The outcome of the 2016 election remains in the balance after a substantial swing against the government has caused it to lose nearly all of its majority and elected another independent-filled Senate.
At the close of counting last night, Labor looks to have definitely claimed nine additional seats — about what it was expected to pick up, according to most polls — and the Nick Xenophon Team has taken a House of Representatives seat in its first election. The ALP is also ahead in the seat of Herbert and currently level in Chisholm, a Labor seat that had looked as if it had shifted to the Coalition last night.
Beyond those, there remain seven seats too close to call; Labor is ahead of the Coalition in five of them, and some other seats currently in the Coalition column remain theoretically in play as well. It is possible that Labor could end up gaining 15 seats, leaving Malcolm Turnbull short of the 76 seats he needs to govern in his own right. Labor is currently in a tight contest with the Greens in Batman but remains ahead there, and the ALP has fought off a strong Greens performance in the seat of Wills. Labor performed particularly strongly in Tasmania, picking up three seats from the Liberals, but was unable to shift any seats in Victoria.
On current counting, the government has suffered a 3.7% swing on its primary vote and a 3.4% swing in two party preferred terms.
In the Senate, it is almost certain that it will be every bit as ungovernable as the last one. Pauline Hanson has easily won a quota in Queensland and may well bring a second One Nation senator in with her, and she even has a chance of a NSW senator. In Victoria, Derryn Hinch looks likely to win a spot; in South Australia, NXT has 2.8 quotas, meaning it is likely to field three senators; Jacqui Lambie has also been successful in Tasmania. The Greens, however, appear likely to lose at least three spots, losing senators in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. Preference allocation means a number of Senate spots remain up for grabs at this point.
A happy Bill Shorten declared that “Labor is back” to a delighted crowd in Melbourne at Labor’s election event. The Prime Minister, however, did not arrive at the Coalition’s Sydney function until well after midnight, to declare that he expected to be able to form a majority government. The Prime Minister angrily lashed Labor for its Medicare scare campaign and even attacked internal critics in a remarkable “election night” speech that betrayed deep unhappiness on the part of a Prime Minister who seized the leadership last September promising to deliver his party electoral success.