Government tries to hold of election after biggest loss in by-election history
New Independent MP Kerryn Phelps says her first mission is to get refugee kids off Nauru, as Australia woke to a hung parliament following her historic Wentworth by-election victory.
Phelps, who took the seat made vacant following former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s resignation, told Weekend Today she would stick to her campaign promises.
“The things I was talking about during the campaign are really important - the big issues of national importance,” she said this morning.
“For example getting kids off Nauru. That's first order of business. I don't think the Australian people can tolerate that position any longer.”
The 60-year-old’s win has caused a hung parliament with the coalition holding just 75 seats in the House of Representatives.
It’s the biggest by-election loss in Australian history.
Phelps, who works as a GP, said she would “support good legislation. I would reject bad legislation.”
Action on climate change is another of her policies.
The 20 percent swing away from Liberal in the eastern suburbs of Sydney is historic.
It’s the first time the sway has changed in 100 years.
When Dr Phelps takes up her seat, there will be a crossbench of six members in the lower house, with Labor holding 69 seats.
But she has all but ruled out helping force an early election or supporting a no-confidence motion in the government.
"I've certainly said that the government and all governments should go full term unless there are exceptional circumstances, and the next election is due in May next year, and that's time enough," Dr Phelps told ABC TV.
The Labor opposition is also unlikely to test the now-minority Morrison government on the floor of parliament.
Instead, it would prefer Prime Minister Scott Morrison call a general election.
"He has actually spent this whole campaign arguing that if we got the result we got last night it would cause instability in people's lives and in the economy," manager of opposition business Tony Burke told ABC Insiders on Sunday.
"Now, I don't see how he can argue that and not then say that we have to have an election."
Mr Burke signalled Labor would be unlikely to put forward a no-confidence motion in the government, which would need 76 votes to succeed.
"We want to see a Shorten Labor government be elected at a general election. That's what we want to see," he said.
Mr Burke said the coalition government had shown many times "they are incapable of governing, even with a majority. Now we have a hung parliament."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he didn’t blame candidate Dave Sharma for not winning.
“What has happened here in Wentworth is not unexpected. Liberals are angry. And they've expressed that,” he said.
“I want to make something really clear. The result is on us, the Liberals not on Dave Sharma.”
Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the government will continue to seek assurances from crossbenchers to hold off the threat of an early election.
"We've already had very constructive discussions with some of the crossbenchers and a number of them have made it very clear that they want the government to run its full term," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News this morning.
"Julia Gillard and Labor governed for three years with only 72 seats in the parliament. We now have 75."
Bob Katter has put pressure on other crossbenchers to avoid an early election.
“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.
Independent Andrew Wilkie said he would not guarantee support, while Cathy McGowan, the Greens' Adam Bandt and Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie are yet to comment following Dr Phelps' victory.
Senior Labor MP Tony Burke does not believe there will be enough votes to bring about a no-confidence motion.
"We want to see a Shorten Labor government be elected at a general election," Mr Burke told ABC TV today.
Former Liberal leader John Hewson says the defeated party needs to rethink and completely reset.
"You can't keep drifting to the right and think you're going to win an election," Dr Hewson told ABC TV.
"You have to get back to centre ground."
Dr Hewson, who held Wentworth from 1987 to 1995, said yesterday's results marked the biggest by-election loss in Australian history.
The Australian share market is tipped to open lower again this week, with the shock result contributing.
A soft lead-in from Wall Street also means the market will open 10 or 15 points lower, AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver says.