Australia in limbo after virtual deadlock
AUSTRALIA was in political limbo yesterday after voters failed to hand Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the stability he craved in calling an election, with the nation instead facing the prospect of a hung parliament.
The former banker went to the polls early looking to shore up support and deliver a strong government based on a “jobs and growth” agenda after ousting fellow Liberal Tony Abbott in a party coup last September to become the country’s fourth leader in recent years.
But he now faces the prospect of having to deal with independents and minor parties to stay in power after a nearly 3 percent swing against his administration.
Despite a host of coalition MPs being dumped, Mr Turnbull insisted he remained “quietly confident” while admitting to a flurry of phone calls to broker deals with lawmakers he may need onside to retain office.
After a host of postal votes were added to running totals yesterday, his Liberal/National coalition had 65 seats to Labor’s 67, the Greens one and independents four, results showed.
That leaves 13 seats still too close to call with 76 needed to rule outright in the 150-seat parliament.
A final outcome is not expected until tomorrow at the earliest, and it could take weeks, with millions of postal and absentee vote – which experts say traditionally favour the incumbent – yet to be processed.
Mr Turnbull had campaigned on tough asylum-seeker policies and a plan to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage, but mostly on reinforcing his economic credentials as the country transitions from a mining investment boom to a more diversified economy.
He also used the instability sparked by Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union to warn that Australia must have “calm heads and a strong economic plan”.
But polls and the official #ausvotes Twitter feed showed healthcare, followed by the economy, education and housing, topped voters’ concerns.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten tapped into this, focusing his last days of campaigning on health which helped Labor bounce back strongly after being thumped by the conservatives at the last election in 2013.
Business leaders said the possibility of a hung parliament was bad news and urged a speedy resolution.
Mr Turnbull called the election not just to shore up support but because crossbenchers – politicians who are independent or from minor parties – held the balance of power in the upper house Senate.
Even if he manages to form government, there is no guarantee the new Senate will be more amenable. –