The transition to the Abbott Coalition government has begun, following Saturday’s federal election.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has surrendered his commission to the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. It is expected that Tony Abbott and his ministry will be sworn in early next week. Abbott arrived in Canberra today to hold meetings with his senior colleagues and to take briefings from the public service.
In the Labor Party, moves appear to be afoot to elect a new leader by consensus. The outgoing Treasurer, Chris Bowen, announced he would not be a candidate for the position. It now appears that either Bill Shorten or Anthony Albanese will become leader.
Recriminations about the ALP’s election defeat began in earnest today. Chris Bowen said Kevin Rudd was owed a debt of gratitude for minimising the party’s defeat. However, former Trade Minister Craig Emerson appeared on television to attack Rudd for treachery. Emerson claimed that the party made a serious mistake in rewarding Rudd’s treachery. Senator Kim Carr said Rudd had made it clear to him that he would stay in parliament as the member for Griffith.
- Listen to Craig Emerson on 7.30 (7m)
Speculation emerged today that Paul Howes might enter the Senate in place of Bob Carr. Howes is the National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, one of the so-called faceless men who removed Kevin Rudd from the leadership in 2010. Carr was parachuted into the Senate in 2012 after Mark Arbib retired. Carr served as Foreign Minister under Gillard and Rudd. Whilst the former NSW Premier has said he would stay in the Senate for years to come, no-one believes it.
Counting of votes in the House of Representative continued today. It now appears that the Coalition will have 88 seats, the ALP 57, Greens 1, Palmer United Party 1, plus independents Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter and Cathy McGowan.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) now lists only five seats as too close to call and it has recounted the votes in Indi (Vic) and Fairfax (Qld) in order to allocate preferences between the leading candidates.
In Indi, Liberal member Sophie Mirabella is trailing the independent, Cathy McGowan, by 1,754 votes. McGowan has 51.83% of the vote with 50% counted. The final result is still not clear. Mirabella’s defeat would open up a position in Tony Abbott’s new ministry.
In Fairfax, Clive Palmer of the Palmer United Party is 2,985 votes ahead of the Liberal candidate, Ted O’Brien, with 56% counted. Palmer is expected to win the seat. The Palmer United Party is also expected to win at least one Senate seat and possibly two.
The Palmer United Party is also in the hunt in the Queensland electorate of Fisher, although the Liberal National Party candidate and former Howard government minister, Mal Brough, is most likely to win.
In Queensland, Petrie has been lost by the ALP but it is ahead by 141 votes in Capricornia.
In Victoria, the ALP has lost Deakin, La Trobe and Corangamite. Rob Mitchell is ahead by 66 votes in McEwen.
In NSW, the ALP has lost Dobell, Robertson, Page, Lindsay and Banks. John Murphy is trailing by 534 votes in Reid. Mike Kelly is behind by 569 votes in Eden-Monaro. Steve McMahon is ahead by 68 votes in Barton.
In South Australia, the ALP has lost Hindmarsh.
In Tasmania, the ALP has lost Bass, Braddon and Lyons.
No seats have changed hands in Western Australia, the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory.
Micro Parties Make Senate Gains
It is still difficult to be sure of the outcome in many Senate contests. The AEC needs to manually enter all the below-the-line votes into the computer system before the preference allocation can be determined.
However, it appears that the Palmer United Party’s Glenn Lazarus, a former rugby league player, has won a Queensland seat, whilst Jacqui Lambie is favoured to win another in Tasmania.
In Victoria, it is being reported that the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party candidate Ricky Muir may win a seat. Despite securing only 0.03% of the primary vote, preferences favour the party winning the last seat from the Liberals.
The situation in South Australia remains unclear. The ALP’s Senator Don Farrell appears to be headed for defeat, despite holding the normally safe number two position on the party’s ticket. It seems Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will be returned. Senator Nick Xenophon has secured 25.8% of the statewide vote but will only win one seat. Family First’s Bob Day is favoured to win a spot with 3.76% of the primary vote.
In NSW, David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats has secured 8.73% of the primary vote and will probably win a seat. Confusion with the Liberal Party’s name is seen as the reason for the party’s surge in support.
In Western Australia, Wayne Dropulich of the Australian Sports Party is expected to win a seat at the expense of the ALP off a primary vote of 0.22%.
In the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, it now seems clear that the ALP and the Coalition will each win one seat. Nova Peris will become the ALP’s first indigenous woman member in the NT. The former Liberal leader in the ACT, Zed Seselja, will become a senator, having defeated the incumbent Gary Humphries in a bitter preselection contest.
Calls are mounting for changes to the Senate voting system. The unusual results outlined above occur because of complex preference deals between minor parties that are secured through above the line voting where the parties can allocate preferences. Around 95% of electors cast a vote above the line. Critics are arguing for a system of optional preferential voting and above the line preference voting that would remove the power of minor groups to win seats despite only securing a miniscule primary vote.