Current State of Play
It has been almost a week since voters had their say at polling booths around the nation and while the final election result remains unclear, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
says he is still “very confident” the Coalition will form a majority government. Based on results provided by the ABC, the Coalition has so far secured 73 seats to Labor’s 66, with 5 going to the crossbench and 6 still in doubt; 76 seats are required to form a majority government and avoid entering into an agreement with one or more independents or minor parties to form a minority government. At the time of this newsletter, the election outcome hinges on the seats of Capricornia, Forde, Flynn and Herbert in Queensland; Cowan in Western Australia; and Hindmarsh in South Australia. Labor leads in 5 of the uncertain seats, while the Coalition is ahead in 1 but with the trend in postal vote counting significantly favouring the Coalition. The Australian Electoral Commission
(AEC) is in the process of counting around 1.5 million postal votes in addition to those from absent, interstate and overseas voters.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
wasted no time in preparing for the possibility of a hung parliament this week, with both leaders seeking to shore up support from members of the crossbench soon after Saturday’s poll. Independents Cathy McGowan
and Andrew Wilkie
have both ruled out doing deals with either major party in the event of a hung parliament, with Mr Wilkie saying the Prime Minister does not have a mandate to implement the policies he took to the election. Ms McGowan has also dismissed suggestions she may be offered the role of Speaker. Senator Nick Xenophon
, who met the Prime Minister on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Whyalla steelworks, has however indicated the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) was open to a formal minority government agreement with either major party if it advanced the Party’s agenda, while Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Leader Bob Katter
declared on Thursday that he will support a Coalition Government on issues of confidence and supply but reserves his position on all other issues.
embarked on a tour of new Labor seats on Monday, visiting the western Sydney electorate of Lindsay – claimed by the Party’s Emma Husar
at the weekend – to thank voters for backing Labor. Mr Shorten also called on Prime Minister Turnbull
to resign, accusing him of introducing “farcical” Senate reforms which expedited Pauline Hanson’s return to politics, and dubbing Mr Turnbull the “David Cameron of the southern hemisphere”. Mr Shorten confirmed he had spoken to some of the independent crossbenchers but ruled out a deal with the Greens. The Opposition Leader continued to thank voters throughout the week, visiting the electorate of Longman in Queensland – where Labor unexpectedly overcame Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy
at the weekend – and Tasmania, where his Party nabbed three lower house seats from the Coalition.
In his first press conference since election night, the Prime Minister told reporters on Tuesday that the Coalition was focusing on talks with crossbenchers from more conservative backgrounds, such as Ms McGowan
and Mr Katter
, but remained confident of forming a majority government. Mr Turnbull said he took “full responsibility” for the Coalition’s election campaign and conceded there was more work to be done in earning voters’ trust on his Party’s health policies. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
said the Prime Minister led a “divided government” and was considering a “snap election” to resolve the situation, which would return voters to the polls. In response, Coalition frontbencher Senator Mitch Fifield
said the Opposition Leader should “take a rest”, and emphasised the Coalition’s focus is on forming majority government.
Unrest among Coalition MPs about the election result has prompted a call for unity from former Prime Minister John Howard
, who urged members to “remember the character of their Party” as a “broad church”. Meanwhile, South Australian Liberal Party Senator Cory Bernardi
announced he will instigate a new conservative cross-party political movement – the Australian Conservatives – to unite those who support traditionally conservative ideas, such as small government and lower taxes. Senator Bernardi
confirmed however, that he did not intend to establish his own political party.
Based on the uncertainty around the Federal Election result, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s
(S&P) changed Australia’s AAA credit rating outlook from “stable” to “negative” on Thursday. S&P stated that “fiscal consolidation may be further postponed” if neither of the major parties are able to form a majority in either house of Parliament, and said that ongoing budget deficits may persist without “more forceful fiscal policy decisions”. Treasurer Scott Morrison
said the S&P announcement underscored the importance of further budget savings and warned against Labor’s plan for a short-term increase to the Budget deficit.
Election Result Highlights
Terms of Senators in the New Parliament
- The seat of Gilmore on the south coast of NSW was secured in the Coalition’s favour on Thursday after previously being labelled too close to call – Liberal Party incumbent Ann Sudmalis currently has 50.7 per cent of the two party preferred (2PP) vote.
- The Chisholm electorate in Melbourne’s east has also been categorised as a Liberal win, with Julia Banks achieving 51.3% of the 2PP vote.
- The rural South Australian seat of Grey looked at risk of falling to the NXT earlier in the week, with the Party’s candidate Andrea Broadfoot securing 28.1 per cent of the primary vote – Liberal incumbent Rowan Ramsey subsequently pulled away with a strong postal vote securing 52 per cent of the 2PP vote at last count.
- The AEC confirmed there was a “mix-up” in the West Australian electorate of Pearce where 105 voters were given Victorian Senate ballot papers and which have now been determined as informal.
- The Labor caucus is meeting in Canberra today, where it is expected Bill Shorten will be re-nominated Labor Leader. Additional nominees have a week to declare their interest in the leadership.
- Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos has conceded the Coalition underestimated the extent of community sentiment about Medicare during the election campaign and will aim to be “the best friend Medicare ever had”.
- Re-elected Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt said the Parliament may have an opportunity to legislate same-sex marriage without a plebiscite if Coalition MPs are given a free vote.
- Current and former Australian politicians responded to the release of Britain’s Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War on Thursday, with Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie calling for an Australian inquiry into the matter and saying political leaders have “blood on their hands”.
In the Upper House, questions have begun arising about how the duration of Senate terms will be decided following the July 2 double dissolution election.
The Australian Senate comprises 76 senators: 12 from each of the six states and two each from the mainland territories. Senators elected by the states normally serve a six-year term, with a half-Senate election of Territory Senators occurring every three years to maintain the balance of the Senate. In the instance of a double dissolution election however, all 76 Senate seats are subject to re-election at the same time.
Under the Constitution, the Senate as a whole is given the power to decide how it will be divided following a double dissolution and must determine which Senators will serve three years and which will serve six via one of two methods: the ‘countback’ method or the traditional ‘order elected’ method. The countback method favours those candidates – usually larger parties – which secure a larger proportion of the 2PP vote, while the order elected method benefits candidates that secure a larger proportion of the first preference vote.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act
was amended in 1984 to introduce the countback method, which was considered a better fit for the proportional voting system used in the Upper House. The Senate, however, chose not to use the countback method following the 1987 double dissolution election and reverted to the order elected method using its power to override the electoral legislation granted under the Constitution.
The order elected method has been used at each of the six double dissolution elections held and provides that the longer six-year terms are given to the first six Senators in each state that achieve the 7.69 per cent quota required for election in a double dissolution. Notably, during the 2010 Gillard Minority Government, the Senate voted in favour of using the countback method for all future double dissolutions; the Parliament is not bound to follow this course of action.
Victorian Senator-elect Derryn Hinch has already objected to potentially being relegated to a three-year term in the Senate and has indicated the possibility of seeking a High Court challenge should this occur.