Australian Government Loses Majority With Election Defeat

Frederick Owens
October 21, 2018

ABC election analyst Antony Green says the Wentworth by-election result is "much narrower" than he expected but he still favours independent candidate Kerryn Phelps to win the seat from the Liberals.

The swing against the Liberal Party, of around 20 per cent, has been mostly put down to anger over the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull, who had held the seat since 2004.

The ABC reports, with almost 40 per cent of the votes counted, Liberal candidate Dave Sharma had won only 38 per cent of first preferences, while Dr Phelps won 33.

It's the biggest swing in Australia's political history and has landed the nation with its second minority government in just over eight years.

Liberals had a hard time defending Wentworth throughout the by-election campaign: Turnbull was a wildly popular local figure who built his 17.7 percent vote margin over a decade, and voters have said that they would take the by-election as an opportunity to lodge a protest vote.

He said Saturday's voting booths where skewed to Dr Phelps, showing that there had a been a late surge for her.

"Some compassion and I'm there to represent the people of Wentworth, but also the people who don't think they have a voice at the moment".

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"While tonight is not an unexpected outcome for us, they have looked at Canberra and the Liberal Party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago".

The party has stressed that they would be keen to run Mr Sharma again but it is not clear whether the former ambassador and father-of-three would be prepared to contest it again. Preferences from Labor, the Greens and independent Licia Heath are likely to flow overwhelmingly to Phelps.

Turnbull's son, Alex, posted a pointed message of congratulations to Phelps on Twitter.

Phelps, a doctor and former head of the Australian Medical Association, said the result should count as a warning to lawmakers.

"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. While there is no highly contentious legislation scheduled in the House of Representatives, Morrison will still have to try and manage the hung parliament as he tries to devise a strategy to turn the Coalition's policy platform around.

Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg said the by-election result was "deeply disappointing" and the Liberal Party needed to "cop it on the chin".

Mr Sharma said Mr Turnbull, who has been out of the country since he lost the leadership, had been a "fine Australian over many years" and he had been a supporter of his throughout the campaign.

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