Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf minority government?

wolf1Will the Coalition get to 76 seats? The ABC’s Barry Cassidy ‘can’t see that happening’. But is the prospect of minority government really as horrific as much of the media is portraying?

The only real problem (for both Malcolm Turnbull and Australia) with a Coalition minority government is the prospect that the Liberal Party’s  Right will depose him as PM and replace him with an Abbottista.

With that exception there’s no logical reason to think that minority government will be particularly problematic either for the Coalition or Australians generally.  It presently looks likely that the Coalition will end up with 74 seats or so in the House of Representatives.  It is likely that two or three of the more conservative cross-benchers in the Reps could fairly readily be persuaded at least to agree to pass Supply and not back a “no confidence” motion. That would be enough for Turnbull to go to the Governor-General and get a commission.

In large parts of the democratic world minority governments are the norm and don’t necessarily lead to either legislative paralysis or chaos. The supposed need for “strong” majority government is a peculiarly Australian obsession that many other stable and prosperous countries don’t share. The fact that disparate elected representatives are forced to deliberate, collaborate and compromise to achieve effective government is rightly regarded in many places as a desirable feature rather than a “bug”.

In that context there is a powerful argument that either Turnbull or another moderate like Julie Bishop is likely to exhibit better communication and negotiation skills to thrive in a minority government environment than a hard-line Right Wing warrior like Morrison, Dutton or Abbott.

In a governance sense the challenge of assembling a momentary alliance to enact particular legislation isn’t really a problem for Turnbull. His legislative agenda isn’t very ambitious. Moreover, Labor has pledged to support the first tranche of company tax cuts to small business. And most economists agree that the wider and longer-term cuts for big business are fiscally irresponsible and minimally stimulatory anyway. You could argue that this is a classic example of the benefits of minority government: the necessity for deliberation and compromise will actually deliver a better outcome for Australia than if Turnbull had presided over an elected dictatorship aka “strong” majority government.

Australian politicians and voters alike need to start getting used to the fact that minority government is the new normal, not a mark of political failure or a harbinger of chaos. Many of us are no longer rusted-on fans of just two political tribes.It signifies increasing political maturity.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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john Walker
5 years ago

Ken
Every Sunday I pray that the honey bees will come and build their nests, I pray that you are right.

But these days who knows; who could have thought that the election would raise the boats of both , Labor and Pauline?

desipis
5 years ago

I was reading through section 273 (20) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and it seems to me that all the minor party and independent senators will end up being stiffed with only a half term. Is that right?

Moz of Yarramulla
Moz of Yarramulla
5 years ago

It continues to amuse me that everyone talks of “The Coalition” being part of a minority government as though the parties involved have ever governed any other way. Everyone adjusted quite quickly when it went from two parties to three. I don’t see why, other than linguistically, there should be a problem if they form a bigger coalition with other parties. We will probably need a new term, assuming they form a coalition rather than just some kind of confidence and supply agreement like Labour did. Perhaps the meta-coalition? Or the cocoalition?

The real problem would be Abbott, because once you have people outside the formal party box, annoying, offending and insulting them becomes much more risky. “nowhere to go” is not necessarily going to work forever, and as we see with The Greens being abused by Labour in local government, even minor rearrangements can be disastrous if they’re unexpected (Moreland council, for example).

derrida derider
derrida derider
5 years ago

But the company tax issue you cite is the worst of both worlds in policy, and the hung parliament ensures this will not be fixed by deft reclassification of the electoral promise to a “non-core” one.

Leaving aside the broader merits or demerits of a company tax cut, having it only for (arbitrarily defined) small businesses is akin to the threshold exemptions for payroll tax of which the Henry review was so scathing. It presents businesses with some very perverse incentives if they are able to convince the taxman they’ve split the business up, and the one group for which there is the best efficiency case for a cut (corporations funded by foreign investors who cannot therefore benefit from dividend imputation) is excluded, unless they use this mechanism. The Libs knew this and desired to extend the cut as a present to the big boys, but now it won’t happen. And the government – whoever they are – is left with further byzantine tax regulations, more exploitable tax anomalies and another hole in revenue.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
5 years ago

The big thing which will occur is the resurrection of Julia Gillard’s political reputation.

She will be seen as the template of a PM who heads up a minority Government. She was derided because of distinct lack of any political smarts however she managed to get a lot of policy through both houses.
Who would have thunked it.

Turnbull has neither the temperament not the skill set to negotiate. Abbott more so and the people do not want him back. Perhaps Bishop has she lack lacks political smarts as well.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 years ago

Randos rule. Not (necessarily) so bad. Could be quite a lot better. Certainly, politics could do with some more consensus building and all those traditional political skills.

If the pollies were rational, this would be a good time for moderates like Turnbull and Bishop because they’re the only ones who can capture enough votes to deliver their side of government (Abbott, even with the Big Warning his party gave him mid-term, clearly wasn’t up to it. And for all his smarts it’s hard to see the Australian electorate warming to ScoMo.)

However, we have a strange state of affairs on the right – which was last seen on the left in the late 70s – of a cabal of self-righteous incompetents, more interested in nursing and stoking resentments than in doing anything useful. Only this time, they’re backed by powerful media interests – mysteriously enough given that their agenda is unlikely to deliver good business growth.

