Sunday, August 22, 2010

Election Reflections

I found two things fascinating last night - the speeches from the major party leaders, and the goals of the rural independents.

Gillard started out by congratulating the independent and Green MPs who now hold the balance of power. She named all 5 of them individually and expressed a desire to work with them. Gillard had immediately shifted into negotiating mode, flattering the independents and seeming to relish the backroom dealing that lies ahead.

By contrast, Abbott began by celebrating the swing to the Liberal Party and thanking the voters for their support. Only right at the end did he briefly mention the independent and Green members, and he didn't utter any of their names. Clearly Abbott wanted to keep campaigning as long as he could.

All of the independent MPs were interviewed by phone,* with both Windsor and Oakeshott naming "stable government" as their top priority. The use of the exact same phrase indicated they had spoken and established a common goal, but at the time I couldn't work out what exactly they meant. This morning it hit me - the three rural independents (Windsor, Oakeshott & Katter) will negotiate for fixed parliamentary terms. They'll promise to support a minority government for the full 3 years, in return for the PM promising to call the next election in August 2013, along with a referendum on fixed terms. Windsor made exactly that deal in a similar situation, after the 1991 NSW state election, and he'll try to do it again. It will allow the independents to hold the balance of power for the maximum possible time, and either major party will take any chance to be in government rather than in opposition for the next three years.

Getting ahead of myself here, but fixing the electoral cycle in its current state would make for an interesting dynamic. For this election the new House of Reps will take over in September / October and the new Senate will take over next July. A fixed term deal could set that arrangement in stone, meaning that every election would be followed by 9 months of a lame duck Senate.

*Nobody sent a camera crew to film the new kingmakers! I didn't see a hung parliament coming; it's some comfort that the TV networks were equally blindsided.