Australia’s fractious Senate finalized a month after poll


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government faces a tougher task getting unpopular legislation through the next Senate which was finalized on Thursday after a narrow election win a month ago.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition saw its Senate numbers shrink from 33 to 30 in the 76-seat upper chamber when the Australian Electoral Commission announced the final results of the July 2 poll.

The reduced minority in a more fractious Senate increases the difficulty of passing cost-cutting and revenue-raising bills that rating agencies demand if Australia is to retain its rare AAA credit rating as the economy slows.

Turnbull formed the government after his coalition won a majority of just one seat in the House of Representatives, where the majority party forms the government, but its Senate minority status means it will need support to pass any laws.

The opposition center-left Labor Party has 26 senators and the Greens party has nine senators, which means Turnbull will need the support of at least nine of the remaining 11 senators to pass any laws.

But that includes Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, which has four senators. The party has called for trade protection and opposes Muslim immigration, while Turnbull has ruled out any deals that would compromise Australia’s nondiscriminatory immigration policy.

On Thursday, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts told news conference that the country’s anti-racial discrimination laws should be changed because he said they limited free speech.

“When we have free speech curbed, we don’t talk about the real issues — tax, Islam, terrorism, the economy,” Roberts said.

The Nick Xenophon Team party, with three senators, also backs trade protection as well as tighter regulations on gambling. The policies of the remaining four senators, including less gun control, slashing of foreign aid and legalized euthanasia, also go against what Turnbull stands for.

The Parliament resumes on Aug. 30 for the first time since the election left the government with a single-seat majority in the House of Representatives where parties form government.

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