Alright – at this stage we have a provisional result, in which neither big party can form government in the lower house by themselves, and in which they’ll need the support of independents to command a majority.
Is this a good or a bad outcome?
- Democracy. Majority party government has been completely contrary to actual parliamentary democracy, in which the idea is that voters are represented in parliament and decisions are made there. Instead, the big parties have said anything to get over the line, promising opposite things to opposite groups, then resolved what they’ll do internally and told parliament what’s going to happen. Majority control by a party means parliament is almost irrelevant. Minority government means real parliamentary democracy again.
- Big swing to Greens, indicating that a lot of Australians are progressive and want that perspective to come through in legislation. That Australians who believe in public services over tax cuts, and humane treatment of the unfortunate, are sick of those concerns being unrepresented by the big parties.
- Fundies First obliterated, despite the apparently huge pots of money they had a their disposal in the campaign (seriously, the amount of bunting at our remote country electorate yesterday was ridiculous). Labor’s 2004 betrayal of its above the line voters finally rectified (although Fielding won’t actually be gone till half way through next year).
- Senate in which the Greens have the balance of power.
- Rejection of big parties’ negative campaigns – simply saying “the other side is terrible” no longer enough to get you over the line.
- Rejection of big parties’ small-target strategies – simply ducking every controversial issue and saying you no longer believe in it no longer enough to get you over the line.
- First indigenous [lower house – corrected] MP.
- Government decided by local-focused independent candidates who don’t stand for anything on the national level, just getting the rest of us to give their electorates special privileges.
- More seats for Liberals.
- Fanatical fundamentalist party DLP wins a Senate seat in Victoria.
- Because most voters have never seen anything other than majority party government in Australia (ignoring states), and because this hung parliament is at the mercy of local independents not minor parties with a reasonable share of the vote, it might be easy for the self-interested powers-that-be who did very well out of the previous duopoly, to exaggerate the “uncertainty” and “chaos” of this period and scare voters back into the “devil they know” for next time.
In fact, as far as I can see the biggest problem of this result is the disproportionate power the local independents will have over the rest of us. Unlike, say, the lone Greens lower house MP, who’s there from one electorate but in effect represents the 14% of Australians who voted Greens, the other independents represent no more than a single electorate and can’t be expected to give a damn about anything besides how much the rest of us are willing to offer them to have a functioning government.
This would be easily remedied with multi-member electorates in the lower house. Like the Senate, but not unfairly distributed amongst the States so a voter in a small state has more of a say than a voter in a big one. We leave the Senate as the States’ house, and we divide the current House of Representatives into, say, thirty five-member electorates with equal numbers of voters. Or fifteen ten-member electorates. Then a party on 10% of the vote will have a reasonable chance of getting 10% of the seats, rather than zero. Then parliament would roughly match the opinions of the Australian electorate, rather than an unrepresentative duopoly.
Expect the beneficiaries of the status quo to stand against that, of course – they like getting more seats than their vote justifies – but it would (a) be real democracy and (b) resolve the problem we’re about to have. Which is not “minority government” – it’s a parliament held hostage to a few local electorates at the cost of the rest of us.
That said, I’ve been pretty impressed by the attitude of some of those independents, so we’ll see.
UPDATE: Two other “pros”: Terry McCrann thinks “no good can come of this” and Andrew Bolt describes the next Senate as “destructive”. Which, given that the two of them live in bizarro world where good is “evil” and the duopoly the country has finally realised serves none of us is something to be preserved, is a fairly ringing endorsement. Good work, Australia.