The result leaves the Turnbull government with 76 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Labor and the crossbenchers will hold 74 seats together.
Once the Coalition provides a Speaker, it will have 75 votes. The Coalition will therefore still be able to govern in its own right but with the barest possible majority of one.
So now it will only take one rogue Coalition MP (think Geoff Shaw in Victoria) for Malcolm Turnbull to be reliant upon the cross bench for his mandate. The events of the past week, where the nomination of ex-PM Kevin Rudd for the top UN job exposed some deep divisions in the government, have shown that the Coalition is anything but united behind the Prime Minister.
Malcolm Turnbull has now formed government without formal support from the cross bench. Should he lose his parliamentary majority, he will need to negotiate cross bench support. Unfortunately, it is likely that the conditions under which she would lose his parliamentary majority are likely to be conditions under which he may find it extremely difficult to negotiate that crossbench support.
The strain is clearly showing on Malcolm Turnbull.
With his parliamentary majority balanced on a knife edge, Malcolm Turnbull will be at the mercy of any coalition of MPs that threatened to cross the floor on any given piece of legislation. Given that there is a fairly significant number within his own party who would like to see him gone, it is likely that these coalitions will come and go fairly frequently, further destabilising the government.
The bigger picture is hardly any rosier. The situation in Australia now is that the Coalition can command roughly 42% of the primary vote and Labor roughly 33%, the other 25% will go to the minor parties (predominately the Greens) and independents. This means that the major parties will be reliant on second preferences to form government and it is now likely that federal election results are going to be very similar to 2016 given that the 25% vote for minor parties and independents is likely to grow.
This means that increasingly the balance of power will move towards a relatively small group of politicians, many of whom will come from single issue or narrow focus parties and almost all of whom will be plagued by the ill discipline of Palmer United Party. And that’s just in the lower house.
The situation in the Senate is that the balance of power is already in the hands of what could best be described as a group of mavericks.
The tragedy for Australian politics is the two major parties who still command 75% of the primary vote are not able to arrange a stable governing coalition.