When I was contemplating this post, I was in two minds what to write about. For those readers who might not know, I live in Australia. Yesterday all of Australia went to the polls to vote in our Federal election. I did think that not many would be interested in the election, but I think I need to write it all down, and allow my head to clear a little after that extraordinarily long campaign.
We operate under the Westminster system of parliament, with two houses of government. The party that wins the lower house (House of Representatives), officially wins government, but passing legislation that begins in the lower house is very dependent on the upper house (or senate).
Six times in Australia’s history, a double dissolution of parliament has occurred. A double dissolution can occur if the senate rejects the same legislation that the lower house has passed, twice. The Governor General can then dissolve both houses of parliament simultaneously. Last night when the first results came in, it was obvious that there was about to be a change of government, and initially it looked as if the outgoing party might have a majority in the senate, setting up the ideal conditions for a double dissolution, not too far in the future.
Today, who knows? It looks as though the new government might have have a majority, but it may well depend on who the Greens and Independents side with. I’m wondering if if might change, dependent on the legislation. Traditionally, the senate places checks and balances on the government, making sure that extreme policy is tempered. It will be an interesting first 100 days for the new government, I’d say. Not to mention all of us, the Australian people.
I’m a bit of an idealist in many ways. In my ideal world, our elected representatives would work hard for their electorates and the good of the whole country. In practice, what tends to happen is that marginal electorates do well and the rest bumble along hoping for a few crumbs from the government table.
This time around, our electorate, which is normally an extremely safe seat for the current outgoing government looks like it will still remain in the Labor party’s hands, but with a vastly reduced majority. At this point in the counting, it looks as if a previous majority of 12.5% will be cut to about 3.8%. In some ways it seems as if it’s a pity that the government is changing, as for the first time, we might have had a chance that our electorate would gain from the instability, rather than being effectively ignored. (Or maybe that’s just my perception!)
Having now said all of that, it’s possibly a strange new beginning for Australia. For the first time, it looks like we’ll have senators from parties such as “The Motoring Enthusiast’s Party” and “The Australian Sports Party.” Let’s hope they’re not one trick ponies. Fortunately it appears that commonsense has prevailed and the “Smokers Rights” party isn’t going to get a look in. If you’re really interested, you can check out some of the parties here. Some of the party names are rather entertaining, not to mention slightly intriguing. And then if you want to, you can go and check out their policies. Or not.
Whatever happens, I’d like to think that our politicians might place humanity and integrity above personal ambition. (Like I said, I’m an idealist!)