What do I want from #respill today? Another hung parliament, please

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.


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.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, media, parties and factions

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10 replies

  1. Well Gillard is back with a vengeance. Lets see if Rudd will keep his promises. I hope now that she can be the PM she has been for the last couple of days. I really liked that one.

    I do hope that you are correct TT, if we do end up with an Abbott lead government it would be nice if it were a minority one. I would like to see him forced to negotiate to get what he wants. I think it would be good for him and the country.

  2. I have strong doubts as to whether Tony Abbott could manage to negotiate convincingly enough to be able to form a minority government. The man gives a very strong impression of being unwilling, or possibly unable, to compromise on any issue, no matter how small or minor. Heck, look at his behaviour when attempting to negotiate with the Greens and the Independents back in the middle of 2010 – the minute he didn’t get exactly what he wanted out of the process, he lapsed into behaviour a tantrum-throwing two-year-old would have been ashamed to own.
    If we’re going to see a minority Liberal government, I’d look for Malcolm Turnbull (or his equivalent) as leader, since he’s much more willing and able to understand the process of compromise and negotiation.
    It’s interesting, really, given the Liberals have effectively been governing as a minority government most of the times they’ve been in office – the ALP, when they’re in power, is generally in power because they’ve held the majority of the seats in the house of Representatives, while the Liberals have very rarely had a straight majority off their own bat – instead, they’ve had to be in coalition with the Nationals to achieve government. But somewhere along the line, the Liberal party nation-wide has begun to expect the National party to just fall into line as junior coalition partners, and stopped giving a damn. This may well backfire against them.
    Here in Western Australia, there were definite attempts made by the state ALP to court the WA National Party members in our lower house (Legislative Assembly) in the aftermath of the previous state election. Nothing came of it that time, but I’d be willing to bet there were a lot of people watching, both locally and nationally, for signs of where a wedge could be inserted to split the Nats off from the Libs and make it a lot harder for the Liberal party to achieve government.

  3. Good argument tigtog, there’s a lot to be said for this hung parliament situation .

  4. In the case of the current hung parliament, I fear that the ‘negotiation’ that has been taking place has generally ended up with the seats the independents represent getting a crapload of money with little examination, and the largest governing party – the ALP – being forced to defend the indefensible (Craig Thomson) .
    It doesn’t have to be this way with hung parliaments – some seem to work well. The current Victorian parliament could be far worse, and the situation in which Steve Bracks became Premier of Victoria seems to have been remarkably unremarkable.
    But the current situation in Australia’s federal parliament is far from satisfactory and I hope that it will be resolved one way or the other next term.

  5. I prefer minority government. If nothing else, it increase more public debate of proposed legislation as governments need to negotiate with independents. For the same reason I like that its not just the Greens that have the balance of power in the lower house, but also independents. I think it works well in the senate when we have that situation too.
    However, I think the last election result was a bit of a fluke and I don’t think it will happen in the future. For example, a pure Green/ALP combination in the lower and upper house isn’t really any better than just the Greens having balance of power in the senate.
    I too vote strategically in the hope of a hung parliament – having either the ALP or the Libs have a majority in both houses would be a disaster. But that does mean, especially in the lower house sometimes preferencing the liberals ahead of the ALP to try to ensure that the ALP does not have a clear majority. And risks an Liberal government if you guess wrong in a marginal seat.

  6. I think this too, but it can go disasterously wrong as it has in the UK, where the Conservatives (our right party) made a coalition with the LibDems (our centre-right party), and instead of the LibDems acting as moderating force, they rolled over and now do whatever their told, which included breaking some of their main election promises. This made a lot of people very angry (incl members of their own party) as the LibDem had been a fairly small third party, but made huge gains in the last election due to disenfranchised Labour (centre-left) voters. What they failed to get was that no voter who moved to LibDem from Labour will forgive them for putting the opposition in power. And because they made everyone so angry, I think they are now hanging in there against the odds in the hope they find a way of coming out looking shiny.
    And more frustratingly it hasn’t led to better politics as the lack of compromise is still there.

  7. @TimT:

    It doesn’t have to be this way with hung parliaments – some seem to work well. The current Victorian parliament could be far worse

    I’m not sure how. Ted Bailieu is an outright failure as a premier who’s intent on spending no money. The trains, the roads, the schools and now the hospitals are all going to shit because Ted’s unwilling to write cheques.
    I mean, I suppose he could be actively working to harm Victorians instead of leaving us in near-total neglect. But the political backlash from that would be spectacular and leave him out of a job fairly quickly.
    To be honest, I’m pretty sure that the Vic Libs have completely lost their way since Jeff got the boot. Not that that’s a bad thing considering Jeff’s way was to sell off anything he could lay hand to.

  8. As a child of the Harradine era I have to confess to some wariness of hung parliaments and minority governments*: it all depends on who has the balance of power! Just as a majority government depends on who has the majority.
    * I realise that this was a Senate balance of power issue, so not normally what “hung parliament” or “minority government” typically refers to. Even so.

    • Awake again, hurrah!

      I agree that a hung parliament with only one person holding the BOP is a situation fraught with menace. Ideally I think there needs to be a margin of at least half a dozen, if not a dozen, seats between the two major parties so that there is as broad a balance of interests which need to be placated as possible represented by the cross-benchers (in both Houses).

  9. I was thinking that the Victorian Parliament seems almost entirely absent of the sort of shenanigans happening in the Federal Parliament… but I don’t entirely disapprove of the fiscal restraint displayed by the Baillieu government either.
    I mean the previous Labor government over-committed itself in several areas, in some cases signing contracts worth many millions of dollars without properly considering the likely results, or the alternatives.
    The most public example of this was Myki. There are several others.
    As a result many many millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted (which could have been otherwise spent on hospitals and schools bla bla bla.)
    In the circumstances I think a little restraint and circumspection on the part of Baillieu government is warranted. (And I’m not sure on this, but hasn’t the Coalition government in NSW been criticised for similar reasons?)

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