And so the people have spoken, and to the greatest extent in living memory, they have concluded collectively that the two major parties are equally worthy of governing the country (or equally unworthy, one might also say). With Labor and the Coalition sitting on 72 seats apiece, each 4 seats shy of a majority, the election decision is now a memory, and the most pertinent outstanding decision regarding the governance of the nation has been left to the mercy of Greens member Adam Bandt and a gaggle of independents: the left-leaning but somewhat enigmatic Andrew Wilkie, WA National Tony Crook, and rural independents Bob Katter, Tony Windsor, and Rob Oakeshott.
Can this in any way seriously be described as a good outcome for Australia? That so few members of parliament, unelected by the vast majority of Australians, have been gifted so much power, in practically an act of caprice by Fate? Suddenly, the future of public policy in this nation is completely unclear. The platforms taken by both the ALP and the Coalition to the hustings during the election campaign can be considered junked. Will we have action on climate change? It’s impossible to say. What will the new government’s approach be to the health system? No idea. What about the National Broadband Network? At this particular juncture, it is looking potentially illusory, despite the fact that the NBNCo has had its wheels in motion for sometime now.
One could probably construct a credible argument in favour of a greater voice for rural Australia in the nation’s parliament, but it is difficult to see how the monumental decision between lame ducks that has been dumped on the independents is a good manifestation of such an argument. On the other hand, the lack of proportional representation for the Federal House of Representatives does make me feel as though it is electoral kismet that Greens MP Adam Bandt has been gifted such a disproportionate role in deciding who will govern the nation. Bandt has already played his hand by siding with the ALP – but what choice did he have, really? He could either have decided to band with the ALP – itself potentially a source of great friction within the Greens – or he could pledge allegiance to neither of the major parties. Siding with the Coalition could never really have been a serious option.
I don’t think Australia really wants three years of being held to ransom by a handful of parliamentarians and a government basically bereft of any real mandate for reform. Clearly the best outcome for all of us – besides the numbskulls who voted informal – would be a further federal election.