Australia headed for first hung parliament since WWII

Last Updated: Saturday, August 21, 2010 - 23:57

Melbourne: Australia`s opposition
coalition, led by Conservative Tony Abott, appeared to be
charging past the Labor Party of Prime Minister Julia Gillard
with a razor thin lead in a knife-edge electoral contest,
bringing in the prospect of the first hung house since 1940.

According to ABC`s latest report, Labor MPs have been
swept aside by swings of more than 9 per cent against them in
former prime minister Kevin Rudd`s home state of Queensland,
and of more than 6 per cent in New South Wales.

Election analyst Antony Green predicted that the
Liberal-National Party Coalition will end up with 73 seats in
the House of Representatives, while the Labor will muster 72,
with four independents, and one Green, and the results might
effectively prove the first woman premier a two-month wonder.

With more than half the votes counted, Labor suffered
major setbacks, and is set to lose at least 16 seats and gain
only two, leaving it unable to muster the 76 seats required
for an overall majority.

The swing against Labor is smaller in South Australia
and Victoria, meaning the Coalition is also unlikely to be
able to muster an outright majority.

All eyes are now turning to Western Australia, where a
swing of 5 per cent against the ALP could deliver more bad
news for the country`s first woman prime minister.

The electoral counting was marked by a sea-saw of
trends as the Labor and the Liberals kept changing posts.

Liberals maverick leader Abott, 52, told cheering
supporters in Sydney that he was satisfied with the "good
result" but warned against "premature triumphalism".

"This is a night for pride in our achievements, for
satisfaction at the good result that has been achieved, but
above all else measured reflection of the magnitude of the
task ahead," he said.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, however, said it is too early to
speculate about a hung parliament.

"I can`t speculate about that tonight. I don`t know if
that`s going to eventuate or not. I think we`re just going to
have to wait," he said.

"I think there are a lot of very close seats out
there. I think we`ve got to wait a few days before we go
through those results."

Liberal Senator Nick Minchin said a hung Parliament
was "looking the most likely option at this point" and that
he could not find the 76 seats the Coalition would need for
outright victory.

A hung parliament would be the first in Australia
since 1940, when Robert Menzies` United Australia Party
governed with the the Country Party and two independents.

Former PM John Howard, who was ousted by Kevin Rudd in
a 2007 landslide, said Abott`s "magnificent campaign" has
"potentially destroyed" Gillard`s first-term government.

Among the big winners on the night was the Greens`
Adam Bandt, who snatched the inner city seat of Melbourne from
Labor following outgoing finance minister Lindsay Tanner`s
decision to retire.

As well as Melbourne and Bennelong, Labor was expected
to lose Gilmore, Macarthur, Macquarie, Bonner, Brisbane,
Dawson, Denison, Dickson, Flynn, Forde, Herbert, Leichhardt
and Longman to the Coalition and the Northern Territory seat
of Solomon to the Country Liberal Party.

The ALP was also poised to lose the Tasmanian seat of
Denison to independent Andrew Wilkie.

Tasmanian Labor Senator Nick Sherry said it was too
early to say what kind of deals may be done with independent
candidates.

"I think it would be a bit presumptive to assume any
of the independents - what their position might be," he said.
"There is appeal to Labor in some of these independents."

Twenty-year-old Wyatt Roy was set to become
Australia`s youngest MP, taking the south-east Queensland seat
of Longman for the LNP.

Labor`s Mike Kelly looked set to hang on to
Eden-Monaro, the seat which has traditionally fallen to the
party which will form government, while independent Warren
Entsch, who retired in 2007, snatched his old northern
Queensland seat of Leichhardt back from the ALP.

Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton, who held on to his
seat of Dickson, said he was still waiting to see what
happened in marginal seats before speculating on how the
Liberals would deal with a hung parliament.

"It`s quite an incredible night," he said.
"We`ll have to see in those dozen or so marginal seats
what happens. I think Tony Abbott certainly deserves to be
victorious tonight, but we`ll wait and see."

PTI

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First Published: Saturday, August 21, 2010 - 23:57

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