[For any non-Australians, in the absence of Bryan Palmer and his once-magnificent-but-now-absent ozpolitics.info, John Hempton’s “guide to the Australian election for non-Australians” gives a fair overview]
[Update 25 Aug 2010: If you’re looking for reasons why the Labor Party did so poorly, I’ve had a go a listing them in my next post.]
A week and a half before the election, I noted (with no originality) that things weren’t looking good for Labor. In the days immediately before, with the polls having started to improve again for Labor, I was predicting a narrow Labor win, possibly with the Greens taking the balance of power in the Senate (although I was skeptical on that front — I actually put the higher probability on the Coalition still having control in the upper house). Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the polls!
As I type (AEC website updated at 24/08/2010 7:40:18 PM), the Australian Electoral Commission (the fully independent body that decides on electoral boundaries and conducts Australian elections) is estimating the results as:
- 70 : Australian Labor Party
- 72 : The Coalition (Liberal Party, Liberal National Party of Queensland, The Nationals, Country Liberals)
- 1 : The Greens
- 4 : Independent
- 3 : Too close to call : Brisbane (QLD), Hasluck (WA) and Corangamite (VIC)
The ABC’s ever-superb Antony Green (a nerd’s nerd of the highest calibre) is currently making the following prediction for the final result:
- 72 : Labor
- 73 : Coalition
- 1 : Greens
- 4 : Independent
The four independents are Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott (all ex-National Party) and Andrew Wilikie, an ex-Military and Intelligence official.
Tony Abbot has made a claim that since the Coalition got the most primary votes, they should be allowed to form government. The counter argument is that in Australia’s system of preferential voting, to the extent that national vote tallies matter at all, it should be the two-party preferred total that counts, and on that basis Labor is in front (numbers here).
At first glance it would seem like the three ex-National Party independents will allow the Coalition to form a minority government, but it is not that simple. For one thing, infrastructure in general, and telecommunications in particular, have long been issues of key concern to to National MPs. Labor’s NBN plans would provide greatly improved services to those constituencies, while the Liberal’s policy would largely ignore them. Farmers are not exactly enamoured of the mining industry, either, and so I suspect wouldn’t have the same opposition to the natural resource tax as the Liberal party. Rob Oakeshott is also making noises along the lines of reforming parliamentary democracy as we know it in Australia:
Continuing his call to reinvent the parliamentary system, Mr Oakeshott said his preference was for a cross-party cabinet and indicated he may not support either side of politics if a cross-party cabinet could not be formed.
When asked if his fellow independents shared his view on “consensus politics” and his example of Kevin Rudd serving as foreign minister in an Abbott government or Malcolm Turnbull serving in a Gillard government – he said he would find out “in detail” today and how hard he would be pushing for the idea.
Looking ahead to today’s talks, Mr Oakeshott said “if we are just fluffing around, if we are just building a minority government with a bit of plus plus plus from the cross benches I’m not interested”.
“This is about trying to get to at least 76 and yes, if this doesn’t happen, if it doesn’t fly, if consensus can’t be reached we will go back to the position of three [independents] and Adam Bandt as well, making a decision on red team or blue team getting across the line in that context I’m not interested, I’m not going to play,” he said.
However, Mr Oakeshott would not rule out a cabinet position if consensus could be found.
Mr Oakeshott said elevating the role of committees, imposing deadlines on response times to recommendations and allowing private members bills to be brought to vote were critical issues for him.
Private members bills should be voted on and added he also wanted to see private members business “having some authority within the parliamentary time table”.
“If there is some sentiment for exploring creative options where this is about not political parties, not a red team or a blue team, this is about 150 members of parliament, building a majority with a focus on being able to get through some of the key national issues in this country, I’d be interested in having a conversation,” he said.
Mr Oakeshott called on the “traditional arch-rivals” to stop “pretending to be fighting to the death over ideology when they are actually more often than not in agreement on most issues”.
There is no love lost between the Coalition and Andrew Wilkie (who resigned from the Office of National Assessments in 2003 over (alleged) misrepresentations of the case for war in Iraq and Afghanistan), either, so they’re unlikely to be able to count on him. But with Mr Wilkie’s strong stand against Pokies, he’s not likely to be all that keen on Labor, either.
Just to make things more interesting, even if Labor does form government, they won’t be able to pass any of their signature pieces of legislation for the better part of 12 months anyway, as even though the Coalition lost the balance of power in the Senate to the Greens, that won’t take effect until 1 July 2011. If the Coalition forms government, you can therefore expect an absolute flurry of legislation between now and 30 June 2011 as they try to squeeze through everything they want before being forced to negotiate with the Greens in the Senate.