5 Jul 2016

Coalition pulls ahead in Australian election

11:11 pm on 5 July 2016

Australian Election - The Coalition has now pulled three seats ahead of Labor as additional election results are counted.

Labor leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (R)

The counting will resume today as Australia waits to find out who will be in charge after neither party secured a majority in the general election. Photo: AFP

The change means the Coalition has won 70 seats, while Labor has 67, with 80 percent of the vote counted. Eight seats are still in doubt.

A party needs 76 seats to form a viable government.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the Coalition remained "quietly confident" it could secure a "working majority" in the Lower House.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C) is watched by his family as he speaks at a Liberal party function in Sydney on July 3, 2016, in a tense wait for a result in Australia's general election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: AFP

"We hope that a final result in the narrowly contested seats will be available in coming days," Senator Brandis said.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said if that was not the case he expected the regional independents to side with the Coalition.

"Ultimately, regional people have more of an interest in the side of politics that has regional policies and [agriculture] policies and does the things that regional people want to do," he told ABC's RN Drive.

The Labor Party has acknowledged it is unlikely to reach a majority of 76 seats, but it is not giving up hope of forming a minority government.

Senior frontbencher Anthony Albanese said Labor leader Bill Shorten was best suited to negotiations with crossbench MPs.

"I think Bill Shorten is a very strong negotiator, that's one of his great strengths.

"There's no-one better in a small room than Bill Shorten," Mr Albanese said.

On the night, Bill Shorten told his supporters they may not know the final result - but Labor was back.

Labor leader Bill Shorten. Photo: AFP

But Mr Albanese also warned Australians could return to the polls "well before" a three-year term of government passed.

"I think the Senate is going to be part-challenging and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we're back at the polls not in three years' time but well before then."

Labor will 'continue forward' with Shorten as leader

But as both sides push their case to form government, neither can escape leadership scrutiny.

Under party rules, if Labor loses an election, a ballot would be held for the leadership.

Mr Albanese is considered Mr Shorten's main rival, as he contested the last ballot in 2013.

But Mr Albanese said he thought the party would "continue forward" with Mr Shorten at the helm.

Meanwhile, amid criticism of the Coalition's campaign, Senator Brandis issued a call for unity.

"All of us then need to respect the verdict of the Australian people and get behind Malcolm Turnbull," he said.

Labor has called on Mr Turnbull to resign for failing to provide the stability he promised, but Coalition frontbencher Josh Frydenberg dismissed that on the ABC's Q&A program.

"In terms of stability in politics I think there is a very strong desire from the public to have that, and they don't want three prime ministers in three years, or six prime ministers in six years," he said.

'You're the man who broke the Liberal Party's heart'

Mr Frydenberg said he did not believe that former prime minister Tony Abbott was likely to return to the leadership, a view shared by Mr Abbott's former chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin.

As she has been scathing of the election result, and the party members who backed Mr Turnbull to topple her former boss.

"If they think that I've tried to settle scores, well, they ain't seen anything yet," she told Sky News.

Echoing the speech Mr Turnbull gave when he lost the republic referendum in 1999, Ms Credlin said; "Malcolm Turnbull, you're the man who broke the Liberal Party's heart."


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