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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

towards a hung parliament « Previous | |Next »
August 22, 2010

It may not happen, but it will be good if it does. A hung parliament, which means that neither major party deserves to govern, coupled to strong independents determined to change things for the better, may mean improved political governance. A hung House of Representatives and minor parties holding balance of power in senate should ensure greater check on executive power.

Though tougher times are coming to Australia, a hung parliament with strong independents, in the context of market failure of the self-regulating financial system and subsequent global recession, could result in a reform of the Australian parliament and an improvement in the functioning of our liberal democracy. We may even get better policy outcomes.

What has been disclosed by the result of the 2010 election is that the political establishment has been put on notice. The politicians have been placed on trial because citizens, in giving neither political party a majority of seats, have forced the politicians of different persuasions to start to talk to each other in fresh ways about how to govern the country.


There is a general sense that the institutions of liberal democracy are antiquated, unrepresentative, and undemocratic. They are not working, and like Question Time, they have become an embarrassing farce that is celebrated as political theatre.

The game has changed, even if the rhetoric of the ALP, the Coalition and the mainstream media is about justifying the past, and they are still unwilling to look through the hung parliament window to what lies ahead.

No doubt we will hear talk of "stable and durable" government that will stand for the "national interest" and take the country in a "historic new direction" whilst the two major parties will continue to try to ensure the continuation of politics as usual. However, the election results indicate that we citizens no longer not trust either major party to form Government in their own right.

In a hung parliament situation the Independents have the power to start changing things. For instance, as Glenn Milne points out at The Drum:

The biggest problem for Abbott will be what to do about Labor's $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout. Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor all want it and went out of their way on election night to point to the communications problems in their electorates. All three had to conduct phone interviews. There were no pictures available. In this case it was the absence of those pictures that was worth a thousand words.

Milne reminds us that Abbott is dependent on junking the $43 billion NBN plan to pay for his election promises:
The money is critical to any Coalition plan to bring the Budget back into surplus - a core economic election promise. But not only do Windsor, Katter and Oakeshott want regional broadband connectivity as part of any deal struck with the main parties, so too do the Greens' Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie in Tasmania, where the broadband rollout has already begun.

The political authority of the major parties has been undermined and both Abbott and Gillard know it.

Do they also know that citizens have delivered a hung parliament because they have ignored sections of the the electorate---the only way to interpret the Andrew Wilkie result in Dennison. Wilkie says that he is beholden to nothing else but the public interest in supporting stable, competent, ethical government; he's made a dig at Labor for taking Denison for granted for 23 years with a neglect of infrastructure; particularly roads; he's after a better deal for Hobart; says that many government pensions and payments had fallen behind the cost of living; and also mentioned issues of mental health, dental care funding and just funding for all schools.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:52 AM | | Comments (23)


The SA experience with Independents in a Rann Government is that coalition government is stable government. The media's scenario of coalition equals unstable government is off beam.

Toxic Tony controls the Senate until 30 June 2011. I doubt he will permit a minority Labor government to govern.
If he follows the NZ and UK playbook he will
1. introduce a minibudget to slash spending and plunge Australia into recession like Cameron has done in the UK
2. fulfill his election promise to sell Medibank Private
3. complete the sale of Telstra
4. ban RU486, abortion and contraception to single women
5. stop the BER program leaving uncompleted school halls littering the countryside and thousands of buildings workers out of work [serves them right - they fell for his all night jag!]

The Taswegian minority ALP government with Green support, and a look at the large Tassie Green vote, indicates some satisfaction.

I /do/ like the cartoon. I strongly suspect Rudd would have trounced Abbott, and Turnbull would have beaten Gillard.

The praise in Tory circles for Abbott should really be "would we have done even better against Julia with Malcolm?"

Personally, I'd like to see /unstable/ government and a double-dissolution soonish, with comebacks by Rudd and Turnbull giving the hope of at least some debate, and some surety of action on climate rather the personality politics between apparently two climate skeptics (one still in the closet despite the door being opened by leaks).

I see that The Australian is already talking in terms of a hung parliament=political instability. Thus Paul Kelly says:

The 'dead-heat' election means Australia now faces a period of political instability and potentially weak government unprecedented since World War Two.

Kelly conveniently ignores the experience of NSW in 1991(Nick Greiner) Victoria in 1999 (Steve Bracks) the ACT, Tasmania, SA and WA now in making his political instability and hamstrung parliament claims.

The Australian's agenda is clear already. Only a Labor minority government with independent support is unstable. A Coalition minority government with independent support is stable. The strategy is to kill off Gillard now that Labor is wounded. Anything goes.

One possible short term scenario being sketched in by the Liberal Party hard heads.

A minority Coalition government + 3 of the conservative Independents is formed in the name of stable responsible government. Abbott then puts contentious legislation to the Senate and has it blocked by The Greens. So he goes to a double dissolution election early, electing the lower house with a Coalition majority and a full new Senate, without Greens holding the balance of power.

Coalition rules as they should.The Big Miners and Murdoch are happy. The centre left domination of Australian politics has been rolled back again.

Hung parliaments still work.
Labor may still get up but if they don't they are going to have three big elephants to hide in opposition now. Gillard, Swann and Rudd (if he doesnt become opposition leader) topped off by crappy state governments and the whole faction stuff. Its too much to come back from any time soon. May as well put up a fence and sign "Please do not feed the elephants".

The experience of the Rann Government in South Australian Premier points the way forward.

In 2002, in order to form a minority government, Rann offered a Cabinet post to the National Party leader and the Speakership to a former Liberal. Another former Liberal turned independent went into the Cabinet. They were given the right to vote against the government, provided they supported confidence motions.

The Rann model is one road map for the current situation.

The Liberals will go all out to destroy the Rann model. They will do so by endeavouring to delegitimize a wounded ALP government led by Gillard.

Their tactics are to force Gillard out of power and keep Labor out. The war has only just begun.

Has the national chap from Tuckey's electorate who said he wouldn't side with the coalition said he would be the speaker? Thats a way out for him.

Labor's problems will be a consequence of its horrendous errors of judgement, with the axing of Rudd being only the most egregious. Calling an immediate election was almost as stupid. It cannot afford simply to let bygones be bygones because the clowns who perpetuated these idiocies will just be free to do the same in the future.

On the other hand any persistent efforts to critically analyse who did what and punish the guilty parties will cause enormous internal ructions which must involve Gillard. After all if she had refused to challenge Rudd none of this would have happened. The intra-Party brawling cannot possibly be contained and while it will be quite entertaining to watch, it is certainly not going to help the ALP win back the support of the voters it lost yesterday.

Whether in government or opposition, Labor's immediate future prospects look grim. Abbott's mob on the other hand must be riding high. They have clawed their way back to a position I could never have credited when Turnbull was ejected from the leadership by a single vote. If confidence and momentum count for anything in politics, all the wind will be at their backs going into 2011.

Malcolm Farnsworth in Politics abhors a vacuum at The Drum points out that:

It needs to be remembered, however, that the same political geniuses who led the ALP into this electoral debacle [ie., the Bitar, Arbib and Shorten bloc] are now the ones handling the public negotiations over minority government. It's hard to have confidence that they won't cock this up the same way they threw away the government's majority.

Though something needs to be done with the factions in the ALP to curtail their destructive power, it is unlikely that the present ALP is capable of engaging in internal reform. In the post-Rudd era, the ALP Right factional heavyweights are more powerful, and even less scrupulous and principled than before.

" is unlikely that the present ALP is capable of engaging in internal reform..."

Maybe. but I'm willing to bet SOMEONE is going to (publicly) take the flak for this debacle.

It needs root and branch reform of the NSW branch, for a start. It's time also they stopped treating the voters as enemies.
It's like a showing of Stepford Wives (early version), they are all, women and men alike, like 'droids.

The conservatives think they have won the 2010 election. They think they have a right to rule. They are convinced that the three independents will side with LNP. So it is time for Gillard to resign as Labor simply stands for instability.

They say that this is how it should be because Australia is a conservative nation.

re "I'm willing to bet SOMEONE is going to (publicly) take the flak for this debacle."

Labor is turning in on itself as the fight to apportion blame for Labor's historically disastrous result begins in earnest. The finger pointing is directed at the NSW Right. ALP national secretary Karl Bitar is being asked to fall on his sword. That will effectively kneecap Senator Arbib.

Conservative media are already going ballistic over the prospect of a Labor minority govt. Can they not understand how that just undermines their own influence? I also don't get how they're happy to spruik for Abbott when he won't even speak to them. He stomps off after one or two questions.


Against the argument that Australia is a conservative nation, the election gave us a greater swing to the Greens than the Coalition.

Lyn says ---Conservative media are already going ballistic over the prospect of a Labor minority govt.

The Murdoch press--eg., The Australian and the Daily Telegraph-- have already begun arguing that whichever party ends up with more seats in the house is the one with the legitimacy to form government.

This is another tactic to twist public opinion against a possible Labor minority government based on 72 seats (to the Coalition's 73).

re: "This is another tactic to twist public opinion against a possible Labor minority government based on 72 seats (to the Coalition's 73)."

George Williams says in The Age that in the end, all that matters is who can secure enough support to command a majority on the floor in Parliament. Convention dictates that, as caretaker Prime Minister, Julia Gillard will have the first opportunity to form a government. She will do so if she survives a no-confidence motion moved against her.

If she does not, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will be given the next opportunity. If neither succeeds, a new election is likely within months.

a boring election has delivered an interesting result--apart from firing up Labor's self-destructive tendencies. Australians do not think that either the ALP or the Coalition deserve a mandate to form a government in their own right.

The victors on Saturday night are the Independents. They --eg., Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott--- sound pretty good as they are talking sense with little spin. They are more interesting than Labor or Liberal---and there are not the gulf's between rhetoric and policy delivery. A minority government is going to be good for Australia.

two party politics in Australia has been reduced to each trashing the other.

Can the Independents change that? Can they force parliament to reform itself? Change question Time? Revitalise the committee system; introduce an Independent Speaker; increase accountability etc

It will be harder for the two major parties to block and exclude the voice of the Greens now.

These are cracks or fissures in the status quo. Lets hope that they widen.

The two major parties continue to argue over who has the right to form government based on numbers.

The Coalition says they deserve to because their primary vote support, was half a million more primary votes than Labor on Saturday. The ALP claims that they deserve to because of Labor's slight advantage in the two-party-preferred vote.

The Independents say this is of little concern to them. They are more concerned with stable government (no early elections) and a greater emphasis on regional development.

The most likely outcome from the election still remains an Abbott government resting upon the support of the rural or country independents.

Will Abbott will do anything he can to cut a deal with the three Independents?What does that mean re NBN, GP Super clinics, and climate change? Does he backtrack on those polices that differentiated the LNP from the ALP during the election?