It’s official, independent Kerryn Phelps has finally been declared the winner of the Wentworth byelection after two weeks of vote counting.
The word came as the Australian Electoral Commission revealed Phelps was ahead by more than 1800 votes. The night of the election Phelps declared victory, but postal vote appeared to be swinging the final count back towards the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma.
The official Phelps’ victory means we’ve now entered the zone of minority government, this time to be led by Scott Morrison, giving independents more power than ever before.
And on the agenda for Phelps is seeking an “urgent briefing” on the eligibility of Liberal MP Peter Dutton in Parliament over business links, according to The Guardian, as well as a second Liberal MP Chris Crewther, over reports of an investment in a biotechnology company that receives grants and funding from the Commonwealth.
Phelps had told 10 daily prior to the by-election that she would seek a detailed briefing on Dutton’s case, which she confirmed with Radio National this morning.
And she’s also told Radio National this morning why she believes Wentworth votes issued a strong swing against the Liberal party. “There were a number of issue that came together,” she said. “The first thing was the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull, he was a popular local member, the prime minister, and for him to be ousted with no, still no apparently reason or rationale behind it really angered a lot of people.
Phelps added that it wasn’t just about the personalities involved, but also the “disenchantment with the party political system” and the idea that they were putting themselves above the people.
Phelps said she has “no intentional of being a wrecker” in the minority government. “I’m there because I think we need more stability not less,” she said.
Leading a minority government is challenging, but not impossible, as former Prime Minster Julia Gillard proved during her time in the top job. The Conversation found in 2013 that Gillard achieved the highest rate of legislative output of the three prime ministers before her including Kevin Rudd, John Howard and Bob Hawke.
Late last month the growing crossbench of independent MPs – who hold the balance of power – warned they will push for a federal anti-corruption commission. What else they will seek to achieve with their influence will remain to be seen.
The new member for Wentworth has confirmed that bringing refugee children on Nauru to Australia for “urgent medical and psychological treatment” is a priority, as is urgent action on climate change.
While she won’t seek to sabotage the government Phelps is intending on using the position of power constructively.
“What I would be seeking to do is to modify any legislation or government policy that sought to drag Australia further to the right,” she told RN.