0208 GMT March 26, 2019
Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps claimed victory in the electorate of Wentworth with just over 30 percent of the vote counted. The massive swing against the governing Liberal party is a blow to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, weakening his government before national elections due by May, Bloomberg reported.
Polls show Morrison’s on track to lose power to the Bill Shorten-led Labor opposition next year. Just two months into his leadership, the prime minister had warned losing Wentworth would cause “unnecessary instability” by erasing the government’s one-seat majority.
“I know this is a tough day, but leadership requires you to turn up on the tough days and the good days, and that’s what you will always get from me,” Morrison said as Dave Sharma conceded defeat. The prime minister said the result wasn’t unexpected and the government was paying the price for its turmoil.
While minor-party lawmakers have indicated they won’t support any no-confidence motions in the government that may force an early election, the result shows voters are disillusioned with the infighting in the ruling Liberal-National government that’s caused policy paralysis in key areas including energy security and tackling climate change.
The Liberal Party and its conservative predecessors have never lost the affluent, inner-Sydney seat of Wentworth since it was created in 1901. It was held by a 17.7 percent margin under former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who quit Parliament after he was ousted as leader in an August party coup, forcing the by-election.
Phelps, a former leader of the nation’s peak medical professional body, has also said she won’t support a vote of no-confidence in the government.
“Just a few short weeks ago I was told this was an impossible task and if we actually managed to win the seat of Wentworth, that it would be a miracle,” Phelps said in her victory speech. “People have been concerned about the direction of government for a very long time.”