The opinion polls of the last few days of the election campaign seem fairly conclusive. Malcolm Turnbull will be returned with a reduced majority in the lower house and may be facing a Senate with a larger and more hostile cross bench.
Malcolm Turnbull indicates the size of his majority in the lower house
What is also certain is that he will lose seats. Not enough to lose government but enough so that he will hold somewhere between 76 and 80 seats.All
For Turnbull, a win that reduces the Coalition’s House of Representatives majority to a single figure will diminish his authority and increase the prospect of internal tensions, outbreaks of ill-discipline and even insurrection.
Bill Shorten will win seats. How many is a little harder to predict but certainly not enough to form government even with the support of the Greens and some independents.
Shorten will probably win enough seats to hang onto the Labor leadership, unfortunately
For Shorten, a net gain of fewer than 10 seats will dramatically increase the prospects of a leadership challenge from the man who decisively won Labor’s popular vote after the last election, Anthony Albanese.
The numbers are going to be very important, particularly for Turnbull and for “stable government”.
If Turnbull gets 80 seats in lower house and he holds on to his 33 Senate seats (both of which would be a pretty good result), that gives him 113, not quite enough for a majority in a joint sitting of Parliament.
Anything less than this and he is in a lot of trouble.
That means he will need to rely on the votes of some cross-bench senators or cross bench members of the House of Representatives to get the legislation that triggered the double dissolution through.
So the composition of the cross bench in both houses is going to be important.
Whatever happens, he will have to negotiate in the Senate to get any legislation through. And this will mean that he will look as if he’s doing deals with minor parties, something he vowed he would not do before the election.
And he’s probably going to have to do deals with Nick Xenophon because the Greens are not likely to be terribly cooperative.
Now Xenophon may be a political sideshow but you can expect him to extract maximum political mileage from any negotiations with Turnbull.
All of which will serve to undermine Turnbull’s political authority. And that’s just at the joint sittings.
Then there will be the vexed question of same-sex marriage which Turnbull has promised to bring on before the end of the year. If Turnbull has a greatly reduced majority in the lower house then the right of his party will be greatly emboldened in terms of challenging his authority and same-sex marriage will be a perfect issue for them.
The Labor Party faces a dilemma with Bill Shorten. It’s very much “nice try, but no cigar.” This election result is probably going to be as good as Shorten will ever get. The election result is probably going to confirm that Australians are are never going to elect him as Prime Minister. The difficulty fall the Labor Party is finding some way of dislodging him and installing a credible alternative.