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Day to Day Politics: Down to the wire but they still claim a mandate.

Sunday July 10 2016

In the aftermath of any election usually the first two utterances one hears from the winner is “we will govern for all the people” and unequivocally “we have a mandate”.

So here we are on Sunday with Arthur Sinodinos being interviewed by Barry Cassidy on ABC’s Insiders, claiming in the most exuberant fashion that the Coalition, after winning with the narrowest of margins, that they had a mandate.

So in denial was Sinodinos that one could be excused for thinking that the Coalition had run the most effective campaign ever. He said that the people recognised that the government had a plan for jobs and growth and had a talented group to put it into action.

He went on to say that the budget would be presented intact but conceded that they would take another look at health.

He didn’t mention that the $50 billion tax cuts for business almost certainly wouldn’t get pasted by the senate. They will probably be pleased with that because it’s a promise that was unlikely to be funded by the growth calculations in the budget.

But back to this mandate thing.

Invariably when political parties win an election they claim to have a mandate. But surely to claim that you have a policy mandate when you have won by the narrowest of margins is an absurdity.

If you campaigned in an election on one explicit policy and everyone knew that it was specifically about that policy and you won. I would say you had a mandate. However, in this election there were a multitude of policies with a distinct difference in ideology.

The Coalition will probably win by the closest of margins with the people giving them a firm kick up the backside.

People assume that elections, especially ones with a ‘large’ margin of victory, give the newly elected government or elected official an implicit mandate to put into effect certain policies.

But in essence the word ‘mandate’ is not derived from any particular institution, doctrine, law or constitution. It may have its grounding in philosophy, history or political morality.

In those rare moments where it is legitimate it is more to do with how governments govern rather than any authority to do so.

For example, it was preposterous for Prime Minister Abbott to claim a mandate in 2013 to do anything other than govern. Prior to and during that election Labor’s policies were always irresistibly popular with the electorate. Essential polls and surveys showed that major reforms like Gonski, NBN, NDIS, the carbon tax, gay marriage and others always had community support. They lost not on policy but dysfunctional leadership.

The contradiction was that people had no intention of voting Labor.

The Senate further complicates the notion of a mandate. The House of review, the Senate has never recognised so-called mandates instead usually acting in the interests of a minority party, or parties holding the balance of power.

Therefore, a mandate cannot be a mandate unless it is honoured by the Senate which is even more unlikely now.

There is also the argument that if oppositions receive a sizable vote they too have received a mandate from their electors. That would also apply to independents.

I think it is fairly conclusive that Labor did not lose this election because of policy unpopularity. On the contrary, their policies were so popular the conservatives (in the absence of policies of their own) suffered a voter backlash.

In winning the election the conservatives have the right to set the political agenda. They do not have a mandate to do any more.

The question remains: What is a mandate? Well you decide. For me it is only legitimate when all cards are on the table and the party who wins, wins with such a majority that its mandate cannot be denied. And in those rare moments where it is legitimate it is more to do with how governments govern rather than any authority to do so.

My thought for the day:

“Current experience would suggest that the Australian people need to take more care when electing its leaders”.


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  1. Barry

    Every politician elected can claim a mandate from a section of the Australian voters.

  2. kerri

    By LNP definition of a mandate surely the public, through polling, has given them a mandate to pass Same Sex Marriage???

  3. Kronomex

    In the magical demented world of the LNP all things are possible. Seenodonours lives in a reality free realm if he truly believes the crap he peddles. He also looks like an egg with hair. Here’s hoping the Senate treats the Corporate tax present with all the respect it deserves.

  4. helvityni

    Maybe our possible, would-be-leaders, ought to do a some kind of ‘driving’ test before putting their hands up to be chosen to run this country.

  5. Owen

    Sino cant recall or has no specific knowledge of anything related to an investigation into dubious (at best) fundraising activities… He has shown that his words and actions are biased …He can move his lips and bump his gums as much as he likes but what he verbalizes has little or no credibility….. Federal ICAC anyone? His memory would surely fail again…!

  6. Steve Laing -

    Sinodinos claimed that the Liberals won more votes than Labor, ergo mandate. Not unexpected. Bend the description to fit whatever narrative is in place.

    Interesting that my notion of a consensus government was mentioned though, and which I still think would be the best way forward. However Turnbull doesn’t have the cojones, and is shackled in both thought and soul to the LNP rightwing.

  7. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Sinodinos needs this government to have the mandate and to last the whole 3 years because that gives him 3 more years of freedom before the Federal ICAC will come to get him for his corrupt conduct in allowing illicit donations, as Liberal Cabinet Secretary.

  8. Freethinker

    As longs as the party that won the majority of seats in the HoR does not have the majority in the senate it do not have a mandate.
    Sinodinos, Morrison and Mathias the parrot have to get that into their heads.

