Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Victorious Turnbull faces uphill battle

AFP, SYDNEY

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday declared victory for the ruling Conservative Party after opposition Labor conceded defeat, but faces a tough time ahead after the narrow mandate in the closely fought election.

The declaration ended eight days of uncertainty about the new government’s identity. A tight race between the two major parties left neither of them with the 76 or more seats required for a parliamentary majority following polls on July 2, with vote counting still ongoing.

“We’ve won the election, that’s what we’ve done,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney, adding that he received a call from Labor leader Bill Shorten congratulating him on his re-election as prime minister.

However, he immediately faced questions about whether he would be able to govern successfully, with Labor increasing its lower house seats and a higher number of minor party and independent senators to contend with in the upper house.

Turnbull’s ruling Liberal/National coalition was expected to secure 74 seats, and potentially two more in the 150-seat House of Representatives, according to national broadcaster ABC’s projections.

However, the Australian leader has won the support of three independent members of parliament on budget matters and on votes of no confidence, paving the way for him to form a minority government if necessary.

Labor has won 66 and with five independents elected, the opposition does not have sufficient seats to govern in Canberra, according to the projections.

The need for Turnbull to court the support of those outside his party saw him stress that he valued every parliamentarian’s contribution, even though he had warned Australians not to vote for minor parties and independents during the election campaign.

“It is vital that this parliament works,” Turnbull said, adding that Australia faced numerous challenges including a rocky transition away from dependence on mining-driven growth.

“Every member of the house and the senate deserves respect, because they have been elected by the Australian people,” he said.

Shorten earlier yesterday pledged in his concession speech that his party wanted to work well with the government, amid concerns the close result and higher number of lawmakers not from the two major parties could cause gridlock.

Even so, Turnbull faces an uphill task to get the senate to pass two bills about restoring a construction union watchdog. He had used the senate’s blocking of the bills to trigger a double-dissolution election, but could now face an even more hostile upper house.

There are also question marks over whether his multibillion-dollar plan to cut corporate tax announced in the May budget would get support from the smaller parties and independents, who were elected on more populist agendas.

The two seats the coalition hopes to pick up are among five in the balance, with the electoral commission still completing the painstaking task of counting postal votes and others cast outside people’s normal electorates.

Both Turnbull and Shorten said they supported an inquiry into electronic voting, amid the protracted counting process.

“I have been an advocate of electronic voting for a long time ... yes, this is something we must look at,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull lost the government’s comfortable majority in the House of Representatives in the election on Saturday last week after his campaign on “jobs and growth” and “innovation” failed to resonate equally across the continent.

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