One week after Australians went to the polls, counting continued over the weekend with the Coalition inching towards a result where it is likely to form government.
As the Coalition pulled ahead in Flynn and Forde but fell back marginally in Capricorna, Bill Shorten said he would not concede defeat until the Australian Electoral Commission declared the Coalition had won the 76 seats required to govern.
At the same time, key balance of power senator Nick Xenophon, said his party was not interested in causing “maximum mayhem” in the parliament, whether the Coalition held a slim majority or formed a minority government.
The results, as of Saturday 2.30pm, had the Coalition ahead in the doubtful seats of Flynn, Capricornia and Forde. Labor leads in Hindmarsh and there was no counting on Saturday in Herbert, where Labor is ahead of sitting Liberal MP Ewen Jones by 348 votes. The Liberals remain in front in Gilmore and Labor remain in front in Cowan.
By Saturday afternoon, the latest count had the Coalition sitting on 72 seats compared with Labor’s 66 seats. If Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis wins Gilmore in New South Wales that would increase the Coalition total to 73. If Labor’s candidate in Cowan, Anne Aly, wins that seat in Western Australia, Labor’s total seats would increase to 67.
If Gilmore and Cowan fall as expected, that leaves the Coalition three seats short of a majority, with five seats left in play.
As of Saturday 2.30pm, the seat margins were:
- Flynn – LNP leads by 131
- Capricornia – LNP leads by 139
- Forde – LNP leads by 1,059, a predicted win for the Coalition
- Herbert – Labor leads by 348 with no Saturday counting
- Hindmarsh – Labor leads by 161
On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition was leading Labor 50.1% to 49.9%. The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green is predicting the Coalition will win 76 seats to Labor’s 69.
But postal votes, including overseas votes, will continue to flow in until the coming Friday (15 July).
Asked why he had not conceded defeat on Saturday morning, Bill Shorten said: “I don’t think the AEC has declared it 76 seats has it?”
The opposition leader said if Turnbull “scrapes across the line” he would be hostage to the rightwing of his party.
“He’s going to … have to promote more of the Abbott supporters … which will lead to greater division and instability.
“In the Senate we’re not clear who’s won what. Mr Turnbull went to the election seeking a mandate for stability and he’s given Australia greater instability.”
Even if Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition wins a bare majority of 76, the prime minister has spent the past two days shoring up support from four of the five key minor parties and independents in the lower house.
Xenophon of the NXT party said his party was not interested in causing “maximum mayhem”. NXT has one MP, Rebekha Sharkie, in the lower house and is predicted to win up to three seats in the Senate. He again predicted the Coalition was likely to have the numbers in its own right.
“We want the parliament to work,” Xenophon said. “We want it to be constructive. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“So, for those that want to cause maximum mayhem in the parliament, we won’t be part of that, but we do want to hold the government to account and that will be our job not only in the House of Representatives but particularly in the Senate, where the legislation will go for review, for consideration as our system ought to work.
“We want there to be stability. We want there to be a parliament that works in solving the nation’s problems.”
Three independents, Cathy McGowan, Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter have all held talks with the prime minister and backed Turnbull on supply and confidence but without any signed agreements – unlike the Julia Gillard’s minority government in 2010.
On Saturday Denison MP Andrew Wilkie underlined that he had done no “deal” with Turnbull even though he said it appeared the Coalition had the numbers to form government.
“I have given no support to any party, no support to any leader. I have done no deal with any party,” he said.
He told AAP he would only support a no-confidence motion in a Coalition government or reject the government’s money bills in a case of proven misconduct.
“In that situation that I now find myself, I want to be constructive, I am not going to be opportunistic, I am not going to be destructive and I will approach everything on its merits,” he said.
“This is a time for cool heads. It’s not a time for point-scoring.”