Australian PM seeks meeting with independent lawmakers in bid to shore up government

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government is reliant on the support of five independents to survive, as it is poised to lose its one-seat parliamentary majority at a by-election in Sydney. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet independent lawmakers as early as Monday (Oct 22) in a bid to shore up support for his government, as it is poised to lose its one-seat parliamentary majority.

The ruling Liberal Party saw a 20 per cent swing against it at a by-election in Sydney, leaving the government reliant on the support of five independents to survive.

Several independent lawmakers have so far offered only qualified support for Mr Morrison to continue, warning that their backing would be conditional on policy changes.

Ms Cathy McGowan, a member of the ruling government who resigned to sit as an independent, said she expects a meeting between the five lawmakers and the Prime Minister to happen on Monday.

"Ideally, I'd like the government to go full term, but we, the crossbenchers, will have those discussions today with the Prime Minister, the treasurer and various other ministers," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Morrison must return to the polls by May 2019.

Sources familiar with the plans of the other independent lawmakers told Reuters no meeting has yet been scheduled, though talks are ongoing.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison declined to comment.

Mr Morrison's move to meet with the independent lawmakers comes as his Liberal Party candidate maintains a slim chance of victory in the electorate of Wentworth.

Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps has a lead of more than 1,600 votes, though several thousand postal votes are still be counted.

Last Saturday, Mr Morrison surrendered the seat, vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull after his retirement from politics following his ousting as leader in August, though he later admitted he may have conceded too soon.

The ballot was propelled into international prominence after Mr Morrison's late attempt to garner support from Jewish voters, who account for 13 per cent of Wentworth's electorate, by suggesting Australia could recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

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