On election night there was a weird surprise: neither Labor nor the Liberal (conservative) parties of Australia have won an outright majority in the 150 seat lower house which would require 76 seats. Ballots in many electorates are still being counted but it is obvious that neither main party has more than 72 or 73 seats each. The balance of power rests on 3-4 independents and the first ever Green member of the lower house.
Having a hung parliament may seem a terrible thing at first, but it is becoming obvious that:
1) Australians were unimpressed, and rightly so in my opinion, with the campaign of both major parties, and effectively ended up not giving a mandate to either, and
2) The hung Parliament situation may actually be a really good one for the electorate!
Why? Because we now have some very smart (and one rather obtuse) independents holding the balance of power and they get to decide who forms the next government. This gives them an enormous power. So far they vowed to act as a block, but today cracks have emerged in this argument. The Green candidate is pulling to the left, one independent is obstinate and pulls to the right on local issues, while 2-3 of the other ones (the third is yet to be declared a winner in his seat) are adamant at getting as many concessions and promises from both major parties as they can. However, there is no unity amongst these independents on climate change and the economy, two of the biggest issues at hand, and two that are mostly in contradiction!
So volatile, unpredictable days are ahead as the vote counting continues, the two major parties haggle with the independents, and they in return decide whom they’ll form a government with. They have also declared to not rule out joining forces with neither parties and then we’ll have another election. This unpredictable situation can be nerve wrecking and could lead to some weird outcomes. However, more and more commentators emphasise, and I concur after listening to an hour of the press gallery grilling all independents today, that this situation could also lead to real dialogue, more transparency in politics, a livelier Parliament and better outcomes for Australia. Of course, it all depends on the details… and we won’t know those for weeks perhaps.
Meanwhile the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate with 9 senators from next July for up to 6 years. Perhaps we are slowly witnessing the two-party (‘Wooworth-Coles’) political system morphing into a multi-party system with the Greens slowly shifting into view. I really hope so.
Australian politics has both shifted to the right and has become blander and more paralysed. The two major parties have merged on policy and have conducted a thoroughly negative empty campaign that failed to convince Australia that they should lead the country. I couldn’t agree more with the electorate! It is ironic and sad that the only way the electorate could send a complete no-confidence vote to both parties was through a hung Parliament, but perhaps this gives us the opportunity for a new opening, with potential electoral reforms that could pave the way to a better multi-party system.
Let’s hope it’s true and we can also finally get some resolution on outstanding issues that Ausralia keeps lagging behind on: climate change legislation, same-sex marriage, immigration, health reform, broadband network and scrapping the internet filter.
I’ll eagerly wait to see what will transpire. Let’s hope those independents can get cracking and help re-shape Australian politics.