Monday, September 6, 2010

New Election Not On The Agenda

It’s now day 16 and counting since the federal election and still no result. Although anyone with a reasonable understanding of the system would have expected some delay after such a close vote, there is an increasing level of impatience in the community. Increasingly there are calls for the independent members to make up their minds so that everyone can get on with life, while there is also an increasing level of support for the idea of having a fresh election. Opinion polls are now showing that around 60% of Australians feel that a fresh election would be a better solution to the current impasse than a minority government. It’s not hard to understand why many people have that opinion.

Regardless of which side the three country independents finally choose to support, any minority government that is formed will hold power by only the slimmest margin. What’s more, while the independents might guarantee supply and confidence, there is no guarantee that they will support all or even any of a minority government’s proposed legislation. Whatever government is formed will be by its very nature inherently unstable, and possibly hamstrung. If every piece of legislation is going to have to be negotiated through the parliament and depend on a decision by the independents, it could be very slow going. Some might even suspect that the past two weeks of uncertainty are an indication of just how difficult the whole process will become.

Now that may or not may not be fair, but if it has taken this long to decide whether to back Liberal or Labor in the parliament, the question might well be asked how long would it take to negotiate complex legislation on important national issues. Climate change policy for one thing comes to mind. It was difficult to get any kind of consensus before, now it might well be impossible. Despite all this, the election result is what it is. These are the cards that have been dealt, and this is the hand that must be played. There will be a minority government formed. It looks increasingly as if it will be the Labor Party that forms it. The independents are doomed to disappoint about 50% of their constituents no matter which way they decide to go, and after about 12 months or so it will all become so difficult that the government will be tempted to call a fresh election to seek a clear mandate.

But a fresh election right now is a measure of last resort, and is not on anyone’s agenda just yet.

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