Phelps Claims Thunderstorm Victory In Wentworth
Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps has claimed a historic victory in the Wentworth by-election, as the seat's 100,000 electors shattered tradition in the east Sydney seat.
Phelps said her victory came as a message to Canberra after the government's "self-interest" during the leadership spill which ousted Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year, left voters "utterly exasperated."
"They only seem to want to talk about their leadership challenges and their factional battles and it's like, hang on a second, we're out here, we are the Australian people, we want you to focus on our issues," Phelps told ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.
Phelps also slammed the government for the response to last week's 'It's Ok To Be White' motion labeling it a "shambolic" example of "poor governance."
The independent candidate said her first order of business would be to get asylum seeker children of Nauru and transporting them to Australia for medical and psychological attention.
"The re-settlement options should be explored," Phelps added.
"New Zealand is extremely good option and definitely something I would like to look at the foreign policy and other implications of that decision, but certainly it is a very attractive decision."
On Saturday ABC election analyst Antony Green called the seat for the independent candidate after just an hour of counting in the traditionally blue ribbon seat.
As rain bucketed down on Sydney in what's marked a disastrous night for the Liberal Party, Phelps achieved a swing of more than 20 percent against its candidate Dave Sharma in Malcolm Turnbull's former seat.
As counting continued, the independent candidate was on 52 percent of the two-party preferred vote.
It's the biggest swing in Australia's political history and has landed the nation with its second minority government in just over eight years.
On Saturday night, Phelps reflected on what she called a David and Goliath struggle, and thanked supporters, her wife Jackie and their children.
"It was said if we won the seat of Wentworth, it would make history, and, my friends, we have made history today," she said.
"You have been absolutely phenomenal. The support that you have given this campaign and I know this isn't a victory for one person, this is a victory for a community of people who wanted to see politics done differently."
The member for Wentworth-elect later told the national broadcaster voters recognised this was a grassroots campaign that was speaking to them.
"Take heart, there will be some hearts put back into government," she said.
"Some compassion and I'm there to represent the people of Wentworth, but also the people who don't think they have a voice at the moment."
On Sunday Phelps said she would also be prioritising action on climate change and may also lend support for a national integrity commission.
Read More: Wentworth And The Simmering Mood For Change
If confirmed when counting closes, it will be the largest by-election swing against a government in the history of the federal parliament. The Liberal Party has held the seat since 1944, except for a brief period in 2004.
On Saturday night a fiery prime minister Scott Morrison invoked the Invictus Games as he rallied supporters at a gathering of party faithful at campaign HQ in Double Bay.
Invictus means "unconquered", and Australia is playing host Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle as the games get underway on Saturday night.
"While tonight is not an unexpected outcome for us, they have looked at Canberra and the Liberal Party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago.
"But as a party, we will continue to rise again."
But it may be a tough sell for the new prime minister, who is on track to suffer the largest by-election loss in the history of Australia's parliament.
Initial counting in the Wentworth by-election shows a 27.5 percent swing against the Liberals, pointing to a likely win for independent Kerryn Phelps.
Two usually-strong Liberal voting booths in the Sydney seat have returned strong swings against Sharma, the Liberal candidate.
"This is such a monumental wipe-out in one of the safest Liberal seats in the country," Labor MP Linda Burney told the ABC.
At 7pm Sharma sat on just over 37 per cent of the primary vote but Phelps on 35.5 percent is expected to pick up a strong flow of preferences.
Former member Malcolm Turnbull held the seat with a 17.75 percent margin.
The by-election was sparked by the resignation of Turnbull from parliament after he was dumped as Liberal party leader and prime minister.
"Incredible result and proud of the people of Wentworth," Turnbull's son, Alex, tweeted on Saturday night.
"A hearty congratulations to Kerryn Phelps who fought a great campaign. A great day for Australian democracy."
The Liberal vote dropped significantly, with Australia Institute' exit poll taken on Saturday showing addressing climate change and replacing coal with renewable energy was a factor in 78 per cent of voter's decisions.
Former Turnbull government minister Craig Laundy said before polls closed it would be wrong to blame Turnbull if the party loses Wentworth.
"The blame for this lies squarely at the feet of anybody who felt it was a good idea to get rid of Malcolm Turnbull," Laundy said.
Labor candidate Tim Murray said it was the largest swing in the history of the Federal Parliament at a by-election.
"This is the beginning of the end of the Morrison Government," he told supporters on Saturday night.
Independent Bob Katter said he did not want to see the government destabilised or an early election called, but he said the coalition needed to address the drought, regional development and indigenous health.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Liberal Party would continue to "seek assurances" from crossbenchers to hold off the threat of an early election.