09 July 2016
by James Massola

Bill Shorten predicts second poll as Cathy McGowan offers Coaltion support

Labor MPs and senators applaud Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Australians are likely to go back to the polls by the end of the year even if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull manages to "scrape over the line", Opposition Leader Bill Shorten predicts.

. In another boost to the Coalition, Victorian independent Cathy McGowan told Mr Turnbull on Friday she would guarantee him confidence and supply on the floor of Parliament in the interests of stability.

Ms McGowan becomes the third crossbench MP, after Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie, to offer the Coalition support for supply and confidence, meaning Mr Turnbull is all but certain to hang on to government.

The Coalition currently has 73 seats and Labor 66. There are five MPs on the crossbench and six seats - Capricornia, Cowan, Forde, Flynn, Herbert and Hindmarsh - too close to call.

Forde looks increasingly likely to fall the Coalition's way, which would take it to 74 seats, and if that happens - and if the votes of Ms McGowan, Mr Wilkie and Mr Katter are counted - then the Coalition would control the House of Representatives.

Mr Shorten told the Labor caucus in Canberra on Friday that "it's likely in coming days that the Liberals will scrape over the line".

"But the combination of a PM with no authority, a government with no direction and a Liberal Party at war with itself will see Australians back at the polls within the year," he said.

"After the longest campaign in 50 years, this could well be one of the shortest parliaments in 50 years."

The confident Opposition Leader, buoyed by big swings back to Labor and a swag of new faces in his party room, said that Labor "will be campaign-ready from this day onwards".

He did not take a backwards step over Labor's so-called "Mediscare" campaign tactics, which have been fiercely criticised by the federal government.

"I'm particularly proud that saving Medicare is seen as a Labor issue because it is," Mr Shorten said.

After the longest campaign in 50 years, this could well be one of the shortest parliaments in 50 years

"It wasn't that the Liberals didn't talk about Medicare, it was what they were doing to Medicare....at every turn, undermining and hollowing out Medicare as we know it, pushing the price of healthcare back on to families and individuals.

"When the Liberal Party set up a taskforce to investigate privatising parts of Medicare, then we are entitled to query their motive, to question the outcome and to stand up for Australians."

Speaking after her meeting with Mr Turnbull, Ms McGowan - whose electorate is largely conservative - said that she would support confidence and supply for the government of the day as she had in the previous term of Parliament.

"I'm not opposing things, I work with the government as an independent to make the government the best we can for the people of Australia. That's my intention to continue to do that," she said.

She said she had not asked for anything specific in return other than goodwill and for regular contact with the Prime Minister.

"Certainly my preference is not to go back to an election. That was the tone of the conversation," she said.

"If circumstances change, that would probably make a difference but our discussion is two people, two professionals working together and wanting to work together over the next three years to bring great benefit to the whole country."

In a statement, Mr Wilkie said he would not enter any deal with either party but "nor will I be destructive".

"My focus now turns to doing what I can to help settle the situation down and foster stable government," he said. "To that end I repeat my position that I will continue to vote on parliamentary business on its merits and consequently not support a vote against budget supply or confidence in the government unless clearly warranted, for example in the case of malfeasance."