Election results: We don't have a winner, so what happens now?

By Paul Donoughue and Matt Liddy

Election day is over and we still don’t know who won.

Malcolm Turnbull says he has “every confidence” the Coalition will be able to form a majority government.

But no-one can really say with certainty what the outcome will be — not even ABC election analyst Antony Green.

That raises a lot of prickly questions, so let’s lay it all out.

How did we get here?

OK, let’s keep this simple:

Green says the Coalition will win more of the seats that are in doubt.

So what could happen?

There are two main scenarios:

  1. The Coalition picks up nine or more of the “in doubt” seats and can form a majority government.
  2. The Coalition does not reach the 76 mark and Australia has a hung parliament.

Green says the Coalition will win more seats than Labor, so a Labor majority government is not a possibility.

What happens next?

We wait.

It will be some days, at the very least, before we know the outcome in every seat.

Less than 80 per cent of the vote has been counted so far, and the PM says the Australian Electoral Commission will not do any further counting on Sunday or Monday.

Counting — including postal and absentee votes — will resume on Tuesday.

“The Liberal Party is much stronger on organising postal vote campaigns than Labor on recent elections,” Green notes.

When will we know who wins?

It’s not clear.

“It’s a cliche to say it will go down to postals but in modern voting trends that is important.”

There are bound to be disputes over votes and, in seats where it really comes down to the wire, there could be legal challenges.

Sometimes, with postal or absentee votes, it will be “a long and tedious process”, Green says, “because the parties will check every name that’s come in and check it against their list of who they think that’s voted and they’ll maybe question a signature here or date of birth on the form”.

What if it’s a hung parliament?

A hung parliament happens when no party has more than half the MPs in the House of Representatives, which means no party can pass laws without gaining support from other parties or independent members of the House.


That support could come in the form of a formal coalition, or the governing party may have to negotiate with the other parties to get laws passed.

The party in power — in this case Mr Turnbull and the Coalition — typically has the first opportunity to form government.

It would need to win a motion of confidence in the House of Representatives.

How might a minority government work this time?

The Liberal Party appears certain to have the highest number of seats and in the case of hung Parliament would need the support of crossbenchers to pass that motion of confidence.

It might look to figures such as independent MP Cathy McGowan, newly elected Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie and long-serving north Queensland MP Bob Katter to get across the line.

For the Labor Party, it would likely need the support of all the minor party and independent candidates in order to form a minority government. That would prove a significantly harder task.

Didn’t this happen recently?

Yes. It happened in the 2010 election, which was contested by Labor leader Julia Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott.

In the end, a handful of crossbenchers — including independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and Adam Bandt of the Greens — sided with Labor and helped return Ms Gillard as PM.

Before that, you had to go back to 1940 for a hung Parliament. In that case, Robert Menzies was able to form and lead a coalition government, but subsequently lost support and was succeeded by Arthur Fadden in mid-1941.

Later that year, two independents switched their support to Labor and John Curtin became prime minister.

Um, what about the Senate?

Senate counting takes longer than the Lower House, so that’s going to take some time yet.

Results so far suggest whoever forms government will need to work with a significant crossbench, including:

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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