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Labor holds narrow lead in Herbert

AAP logoAAP 22/07/2016

Labor continues to hold a narrow lead in the vote recount for the final federal seat of Herbert.

Labor's Cathy O'Toole led sitting coalition MP Ewen Jones by 16 votes in the contest for the Townsville-based north Queensland seat, as of Saturday afternoon.

But it appears likely Labor or the Liberal National Party will end up taking the final result to the Court of Disputed Returns arguing for a fresh election.

The Australian Defence Force says 628 army members on Exercise Hamel in South Australia during the election campaign did not cast their votes.

It's been reported as many as 85 of these could have been military personnel from Townsville, on which the seat of Herbert is based.

There have also been accusations of absentee ballot papers not being made available to Herbert voters in other north Queensland seats.

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan, who is in charge of electoral matters, has said he'd ask the electoral commission for a briefing on why defence personnel might have been denied a vote at the election.

If the coalition can retain Herbert, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will have 77 seats in the 150-seat parliament, allowing the government to appoint a speaker while retaining an absolute majority.

The AEC said it worked closely with the army to provide voting facilities.

The Herbert case bears close resemblance to what occurred in the Queensland state seat of Mundingburra in 1995.

At that time, the Liberals claimed 22 overseas military personnel did not get to vote as a plane carrying ballots cast in Rwanda arrived too late to be counted.

The election result was voided by the courts and the election re-run.

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