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Turnbull visits recount seat of Herbert

AAP logoAAP 25/07/2016 By Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Malcolm Turnbull appears to be preparing for a fresh election in the north Queensland seat of Herbert, Labor says.

The prime minister toured the Lavarack Barracks in Townsville on Tuesday, while down the road Labor and coalition members were scrutinising a vote recount in the final federal seat to be determined.

The Australian Electoral Commission recount concluded on Tuesday night, with Labor's Cathy O'Toole 35 votes ahead of the Liberal National Party's Ewen Jones.

However, the final result won't be known until after the full distribution of preferences, which the AEC says will start on Thursday.

That process is expected to take at least two days to complete.

Mr Turnbull has talked up the coalition's "city plan" for Townsville and said he still hoped Mr Jones would retain the seat.

"We're hoping that Ewen will be re-elected as member for Herbert, so I'm not going to speculate on an alternative scenario but we'll also be working with the state government," he said.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus told AAP the visit suggested Mr Turnbull was "preparing for another election campaign in Herbert".

If the final result sees the LNP losing the seat, it is likely a case will be brought before the Court of Disputed Returns to have the result set aside and a fresh election called in Herbert.

The LNP has expressed concerns that some soldiers from Lavarack Barracks could have been denied a vote while they were on Exercise Hamel in South Australia during the election campaign.

Defence has confirmed 628 ADF personnel who were on Exercise Hamel did not cast their votes, but won't say whether any were from Townsville.

The LNP also has concerns some patients at Townsville hospital were denied a vote in the late afternoon of election day.

Mr Dreyfus cast doubt on the chances of any challenge succeeding, saying the AEC went to a lot of trouble to ensure defence personnel could vote while serving overseas or on exercises.

"My experience of previous contested election results in the past tells me unless it's possible to identify individuals - name people who come forward and say 'I was unable to vote' - it will just be empty talk," Mr Dreyfus said in Melbourne.

If Labor wins Herbert the opposition will have 69 seats to the government's 76 in the 150-seat lower house.

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