Because hung parliaments make for better democracy. A hung Upper House has long been common in Australia, leading to more rigorous scrutiny of legislation than when a Senate majority merely votes along party lines. Despite the media portraying the current hung Lower House as a parliament in disarray, it’s actually no such thing. Just as many, if not more, bills have been passed by this minority government than the previous several majority governments. The sophomoric rhetorical posturing of Question Time is not what the whole of parliamentary politics is all about, but it does tend to be what the public most often sees, and when the media gives it more prominence than it deserves, it badly skews our views.
Gillard and Rudd have virtually no ideological difference between their centre-right views, and very small differences in policy that mainly come down to the logistics of timing and delivery. The ALP and the LibNats creep ever closer together ideologically rightward, and the differences in policy are rarely more than selling-point cosmetic. Thus Federal politics becomes ever more a soap opera of personality conflicts rather than a true testing ground of competing ideas. This demeans the democratic process.
Thankfully the electorate as a whole is not nearly as right-leaning as the major parties. The 2010 election gave the first sign of this with neither major party gaining a clear majority, thus forcing them both to court Coalition with the Greens and Independents to form government. The minority Gillard government has ended up enacting legislation which takes at least some account of the concerns of those voters who do not favour the major parties for the first time in decades.
THIS IS A GOOD THING.
No matter who wins the ALP Parliamentary Party Leadership caucus today and thus becomes/remains our Prime Minister, it is highly unlikely that Labor will decisively win the next election. This doesn’t have to mean that an Abbott (or Turnbull) -led Coalition will necessarily win a decisive majority either though – they may well have to end up negotiating with Greens and Independents next time around as well.
For the last two decades of Federal and State elections, I have been voting strategically for a hung parliament (in both Houses) every time. In 2010, enough of my fellow citizens did the same, whether using a similar strategic metric or not, that a hung Federal parliament was finally what we got.
Forget about today’s soap opera. Concentrate on strategically assisting the alternatives in your electorate most likely to lead to hung parliament in the next election. Encourage and support them. Talk them up. Free yourself from the tyranny of a major party system which is becoming ever less representative of what most of us actually want.