Australians are betting that a minority government which is expected to be formed in the next few weeks will not last a full term and fresh elections will be called in 2011, an online bookmaker said on Friday.
Speculation has emerged that conservative leader Tony Abbott is manoeuvring for another vote after his Liberal-Nationals coalition won a majority of the primary vote and edged ahead in seats, although neither side will have a majority without relying on independents.
Punters are picking next year as the time when the wheels will either fall off or the government could see enough of a break in the polls to call an election and hopefully gain government in their own right, Sportingbet Australia chief Michael Sullivan said.
Punters know that any minority government would face plenty of problems and the new prime minister, whoever that may be, could be forced to call an early election.
The conservatives have provisionally won 73 seats in the 150-seat parliament, while ruling Labour secured 72 seats, with five independents and a Green MP holding the balance of power.
Counting is continuing and the final seat count will not be known until late next week.
Financial markets are hoping for a conservative government which would kill Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard's plans for a 30 percent mining tax, a price on carbon emissions, and a $38 billion broadband network.
Sportingbet's odds for an election in 2011 are A$2.25 for a A$1 bet, while an election in 2010 is seen as less likely on A$5.00.
The stability of Australia's minority government is a major negotiating issue for the five independent MPs, prompting both Gillard and Abbott to pledge they would serve a full term. Gillard has even offered to set the date of the next election, due by late 2013, with the independents and Green MPs.
But speculation has grown that there could be another election in 2010 to end the political deadlock after Abbott took a hardline in negotiations with the kingmaker crossbench MPs.
He either wants them to surrender their independence and become numbers in a government that he establishes...or there's a move starting under way here...to get a new election underway, which is quite unwarranted, said Greens Senator Bob Brown.
The Greens doubled their vote at the election and will control the balance of power in the Senate and would not want another election which might risk diminishing their influence.
The four independents are also reluctant to return to the ballot box for the same reason and say Australia's hung parliament is a message from voters that they want independent voices in the next parliament.
(Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Ed Davies)