Polls had been predicting a dire election result for Labor all year. Whilst the Liberals didn’t manage to win as many seats as pollsters initially believed, they will likely secure 89 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives. This represents a sizeable majority.
Adam Bandt will remain as the only lower house MP from the Greens, having been re-elected in the seat of Melbourne (Vic.). Wealthy mining magnate Clive Palmer may also win the seat of Fairfax (Qld.) from the Liberal-National Party. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie will retain his seat of Denison (Tas.) whilst former independent MP Tony Windsor’s seat of New England (NSW) has been won by Barnaby Joyce of the National Party, completing his transition from the senate.
The Senate will remain under the control of Labor and the Greens until mid-2014 and after that it appears an assortment of parties will play a key role in Tony Abbott’s ability to pass legislation. The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party’s Ricky Muir could secure a Senate spot in Victoria, while the Australian Sports Party may pick up a seat in Western Australia. The Palmer United Party looks set to get a senate seat in each of Queensland and Tasmania.
High-profile South Australian senators Nick Xenophon (Independent) and Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens) seem likely to retain their senate seats.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises this election was where the swing to the Coalition came from. Many said that the state of Queensland and the region of ‘western Sydney’ would be pivotal to a Coalition victory. Instead the biggest swings were seen in Victoria (5.9%) and Tasmania (11%) where the ALP lost all of its four seats. I can’t help but wonder if there was some resentment towards the ALP’s near obsession with “western Sydney” which seemed to get a lot more attention that either Victoria or Tasmania.
As is usually the case with these matters, it was not the opposition’s election to win but rather the government’s to lose. The instability, infighting and general nastiness that was seen within the ALP probably annoyed a lot of electors. Indecision about carbon pricing was probably another factor. In the end, I believe, the electorate had simply had enough of the circus.
Tony Abbott has proposed an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days of government, including repealing the carbon tax and “stopping the boats”.
With a hostile Senate in place for another year, the Liberals will have quite a challenge passing much of their contentious legislation. There’s no way that the ALP or Greens would permit the abandonment of carbon pricing. Whilst Mr. Abbott has threatened a double dissolution, I remain sceptical that he’d risk such an unpopular and risky move.
What is certain is that the government will now move quickly to reduce the size of the Commonwealth public service by at least 12,000 jobs. Whether they also decide to reintroduce WorkChoices-style industrial relations reform remains to be seen. None of this can be good for service delivery, surely.
In any case, we’re in for interesting times ahead as the Liberal/National coalition start dismantling Labor’s legacy and creating one of their own.