Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed Malcolm Turnbull knocked back approaches from Dave Sharma seeking his support to stave off independent Dr Karryn Phelps during the Wentworth by-election.
Mr Morrison says the ousted prime minister turned down a number of offers from Mr Sharma and senior Liberal Party figures to get behind the Liberal Party’s candidate.
Dr Phelps remains ahead in the ongoing count after achieving an unprecedented swing of more than 20 per cent as of late on Saturday night.
That margin has since been slashed to around a mere one per cent as postal votes break heavily in the Liberal candidate’s favour.
With counting due to resume after 3pm on Sunday, Dr Phelps held a lead of 880 votes.
After much digging around, I've worked out the following. The AEC is currently re-counting the Bondi Beach, Bellevue Hill and Vaucluse polling places. At 3pm they will begin a count of and additional 1,200 postal votes. The result will be clearer or closer by tonight.
— Antony Green (@AntonyGreenABC) October 21, 2018
As Dr Phelps’ winning margin shrank, ABC elections guru Antony Green tweeted that the AEC counters had 1,200 postal votes in hand. Earlier, speaking on ABC TV, he noted that postal votes would continue to arrive and be counted for the next two weeks.
A loss for the Liberal Party would place the coalition into a minority government with just 75 seats in the House of Representatives, while the Labor party has 69 lower house MPs.
But Mr Morrison is unsure how much of a difference a strong recommendation from Mr Turnbull would have made to the campaign.
“Quite a number of us asked for that support, not necessarily in the form of a letter, there are many other ways in which people can choose to express their support,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday.
“There were even approaches made by Dave himself. What impact they would have had, ultimately, is for others to judge.
Mr Turnbull was the Member for Wentworth from 2004 until quitting federal parliament in August after being replaced as prime minister.
He has been holidaying in the United States after his resignation sparked the by-election.