Saturday, August 21, 2010

So, what happened in the Australian election?

These guys explain it (so how come I still have no idea?)

Big H/T to Don Surber

Update: Skeeter in Australia explained it to me this way in response to my email inquiry:

As vote-counting finished last night, there were still a few seats still in doubt.
But it looks very much like our first hung parliament in 70 years will be the result.

There are 150 federal electorates across the country; each elects one representative to the House of Reps.

Therefore, for a party to govern in its own right, it needs a minimum of 76 seats to assure a majority vote on any legislation.

Three Independents and one Green were elected yesterday, leaving 146 seats for the two major parties (Liberal-National Coalition and Labor).

Because neither party had achieved 76 seats at the close of counting, the Parliament is "hung".

What happens next is that each major party will woo the other (cross-bench) elected members and try and convince enough of them to come on board to form a government.

A further complication is that the government must provide a Speaker, who cannot vote on a bill. This means that 77 members of like mind are required to form a stable government.

In a hung parliament, the Speaker's job is usually offered to an independent or minor party member.

At the moment, the official Electoral Commission score board is: ALP 71, Coalition 71, Green 1, Independents 3, and three seats still in doubt.

As I type this on Sunday morning, the ABC is announcing ALP 70, Coalition 72 with a likely result of 72:73.

Green will support Labor. The 3 independents are more likely to support the Coalition, but it is not a done deal yet.

Opinion is divided, but the general feeling is that the Coalition will gain in the 3 doubtful seats, and the independents are more likely to side with the Coalition, thus allowing them to form a slim majority government.

The final counting may take a week or so. Postal votes will not be counted until Thursday and final counts are complicated by our preferential voting system.
In close seats recounts are almost inevitable.

After the final count, the next step will be for each party to present to the Governor General (representing the Queen) and convince her that they can form a government.

The Coalition has gained a big majority of total primary votes from the population and will probably win slightly more seats than the ALP.

In a "hung" situation, this should allow the GG to decide in the Coalition's favour.
(Sadly, there is some doubt regarding her impartiality. Her daughter is married to one of Labor's successful candidates.)

Yesterday's voting also included a ballot for the Federal Senate, our house of review. Reps are elected for a maximum term of three years — Senators for six years.
Normally, we vote for half the senate at each federal election, so that yesterday, we were replacing those senators elected 6 years ago.

The exception is when a government calls for a "double dissolution" because they can't get their legislation passed through the Senate. In that case, all senators retire and we can get an entirely new bunch.

Each state elects its own senators. Because the votes are drawn from the entire state rather than from individual regional electorates, the Senate results can be quite different from the Reps result.

The Greens have strengthened their grip of the Senate and now have nine senators, giving them a balance of power in the upper house. This is potentially disastrous for Australia because the Greens are likely to force a Labor government into even more extreme environmental socialism (socialistic environmentalism?).

An example of this is that, during the Rudd government, the Green senators sided with the Coalition senators in blocking Labor's insane emission trading scheme — the Greens thought Labor targets for reducing "carbon" were too low.

Our morale is a lot higher than it was before the election. The big gain is that Labor's profligacy has been stemmed, at least for the moment.


cac said...

Skeeter is extremely well informed and I don't disagree with any of his analysis. The only point perhaps worth adding is that:
1) the first thing that is likely to happen for whoever is commissioned to form a Government is that they test support in the lower house. If they cannot win a motion of no confidence then the other side should be given an opportunity to do the same before calling an election
2) in the case of a hung parliament (ie without a clear result) the incumbent PM should by convention be given the first chance to form govt
3) the GG though has a great deal of very vaguely defined power. Should she decide to call another election without allowing the Libs a chance to form Govt there's not much anyone can do about it and I share Skeeter's doubts about her impartiality.

Still, it's been a very interesting 24 hours and, considering that 6 months ago, everyone (including me) thought that a coalition win would be avoiding a generation of political oblivion, a superb result by Abbot.

I think the ALP will cobble together a government with minor party support but will need to a) pork barrel massively as the price and b) due to the Greens in the Senate there will be no economically sensible policies whatsoever.

Merilyn said...

cac is quite correct, so is Skeeter, but the thought of those nine Green Senators is enough to give you the idea that things will not get done in Australia in a hurry. Bob Brown is already saying he wants that carbon tax in place as soon as possible, so electricity will be very expensive if not out of reach of some people soon if he gets his way.
The problem with the Greens they tend to live in this "dream world" and not in reality.

