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    Jul 04, 2016

    Australia faces a hung Parliament


    AUSTRALIA'S ruling centre-right Liberal Party and the main opposition Labor Party began horse trading yesterday with smaller parties to break an anticipated parliamentary deadlock after a dramatic election failed to produce a clear winner.

    The exceptionally close vote leaves Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Coalition government in a precarious position as it seeks another three-year term, while Labor Party could win enough backing from the smaller parties to form the government itself, Reuters reported.

    Meanwhile, police said they were considering whether to investigate thousands of text messages sent to voters on Saturday by the Labor Party purporting to be from the state healthcare service Medicare, warning the service would be privatised by a Coalition government.

    Labor leader Bill Shorten said Australians had rejected Mr Turnbull's mandate for reform-like cuts to healthcare and a A$50 billion (S$50.5 billion) corporate tax break over 10 years.

    Mr Turnbull had campaigned on tough asylum-seeker policies and a plan to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage.

    But he focused mostly on reinforcing his economic credentials as the country transitions from a mining investment boom to a more diversified economy, the Agence France-Presse reported.

    Mr Turnbull had called the election in a risky bid to sweep out independents in the Upper House who were blocking his economic agenda.

    Instead, it has left a power vacuum in Canberra and fuelled talk of a challenge to his leadership of the Liberal Party, less than a year after he ousted then prime minister Tony Abbott in a party-room coup.

    Vote counting could take a week or more, and the Coalition will rule under caretaker provisions in the interim.

    Official electoral data for the House of Representatives showed a 3.4 per cent swing away from the government, with about two-thirds of votes counted.

    Electoral Commission projections give the Coalition 67 seats in the 150-seat lower house, against Labor's 71 and five for the independents and the Greens Party.

    A further seven seats were in the balance.

    That leaves independents as kingmakers.

    Small parties are likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate, with Pauline Hanson's anti-immigration One Nation on track to win between two and four seats.