The three or four Independents to be elected to the House of Representatives look like finding themselves in a position of considerable power, but they will also have the difficulty of reconciling a public desire for stable government with maintaining the independence which their constituents find so attractive.
It will be no easy task and probably ensures that any guarantees given to the Liberal-Nationals or Labor would be limited to a narrow range of matters, like ensuring the passage of supply bills. To go any further than that would be to become a virtual member of a governing coalition with the risk that that is how they will be treated at the polls the next time.
For the single Green MP the situation is slightly easier but there will be an expectation, should his vote be a deciding one for Labor, that his vote will be used to move the government to the left.
Limited scope for Liberal-National action. It is just as well for the Coalition of Liberals and Nationals that it went to the election without any extensive legislative agenda, for after 1 July next year it will have difficulty enacting anything controversial. The Greens from then on will become a dominant force and will surely be obstructionist. If there is to be any extensive cost cutting, for example, it will need to be done quickly.
A full term would be a miracle. Whoever forms government will pull off an amazing feat if it can survive in office for a full three year term. Negotiating things through a Senate where the Greens hold the balance of power will be one thing. Dealing with Greens and Independents in the House of Representatives as well will make the legislative process a nightmare.
Disunity is political death. It’s an old saying but a true one — for a political party disunity is death. In Queensland and New South Wales in the last couple of years Labor has been divided among itself— not just at the parliamentary level but more importantly at the rank-and-file and trade union level — on the question of privatisation. It is the Federal Labor Party that yesterday was punished for that division with the sacking of Queensland’s own boy in Kevin Rudd thrown in for good measure.
Did anything really change? We have all watched the ups and downs of opinion polls and the market with interest over the last month but perhaps the campaign in fact changed nothing and we should have just gone back a little further in time when making our predictions. When Labor moved so ruthlessly to replace Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard it was because the party bosses had determined that it was going to lose. That the change made little difference is now clear. Maybe the public mind was made up months ago and nothing that happened subsequently changed it.