Australia

Independents discuss early election as Phelps appears to clinch Wentworth win

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The crossbench will meet with prime minister Scott Morrison today, as the Coalition faces the prospect of minority government.

Crossbench independent Cathy McGowan will raise the prospect of an early election when she meets with the prime minister today, but said her “preference” was for the government to go full term.

Ms McGowan said the crossbench, which looks all-but-certain to gain Kerryn Phelps after her historic win in Wentworth, would meet with Scott Morrison to discuss a number of issues on Monday.

“We will be talking to Scott Morrison about the pros and cons of an early election,” Ms McGowan, an independent in the rural seat of Indi, said.

She went on to say her “preference” was for the government to see out its term and continue to an election next year, likely in May. There were “varying points of view” in her electorate, she said, but most wanted the election in May.

Independent MP Cathy McGowan.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan.
AAP

She said the crossbench – which includes Bob Katter, Rebekha Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt – would also raise climate change and the situation on Nauru.

Last week, all the crossbenchers but Mr Katter signalled a move to bring asylum seeker children and their families from Nauru to Australia for medical attention.

Ms Sharkie and Mr Wilkie said they were confident they would have the numbers with the support of their new colleague, Kerryn Phelps.

Meanwhile, Mr Katter has made it clear he will cause “mayhem” for the Morrison government unless it heeds his demands for a longer, tougher Royal Commission into the banks and investment in dams. 

Phelps cements lead in Wentworth

Independent Kerryn Phelps appears to have cemented her lead in the Wentworth by-election, after a scare on Sunday when a late surge in postal votes appeared to show a comeback scenario was possible for the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma.

The margin between the two candidates was back to a more comfortable lead of 1,600 votes in Dr Phelps’ favour on Monday morning, after two recounted polling places delivered a better preference flow to the independent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds out hope candidate Dave Sharma could still snatch a win in the traditional Liberal Party stronghold.

Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday the result was not final and would depend on the postal vote count.

Kerryn Phelps appears Canberra-bound, but counting is still going on in Wentworth.
Kerryn Phelps appears Canberra-bound, but counting is still going on in Wentworth.
AAP/ CHRIS PAVLICH

But he said it was clear the electorate was furious about Malcolm Turnbull, who had been the member for Wentworth since 2004, being ousted as prime minister in August.

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Kerryn Phelps opens up on her historic win.
Kerryn Phelps opens up on her historic win.

"Liberal voters expressed their anger at the parliamentary Liberal Party ... and we copped that fairly on the chin," Mr Morrison said.

"The events of two months ago angered and outraged many Liberals and particularly those in the seat of Wentworth."

ABC election analyst Antony Green, who called the win for Dr Phelps on Saturday night, said the count for four pre-poll booths and postal votes was done late on the night.

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

The counting of postal votes is ongoing.
The counting of postal votes is ongoing.
SBS News

Despite heading towards a minority government, Mr Morrison has talked up the Coalition's relationship with the crossbenchers.

"What I will continue to do is be working closely with the crossbenchers, as I have been doing, because ... we have been at 75 (seats), not 76, since the former prime minister resigned," Mr Morrison said.

Dr Phelps said she would set two priorities as an MP: action on climate change and getting asylum seeker children off Nauru.

She might also lend support for a national integrity commission that has been promoted by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers for some time.

 

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