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

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

Australian PM seeks meeting with independent lawmakers in bid to shore-up government
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PHIL NOBLE(Reuters)
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By Colin Packham

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

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

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

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," McGowan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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 Morrison declined to comment.

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.

Morrison on Saturday 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 Morrison's late attempt to garner support from Jewish voters, who account for 13 percent of Wentworth's electorate, by suggesting Australia could recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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