authority of Malcolm Turnbull threatens the prime minister’s chances of forming a new government.
Three days after an inconclusive election, the coalition remains in the box seat to win a slim majority or negotiate minority government with up to five crossbenchers.
But some conservative Liberals want coalition MPs to have a say in those negotiations, worried Mr Turnbull will sell them out to preserve his own position.
Attorney-General George Brandis has warned his colleagues that sniping at Mr Turnbull threatens to undermine the prime minister’s ability to bargain with independents.
“Stability is always better than instability, discipline is always better than indiscipline, playing a team game is always better than self-indulgence,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
Fellow cabinet minister Simon Birmingham acknowledged there was disappointment at the election result.
“But we have held onto government, which it didn’t look like we would do 12 months ago,” he told ABC TV.
A million or so postal votes might be just enough to get the coalition over the line for majority government.
But the government might have to wait until the end of next week to know for sure.
Liberal strategists are banking on a historic postal vote bias towards coalition MPs when electoral officials resume counting votes on Tuesday.
At this stage, the coalition believes it has 69 lower seats in the bag – six short of a majority – Labor 67, the Greens one and independents four.
Nine seats remain in doubt: Capricornia, Cowan, Forde, Herbert, Hindmarsh where Labor leads, Chisholm, Dunkley, Gilmore where the coalition is ahead, and Grey where the Nick Xenophon Team is hoping to add a second MP.
The Liberals are confident about retaining Dunkley, Forde and Gilmore, hopeful about picking up Chisholm from Labor but less so about retaining Hindmarsh.
The Nationals believe they can hold the Rockhampton seat of Capricornia despite trailing by nearly 1000 votes.
Herbert and Cowan remain in the mix despite their Liberal MPs Ewen Jones and Luke Simpkins trailing by a similar margin.
While the most likely outcome is a minority coalition government – with 75 seats – that relies on one or two crossbenchers for support, some inside the coalition still believe 78 seats is not beyond their reach.
Opposition frontbencher Andrew Leigh says Labor has not given up hope of forming minority government.
The man likely to have the most say about who runs the country for the next three years says minority government is not necessarily a recipe for chaos.
Instead, it can actually lead to more transparency and a greater confidence in political institutions, independent senator Nick Xenophon argues.
“It can be a recipe for cautiously having a framework in place that leads to better government, more accountable government,” he told ABC radio.