Former Australian PM accused of failing gov't in key by-election

Larry Hoffman
October 23, 2018

The first point of business for Phelps is removing children and their families from the detention centre on Nauru and offering them immediate psychological and medical help. "I don't think the Australian people can tolerate that position any longer".

The expected loss of Wentworth throws the Coalition into minority government.

It's the biggest by-election loss in Australian history.

Voting is compulsory in Australia but the buzz around the polling stations was unusual for Wentworth, with dozens of volunteers from different parties inundating voters with leaflets for their candidates earlier Saturday after polls opened.

Phelps is also shaping up to be a key government ally on the topic of company tax cuts - even supporting a controversial cut for the big end of town (which the Morrison government has actually backed away from).

Action on climate change is another of her policies.

Morrison said if the vote gets as close as 100 votes an automatic recount would be triggered, giving his conservative coalition a slim chance of retaining its one seat majority in parliament.

Commentator Jane Caro is considering running against former prime minister Tony Abbott in the seat of Warringah.

When asked by host Joe Hilderbrand if the Government failed to get children off Naru if she would then consider a vote of no confidence she said she would look at "what strategies there were to encourage the government to do the right thing".

"My intention is for the Government to run its full term", she said.

Until the next federal election, which is due in May, Scott Morrison faces the challenge of leading a minority government.

The massive swing against the Liberals, who held Wentworth by a 17.7% margin under Turnbull and have never previously lost the seat, is a blow to Morrison just two months into his tenure.

Mr Burke signalled Labor would be unlikely to put forward a no-confidence motion in the government, which would need 76 votes to succeed.

He reiterated the government's intention to serve its full term. "That's what we want to see", he said.

The loss robs Mr Morrison of his majority in Canberra, and while it won't bring down the Federal Government it will potentially make it hard to pass legislation. "Now we have a hung parliament".

However, Sharma said public support from Turnbull would have been "helpful".

"What has happened here in Wentworth is not unexpected. Many people are angry and they expressed that today", Morrison said.

"I want to make something really clear".

Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday the result was not final and would depend on the postal vote count. "We now have 75".

"I hope that other crossbenchers would see it the same way as I do (that) any further instability in government by leadership or early elections will result in us having more prime ministers than Pakistan", Mr Katter said.

Greens MP Adam Bandt, the Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie and independent Andrew Wilkie are pushing strongly as well.

"Morrison doesn't have much room to manoeuvre, regardless of who wins Wentworth, and he's going to have to play quite timidly, politically", said Jill Sheppard, a political analyst at the Australian National University.

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