The Liberals and Labor are both hopeful of winning the final seat in Western Australia’s Senate election, despite the major parties being punished by voters in Saturday’s re-run.
So far 89.61 per cent of polling places have counted first preferences, showing a 5.49 per cent swing against the Liberals and a 4.83 per cent swing against Labor.
The Liberals have all but sewn up two of the six seats, and Labor one, while the Palmer United Party and the Greens are expected to each win a spot.
Still in doubt is the final Senate seat, which will go down to the wire as postal and pre-poll votes are counted.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismissed the swing against the federal government as a “typical by-election result”.
However, he said candidates opposed to the carbon tax and mining tax “performed very strongly”.
“There is an overwhelming rejection of the carbon tax and the mining tax on these results,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
“As far as I’m concerned, the very strong take-out of this result is that the Australian people yet again have voted to get rid of the carbon tax and get rid of the mining tax.”
Despite the swing against the Liberals, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann refused to write off the party’s third candidate, Linda Reynolds, for the sixth Senate seat.
“Our position will strengthen in the days and weeks ahead,” he told Sky News.
“Clearly a lot of people parked their vote with the Greens because they didn’t have confidence in Bill Shorten and Labor.”
Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh was equally confident the party’s second candidate Louise Pratt would win the contest for the final Senate spot.
Asked how much of a factor Labor’s lead candidate Joe Bullock had been in the party’s poor result, Mr Leigh said: “Joe’s a passionate warrior for the Labor cause.”
The party was forced to go on the defensive over preselecting Mr Bullock following reports of his 1996 conviction for assault, his record of voting for the Liberal party and comments that Labor could not be trusted and was full of mad members.
WA Labor frontbencher Gary Gray said since 1990 Labor had found it increasingly difficult to win traction federally in his state.
“We peaked in many ways in 1998, when we had a strong federal Labor leader (Kim Beazley) from WA,” he said.
“Our party does need to set about the business of building itself in a new and modern WA and better relating to people in WA as a federal organisation.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Labor’s low vote of just under 22 per cent was a “real slap in the face” for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
She said the Liberals were hopeful of picking up a third seat after postal and absentee votes were counted.
“From our point of view, that’s a very positive outcome, particularly given this is like a by-election,” Ms Bishop told ABC television.