Bob Katter warns Turnbull government ‘can’t function’ with just 76 seats

Katter warns Liberals that after the Speaker is appointed, their 75 seats are too “wafer thin” to run without him.

by Primrose Riordan  AFR

Independent crossbencher Bob Katter has warned Malcolm Turnbull that his majority in the lower house is too wafer thin to function, and he will need his support to get laws through.

On Sunday, the result in the last lower house seat of Herbert was finalised, with the Australian Electoral Commission handing the seat to Labor’s Cathy O’Toole by 37 votes.

While the Queensland Liberal National Party are considering a legal challenge to the count, based on a number of soldiers who were allegedly unable to vote while away on an exercise, incumbent Ewen Jones has conceded.

“How about that… The sun did come up. Life goes on. All the best everyone,” he tweeted on Monday.

This leaves the Coalition with 76 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, but with just 75 votes after they appoint a Speaker.

Mr Katter said this means the crossbencher’s vote will be key to getting laws through.

“[Mr Turnbull’s] an intelligent person, he know’s he can’t possibly run government with one vote up his sleeve. I mean nobody can go to the bathroom, no one can go to granny’s funeral, there are members of the government who have to go overseas, well no one can go overseas.

“I mean a government can’t function properly with one vote up it’s sleeve. And you need the good grace of the people in between.

“Now the ALP did not have the majority [in the hung parliament] yet they got every single piece of legislation though that they put up. They did that by convincing the people in the middle,” he told the ABC.

Mr Jones said while it was not his call, he would agree with any challenge to the result in the court of disputed returns, as flagged by Mr Turnbull.

“I think the party owes it to our supporters and to the nearly 40 per cent of people who did vote for us. We won the first past the post vote comprehensively, we lost it on preferences. I think we owe it to the party and people of Townsville to see if we can get a voice in Government.

“It is important we are in Government too, be in Opposition is one thing but to be in Government with Malcolm Turnbull as the Prime Minister I think is a very important thing. The decision on whether we mount a court challenge to the Court of Disputed Returns is a decision of the party but I would be agreeing with it if we did take it to the Court of Disputed Returns.

“37 votes, a number of anomalies in the count that we believe that would mount a significant challenge and would mount a reasonable request to the court to sit there and say a new election should be held,” Mr Jones said on Monday.

Mr Katter said he also warned Turnbull – when they held discussions before the result was finalised which resulted in Mr Katter offering to support the Turnbull government on supply if there was a hung parliament – that a tight result would threaten his leadership and the stability of the government.

“[The] sort of careerism that dominates in canberra makes every government unstable if there are close numbers,” he said, referring to possible challenges by an unruly backbench.