Factbox: How Australia would navigate a hung parliament

By Michael Smith and Jim Thornhill

SYDNEY (BestGrowthStock) – Australia faces a possible hung parliament after elections on Saturday, with neither the ruling Labor party nor the opposition confident enough to claim victory and both acknowledging that a result might take days to be known.

Constitutional lawyers say that the situation is likely to unfold in the following way, assuming neither major party wins a majority of parliamentary seats once all the votes are counted:

* Incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard would have the first opportunity to form a new government, regardless of whether her Labor party had won more seats than the conservative opposition.

* Gillard would meet Governor-General Quentin Bryce, the representative of the British queen, Australia’s head of state, and advise her of Labor’s intention to form a new government.

* Once a new government is sworn in, a parliamentary sitting would be held as soon as possible to determine whether Gillard’s new administration had a workable majority in the lower house.

* The opposition would then call a no-confidence motion to test her minority government’s support in parliament.

* In order to survive that censure motion, Gillard would have needed to reach an agreement with enough independent lawmakers and/or Greens to form a government, including guarantees from them on the passage of annual budgets.

* Legal experts say this process could take several weeks to play out, with Labor and the Liberal-National opposition likely to engage the independents and Greens in behind-the-scenes negotiations to see which major party can win them over.

* There is another, more unlikely scenario in the event that the opposition forges a quick alliance with independents before Gillard has a chance to consult the governor-general.

* In this case, Gillard could in theory advise the governor-general to initially swear in a Liberal-National minority government. But this is unlikely because Gillard would still not be compelled by constitutional convention to do so.

* Australia’s last hung parliament was in 1940. However, there have been hung parliaments at state level: in Tasmania in 2010 and in Western Australia in 2008.

“We are dealing with something that has not happened for seven decades. It is something that is governed by convention rather than hard law. There is no rule book, but we do look at what has happened in the past,” said Professor George Williams, a constitutional lawyer at Sydney’s University of New South Wales.

(Editing by Mark Bendeich and Jonathan Thatcher)

Factbox: How Australia would navigate a hung parliament