SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was poised to become one of the country’s highest-ranking cabinet ministers to ever be voted out of parliament on Saturday as he acknowledged it would be difficult to cling onto his seat in the national election.
The Labor Party was on track to end nine years of conservative Liberal-National government, though it was uncertain if they would govern in their own right.
Frydenberg appeared on course to be defeated in his Melbourne seat by independent Monique Ryan, a pediatric neurologist running for office for the first time, according to a projected count by the Australian Electoral Commission.
“While it’s mathematically possible that we win in Kooyong, it’s definitely difficult,” Frydenberg, the government’s most senior financial minister, told supporters at a televised speech in Melbourne.
Frydenberg did not concede defeat but thanked his wife and added that “maybe after tonight I get a bit more time to try and be the most extraordinary dad”. He also claimed credit for unemployment at 50-year lows and referred to comments he made “in what looks to have been my last press conference as Treasurer”.
The projected result would make Frydenberg a major casualty in an election that has been defined by high-profile independent candidates taking on conservatives in urban seats with policies focused on fighting climate change.
It also throws the future of the Liberal party, the larger of the coalition partners, into disarray since Frydenberg, the party’s deputy leader and treasurer since 2018, was widely tipped as a strong contender to be its next leader.
Frydenberg led Australia’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including arranging stimulus payments and a reprieve from some corporate regulations, but is now the country’s first sitting treasurer to lose their seat since 1931.
Former Prime Minister John Howard, who once employed Frydenberg as an adviser, lost his seat at a 2007 election after a change to the boundaries of his Sydney seat diluted its conservative-leaning demographic, the first prime minister to lose their seat since 1929.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye and John Mair)