  9. Zathras

    How can there be a mandate if more people actually voted against the governing parties than voted for them?

    The number of seats won is the result of the interpretation of internal processes of voter location plus the distribution of preferences,

    The mandate is only the right for the Government to introduce legislation into the Parliament where it is then subjected to it’s own rules.

    Otherwise the Senate would have absolutely no relevance and there would be no way to debate, improve or refine potentially faulty legislation.

    We have this discussion after every election.

  10. Max

    Prediction: There will be no bipartisan agreements on any of policies between Liberal and Labor. And Tony Abbott will wreck the joint

  11. @RosemaryJ36

    My first question of this government is: When will you choose a competent Treasurer?

  12. Freethinker

    Rosemary, it has nothing to do with knowledge it is ideology the problem.

  13. Jerry

    Yes Freethinker: You can’t reason with Fundamentalists !

  14. Möbius Ecko

    Well how convenient in timing. Immediately after Turnbull is announced as winning the election Mike Baird pipes up and states he is going to privatise the State’s public hospitals as a means of improving health care.

    What he really means is improving the wealth care of his mates he’ll sell the hospitals to.

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Baird is a dangerous man.

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Slippery, slimy bastard.

  17. Freethinker

    If Baird was the PM he would privatize Medicare without a second thought

  18. OldWomBat

    Whether a mandate exists or not the lnp will continue with their socially destructive policies, gradually chipping away at the foundations, where they can’t actually destroy something directly, and handing over government to the vested interests of big business. I shudder to think of what will be left of Australia, and what our children will inherit, once the lnp have finished.

  19. kerri

    Google images “Bunsen Honeydew”
    Yes federal ICAC ASAP.
    Yes! So sick of the word “mandate”
    As for Baird! Banning the Greyhounds was a face saving act! He has been on the nose of late and needed a boost. Plus what prime land the doggy tracks are sitting on? Quick sugar hit to the budget! What’s the bet they sell them just before the next state election?
    Old Wombat.
    Spot on!

  20. paulwalter

    Sinodinos’ call for tax cuts to be prosecuted first and foremost is the definitional example of his character and what an enemy he is to civilisation.

  21. Möbius Ecko

    Yet paulwalter Turnbull’s very first piece of business is to put up legislation to stop Victorian volunteer fire fighters being taken over by unions. He’s going to attempt to legislate against something that doesn’t exist.

    So Turnbull’s highest priority on winning government is to meddle in a State affair and against a union on something that is a beatup. This is a Turnbull who hasn’t changed one iota and his first act is a distraction away from a tidal wave of hurt that’s coming his way. If he gets this legislation through he will holler from the rooftops what a friend to ordinary workers he is. If it fails he will blame the cross benchers and/or senate and still holler from the rooftops what a friend to ordinary workers he is.

    So in summary. Returned government by a whisker, new lower and upper house makeup, but in essence nothing has changed with Turnbull or the L-NP.

  22. Jaquix

    The teeny number of votes by which the Libs squeaked back with, shows that they have no mandate at all. Only their elderly, country, wealthy globetrotting postal voters delivered it to them. (The Libs habit of sending ALL constituents postal votes to complete, has worked – perhaps Labor should look at this to see if it would help them too, though the costs of postage are high). The fact of the matter is, they only just squeaked in. Clearly 60 % of the population DID NOT WANT THEM ! Get that Malcolm (and Arthur!) I hope some of the protest voters are suffering a bit of voters remorse, realising that they should have been a bit braver and gone for the party with the best policies for the people of Australia. I know its hard when we have 3 generations of brainwashing by the media.

  23. Alan Baird

    The usual suspects are already calling for the company tax cuts to go ahead so that jobs and growth will almost certainly follow as sure as night follows day. STILL they persist even though the average Joe is starting to have strong doubts about “trickle down” economics. (I’ve always called it “gush up” economics ‘cos that’s the way it goes friends. Up.) I say the company tax cuts can go through when all companies have stopped transferring funds off-shore (amongst other dodges) to avoid tax. If ANY tax is being avoided, what’s the point of a tax cut? A reward for non-payment of tax perhaps? An incentive to feel sorry for the great unwashed maybe? The Libs wouldn’t do it would they? You betcha they would, AND with a supercilious smirk.

  24. Dan Rowden

    The teeny number of votes by which the Libs squeaked back with, shows that they have no mandate at all.

    By this argument Julia Gillard also had no mandate whatever and ought to have done nothing in government. Winning an election automatically confers a mandate by dint of the meaning of the word.

  25. Kronomex

    Zathras do this. Zathras do that. Nobody listens to Zathras. That not Zathras but is Zathras. Zathras. Zathras. See sound different.

  26. cornlegend

    the LNP got a mandate because they won

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