Hung Parliament (Again)
What a night! From the moment the election coverage commenced early in the evening, it was clear that there had been a swing to the Australian Labor Party, but not sufficient enough to change government.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had attempted to get on the front foot by holding a double-dissolution election and hosting an 8-week election campaign focussed on “jobs and growth”. Since deposing Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, Mr. Turnbull faced constant criticism from the public that he was a captive of the hard right of the Liberal Party whilst he himself was very moderate.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had brought the Australian Labor Party back from defeat to being a reasonably credible alternative government. His focus on saving Medicare and funding education seemed to resonate with a large percentage of the electorate, even if there was an element of scare campaign.
A number of independent and minor party MPs have won seats, including Andrew Wilkie (Denison, Tas.), Bob Katter (Kennedy, Qld.), Cathy McGowan (Indi, Vic.), Adam Bandt (Melbourne, Vic.) and Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, SA).
A party needs at least 77 MPs to form government (76 members on the floor plus a speaker). The Liberal Party looks like it could win 73 or 74 seats whilst the ALP may have 68 or 69 seats. If the Liberals wish to form a minority government, they will be in trouble. Whilst Katter and possibly Sharkie may support a Liberal/National government, it can be said with certainty that Wilkie and Bandt won’t and it’s unlikely that McGowan would support the conservatives either. That would not deliver enough seats to form government. If the ALP wins 68 or 69, they have no real chance of forming government either.
If the Liberal Party cannot convince the Governor-General that they have the numbers to form government and the ALP can’t either, then we’ll be forced to another election as we’ll have another hung parliament. As it currently stands, this is a real possibility.
If there is another election, my expectation is that there’d be a massive swing to Labor in a pragmatic decision by the electorate. In 1977, following the Dismissal, there was an election. The ALP’s Gough Whitlam, who’d won two previous elections over the space of three years expected victory again, but an angry electorate tired of instability voted strongly in favour of the Liberal Party. This precedent makes me think that on this occasion, should we be forced to a second election, an angry public will probably shun minor parties and the government in a move designed to ensure that we get some sort of stability back.
So did anyone actually win anything from this election? Not really.
Clearly the Liberal Party and the ALP are not winners, but even the Greens failed to gain any new seats. There’d been speculation that they’d win Batman (Vic.) and Higgins (Vic.) but they were not successful. I thought that Batman would be close (it was) but the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Higgins always seemed like a long shot to me, even with the clear shift in demographics.
Popular former independent MP Tony Windsor sought a return to politics by taking his old seat of New England (NSW) back from Deputy PM and leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce. It was a bitter campaign, but Joyce won convincingly.
The Nick Xenophon Team have won the South Australian seat of Mayo, which is their first House of Representatives seat and it remains to see how Rebekha Sharkie fares. NXT’s success may rely more on the popularity of its senator namesake.