On a knife edge: Major parties neck and neck as Australian federal election results roll in

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten. First exit poll shows the result is too close to call. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten. First exit poll shows the result is too close to call. Photo / AP

The chance of a hung parliament is looming over Australia as the results of the federal election pour in with neither of the major parties taking a clear lead.

The Coalition is now the only party that can win the election in its own right with 74 of the the needed 76 seats to form a majority. Labor, with just 66 seats, can no longer lead on its own.

With the likelihood of a single party government shrinking, political experts went as far as to say there would be no clear winner by the end of election night on Saturday.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello said it was not 'inconceivable' neither would be able to secure a win while ABC political expert Barrie Cassidy described it as 'more likely than not' Australia would be left with a hung parliament.

After half the vote was counted the Coalition held a narrow lead with 50.2 per cent of the vote to Labor's 49.8 per cent.

As the results came in through the night the possibility of a Labor-majority house evaporated while the Coalition's chances grew slimmer.

Mr Costello was among the first to point to the likelihood of a hung parliament, telling Channel 9 News: 'This election is getting very, very close. I've got to say it's not inconceivable that we could have a hung parliament.

He later swayed his prediction towards the Coalition, ruling out a Labor victory. 'I don't think that Labor can win this election,' he said. Mr Cassidy pointed to the possibility of a hung parliament earlier in the night in his coverage for the ABC.

'Now there's the potential for the Labor Party to win seats in Queensland, six at least in New South Wales, three in Tasmania, Solomon they're claiming.

'Mayo falls to Xenophon and you've got Western Australia at this stage of the night. It's more likely than not now that the country will have a hung parliament,' he said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy cast their votes. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy cast their votes. Photo / AP

His colleague Antony Green shared the same view and predicted there would not be a clear result at the end of the night.

'We won't know who's won tonight. At the moment on the numbers I'm seeing it's not clear. At this stage the modelling we're doing, the projections we're doing we have the government on 75 seats.

'I don't think we'll have a clearer picture by the end of tonight,' he said.

Bill Shorten has ruled out forming a post-election coalition with other senior Labor figures in the past insisting the party would govern alone or not at all.

Among prominent victories of the night was Labor MP Linda Burney's win in Barton, NSW. She is the first Aboriginal woman to ever become elected in the House of Representatives.

Malcolm Turnbull held his seat of Wentworth in NSW with 67 per cent of the vote while Bill Shorten won 61 per cent of the vote in his seat of Maribyrnong, Victoria.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held his seat of New England with 63 per cent of the vote, putting on a raucous display of cheer as he arrived at his victory party.

He thanked Hollywood star Johnny Depp who he said had given him 'advertising' in the lead-up to the campaign.

Mr Joyce publicly lambasted the actor and his now estranged wife Amber Heard for not declaring her two puppies when they flew into Australia on a private jet last year.

His tough stance on bio-security laws became a talking point for Depp in interviews around the world.

Celebrating his win on Saturday, Mr Joyce said: 'Thanks for the advertising, Johnny.'

He also shared his support for Malcolm Turnbull, insisting the Prime Minister would be re-elected because Australians do not want 'a revolving door' of leaders.

'I get along very well with Malcolm Turnbull and had a number of conversations with him tonight. He is most definitely the best person to lead our nation in a time of uncertainty and we're seeing that through Brexit,' he told the ABC.

Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten and his wife, Chloe, leave the polling place after casting their votes. Photo / AP
Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten and his wife, Chloe, leave the polling place after casting their votes. Photo / AP

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott also held his seat of Warringah in NSW with 64.5 per cent. As the first of the results poured in on Saturday night he appeared in an interview with Alan Jones to take a swipe at Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Abbott, who was ousted in September, said the Liberal Party's campaign would have been 'different' if he had been at the helm in the interview.

Elsewhere independent candidate Andrew Wilkie was one of few independents to be elected, retaining his seat of Denison in Tasmania. Bob Katter of Katter's Australian Paetry retained his seat of Kennedy in Queensland.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was re-elected as was Labor MP Tanya Plibersek in Sydney.

Jamie Briggs, a former federal government minister, lost his seat of Mayo in Adelaide to Rebekah Sharkey of the Nick Xenophon Team Party.

'After a tough fight tonight hasn't been our night, thanks to those who supported me and my best to the new member, it's a great electorate,' he said on Twitter.

Former Prime Minister John Howard commiserated with the MPs who had lost their seats and implored any supporters of ousted Tony Abbott to give their backing to Mr Turnbull.

'As far as Tony Abbott is concerned, yes he was, is and will always be a good friend of mine but the party room made a decision and I accept that decision.

'I encourage all Liberals, particularly people who were especially attached to Tony Abbott to... out of respect for his own wishes, to vote for the Turnbull Coalition,' he said at the party's Sydney function.

A Sky News poll released on Saturday afternoon revealed 62 per cent of voters believed the Coalition would be re-elected despite earlier predictions failing to put forward a clear winner.

It also showed the issues most held close when casting their ballots. Liberal voters prioritised the economy, with 70 per cent listing the budget among their chief concerns.

- Daily Mail

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