Malcolm Turnbull has publicly conceded the Nationals are entitled to two more ministers, as he says he is optimistic the Liberals will hold the final outstanding seat of Herbert, giving the Coalition 77 MPs in the 150 member House of Representatives.
Asked at a news conference whether an extra two were due to the junior Coalition partner on the post-election relativities between the parties, Turnbull said “plainly the Nationals have a larger percentage of the Coalition partyroom … and the answer to that is yes”.
He and his deputy Julie Bishop later went into talks with Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and his deputy Fiona Nash.
The Nationals say that on the arithmetic formula they are entitled to one more cabinet minister and one extra junior minister.
Responding to criticism that the Coalition agreement will be kept secret, Turnbull said the agreement was “about process” and the working arrangements between the two parties. If people wanted to know what the agreement on policies was “you look at our election platform”. This suggested there will not be a separate policy document attached to the agreement, as then-Nationals leader Warren Truss negotiated when Turnbull became prime minister.
Turnbull would not be drawn on the possible future of junior minister Richard Colbeck, from Tasmania, whose Senate position is still unresolved in the count. The ministry will be announced next week.
Herbert is on a knife-edge: Turnbull referred to the Liberals taking the lead, but soon after Labor was back in front.
Turnbull also reaffirmed that the government intended to take its controversial superannuation changes to the parliament in the same form that was put at the election.
This means he continues to stare down the internal party critics, who now must decide whether to challenge them at next Monday’s partyroom meeting.
Turnbull noted that obviously the government would not have a majority in the Senate and sometimes there were compromises in that house. The government has also said it will have consultations with the industry about detail.
He also reaffirmed the government’s intention to put its industrial relations bills, used to trigger the double dissolution, back to parliament as the start of the process for a joint sitting. It is very unclear whether they would have a prospect of passing such a sitting.
Asked what mandate he claimed after the election and what his priorities would be, Turnbull said: “I know that Mr Shorten’s attempt at a victory lap might have misled you, but we have actually won the election. That’s the mandate. We have a majority in the House of Representatives.
“The priorities are of course the budget and the economic measures that are contained therein.”
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra