CANBERRA: Voting ended in Australia's general election on Saturday, with some senior opposition lawmakers confident that they will form a center-left government with a focus on slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
A Galaxy exit poll found that the opposition Labor Party could win as many as 82 seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form government.
"I feel positive. I feel like we are ahead, but I am more cautiously optimistic than confident," Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said.
Opinion polls suggest the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition will lose its bid for a third three-year term and Scott Morrison will have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Morrison is the conservatives' third prime minister since they were first elected in 2013. He replaced Malcolm Turnbull in a leadership ballot of government colleagues in August.
Tony Abbott, who became the first of the three conservative prime ministers in the 2013 election, conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
Polling suggests climate change was a major issue in the seat for voters, who elected an independent candidate. As prime minister in 2014, Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government. Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania in seats he hopes his party will win from Labor. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten contained his campaigning to polling centers in his home town of Melbourne, where he voted Saturday morning.
Shorten said he expected that Labor would start governing from Sunday. He said his top priorities would be to increase wages for low-paid workers, hike pay rates for working Sundays and reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
"The world will know that if Labor gets elected, Australia's back in the fight against climate change," he said.
Shorten has been campaigning hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. It is also one of the world's worst carbon gas polluters per capita because of a heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity.
As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as wildfires and destructive storms.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients' costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, said he had closed Labor's lead in opinion polls during the five-week campaign and predicted a close result.
Morrison promises lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.
Both major parties are promising that whoever wins the election will remain prime minister until he next faces the voters' judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.
During Labor's last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.