Daily Archives: August 24, 2010

Waiting for Government

Australian federal politics is in a bit of a “Waiting for Godot” situation at the moment, where we have a very unusual situation of a “hung parliament” (for the first time since 1940). I haven’t made any comment yet, because there has seemed to be little to comment about. But a few observations:

1) I know that in many parts of the world the system of election (contrary to our Westminster system) is one of proportional representation. We have a “kind” of proportional system in our Senate (which is why the Senate situation after the election is very different from that in our lower house), but I do prefer the fact that as our system currently stands, we actually get to vote for a particular person, rather than a particular party, to represent us in our local seats. This does help to keep politics local. For instance, I am very impressed with our sitting State MP, James Merlino, and this might very well lead to me voting for the Labor candidate for the first time in my life at the November election, even though I am not personally a supportor of the State Labor Party.

2) I am personally impressed with at least two of the independants who seem set to hold the balance of power, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. The former was on ABC TV Lateline last night and spoke very well, and the latter on QandA just before that and was also impressive. I had heard Windsor on the radio a couple of times just before the election and he seems a very decent bloke.

3) The success of a Greens candidate for the Seat of Melbourne and now 10 Green seats in the Senate is also a bit of a worry. It seems to me that the Green vote is largely a young vote (I might be wrong) and the general “trendiness” of voting Green without any in depth consideration of their overall policies. The Democrats used to say that they were in the Parliament to “Keep the Barstards Honest”, but the Greens were saying on the radio yesterday that their aim is to “Get RID of the Barstards”! Anyway, now that we finally will have a chance to see how the Greens really act in the government of this country, their supporters may get a bit of a reality check on them. We will wait and see.

4) There have been some pleasant surprises in this election, such as our youngest MP ever at the age of 20 being elected (shades of “Pitt the Younger”? Or, as Black Adder would have it: “Pitt the Embryo”?) and the possibility of our first Indigenous lower house MP in Hasluck – and a Liberal candidate at that! It would be a pity if, as looks likely, he in fact loses his very small current majority and fails in his bid for his seat.

5) Finally, I am a bit surprised at how things have panned out in the Senate for Victoria. An article in the paper yesterday listed the way in which the votes went initially before reshuffling the deck:

Labor 323,868
Liberal 181,099
Family First 85,916
DLP 71,544
Sex Party 71,244
Lib Dems 52,700
Shooters 42,160
Others 83,673

The high rating of the “Sex Party” is a real shocker. Was this just some sort of “dummy vote”? According to the article, after the first reshuffle, the votes went:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
Sex Party 152,028
DLP 102,630
Family First 99,967

On this breakdown, Senator Fielding misses out – but only narrowly – and the bulk of his votes go to the DLP. That makes the score:

Labor 329,084
Liberal 228,475
DLP 197,807
Sex Party 156,818

The Sex Party goes out, and its preferences go to Labor. But those of the Liberal Democrats now go to the DLP, making the score:

Labor 428,412
DLP 253,062
Liberal 230,710

Senator McGauran then goes out, and his preferences too go the DLP, making the final outcome:

DLP 478,556
Labor 433,628

I am happy for the DLP, that their candidate got up, but to see FF disappear from the list when it was the third highest polling party in the primary vote in favour of the Sex Party (which finally, thank God, got dropped in the process) was a real shame and is a real reminder about how unpredictable this whole process is, and how easy it is for a “dummy vote” to get skewed into a real life result.

I hate the current system where you have to fill out either a “1” only above the line or number all 60 sequentially below the line. I always fill out all the boxes below the line, because I want my preferences to go in the direction I want them too, not in the way the parties have predetermined. (I personally voted FF first, then DLP, then Liberal, then the rest in declining order). Why can’t we have the option of numbering all the parties in our own choice of preference ABOVE the line?

We are still waiting to see how this all pans out. If the Labor Party manages to hold on to both Hasluck and Denison, they could still – with the cooperation of the Green MP from Melbourne – have a very real chance (and probably just the slimmest “mandate”) to form goverment on the basis of having the most seats of any party in the House (but it would still only give them 75 seats, ie. exactly half, unless one of the three rural independants also supports a Gillard Government). In the meantime (with apologies to Samuel Beckett):

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Government.

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