South Australian voters would feel cheated if Labor was returned to power despite the Liberals getting a majority of the vote, Tony Abbott said in a blunt message to two key independents.
The prime minister praised Liberal leader Steven Marshall and the state party for garnering almost 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in Saturday’s election, saying in other states it would have given them a ‘‘thumping majority’’.
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Liberals win Tassie, SA on the line
Labor Party faces a major blow, set to lose power in its last state of South Australia after the Liberals claim victory in Tasmania. Nine News.
In a shock result, both major parties failed to win enough seats to form a majority government, with each now locked in negotiations with independents Bob Such and Geoff Brock.
It is the second election in a row in which the Liberals have won the majority vote but not secured enough seats after Labor scraped home in key marginal electorates.
Mr Abbott, who missed out in negotiations to form a minority government after the 2010 federal election, said the South Australian independents should take heed of the Liberals’ two-party vote.
‘‘I suspect that the people of South Australia will feel cheated if having voted quite substantially for a change of government, that’s not what they get,’’ Mr Abbott said.
‘‘I think that’s a message that won’t be lost on the independent members of parliament.’’
The South Australian Liberal Party is pinning last-minute hopes on a record number of pre-poll and postal votes to scrape it into government, but Labor believes it can still win the support of independents to retain power in the state.
The Abbott Government and the Shorten Opposition in Canberra are watching the wash-up with keen interest.
If Labor holds on to government in the state after the Liberal Party swept to power in Tasmania at the weekend, South Australia would have denied the conservative parties a clean sweep across the federal and state landscapes.
The final seat count now relies on about 150,000 pre-poll and postal votes - 15 per cent of the total votes cast.
Both Liberal leader Steven Marshall and Labor Premier Jay Weatherill were refusing to concede defeat at the weekend, with both insisting government remained within their grasp.
South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham said his party's state campaign had not been strong enough in key marginal seats, but added he still believed the Liberals could win government.
Federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne, whose moderate, or left, faction in South Australia was responsible for installing Mr Marshall as leader only 13 months ago, also said the election was far from over.
However, Mr Weatherill said he was confident Labor could retain government, conceding it would likely rely on the support of independents.
Labor has held power in South Australia for the past 12 years.
Mr Marshall said he believed the Liberal Party was "still in the hunt", and also said he was open to the idea of seeking the support of the independents if he could not gain an outright majority.
Bob Such, a former Liberal who has displayed little love for his old party, and Geoff Brock, whose electorate of Frome covers a broadly conservative area around Port Pirie, are the two independents being courted by the two big parties.
Mr Brock has promised to consult five local councils in his area before deciding whether to support a Labor or Liberal minority, suggesting the election result could stretch into weeks.
Frustrated Liberals were theorising that pre-poll and postal votes could get them over the line because media polls suggested Labor began closing the gap only in the last few days of the election.
Those who voted early, they hope, might have been more likely to support a change of government.
The Liberal Party's problem is similar to its failed attempt to win government in 2010 - it won the popular vote but failed to win enough marginal seats.
Senator Birmingham made clear it was a familiar story.
"If this one goes Labor’s way, six out of the last seven elections in South Australia will have seen the Liberal Party win the two party preferred vote and lose the actual election."