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As current election results show voters moving further away from our unamenable majors, is the two-party system as we know it under legitimate threat from minority parties and independents?
Despite the media narratives which viewed a Turnbull victory as inevitable, the 2016 election has been incredibly close.
As the ABC has it currently, the Coalition have secured 68 lower house seats to Labor’s 67, with a mere 10 seats still in doubt.
With a minority government a real possibility, the posturing of both major parties on refusing to do deals with crossbenchers is starting to look more than a little foolish.
It’s yet another example of why voters are increasingly mistrustful of statements uttered by both camps.
The swing against the Liberals has certainly been considerable – they’re a far cry from the 90 seats they held when Abbott took on Rudd just three years ago.
While Abbott’s slogan-filled and scorched-earth approach to politics heavily undermined confidence in the party, it is incredible that Malcolm Turnbull was able to so resoundingly destroy the political capital that was gifted to him when he took the Prime Ministership back in September.
If the success of these smaller parties continues, we may see an entirely new crop of minority parties enter the fray, boasting fresh political configurations – progressive, centrists, libertarians and so forth.
But in spite of such stumbling from the Liberals, neither Labor or the Greens seem to have profited heavily. While Labor has managed to close the gap with the Coalition, they’ve also registered their lowest primary vote in almost 70 years.
The Greens have regained some of the ground they lost last election, but so far they have been unsuccessful in snatching inner-city seats from Labor. In the best case scenario, they’ll score an additional seat.
The real winners of this election are the minority parties and independents. As one of the many Australians who feel burned by both the poor performance and outright dishonesty of both the Liberals and Labor, I can only view such a development with optimism.
Yes, it is true that the huge swing against The Big Three looks set to deliver reactionary and regressive individuals like Pauline Hanson and Jacqui Lambie to the senate – and that their contributions will surely be awful – but we have to think longer term.
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If neither the Liberals or Labor are able to make considerable adjustments in the coming years, then their influence is surely set to continue its decline. If Bernardi and his Conservative Right faction remain shut out from power, they might be bold (or desperate) enough to stage a breakaway from the Coalition to form their own entity.
And if the success of these smaller parties continues, then we may see an entirely new crop of minority parties enter the fray, boasting fresh political configurations – progressive, centrists, libertarians and so forth.
Such changes could amount to nothing less than the disintegration of the partisan two-party system that has choked the life out of our island democracy.
In a few decades hence our parliament might more resemble that of many European nations, where it is commonplace for inter-party coalitions to form according to the particular issue at hand. With bloc-voting reduced, we might just see political change more representative of ordinary citizens, rather than the entrenched political class.
This is optimistic to be sure, but never forget that revolutionary change is often born from crises and pain. Let us not lament the uncertainty over who will govern in this term, but rather organise for the future and ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated again.
We’ve long known that our political system is broken: well, here is our chance to fix it.