After an agonisingly long eight-week election campaign, it somehow seems fitting we must all now endure another tediously long wait to find out who actually won (if the likelihood of a hung parliament can be called ‘a win’ for any side).
The Australian Electoral Commission conceded this morning it could take a month to determine the final outcome.
But with three quarters of the vote now counted, and the Coalition still some nine seats short of a majority, our second hung parliament in three years seems a likely possibility.
The Liberal National Party is set to finish with the highest number of seats, and as the party in power will have the first opportunity to negotiate with the cross-benchers for their support to form Government.
Depending on the number of seats required, a handful of crossbenchers are set to wield some serious power in the next Government.
One is independent MP Cathy McGowan from the rural north-eastern Victorian seat of Indi, which includes the regional cities of Wodonga, Wangaratta, and Benalla. From a from a farming background, she is a former rural community consultant, rural affairs advisor to the Department of Agriculture and a former regional councilor for the Victorian Farmers Federation and ex-President of Australian Women in Agriculture.
Her stated policy platforms show a strong continued interest in rural affairs, with support for improved telecommunications infrastructure for rural and regional Australia and Free Trade Agreements (“FTAs”) “that are transparent and benefit Australia without compromising our independence”.
She also supports an Independent Office for Animal Welfare, and is against cattle grazing in national parks “based on scientific evidence of negative impact to the environment”.
In the case of a hung parliament, she would do “no deals” with any political party, she has said: “ I will continue to put the interests of Indi first when considering each and every piece of business put before Parliament.”
The political team led by South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon will hold at least one seat in the new House of Representatives (Rebekah Sharkie in the SA seat of Mayo) and possibly two (Andrea Broadfoot in the SA rural seat of Grey). The Xenophon team also appears set to finish with three Senate seats.
Nick Xenophon is in many ways an unknown quantity in terms of what he will demand and the positions he will take on many ag related issues.
However, his positions on trade – in particular Free Trade Agreements and the Live Export Trade – would already seem clear.
A Xenophon-held balance of power would likely mean a far more precarious political environment for the Australian livestock export trade. Senator Xenophon has been a vocal opponent of the trade in the past, and groups seeking to force its closure will undoubtedly be emboldened by his newfound political influence.
In possible implications for Australia’s large export beef trade, Senator Xenophon warned during the election he would use any numbers he gains to impose his agenda on the new Government, including that Australia withdraw from recently-signed and currently planned Free Trade Agreements.
Bob Katter, re-elected with an 11pc swing to the vast northern Queensland seat of Kennedy, has said he is already drawing up a list of demands for the major parties to consider.
He stated this morning that he will demand that all cars bought and used by the Federal Government be made in Australia to rescue the vehicle manufacturing industry.
In comments to the ABC he also said he wanted to see more support for Australian farmers: “Our farmers get 5 per cent of their income from the government — all the other farmers on Earth get 41 per cent of their income from the government.
“You remove all the protection and slave labour wage level products that are most unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly are pouring into this country, destroying all of our industries.
“We have nothing we can sell now and we have to buy everything from overseas. What do you do when you’re in that situation? You have to sell the farm, don’t you?””
Mr Katter also reiterated his long-running support for an of an ethanol mandate to support the local sugar industry, and called for new infrastructure in North Queensland to include three dams, a canal and a short railway line (to the Galilee Basin), which he said would deliver $15 billion to the Australian economy each and every year.
Key rural senators uncertain of re-election
With about half of the Senate votes counted, the futures of at least three prominent rural-based Senators hang in the balance.
Nationals Senators Barry O’Sullivan (Qld) and John “Wacka” Williams (NSW) and Liberal Senator Chris Back (WA) each entered the election in the fifth position of the Senate tickets for their respective parties in their states.
Their parties have now returned enough votes to elect four senators in each State (meaning Nationals senators such as Matt Canavan in Queensland and Fiona Nash in NSW have been returned), but those in the fifth position must await the outcomes of final vote counts in coming days and possibly weeks to learn if their Senate careers will continue.
One factor potentially favouring their chances of re-election is that many of the votes yet to be counted are postal votes which are said to be more likely to favour the coalition.
Labor Senator for WA Glenn Sterle, the chair of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee in the previous Parliament, has been returned in WA.
In the House of Representatives, the Nationals fared relatively well nationally, fending off several challenges from high-profile independents, but still could lose the central Queensland seats of Flynn and Capricornia, held by Ken O’Dowd and Michelle Landry respectively.
Party leader and federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce comfortably won his seat of New England in northern NSW.
His shadow, Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, was also comfortably returned in the NSW seat of Hunter.
Other MPs who could also play a role in determining the final election outcome include Victorian Greens MP Adam Bandt, however he has stated he will not negotiate with the Coalition, only Labor. Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie has stated he will not make any deals to help the Coalition or Labor form government.