Sydney: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on July 11 began the hard work of uniting a divided parliament after claiming a tight victory in Australia’s cliffhanger election and as a second ratings agency warned a splintered Senate may hinder debt reduction.
It was still not clear as vote counting entered its ninth day whether Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition would form a majority government by the barest of margins or instead need to join forces with independents for a minority government.
With five lower house seats still in the balance, Turnbull will have to wait several days more to appoint his cabinet and return to government, but he is already battling sniping from within his own ranks.
Some conservative members of the Liberal Party blame their centrist leader for a loss in votes that left them perilously close to conceding power, putting pressure on Turnbull to reverse unpopular policies like changes to state pensions.
The junior coalition partner, the Nationals, meanwhile, are agitating for an extra seat in cabinet given they are on track to increase their representation in parliament.
Still, industry minister Christopher Pyne, who was slapped down for celebrating victory early on Friday, said the coalition had a clear mandate to deliver on its election promises.
“Whether you win a grand final by one goal or six goals, a win is a win is a win,” Pyne told ABC radio.
Turnbull’s coalition is on track to win two of the five seats still being counted, which would give them 76 seats, a one-seat majority in the 150-seat lower house. Vote counting for the Senate, where the rise of independents threatens to block the passage of legislation, will continue for several days.
Moody’s Investors Service on Monday joined Standard and Poor’s (S&P) in expressing concern that a splintered upper house would stymie agreement on fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic policy.
Moody’s said such a scenario would be “credit negative”, echoing S&P’s decision last week to cut Australia’s credit rating outlook to negative from stable, threatening a downgrade of its coveted triple-A status.