Skeeter said...

Thank you, cac and Merilyn, for your kind words.

There has been conflicting discussion about the Speaker in the media today. My comment above on the Speaker's lack of voting power may need clarification.

According to Wikipedia:

In the Australian Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may not vote in general debates but has a casting vote to decide a tie. The President of the Senate may vote in general debates but, to preserve the appearance of impartiality, rarely if ever does so. The President does not have a casting vote, and a tied vote in the Senate is resolved in the negative.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your efforts at explanation! It's now clearer than...well, mud. MUCH clearer. But mud it was, yesterday, at my first reading of the possible outcomes and how they got that way. I was a mess!

Really appreciate the help from Skeeter, cac, and Merilyn! Thanks for posting it, Paco!

Steve Skubinna said...

But... correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the traditional procedure both parties enter Thunderdome, and one leaves?

Merilyn said...

Well Steve if they did that, Abbott would have to be very sure NEVER to turn his back on Gillard, she is very, very good with a knife.

Minicapt said...

... and now the Electoral College ...


bruce said...

Yeah Minicapt, it actually does resemble the 2000 'hanging chad' US dilemma in its effect. Also the Canadian and recent UK hung parliaments.

Question: What is it with 50/50 in anglo-Democracies right now? Why the even split everywhere?

My 2 cents: It's the collective right brain versus the left brain hemisphere - rational versus irrational.

That human beings would repeatedly divide evenly into 2 opposed groups is mathematically unlikely. Should we call this Macro-Mitosis?

TimT said...

I note the US seems to have got over its own 50/50 democracy split (that occurred under the two George W Bush elections). Maybe it's only temporary. It is as Bruce says mathematically unlikely! (And all the more interesting for that.)

On Saturday night/Sunday morning I would have agreed with Skeeter's analysis: a deal between the independents and the conservative Coalition seems likely. Now, I'm not so sure.

These guys are ex-Nationals/in rural electorates and their policies mostly seem to be of the 'give us more money! protect our industries!' sort. They seem to fit better with the ALP. Also, I think two of the independents - (Bob Katter and Tony Windsor, I think?) have expressly said they will not work with particular members of the Coalition. It's not a brilliant place for negotiations to begin.

Independent MP Bob Katter, in particular, is absolutely nuts. But you may enjoy his election ad.

Old Sailor Man said...

Another potential problem is developing doubt about the impartiality of the G-G,who has in the past been criticised...from the being too close to the former government. She is also the ma-in-law of a nice man called Bill Shorten, a quite junior ALP MHR who was apparently instrumental in the coup against krudd. Centrebet has him, I am told, at shorter odds than gizzard to lead Labor to the next election......... The road to banana republichood is paved with a few laughs. IMO, better for Tony Abbott NOT to win, just stir the pot in the House, waiting for this disgusting shower to self-immolate.

Old Sailor Man said...

BTW, Paco, the twisty word thingy for my previous post was UN OGR.....Freudian,but true

mojo said...

Of course, the traditional Aussie method of settling such disputes is to go round to the pub for a few pints and a round of "One Punch"...

Skeeter said...

TimT, I think most observers would share your doubts about which way the independents will jump.
I still cling to a hope that they will join Abbott's side.
Former intelligence officer, Andrew Wilkie has beaten Labor in Tasmania, so there are now 4 independents in the pot.
All four of them are fostering the doubts about their intentions, but that is only to be expected at this pre-bargaining stage of their negotiations with the two majors. Even the one Green refused to publicly commit to Labor today.
The other factor reinforcing my hope is that Labor polled very poorly in the electorates of the three mainland independents (ALP gained only 8% of the vote in Windsor's electorate). They will have trouble facing their voters back home if they defect to Labor.
I'm also optimistic about a minority government made up of former opponents working OK.
Such a government is doing very well in WA. That even includes two Labor members who crossed sides. Perhaps it is a survival instinct strenthened by their isolation from the rest of the country, but WA politicians seem to have a higher IQ than those in the east.

Predictions in the media have varied during today. But it's looking better tonight on the AEC Virtual Tally Room site (updated 2145 Tuesday Eastern Time):
Labor 70
Coalition 72
Greens 1
Independents 4
Doubtful 3.
The Coalition is leading in at least one of the 3 doubtfuls.