Australians awoke to a political limbo this morning, as neither major party was able to claim the majority of the floor in the House of Representatives. As the votes continue to be counted in order to determine the minority Government, the election has proven even more exciting and unpredictable than the finale of Master Chef, as a handful of independents look set to decide the future of Australian politics.
In other words, in the increasingly likely event that Abbott makes it across the line (predictions suggest the ALP will reach 72 seats and the Coalition 73) and into minority power, he will still require the majority support of the five independents. A majority win cannot be reached now as neither side can make it to 76 seats which is the necessary margin - hence the hung Parliament.
Independent M.P. for Dennison, Andrew Wilkie (former member of both the Liberals and the Greens) stated last night that he would support the most fair and ethical Government on issues such as climate change, broadband, mental health funding, education and dental care; calling himself a new breed of political activist focussing on the public need. Greens M.P. Adam Brandt made it clear after his win last night that he would support Labor should a decision be required. What remains to be seen is how the three other Independents will vote considering they are ex Nationals.
Not surprisingly, The Greens were the real winners last night as they claimed their first victory in the House of Representatives, with Adam Brandt sweeping in to claim Lyndsey Tanner’s former seat of Melbourne. However in an ironic twist, had the seat of Melbourne stayed with Labor then the result would have been tied 73-73: meaning that according to the convention, Labor would have automatically reserved the right to form Government. As my brother has just pointed out to me, ‘it would be a perverse irony if the people who voted Greens in Melbourne end up assisting the coalition into minority Government’.
With the coalition on the knife’s edge of claiming a bizarre victory, it has became increasingly apparent that Labor had systematically thrown away its chances in what should have been a safe bet, given the Rudd Government’s landslide victory only 18 months ago. Safe Labor seats were taken for granted and more than 5% of the county’s vote was left blank in what can only be described as a protest on behalf of the disenfranchised community.
Despite Labor’s dismal performance in the polls, there still remains a chance that the minority vote could go their way but it will almost certainly require the vote of the independents. In a glass half full terminology, this means a better deal for democracy, as the independents gain some real negotiating power on policies that have been lacking in their constituencies and across the country.
And as the votes are tallied in this most bizarre of political elections (in what may take a week or more to finalise) what is clear is that the people of Australia have spoken out regarding their dissatisfaction with the current political landscape. Regardless of the end result, the face of Australian politics has now been turned on its head.