Australia’s political parties began horsetrading on Sunday to break an anticipated parliamentary deadlock after a dramatic election failed to produce a clear winner, raising the prospect of prolonged political and economic instability. The exceptionally close vote leaves Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right Liberal Party-led government in a precarious position, potentially needing the support of independent and minor parties. It has also opened the door to the possibility, albeit less likely, that the main opposition Labor Party could win enough backing from the smaller parties to form government itself, although Turnbull said on Sunday he remained “quietly confident” of returning his coalition to power for another three-year term.
“I can promise all Australians that we will dedicate our efforts to ensuring that the state of new parliament is resolved without division or rancor,” Turnbull, who accused Labor of waging a dirty tricks campaign, told reporters in Sydney.
Police said they were considering whether to investigate thousands of text messages sent to voters on Saturday by the Labor Party purporting to be from the state healthcare service Medicare, warning the service would be privatized by a coalition government.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said Australians had rejected Turnbull’s mandate for reform like cuts to healthcare and a A$50 billion ($37 billion) corporate tax break over 10 years. “What I’m very sure of is that while we don’t know who the winner was, there is clearly one loser: Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda for Australia and his efforts to cut Medicare,” Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.