Minority Government

There has been a lot of talk about small margins, minority governments and hung parliaments, leading us to the sky falling in and life as we know it ending.  Mr Turnbull says this is because deals need to be done and coalitions formed.  Has he forgotten his party is going to form Government in a coalition, a partnership with the Nationals, with deals being done?  The Liberal Party would have NO hope of forming government in their own-right.
Australia operates under a unique form of the Westminster System, unique because we have adopted a strict two party system, with compulsory voting and once elected candidates obliged to rigidly follow party lines.  George Mombiot quipped in an interview several years ago that party whips in Australia have the easiest job in the world because politicians here never consider going against party lines.  In essence they don’t think for themselves, and if they do they keep those thoughts very close to their chest for fear of repudiation.
I consider that whilst Australia adopted a Westminster system of governance many in the community consider that we have an American style presidential system.  Why else would polling places be littered with hoardings advocating party leaders, in Australia we DO NOT vote for party leaders, the party does that.  We vote for a candidate, all-be-it a candidate who has to toe the party line.  When a party chooses to change their leader the electorate gets miffed because they were led to believe they were casting their vote for the leader, when in fact of course they were not.
So why are elections in Australia (as elsewhere in the western world) resulting in such close run results?  I consider there are two significant factors in this.  Firstly the major Parties have moved so close to the center they are barely discernible.  There was no better demonstration of this than Howard’s Battlers; where John Howard took his Trojan Horse right into the heartland of the left and persuaded them to vote for the coalition, which they did.  Labor tried to offset this with policies to tempt big business, however they seem a little more committed to their side of politics.  Again when the major party policies are by-and-large indiscernible electors turn to the leaders to help them decide, which leads to the politics of personality rather than politics based on policy.
The second factor is the inter-generational changes in the electorate, an issue the politicians fail to factor in.  When politicians talk of their heroes such as Menzies or Whitlam they seem to forget that the majority of voters in those days knew very well who they were going to vote for, and there was no way they would be persuaded to change.  This was an era of a job for life, promotion came with years of service, one was either blue collar or white collar and you voted accordingly.  With the advent of the X Generation, Y Gen and ‘Me Gen’ there came a fundamental shift in social order.  People changed jobs, music, styles and holiday destinations because they wanted to, these things were no longer a given for life.  This of course includes whom one votes for.  Across the general population there is no longer strong political allegiance based on where one sits in society, people will vote for who offers them what they want, and that comes down to money rather than philosophical beliefs, and our country is the worse for that demise.  The constant media cycle that punishes anyone who dares to have an original idea on tax, climate change or regulation compounds this demise.
In reality unstable government, that Mr Turnbull seems so scared of, results primarily from how an opposition conducts themselves.  Politicians need to apply democracy to make Australia a resilient and attractive place.  Using the opposition benches to constantly attack and undermine the government, as Abbott became so prolific at, might improve a party’s chances in the next election, but is a disaster for the country.  It remains to be seen if the Labor opposition will stand by their commitment to work with the Government to get legislation through, in the interests of Australia, or resort to old-fashioned party politics.  If they do the former they will prove minority government can work.  The alternative will see Australia lose its place in the global community.

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