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It's Official, Independent Kerryn Phelps Is Now The Federal Member For Wentworth

Welcome to minority government.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Independent Kerryn Phelps has been officially declared the winner of the Wentworth by-election by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), after more than two weeks of counting.

Phelps claimed victory on the night, but 12 hours later the AEC was forced to do a recount after postal votes reduced the margin between her and Liberal candidate Dave Sharma to less than 900 votes.

The high profile independent narrowly won the seat by 1,851 votes, or 51.2% on a two-party preferred basis. After finishing second in the primary vote count, Phelps was helped over the line by preferences from Labor and the Greens.

The Liberal Party suffered a swing of 19.18% against it, one of the biggest in Australian political history.



Phelps, who describes herself as from the "sensible centre", credits her win on a voter backlash after the ousting of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, which led to his resignation from the formerly very safe Liberal seat.

"I think there were a number of issues that really came together to create this kind of sentiment in the Wentworth community, that they wanted a change and the first thing of course was the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull, he was a popular local member, the prime minister, and for him to be ousted with ... still apparently no reason or rationale behind it really angered a lot of people," Phelps told RN Breakfast on Monday morning.

Phelps also pointed to the changing community attitudes towards the treatment of children on Manus Island and Nauru, and the lack of action on climate change.

"What I would be seeking to do is to modify any legislation or government policy that sought to drag Australia further to the right," Phelps said.

Phelps plans to remain on the Sydney City Council once she enters parliament, and has also worked as a university professor and GP. She has refused to release the legal advice she has relied on that she says ensures she is not in breach of section 44 of the constitution.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

(L-R): Bob Katter, Cathy McGowan, Kerryn Phelps, Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie and Adam Bandt.


When Phelps takes her seat in the House of Representatives, the government will be one seat short of a majority, with 75. Labor holds 69 seats, leaving a crossbench of six the government will need to bargain with – Phelps, Bob Katter, Cathy McGowan, Andrew Wilkie, Rebekah Sharkie and Adam Bandt.

This isn't the first time Australia has had a hung parliament. Former Labor leader Julia Gillard ruled with a minority government after the 2010 election.

Phelps said she hasn't spoke to prime minister Scott Morrison, but said she doesn't have any intention of being a "wrecker" or supporting a motion of no confidence in the government that could see voters heading to the polls for a federal election.

Morrison is spending the week travelling through Queensland on a bus he's calling the "ScoMo Express", pledging to lower taxes and power prices. Morrison has previously said he won't be calling a vote until next year.

Despite the huge swing against the Liberals, industry minister Steven Ciobo thinks voters no longer care about the August leadership spill.

“I’m not going to get into the history of what happened there. I don’t think it serves anyone’s purpose and I also don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally care about what’s happened," Ciobo told Sky News on Sunday.

Ciobo voted for Peter Dutton in the leadership spill but says he's not "stuck in the past". Instead he said he was "looking forward to is the future and the challenges that Australia will face".


Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

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