THE narrow win by Liberal candidate Ken Wyatt in the Perth metropolitan seat of Hasluck has swung momentum towards Tony Abbott as negotiations to form a federal government continue.
Dr Wyatt, who was the state’s Office of Aboriginal Health director, has become the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives by beating Labor’s Sharryn Jackson.
He also closes the gap for Mr Abbott in his quest to gain 76 lower house seats to form the majority required for government.
Some election watchers are expecting the coalition to take power despite long and, at times, frustrating negotiations talking place in Canberra with several independent members of parliament, whose backing for an Abbott-led government will be needed before Julia Gillard concedes the prime ministership.
While on paper Mr Abbott’s Liberals and its coalition partner The Nationals have 73 seats, the result is not as clear-cut as that. Tony Crook, who unseated Liberal stalwart Wilson Tuckey in the regional WA electorate of O’Connor, is yet to commit to joining the coalition.
Mr Crook is a member of the WA Nationals, which is affiliated but not bound by the federal National Party. He is following the lead of his state leader Brendon Grylls in seeking a pay-off for the regions before he commits to the conservatives.
However, like Mr Crook, there seems to be a clear conservative leaning among the four independent members. Three have had National Party connections in the past, although the current relationship between The Nationals and at least two of the independents is acrimonious.
Labor, with the stated support of the Greens’ Adam Bandt, also has 73 seats.
Labor now holds just three seats out 15 WA lower house seats.
In the seat of Perth, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith suffered a 1.6 per cent swing in the two-party preferred vote to easily win, while in Brand Gary Gray saw his majority fall from 56 per cent to 53.5 per cent.
In Fremantle, Melissa Parke suffered a 3.5 per cent swing to gain 55.6 per cent of the vote. Given the seat’s inner urban nature, the 3.5 per cent increase in the Greens vote was lower than feared and less than many other electorates.
But not everything went the Liberals’ way. Apart from the loss of O’Connor, where Mr Tuckey’s share of the vote dropped by 10 per cent (slightly worse than the Labor candidate Ian Bishop), Don Randall also had a scare in the seat of Canning where former state cabinet minister Alannah MacTiernan prompted a 2.5 per cent swing away from the conservatives. Mr Randall now has less than 52 per cent of the vote.