What. Just. Happened?
Tim Leslie,Ben Spraggon and Blake Butcher
3rd July 2016
Australia is waking without a winner from last night’s federal election. How did we get here?
Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition Government is facing a desperate fight to hang on to a majority in Parliament. On the count so far it has won at least 65 seats, 11 fewer than the 76 needed to command a majority in the Lower House.
While Bill Shorten and Labor look set to fall short of being able to form even a minority government, they have staged an amazing comeback that has again highlighted the volatility of modern Australian politics.
Tasmania set the tone early in the evening, with Bass the first seat to fall to Labor, followed by Braddon and Lyons, reversing the Liberal Party’s 2013 gains in the state.
The result means that of the five federal Tasmanian seats, Labor will now hold four, with independent MP Andrew Wilkie holding the fifth.
While Labor recorded a 2 per cent national swing, in Tasmania it was twice that, showing deeper disenchantment with the Coalition Government.
Elections are often decided in the Sunshine State, and 2016 looks to be no exception.
The ALP looks likely to pick up between two and four seats in Queensland, including that of key Turnbull backer Wyatt Roy, who saw his 6 per cent margin washed away, and now can add to his resume the record of youngest member of Parliament to ever be voted out.
Labor is also ahead in the regional seat of Herbert in the state’s north, and four more seats across the state remain on a knife edge.
The giant of the 2013 election, Palmer United, has faded from view, replaced by a blast from the past in the form of Pauline Hanson and One Nation.
While One Nation is unlikely to pick up any seats in the Lower House, securing 5.5 per cent of the vote in Queensland, it is on track to pick up at least one seat in the Senate.
Whoever takes power after this election is going to do so knowing that a quarter of all Australians voted for someone other than Labor or the Coalition.
The four current independents Cathy McGowan, Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt and Bob Katter were all returned with increased majorities, and Senator Nick Xenophon cemented his place as a massive force in South Australia.
Senator Xenophon’s NXT party gained more than 20 per cent of the vote across South Australia, picking up the seat of Mayo off embattled Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, and is still threatening in the South Australian seat of Grey.
In Queensland, while Mr Palmer’s seat of Fairfax was returned to the Coalition, this was its only gain in the state: the majority of Palmer United’s votes from 2013 shifted to the minor parties, predominantly a resurgent One Nation.
In the Northern Territory, Labor gained a second seat with a massive swing against the sitting Country Liberal Party member Natasha Griggs in Solomon.
A significant portion of this swing went to minor parties, before being returned to new Labor MP Luke Gosling through preferences.
Heading into yesterday’s vote there was talk the CFA union dispute, which has engulfed Victorian politics, could threaten the ALP’s chances in its traditional stronghold, but Labor still picked up a 1.5 per cent swing across the state.
The departure of popular former Labor speaker Anna Burke gave the Coalition one of its few likely gains for the night, with her seat of Chisholm bucking the national trend and looking like switching to the Liberals.
The Greens have retained the seat of Melbourne, and remain in the running for the seat of Batman, both traditional Labor strongholds.
Based on newsprint alone, western Sydney is the spiritual home of the federal election, with the Prime Minister losing the press pack yesterday to make the pilgrimage out to Penrith in a last-ditch effort to woo voters.
However for Labor last night, the west was a friend, with the party looking likely to pick up Lindsay, Macarthur, and the Blue Mountains seat of Macquarie, which has been held by the Liberal Party for more than a decade.
With the aid of a redistribution, Linda Burney returned the seat of Barton in Sydney’s southern suburbs to Labor, becoming the first Indigenous woman to hold a seat in the House of Representatives.
And Mike Kelly looks set to end Eden-Monaro’s claim as a bellwether seat, winning it back after losing it in 2013.
Labor also saw off an inner-city challenge from the Greens, with Labor frontbenchers Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek returned with handsome margins.
While Western Australia is traditionally a Coalition stronghold, Labor has managed to win the new seat of Burt and remains in the running for the seat of Cowan.
Cowan is currently too close to call, with both the ALP and Liberals neck-and-neck on primary and two-party preferred votes.
It will be the votes in this seat and many others like it — where the count is too close to call — that will ultimately decide the outcome.
So where does this leave us?
Mr Turnbull says he has “every confidence” the Coalition will be able to form a majority government but he has conceded a final result is not likely before Tuesday at the earliest.
While it seems unlikely Labor will get the seats required to form even a minority Government, there is no guarantee the Coalition will get the required seats either.
Currently no-one can really say with certainty what the outcome will be — not even ABC election analyst Antony Green.
The AEC has said vote counting will not start again until Tuesday, meaning ongoing uncertainty and speculation.