Labor party takes power in ‘fresh start’ for Australia’s biggest state

SYDNEY (Reuters) -The Australian Labor Party in New South Wales state claimed power in an election on Saturday night, with voters backing the centre-left party’s pledges on anti-privatisation and cost of living relief.

The election in Australia’s most populous state had been touted as a tight race between the incumbent Liberal-National coalition and Labor, but the vote count on Sunday showed Labor on track to take the 47 seats needed to form majority government, after three terms in opposition.

The win marks further endorsement of the party of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who joined his state counterpart Chris Minns in Sydney on polling day.

“A huge congratulations to @ChrisMinnsMP … and the whole NSW Labor team on your election victory,” Albanese said on Twitter late on Saturday.

Labor’s win in New South Wales means the party now governs at state and federal level across Australia’s mainland, leaving island state Tasmania as the conservative outlier.

“After 12 years in opposition the people of New South Wales have voted for a fresh start,” Minns told supporters in Sydney late on Saturday.

“The people of New South Wales voted to put in a government that would put people at the heart of all decision-making”.

Labor’s campaign in the state featured a pledge to rule out further privatisation of state assets, and a promise to boost public sector wages, amid cost-of-living concerns.

Stubborn inflation has posed a challenge for the Reserve Bank of Australia, which this month lifted its cash rate to its highest level in more than a decade.

Speaking on Sunday, Minns said Labor had “commonsense initiatives” that would help bring down cost of living in the state. His government, once sworn in, would prepare laws to protect government utility Sydney Water from a future sell-off, he also said.

Outgoing premier Dominic Perrottet, a social conservative Catholic and former state treasurer, was elected premier in 2021 after his predecessor resigned after a corruption watchdog probe into whether she was involved in conduct that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust”.

Albanese, in the lead up to polling day, had urged voters in his home state to back Labor, saying the coalition government was “in shambles” due to infighting.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith, editing by Deepa Babington and Michael Perry)