There is little point having another election. The shifts in society that have been caused by the 2007-08 financial crisis are permanent, and need to be faced up to by politicians who have become used to the political stability that has accompanied relative economic stability over the past 30 years.
The fact is that although Australia, on average, escaped the GFC, much of it did not. The two-speed economy is producing a two-speed polity.
In any case, there’s really only one election policy that needs to survive the negotiations with independents: the NBN. And that was only part of the election because the opposition promised to cancel it; like all good reforms, the NBN was never voted for.
No other policy stands out as particularly crucial. Both sides issued a blizzard of announcements during the campaign designed to appeal to marginal electorates or specific interest groups. Many of these were perfectly good ideas, but if they hit the bin as a result of this week’s discussions, the nation won’t suffer.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Election policies are merely a product of Australia’s marketing-based two-party political system.
The electorate actually chooses a party because it is sick of the other one, but the managers of each party have evolved a slick, disciplined marketing procedure based around policies that express a desired image.
That there is now another election with an electorate of four men that can now subvert the usual order of things is alarming and exhilarating.
It’s alarming because these four men are what Paul Keating might call “unrepresentative swill”. They were elected by a small fraction of the Australian population yet they are the delegates at a private conference that will elect the next government of Australia.
But it’s also exhilarating because we might end up minus some of the worst aspects of two-party combat and a more transparent and functional Parliamentary system, although, Rob Oakeshott’s dream of MPs regarding themselves as Members of Parliament first and members of party second is the pipe variety.
Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie might not be the winners of a national ballot aimed at electing a four-man Commission of Democratic Purity, but they’re the ones we’ve got. And so far, apart from some understandable grandstanding, they haven’t disgraced themselves and seem unlikely to.
It may be that negotiating with them proves too complicated and we end up having another general election, but that would hardly be disastrous.
And even if they start chopping into the parties’ election platforms as well as adding some conditions of their own around Parliamentary processes, there would be no great loss: the only policy worth keeping is the NBN and in any case its only presence in the campaign was a negative one, in the form of the Coalition’s promise to stop it.
More significant, perhaps, is that Australia’s hung Parliament reflects the post-GFC divisions that are now haunting the world.
The Federal Reserve’s conference at Jackson Hole over the weekend exposed the deep fissures within central banking between those who want more intervention and those who want less.
The rally at the Lincoln Memorial reflected the wider divisions in US society that are being opened up by the failure of the recovery to reduce unemployment.
Europe is divided between the haves — mainly Germany, which is benefiting hugely from the devalued euro — and the have-nots on the periphery.
In Australia the divisions are complex. The warnings about a two-speed economy — resources winning and manufacturing losing — are coming to pass, but not in the way that was expected.
The resources state of Queensland is losing out because it is as much reliant on tourism and property development as resources, and in a post-GFC world the high dollar is hurting tourism and the credit squeeze is hurting development.
As a result, Queensland swung massively against the Labor government and cost it the election; likewise NSW, which has the added problem for Labor of an unpopular state government. Three of the four independents come from Queensland and NSW.
These divisions will not be resolved by another election. Political parties around the world need to come to terms with the new reality of a post-crisis world.