So that doesn’t look too good for the Liberal Party. Yet again it looks like we’ll have turnover at the top before the season is quite over.

john Walker
5 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas

Living in a small town and being involved ( in a small way) in a sometimes pulling teeth process of ‘ modernising’ a church community ; Makes me feel that I have some direct experience of what, some of the conservative fringe grassroots are like as people.

Most are:
Getting on, typicaly were about 30 years of age in the late 60s
They are a grumpy, take offence easily.
Gossip and rumor occupies much of their time.
And
The ‘dominants’ of their groups have typically had long runs as middlingly sucessful small town ‘ organizers’.

( and they are exhausting to minister to).

Above all they are lonely- kids have left home years ago, their friends are dying and their world is becoming ever more disappointing and strange to them.

And that makes them lash out, threaten to’ burn the house down’ if they do not get enough attention. (And that makes it harder for them to get the love they need and crave).

” why can’t ‘My’ church( or whatever) do it like ,we always have” -have heard that so many times.

Marks
Marks
5 years ago

I guess the question might be how many MPs could Malcolm lead out of the Coalition and onto the cross benches, were he to be deposed?

Were he deposed, there’s no future in the Coalition, and nothing he could conceivably achieve in Parliament.

He could leave parliament, with the sure knowledge that the Abbottistas would replace him with someone from the far right. Or, he could leave the party with one or two similarly disposed supporters, and then use that cross bench leverage to achieve some policy change.

Now, whether or not he has the ticker. That’s a different story.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
5 years ago
Reply to  Marks

Malcolm might (or might not) have the ticker for it, but he’s got the brains not to form his own party. He’s shown that in the past, and what we’ve seen since he’s become PM is that there are no policy passions beating within that heart of his.

So it’s hard to see him changing his mind.

marks
marks
5 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

I’m not wedded to the idea, and really don’t know Mr T well enough to know what makes him tock.

However, given his age, if MT is deposed by Mr Abbott, then it’s too late for MT to return as PM. Finished. Having said that, it’s something he can tick off, and he’s in the history books as having been PM.

To this point, forming his own party would have been silly, and stopped that ambition.

The question is, having achieved the PMship, were he deposed, with no way back, what next for MT?

Possibly, to actually achieve some real social policy reform. To actually do something, rather than just have an honorable title? That is, he’s gotten on, he’s gotten honour, maybe he wants to get honest? It’s really the only thing left, were he to be deposed.

To do that, he needs his own party. If the Liberal right wing won’t let him, only a few like minded MPs at the end of their careers could make a lot of difference in a very tight Parliament. And he only needs that party as a vehicle for one term to achieve his aim.

Say four MPs were to defect from the Coalition with him, then he could force the Coalition into most things that presently they would not countenance. Or maybe Bill would, in return for a crack at the Lodge.

All of which is highly speculative, and dependent on a palace coup.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
5 years ago

I am a little staggered so many didn’t think minority Government was a possibility. As I write today the polls were very close from the start to the finish of the Campaign.
( Mediscare thus had little effect).

This can only put down to almost all people not understanding what the margin of eror actually means.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

I’m not so worried about minority governments per se, but given the tendency for political parties to implement short-term tactics over longer-term strategy, we need to consider the downside risks/consequences based of who forms a minority government and the price for supply imposed on them by the minor parties and independents.

A Coalition minority government would necessarily involve the Nationals pushing for more irrigation schemes (based on Barnaby Joyce’s speech on Saturday noght), and Bob Katter securing a that commitment (in Queensland) as his ‘price of supply’. That just hammers another nail into the GBR’s coffin (more nutrients), and creates another permanent liability for taxpayers (more subsidised agriculture). Also, expect more underutilised roads to nowhere.

I don’t think the downside risks of a left-leaning minority government are quite as bad, as the price of supply from the Greens, Andrew Wilkie and (perhaps) NXT are closer to what governments should actually be doing (e.g. political donation reform, mental health resources, addressing problem gambling, environmental protection etc.). Even propping up a loss-making steel industry in SA has fewer downside risks than propping up a loss making sugar industry in Queensland that creates significant externalities in our own back yard.

To me, neither major party presented a policy platform with a lot of upside risk for the country, so we can almost ignore any upside risk. The decision point is now based on the downside risk from the tactical price of supply.

But I’m prepared to be convinced otherwise by the bigger brains reading this blog.

Douglas Hynd
Douglas Hynd
5 years ago

Anthony Green has substantial discussion on the methods available for allocation of Senate seats in a double dissolution between three and six year terms.
http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/04/how-long-and-short-terms-are-allocated-after-a-double-dissolution.html

paul walter
paul walter
5 years ago

Crap on large sections of the Australian public for lacking sufficient guts to pitch the Coalition of three years of incompetence and probable criminality in the real sense.

On the topic, I hope Turnbull gets no more than 75 seats, because they should be allowed near government like a paedophile, a pre-school.

Patrick
Patrick
5 years ago
Reply to  paul walter

When does this guy get banned?

paul walter
paul walter
5 years ago

Yes, Ken…

in fact, I have always regarded Patrick’s comments as only inconsequential, and self absorbed and obstructionist- when he bothers to comment, that is.