AUSTRALIA has a historic hung Parliament and may not know who is running the country for weeks - with neither Labor nor the Coalition capable of forming government in their own right. Despite a big swing against Labor in NSW and Queensland, Australia faces an unprecedented period of political instability with Tony Abbott's Coalition leading the national primary vote but not quite enough to wrest government from Julia Gillard. Both major parties will now have to woo support from three, possibly four independents, and a Greens MP to govern.
LET the bloodbath begin. While the election result is still up in the air last night, there was no doubt whatsoever that the Labor Party was poised for an intense bout of internal conflict. How senior party leaders deal with the inevitable bloodletting with be vital to the party's viability, whether it is in minority government or Opposition after all votes are counted, which could take weeks. There will be so many questions.
Swedish prosecutors have withdrawn an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on charges of suspected rape. Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne says she has determined there is no reason to suspect Assange has committed such a crime. The move Saturday comes just hours after the Swedish prosecutor's office announced the Australian citizen had been accused of one count of rape and one count of molestation.
LABOR has been swept away by strong swings in NSW and Queensland, leaving Australia facing a hung Parliament with both houses to be controlled by independents and a surging Greens party. Labor and the Coalition each fell short last night of winning the majority 76 seats needed to govern in their own right and last night both sides immediately started wooing the four independents and one Green who secured seats in the House of Representatives. Greens leader Bob Brown last night predicted his party would increase its Senate numbers from five to a possible nine seats, giving it control of the upper house.
The Labor party has been savaged in Queensland, with the Liberal National Party looking to have snatched eight seats off the government when counting stopped on Saturday night. A swing of 9.4 per cent of the primary vote against the ALP was recorded in the Sunshine State, compared to a national swing of 5.4 per cent. The two-party preferred swing against Labor was 5.65 per cent statewide, more than double the national swing. On current figures, the LNP has 21 of the state's 30 seats compared to eight for Labor, with independent Bob Katter returned in Kennedy. Some seats were still very tight, however.
JULIA Gillard refuses to concede defeat and vows to talk to independents in her "fight to form a government". As Australians went to bed last night with the nation in political limbo and a hung parliament looking likely, Ms Gillard told supporters in Melbourne: "I will keep fighting. We will continue to fight to form a government in this country. "To those of you who have kept the faith, there are anxious days ahead. The fight for our positive plan isn't over yet." Voters denied Labor and the Coalition the right to govern in their own right, with four independents and Adam Bandt of the Australian Greens set to hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives.
Up to 80,000 uncounted votes in four doubtful seats will determine which of the two major parties forms a minority government in Australia's first hung parliament in 60 years. If the numbers fall Labor's way, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be in a position to form a government with the support of an Australian Greens MP and one of possibly four independents. There also is a possibility Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could form a minority Coalition government with the support of at least three independents. When the counting of votes ceased at 2.00am last night the Coalition had 71 of the 150 seats in the lower house, Labor had 70, there were likely four independents and a Green.
THE Greens will take over the balance of power in the new Senate, after picking up seats in at least three states - including Victoria. While seats in the lower house were swinging towards the Coalition, the upper house swung away from it. A hung parliament is likely in the house of representatives, and certain in the Senate. The Coalition has lost at least two Senate seats, and possibly up to five. As expected, it lost one seat in Queensland to the Greens, and another in Tasmania to Labor. The Coalition's Senate vote in Victoria collapsed, and preference flows could see the DLP candidate, Ballarat blacksmith John Madigan, take the final Senate seat even though he won only 2.2 per cent of the vote.
HOWARD’S battlers returned to the Coalition fold last night, leaving a clutch of marginal seats up in the air. The seats that became a second home to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott during the campaign saw significant swings against Labor and Liberal candidates clinging to narrow winning positions. Lindsay in western Sydney was all but split 50-50 between sitting ALP member David Bradbury and Liberal candidate Fiona Scott. The swing against Mr Bradbury was about 7 per cent with just 16per cent of the vote left to be counted, but he remained just ahead.
LABOR began what looks to be a messy blame game over yesterday's election result as Australia prepares for a hung parliament. Defeated star candidate Maxine McKew threw the first punch last night, criticising the Government's dumping of the emissions trading scheme and a lacklustre national campaign for the party's poor showing. Speaking after losing her seat to Liberal candidate and tennis ace John Alexander, Ms McKew said Labor had failed to repeat the professional and targetted campaign of 2007.
THE 396 young men and 31 young women locked up in NSW juvenile justice centres are part of our new stolen generation. And thousands more will join them over the next decade unless the system undergoes a drastic overhaul. That's the verdict of Youth Off the Streets founder Father Chris Riley, who has accused the state government of turning its back on young people who break the law. NSW is teetering under a 22 per cent rise in violent offences by juveniles over the past decade. Last year 4360 children were charged with assault - almost a quarter of which involved domestic violence - and 4422 were charged with malicious damage to property. A quarter of all ''persons of interest'' to police are children.
There are exciting times ahead in Rome, especially with the imminent canonisation of Mary MacKillop. But you'd be surprised how busy our representatives at the Catholic government are. Rome has emptied out for the hot weeks of summer. The traffic is notably less chaotic and the focus of the Holy See has shiftedto the Pope's summer palace on the beautiful crater lake at Castel Gandolfo. However, the key issues for our embassy continue to bubble and burn: religious freedom, inter-faith dialogue and food security, along with the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) radio telescope project.
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