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New South Wales election: outcome of Saturday's poll may not be clear until later this week

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: The State of New South Wales is in political limbo this afternoon, in the wake of the extraordinary weekend election result.

BOB CARR: We'll wait the outcome. Speculation is premature. There's a lot of counting to be done. Seats that are probably tidily in, in one column or the other, at this stage, we don't know the position in enough seats to be able to take those several steps ahead.

PETER THOMPSON: What are the odds of you becoming Premier?

BOB CARR: I'm not a betting man. We are simply awaiting outcomes in seats. It is thoroughly premature to start that kind of speculation.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: New South Wales Opposition Leader, Bob Carr, on A.M. this morning, settling in for a long wait to see whether he or Liberal Nick Greiner will form the next State government. Politics in New South Wales were on hold today, as attention focused on the Electoral Office and the counting of a few crucial absentee votes and the distribution of preferences. The outcome of Saturday's poll may not be clear until Wednesday, when a full tally has been made of the vote at The Entrance, a seat on the New South Wales central coast, which hangs in the balance. In the meantime, as Robert Bolton reports, the State remains in limbo.

ROBERT BOLTON: For the politicians, the drama of this election has come after the fact. The vote so far has not produced the result. But the States' residents are immune from that awful sense of hiatus hanging over Parliament House. The New South Wales Treasury will keep signing cheques, and the gaols are open and schools are working. If no result is clear by Wednesday, the Premiers' Conference, when the States go to Canberra to be told how much money they'll get, may have to be delayed. But the Premiers' Conference has long been considered more theatre than politics any way. The person who calls the winning party to form a government, Governor Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, is by all accounts quite relaxed, despite being unable to perform his usual duty.

Across the domain at Parliament House, it was a different story for some of the inhabitants. Liberal Leader, Nick Greiner's staff were locked in meetings all morning, looking at where they went wrong and scrutinising trends in the still doubtful seats. Labor Leader Bob Carr was taking pleasure from telling his critics and the media how they had got it wrong, but is sufficiently calm about the outcome to consider a contemplative walk through Sydney's Botanic Gardens later today.

And among the four successful Independents, who may end up with the balance of power, two were at work, one was doing media interviews, and the other having a day at home. The Electoral Office expects to be able to advise the candidates the result by mid-week. The major parties say one seat remains in doubt, and for want of that, the Government will be won or lost. The Electoral Office says as many as five seats are unclear, in most cases more than 83 per cent of the vote has been counted, and in some seats only 100 votes separates the winner from the loser. Any less than 100 in the balance, and the Electoral Office will go through a re-count, pushing the political hiatus out until the end of the week, possibly even to this time next week.

Meanwhile, wherever possible, the analysts and pundits have been proposing or demolishing reasons why the New South Wales State election might be a warning to one or other of the major parties at the federal level. But New South Wales newest Independent, Dr Peter Macdonald, from the seat of Manly, says the result is a warning to all of Canberra, and took time from seeing patients this morning, to explain why.

PETER MACDONALD: They have to learn that the political duopoly of this country is derelict.

ROBERT BOLTON: Is derelict?

PETER MACDONALD: Derelict; that the concepts of democracy which, you know, you and I were brought up on, hopefully, that questions of open government, no secrecy, accountability, good representation, which are what people yearn for, but it no longer happens. Once a major political party, whether it's Liberal or Labor get into power, then an arrogance creeps in whereby they believe that they don't need to do anything because the people only have a say every four years, and that's for about one day. So, we've got away from grassroots democracy.

ROBERT BOLTON: But the results show, if anything, that Independents are less popular than they were in the past. Fewer Independents have got seats, so maybe the two-party system is actually more preferred.

PETER MACDONALD: Well, I think if you look, Robert, at the actual results in terms of the number of votes, the Independents actually increased their number of votes overall. They decreased their number of seats, but the reason for that may be that there were boundary changes introduced, and that I think has made a difference.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Dr Peter Macdonald, the new Independent member for the Sydney seat of Manly.