Sydney: The Australian government has lost its one-seat majority in a massive backlash by voters in a by- election yesterday for the seat previously held by ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Voters in the seat of Wentworth, in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs, swung around 25% against the government to elect prominent independent Dr Kerryn Phelps, pictured, a same-sex marriage campaigner and former head of the Australian Medical Association.
The loss of the safe government seat means Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have to govern in a hung parliament, holding 75 of the 150 seats, but he can continue in power with the support of the Speaker of the House and independents until the general election due by May.
Wentworth voters were angry at the treatment of Turnbull, who was a popular local MP before he was ousted as prime minister in an internal Liberal Party coup in August and replaced by Morrison.
Morrison told Liberal Party supporters that he knew it would be a “tough day” but said that the result was “not unexpected”.
Morrison praised Liberal candidate Dave Sharma and said the loss was not his fault but that of the party.
“We have paid a big price for the events of several months ago. Many people are angry and they expressed that today,” Morrison said.
The result marks the biggest swing against a government in history, and it is the first time the conservatives have not held the harbourside seat since federation in 1901.
Phelps danced among cheering supporters to the sound of Macklemore’s Glorious and stood proudly with her wife, Jackie Stricker-Phelps.
She promised “a return to integrity, humanity and common sense on climate action”, some of the issues that voters felt the government lacked.
Turnbull’s son Alex, who has been a critic of the government since his father was deposed, said it was “a great day for Australian democracy”. DPA