Monday, July 04, 2016

This is a Bit of a Pickle, Isn't It.

So we voted on Saturday but we still have no answer as to which party will form government. With many votes yet to be counted and preferences still to be distributed the two major parties are neck and neck in the House of Representatives, the Lower House of Parliament where the government is formed. There's been a swing across the board against the Liberal National Party coalition (the present governing party) towards the opposition Australian Labor Party but neither at this point is able to claim a majority. Then there are the Greens and a mixed bag of independents who look likely to hold the balance of power. It's looking highly possible that we will have a hung Parliament which suggests that neither of the majors has much to feel happy about.

And that's before you start to look at the Upper House, the Senate, which is comprised of State representatives and is intended to function as a house of review. This is seriously complicated this time by the plethora of small parties, many of them single issue, and independents some of whom have highly contentious views. The Senate voting paper was ludicrously long in most areas - ours was approximately a metre wide and other states were even longer - which added to the stress of getting it right.

There are other factors, too, notably that in Australia we have a preferential voting system which means that, until preferences have been counted, plus the fact that postal votes can continue to come in for up to a week after polling has closed, we look unlikely to have a final vote tally for at least a few days. The leaders of the major parties are already trying to make alliances with the Greens and/or independents but that, too, may take a while. The last time we had a hung parliament in 2010 it took 17 days to form a government.

We have to wait and see, I guess, both what the final vote tally is and whether any group can form government. One thing is obvious, though, and that is that with so many independent and small party senators, all with their own agendas, any government will have to tread very carefully if they want to get legislation through both houses of Parliament. How they resolve this is going to be interesting to say the least and if they can't I guess we end up back at the ballot box sooner rather than later. Not a cheery prospect.

If you are interested in how the official vote tally is going the Australian Electoral Commission puts up its figures here.

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