Independent says Australian gov't lost on its refugee stance

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A newly elected independent lawmaker says a tough policy toward asylum seekers is a major reason Australia's conservative government lost its parliamentary majority.

Kerryn Phelps on Monday was declared the winner of a by-election forced when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quit parliament after his conservative coalition turned against him.

Phelps will take her seat when Parliament resumes on Nov. 26. The government now holds half of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and may need to negotiate with independents such as Phelps to pass its legislative agenda.

Australia refuses to allow asylum seekers who attempt to reach its shores by boat to ever settle in the country. Asylum seekers are banished to the poor island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.