Two more crossbenchers, Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie, have given Malcolm Turnbull assurances they will back his government on supply and confidence.
Meanwhile Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has said the government will have a majority in its own right, although the late counting is yet to determine this.
Turnbull has been anxious to shore up crossbench support both in case the government’s numbers fell short but also to add greater stability to a majority government. On Thursday, Queensland crossbencher Bob Katter said he would support the Coalition on supply and confidence.
Addressing the new Labor caucus, meeting in Canberra, Bill Shorten did not concede defeat but foreshadowed a Coalition government – and an early election.
“It’s likely in coming days that the Liberals will scrape over the line but the combination of a prime minister with no authority, a government with no direction and a Liberal Party at war with itself will see Australians back at the polls within the year,” he said. “After the longest campaign in 50 years, this could well be one of the shortest parliaments in 50 years.”
While nominations are open for the position of opposition leader, as the party rules require, this is a formality – no-one will nominate against Shorten.
McGowan, an independent from the Victorian seat of Indi, said she had stood by her principle of “no deals”. But she was not in opposition and would “continue to work with the government of the day to achieve what’s needed for my electorate and the nation”. She would consider every piece of legislation on its merits.
She stressed her agreement was with Turnbull personally. “If circumstances change, that would probably make a difference but our discussion is two people, two professionals working together and wanting to work together over the next three years to bring great benefit to the whole country.”
Asked whether she had requested anything from Turnbull, she said: “I asked for goodwill, I asked for regular being in touch with each other. I asked for good governance and stability … We talked about professionalism in politics and how important it is that people can trust each other and work together.”
Wilkie, an independent who represents the Tasmanian seat of Denison, said it appeared Turnbull would continue to be the prime minister.
“I remain steadfast that I will not enter into any deal with any party in order to help them form government. But nor will I be destructive,” he said in a statement. “I will continue to vote on parliamentary business on its merits, and consequently not support a vote against budget supply or confidence in the government unless clearly warranted, for example in a case of malfeasance.”
Pyne told the Nine Network: “We will form a majority government”. He said this was the sixth victory out of eight in the last 20 years. “You would have to say that we are an election-winning machine in the Liberal Party.”
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra