Tony Abbott thinks “minority government” has “failed”:
On what criteria? In doing what the Liberal Party likes, sure – but there are very many of us in the electorate who’d see that more as a point in its favour. Has it been crippled by indecision? No, it’s passed plenty of legislation – the perception that the Liberals are doing very well is a result of the easy run they get in the commercial media and the now-compliant ABC. In Parliament itself, where Rupert can’t help them, they’ve been regularly trounced.
The thing is, “minority government” (a silly term, because of course a majority is always required to pass anything) simply means that the parliament does not enforce the lie that more than half of the country agrees with one party on a majority of issues. If Labor has more than 50% of the seats, then on some issues the minority position will get up because Labor has the votes it won by appealing to voters on another issue. Likewise if the Liberals have more than 50% of the seats. If one party has a majority in its own right, it can (and they do) treat parliament with contempt. It doesn’t need any of the rest of them – they’re irrelevant. Issues are decided, not on the floor of the House, in the open, but in backrooms where only the party and lobbyists are represented.
The present makeup isn’t exactly ideal – with several lone, unconnected members, it’s unwieldy; and the numbers are, because of the single member electorate system, not particularly democratic.
We do need a more representative parliament – one where different perspectives in the community are represented in accordance with their support. There probably should be a few Fundies First MPs, to speak for the fundamentalists. At the moment, they get their perspectives pushed by the two biggest parties, effectively using your vote (if you voted Labor or Liberal) to push their religious cause on the rest of us. They should be forced to stand on their own feet, and see just how much of the community agrees with them.
And of course, based on their proportion of the vote last time (11.76%), there should also be 17-18 Greens MPs, elected in their own right and without having to hope the Liberals preference them in a seat. (If the Liberals hadn’t done that, then there would be, seriously, nearly 1.5 million Australians without any representation at all in the House of Representatives. That is a ludicrous situation.)
Proportional representation, or a milder form of it like multi-member electorates, is what we need to have a real democracy in which everyone’s votes really do count equally. The fact it would lead to no party having complete control of the Parliament is a feature, not a flaw.
What’s wrong with a Parliament that closely matches the community? The combination of parties that combine to pass the budget might not be the same combination of parties that form a majority on an environmental issue or a social issue – but isn’t that the way it is in the community? On different issues, we often agree with different people. Why do we need to shove the social conservatives in with the economic conservatives? Why do we need to shove the “government out of our lives” crowd with the “government telling us who we can marry” crowd? Why can’t they all stand on their own feet and see what the community really thinks?
We don’t need a parliament of fixed big parties and the occasional local-issue independents, like we have now – we need a parliament of four or five significant but not dominant parties that represent the various main perspectives out in the electorate and can form different alliances depending on the issue.
That is when we’ll really have given “minority government” (or, to use a more accurate word, “democracy”) a try.
We haven’t even started this “experiment” yet, Tony.