When Parliament returns later this month, the Government will have just a one-seat majority, with the seat of Herbert yesterday being declared a win for Labor.
The Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) recount of the votes has resulted in Cathy O’Toole taking the seat from Liberal’s Ewen Jones by just 37 votes – a result that could be challenged in court.
The basis for such a challenge would be that not all voters in the Queensland seat were given the opportunity to vote. The Queensland Liberal Party said in a statement yesterday that it was “examining a number of issues reported to the party to determine if all Herbert electors were given the opportunity to vote”.
“As soon as it is possible, the LNP will decide its next course of action,” the statement said.
However, Cathy O’Toole was confident that the victory would stand, “Ewen has assured me that they will be out of the office as soon as they possibly can, the fight starts immediately to ensure that we are getting what we need in our community, I will let others worry about any so-called challenges,” she said.
“It is 20 years since Labor has held the seat of Herbert and I am the first woman that has held this seat, that is an enormous celebration for the people in this community.”
Although the result has yet to be formally declared, Mr Jones acknowledged that he had not secured enough votes to retain the seat. In a statement, he said, “The distribution of preferences has finished in the recount of Herbert and I have fallen short by 37 votes.
“I believe the AEC will officially declare the seat this week. I have been in touch with Cathy to congratulate her on her win.”
Mr Jones may not have the final say in the matter, however, with the Special Minister for State Scott Ryan saying that legal action in the Court of Disputed Returns was possible. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Ryan said, “If we get a declaration of the seat of Herbert on Monday or Tuesday, which is a likely outcome at this stage, the writ would then be returned on the following Monday, which I think is August 8,” he told Sky News this morning.
“Then that starts the period of 40 days whereby a candidate or someone may challenge the result of an election in the Court of Disputed Returns.
“It’s marginally less than 40 days on this occasion due to some administrative arrangements but let’s just say it’s about 40 days from next weekend.”
Read more at ABC.net.au
The result in Herbert may mean little to those who live outside of the electorate but for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, it means his majority is of the slimmest possible margin.
The Government’s majority of 76 seats to 74 for Labor and the crossbenchers, will be cut to just one seat once the position of Speaker is announced. The majority of 75 to 74 will be added pressure for Mr Turnbull to run a tight ship in Parliament and may well lead to him calling out to Independents Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter or Cathy McGowan to become Speaker – a move they have all ruled out.
So this may mean that a legal challenge based on voters, such as those in the armed forces, being unable to vote becomes an appealing option to try and secure a more comfortable majority. However, AEC spokesman, Phil Diak, stood firm on its position that it had indeed provided voter services for all Australian Defence Force personnel.
Even with a slim majority, that fact that the Coalition is able to form Government in its own right is an achievement. There must have been times when Mr Turnbull questioned his wisdom of calling a double dissolution election. The political path will not be easy for the Government and there’s no doubt that there are plenty waiting in the wings to make it even more difficult.
However, our country has been at a political standstill since early May and now it’s time to get on with the job at hand. Good governments govern well in spite of the challenges thrown at them – let’s hope that this Government is up for the fight.
What do you think? Do you think it’s time to accept the election result and move on?
Will having only a one-seat majority make it unlikely for the Government to pass any legislation? Is there a piece of legislation you believe will not be passed due to the narrow majority?