Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Malcolm Turnbull will return to government, irrespective of how many seats the Coalition finishes with – and it looks like gaining an outright majority of 77 – thanks to the backing of three key independents.

If Turnbull wins outright, he will lead the first government to be returned with a majority in 12 years.

While six seats remain in doubt – Labor currently leads in Flynn by just 7 votes – ABC election analyst Antony Green says Turnbull will be returned as PM with 77 seats. The Coalition currently has 73 seats with Labor on 66, and 5 seats held by the Greens or independents.

Yesterday, Queensland MP Bob Katter was the first to say he’d support Turnbull. Today, Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie threw his support behind the caretaker PM and Victorian independent Cathie McGowan has just announced she will support the Coalition to form government.

The Coalition needs 76 to form government, which the support of the three independents gives them, but as counting continues in the seats still in doubt, the outer Brisbane seat of Forde has LNP candidate Bert van Manen with 50.3% – nearly 500 votes – of the two-party-preferred (2PP) vote, despite a 4.1% swing to Labor, with 78.2% of the vote counted.

Flynn in central Queensland, previously a safe LNP, has Labor’s Zac Beers just in front by 7 votes on the 2PP with 78.7% counted. Herbert in Queensland also had a 6.5% swing to Labor’s Cathy O’Toole, who is just under 400 votes ahead of LNP incumbent Ewen Jones with 79.1%

Labor’s Leisa Neaton is less than 180 votes ahead of sitting Coalition MP Michelle Landry with 82.3% counted.

And Labor looks set to pull off an upset in the Perth seat of Cowan, where anti-terrorism expert Anne Aly’s 4.9% currently has her with 50.4% of the 77.2% of the vote counted, ousting the Liberal incumbent, Luke Simpkins.

Meanwhile, Labor leader Bill Shorten is predicting Australians will head back to the ballot boxes within 12 months.

Shorten conceded to the party caucus as it gathered in Canberra today that it was likely the government “will scrape over the line”.

But he claimed “the combination of a PM with no authority, a government with no direction and a Liberal Party at war with itself will see Australians back at the polls within the year”.

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