Power’s in balance after rise of the crossbenchers
Phillip CooreyAugust 22, 2010
Tony Abbott with his family at the Liberal function at Four Seasons Hotel last night. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
LABOR has been swept away by strong swings in NSW and Queensland, leaving Australia facing a hung Parliament with both houses to be controlled by independents and a surging Greens party.
Labor and the Coalition each fell short last night of winning the majority 76 seats needed to govern in their own right and last night both sides immediately started wooing the four independents and one Green who secured seats in the House of Representatives.
Greens leader Bob Brown last night predicted his party would increase its Senate numbers from five to a possible nine seats, giving it control of the upper house.
Refusing to concede defeat, Prime Minister Julia Gillard immediately wooed the independents, congratulating them on their election and saying she respected their role.
"I have a good track record in the Federal Parliament of working positively and productively with the independents ... and the Greens in the Senate," she said in Melbourne.
Mr Abbott went on the attack in his speech in Sydney, saying that because Labor had lost its majority it had lost its legitimacy: "We stand ready to offer the Australian people stable, predictable and competent government."
With three-quarters of the vote counted, Labor, which began the night with a notional 88 seats, had lost a confirmed 18 seats, including the seat of Melbourne to the Greens candidate Adam Bandt and most likely the Tasmanian seat of Denison to an independent, Andrew Wilkie.
Labor clawed back only two seats from the Liberals in Ms Gillard's home state of Victoria – McEwen and La Trobe – giving it a net loss of 16, leaving Labor sitting on a total of 72.
But another two Labor seats were in doubt and the ABC analyst Antony Green was early today predicting Labor to finish with 72 seats, Tony Abbott's Coalition 73, one Green and four independents.
If the Liberals won all outstanding seats, there is a slim chance they could govern in their own right.
The three incumbent independents, all former National Party members – Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott – will be joined on the crossbench by Mr Wilkie, a former intelligence officer who fell out with the former Howard government over the Iraq war. Both he and Mr Bandt would be more disposed to siding with Labor.
The three former Nationals were non-committal last night and Mr Windsor warned that if stable government could not be achieved, "we may all end up back at the polls".
Mr Oakeshott offered hope to Labor by saying good communications, including broadband, was a priority for him.
Senior Liberal Nick Minchin said the independents should respect the major party that had the highest two-party-preferred vote and the most seats.
The final result may not be known for some days, especially as a record 1.8 million pre-poll votes were cast, including almost 951,000 postal votes.
The drift of votes to the Greens killed Labor. Its primary vote fell 5.3 percentage points from the 2007 election to 38.1 per cent while the Coalition's primary vote rose 1.6points to 43.7 per cent.
The Greens had a 3.8 per cent swing to receive 11.8 per cent. Mr Bandt is only the second Greens member to sit in the House of Representatives, following Michael Organ who won the 2002 Cunningham byelection.
Late last night, the national two-party-preferred swing against Labor from 2007 was 2.6 per cent. Labor led the Coalition by 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent.
But in Queensland, where Labor lost at least nine seats, the anti-Labor swing was 5.7 per cent. In NSW, where four seats were confirmed lost and Lindsay was in grave danger, the swing against the government was 4.9 per cent.
Bennelong, which Maxine McKew won from John Howard in 2007, was the first to fall last night as the nation walked away from the party it had elected emphatically less than three years ago.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, said Labor would have lost even more seats under Kevin Rudd.
In Queensland, Labor lost Flynn, Leichhardt, Forde, Bonner, Dickson, Herbert, Longman, Brisbane and Dawson. In NSW, it lost Bennelong, Macarthur, Macquarie and Gilmore.
In the Northern Territory, Labor lost Solomon while in Western Australia, it lost Swan and Hasluck.
The only glimmer of light for Labor was that it held the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro in southern NSW. The seat has been won by the party that has won government in every election since 1972 but that tradition looked set to be broken last night.
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