Sunday, August 22, 2010

Minority parliament in Australia

It appears no party will be able to command a majority in the lower house of Australia's House of Representatives:

With a single seat, Hasluck in Western Australia, still in doubt, Labor has 73 and the Coalition 72 of the 150 seats in parliament's lower house.

Brisbane was this morning called for the Liberal National Party's Teresa Gambaro, unseating incumbent Labor MP Arch Bevis.

Denison in Tasmania was also in doubt, but was this morning declared for Labor by the Australian Electoral Commission, dashing the hopes of high-profile independent Andrew Wilkie for a surprise win.

In Hasluck, the sitting Labor member Sharryn Jackson trails the Liberals Ken Wyatt.

Tony Burke, the Gillard government's minister for sustainable population, says he has faith Mr Katter, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor will reach a deal to form a stable government.

From the Sydney Morning Herald. This story raises several issues:
  • Australia has almost 2/3 the population of Canada. So why does its lower house have less than half the number of seats? That doesn't sound like good local representation to me (and I thought that was the point of single-member constituencies!)
  • The instant-runoff voting system used in Australia hasn't helped minor parties to the extent that the casual observer would expect. Sure, there are four independents, but only one Green has been elected, and nobody from the other parties. I have heard it claimed that IRV can be even more unfair than first past the post; these results seem to support that thesis. Their upper house has multi-member STV, and the Greens have the balance of power in that house, so it's not like they don't get support, but they are badly underrepresented in the lower house. Nick Clegg, take note!
  • Regarding particular results, it seems that most of the independents are former Nationals, which could mean that, on the one hand, they'd be disinclined to support Labour if they could avoid it, but on the other hand, there may be some bad blood between them and the Liberals. If they do decide to support the Liberals, they'll have a hard time getting their agenda through the Senate, while if they support Labour it may not be for very long. So whatever government forms when the smoke clears is likely to be short lived.

1 comment:

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