Australian government at risk of losing majority in crucial by-election

Australian government at risk of losing majority in crucial by-election

Independent Kerryn Phelps achieved an unprecedented swing of more than 20 per cent against Liberal candidate Dave Sharma in Malcolm Turnbull's former seat of Wentworth on Saturday.

The ABC reports, with almost 40 per cent of the votes counted, Liberal candidate Dave Sharma had won only 38 per cent of first preferences, while Dr Phelps won 33.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have both said "angry" Wentworth voters "punished" the Liberal Party for tearing down Malcolm Turnbull, who held the seat until he was removed as PM.

Dr Phelps did not give a commitment to voting with the Government on motions of no confidence, stating that she would need to consider each vote on its merits.

"This is over tonight a little sooner than I expected, and I am certainly glad I kept my day job", he joked.

Of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, the Liberals now hold 75, including that of the speaker.

When Dr Phelps takes up her seat, there will be a crossbench of six members in the lower house, with Labor holding 69 seats.

Mr Morrison on Sunday again conceded the electorate had vented its anger at the government for the by-election caused when Malcolm Turnbull quit parliament after being rolled as prime minister.

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Meanwhile, there was already discussion about who would contest Wentworth in next year's general election, with Tony Abbott's sister Christine Forster and Lucy Turnbull's brother Michael Hughes possibilities.

Morrison said that while the loss was not unexpected given opinion polls, his party had received a loud message from voters. "The Liberal Party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago".

Mr Frydenberg brushed aside suggestions the Morrison government needs to overhaul its climate action policies, saying its suite of existing measures were enough to "meet and beat" Australia's emission reduction pledges.

"We will work constructively with all of those who sit on the cross bench as we always have", he said.

"We will just simply wait for that normal, robust, democratic, credible process to follow its course before we are in a position to know who the successful candidate will be at that by-election", Mr Morrison he said.

"I would like to say [to] any young people, any women, any aspiring independents out there, if you are thinking of running for Parliament or running for public office, yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but it is so worthwhile that we have the right people stepping up to represent Australia".

The by-election campaign, in a seat with a large Jewish population, drew global attention this past week when Morrison raised the prospect of following the United States by relocating Australia's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

An election poster of Liberal candidate Dave Sharma is seen on a street in the seat of Wentworth in Sydney on October 18, 2018.

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