.
When asked what he could offer that Morrison could not, he said “integrity, and the capacity to take responsibility”.
Campaigning in four marginal seats in Perth, Morrison was asked whether he was prepared for voters to give him a “kick in the shins” for everything they had endured over the past three years.
“Well, the decision that Australians are making is not about rewarding anyone or necessarily punishing anyone,” he said.
“What it’s about is what is going to be best for them going forward and what is best going to enable their aspirations, and what is best going to enable their aspirations is having a strong economy and a government that knows how to manage money.”