Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nobody Is Holding The Country To Ransom

It’s not surprising that many people are becoming impatient with the process of resolving the recent federal election. Why, people ask, is it taking so long? Why can’t the independent members just make a decision and we can all get on with it? Why are a handful of independents able to hold the country to ransom, demanding special favours for their electorates? It is understandable that many people might be asking these questions, but what is troubling is that these are all questions that have been asked by supposedly professional media presenters who seem to lack any comprehension of the process, and who really should know better. They should be in a position to answer these questions, not to ask them.

Research has shown that more than 50% of Australians are to some degree anxious or worried about the uncertain election result. That isn’t helped when people who might be expected to be well informed are instead promoting an ill-informed view. The truth is that the three country independents, along with Andrew Wilke, Adam Bandt, and Tony Crook are not holding anybody to ransom. All of them have been elected by their constituents and through no design of their own have now found themselves in a position where they must make a choice, whether they want to or not. Surely it is only right and proper that they all exert every effort to examining the issues and making a well reasoned decision. For that to happen, they should not be made to rush into declaring support for one side or another by some arbitrarily determined deadline.

Of course, this state of suspended animation cannot continue forever, and while there is no set deadline, there is a process. First, every last vote must be counted, and that won’t be completed until the end of this week at the earliest for the simple reason that the rules allow 13 days for postal votes to arrive. Second, the Governor General will call upon the incumbent Prime Minister to advise whether or not she can form a government, and if not the same question will be put to the Opposition Leader. Thirdly, whichever leader has claimed the ability to form government will be sworn in and the government commissioned. Fourth, the parliament will sit and the new government will test its numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The next scheduled sitting of Parliament was set down for the 20th of September, although once a government is formed that schedule can be changed. Clearly the independents will have to make up their minds before then, but the delay so far has had virtually no impact on the day to day lives of ordinary Australians. Far from failing, the system is working well. The incumbent government remains in office in a caretaker capacity, and protocols exist for dealing with important matters which might arise. Instead of being fearful of the uncertainty, we should take comfort from the certainty provided by living in a stable secure community which has such a peaceful process for determining government. Far from being impatient for a result, we should be proud of a process which is now going to require all of our elected representatives to step up to the challenge of providing sound government.

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