South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has begun courting two independent MPs to ensure Labor continues to govern for the next four years.
Mr Weatherill conceded on Sunday there was no clear result from Saturday’s poll and it may take until the end of the week before the outcome is known.
He said it was “more likely than not” that Labor would retain 23 seats, leaving the party one short of governing in its own right, but has not given up on scraping across the line and forming a majority government.
He said he would seek the support of independent MPs Bob Such and Geoff Brock if necessary and had spoken to both men to congratulate them on being returned to parliament.
“We’ve enjoyed a good working relationship with the independents and obviously they’ll have a discussion with us,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s their decision but we’ve opened up those discussions.”
There has been no talk yet with Dr Such or Mr Brock about the possibility of cabinet posts in a Labor administration.
With more than 68 per cent of the vote counted, the result of the election will hinge on counting about 170,000 pre-poll and postal ballots, which could swing the outcome in several seats.
Counting of those votes will start on Monday.
Mr Weatherill said he believed Saturday’s vote was an endorsement of Labor’s strategy to share its vision with the community and an indictment of the opposition’s small target approach.
He said a visit by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the days before the election was also “very helpful for us”, when the PM excluded the premier from a defence announcement.
“I don’t think that reflected upon him well,” Mr Weatherill said.
PM says ALP should move aside
South Australian voters would feel cheated if Labor was returned to power despite the Liberals getting a majority of the vote, Tony Abbott said in a blunt message to two key independents.
The prime minister praised Liberal leader Steven Marshall and the state party for garnering almost 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in Saturday’s election, saying in other states it would have given them a “thumping majority”.
In a shock result, both major parties failed to win enough seats to form a majority government, with each now locked in negotiations with independents Bob Such and Geoff Brock.
It is the second election in a row in which the Liberals have won the majority vote but not secured enough seats after Labor scraped home in key marginal electorates.
Mr Abbott, who missed out in negotiations to form a minority government after the 2010 federal election, said the South Australian independents should take heed of the Liberals’ two-party vote.
“I suspect that the people of South Australia will feel cheated if having voted quite substantially for a change of government, that’s not what they get,” Mr Abbott said.
“I think that’s a message that won’t be lost on the independent members of parliament.”
Despite the Labor Party being in the box seat – it is likely to hold one more seat than the Liberals – Mr Abbott said he was optimistic the Liberals’ position would improve as the large number of postal votes were counted next week.
The prime minister would not comment on suggestions his involvement in the campaign had a negative impact on the Liberals’ result.
“I was very happy to be involved … and I know that my involvement was welcomed by Liberal Steven Marshall,” he said.