Will 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.