Posted by Chuq
Well, it has been quite an eventful few days in the world of Australian politics. Noone really knows who our Prime Minister will be. All the analysts are currently saying that the coalition will have 73 seats to Labor's 72. On first glance this points to a coalition victory, but it isn't as simple as that!
Enter the independents - or more technically correct, the crossbenchers! Three of them - Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - are sitting independent MPs from regional seats in Queensland and New South Wales who have be re-elected by their elecorate. They are all from rather conservative National Party backgrounds. The other two (Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie - noting Wilkie's position is not confirmed) - are from a different background - both representing urban seats in Melbourne and Hobart, and both from the left side of politics - Bandt being the first Greens representative in the lower house, and Wilkie being a former Green member.
On face value it could be assumed the first three would side with the coalition and the last two with Labor. It is never that simple! After all you would assume that the four independents are no longer members of their party for a reason.
Which brings me to what I personally believe was the only policy in the election that clearly separated the two major parties - telecommunications.
While watching the television coverage over the weekend, as expected there were live crosses all over the nation including the three conservative members. And a picture spoke a thousand words - or rather, no picture. The live crosses were just a still image with audio provided by a grainy mobile phone call. Even though the members pointed out that telecommunications was a big issue in their electorate, the fact that the current situation was being clearly demonstrated only served to reinforce this!
The Greens and Wilkie also ran on a platform of supporting the National Broadband Network so it could be assumed they would side with Labor in this regard - not to mention the fact that the Greens and Liberals are polar opposite ends of the spectrum.
The other factor that gives hope to Labor is that the crossbenchers have indicated that they want to support a stable government. It is not in their interest to see the country go to another election in six months time. These comments have made specific reference to the Senate. After the massive surge to the Greens - their number of Senators will increase from 4 to 9 - perhaps the independents think that a conservative government would not work with a left leaning upper house? It is worth mentioning that the Senate does not change until 1 July 2011. Until then, a Labor Government will need the approval of either the Coalition, or all Greens senators, Family First senator Steve Fielding, and Independent Nick Xenaphon, to pass legislation. After the new senate term starts, only the Greens will need to be appeased. Probably not an issue for a Labor government but it could be a challenge should the Liberals form government.
(As I write this, news has come to light that Wilkie may be not as likely to win Denison as first thought. If it did go Labors way, it may put it at 73-73 for the major parties. That's probably a sign that I should stop writing this, every few hours there is something new!)
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