In what has possibly been the tightest election in Australia’s history, the country seems headed for its first-ever hung parliament.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who ousted Kevin Rudd in a party room coup a mere 8 weeks ago because of popularity concerns, may go down in history as the politician who made Australia’s worst-ever political decision.
Her unpopular grab for power may have cost her government.
Will Tony Abbott become Australia’s next Prime Minister? (Picture: ABC Television)
As I write, the Australian Labor Party has won 70 seats and the opposition Liberal/National Party coalition has 72 seats. The Greens have won 1 seat, and independents have 4 seats in the 150-seat parliament. The remaining seats remain uncertain.
It is possible that with Greens and independents’ support, the ALP may form a minority government. However, ALP support from the four independent MPs (Bob Katter (Qld), Tony Windsor (NSW), Robert Oakeshott (NSW) and Andrew Wilkie (Tas.) cannot be assured.
Depending on how the final numbers tally, and depending on which party the independents support, we may have a hung parliament. It is impossible for the Liberals to govern in their own right because they would also need the support of some independent MPs on the floor of parliament.
The predicted Australian Parliament. (Picture: ABC Television)
Australia has had a minority government once before. In 1939, Robert Menzies’ United Australia Party formed a government with Country Party support. In that instance, the minority government was the product of changing allegiances in parliament, rather than an election.
If the final tally from the 2010 election delivers a hung parliament, the Governor-General will ask one of the party leaders to form a government, before testing their confidence on the floor of parliament. If that party cannot garner majority support, the other major party leader will be asked. If the numbers are still balanced, then the Governor-General will have no choice but to call another election and ask the people to decide again.
One must ask: Would a minority government work in Australia?
Sometimes minority governments work out well, sometimes they don’t. The Labor Party is running a minority government with the Greens in Tasmania, following their election of a hung parliament earlier this year. So far, that government has been a success (in a constitutional sense).
Live coverage of the election was broadcast on ABC1 and ABC News 24
Personally speaking, I believe that a Labor minority government is the most likely outcome, with support from the Greens and some of the independents.
Given that the Greens are essentially an environmental-socialist party and the Liberals/Nationals represent the centre-Right, I don’t believe that a coalition between the two is sustainable. Since the Greens and Labor are both left-wing parties with various policy overlaps, a coalition between the two could work. Whether the ALP would give Greens MP’s any ministries is another matter, but that is the convention in such a situation.
Because of the tight results, it’s unlikely that the Australian Electoral Commission will be able to finalise the results for several days. In the interim, I expect that the independents will be receiving a lot of phone calls from Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott
Many have lamented the dullness of this campaign. Few would have expected such an ‘exciting’ outcome.