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Just like Gotham

The sense of national schadenfreude was almost visceral last night and understandably so, but can we really be happy with the result. To loosely paraphrase Christopher Nolan, Malcolm Turnbull just got the (humiliating) election result he deserved, but not the one he needed. It leaves the dreaded hung parliament the prime minister warned as against as a likely outcome as preferences are being redistributed.

Even if the Coalition does win, it will be by a razor thin margin and will likely hold even less seats in a senate that will now include Derryn Hinch, Jacqui Lambie, Pauline Hanson and a handful of Nick Xenaphon Team candidates. Good luck getting your company tax cut through there unscathed Malcolm!

The unexpectedly poor result for the Coalition was clearly a cathartic moment for many, judging by social media, and there are a number of possible reasons for this phenomenon.

  • Perhaps it was seeing Turnbull’s deceitful Double Dissolution strategy blow up in his smug face. Remembering that the Coalition went to the polls under the pretence that their anti-union bill was too critical to the nation to be blocked (while an anti-corruption body to investigate banks, corporations and political parties was not important), it was satisfying to see such a strategy backfire so spectacularly.
  • Or perhaps it was the whining about scare campaigns (with no sense of irony) from a party that has run scare campaigns about exaggerated effects of negative gearing and the carbon tax, dehumanised boat people and conveniently disappearing budget emergencies.
  • No doubt others took delight in the savage infighting on display amongst conservative powerbrokers, even as votes were being counted- making a mockery of Turnbull’s claims of being able to provide stable government.
  • Or maybe it was just relief that many Australians had learnt from mistakes of the past and were less easily swayed by the ridiculous claims the Coalition makes about its economic credentials or by the clearly partisan reporting of the Murdoch Press.

But going back to the Batman reference (the character not the electorate), we as a nation also got what we deserved more than what we needed. Many still voted to re-elect some of the most cretinous members of a Coalition government that has failed us economically, socially and internationally in the last three years. Many made their own reasoned decisions for doing so. I make no judgement about that, but many others did so only from intellectual fear or laziness – believing the loudest and most hysterical headlines put out in the last week, which is the same way Brexit happened. And hence our likely hung parliament.

I am not one who fears a hung parliament. I would actually like to see a less adversarial paradigm where parties negotiate to generate more bipartisan policies (obviously this requires the right people elected, what you might call a well-hung parliament). However I won’t hold my breath waiting for that. Not with destructive forces like Tony Abbott – one of the most effective political attack dogs I have seen- and his block of hardline conservatives ready to sabotage any policy not of their making (think NBN, Carbon Tax and Super Profits Tax as examples) and News Ltd ready to sensationalise their claims without any real fact checking. I have strong doubts this is the assembly we need to deliver a coherent economic policy without it being savagely contorted by interest groups, let alone any effective progressive policies around climate, equality or our refugee shame. Thus I can’t be too happy. It is not as bad as it could have been, but that is a pretty low bar to set.

And any government bills that do escape the lower house unscathed then have to get through the minefield that is the new senate. While this is also true of policies I don’t want to see, such as the company tax cut, a legislative paralysis is not something I want either It seems to me that celebrating the election of a dysfunctional senate is myopic. Yes a large number of people have rejected the Coalition’s strategy of ignoring community concerns or lying to us about them, but if we have a truly unworkable senate, it is the country that stands to lose the most. I am not sure I am ready to cheer about this.

So while the panicked looks of Coalition members and hysterical revisionist wails of Andrew Bolt were a temporary panacea, this is only the first step towards the government we need. Somehow Australia still elected a slew of people I wouldn’t trust to collect my mail (in Barnaby Joyce’s defence, that is more about his stupidity than his dishonesty though) and both major parties are committed to continuing our criminal treatment of refugees. Perhaps our expectations are so low after years of the electorate voting as instructed by the Murdoch Press that a reversal of this trend is enough to make people happy, but I am not happy. Let’s celebrate when the new parliament achieves something worthwhile.

This article was originally published on the Quietblog.

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  1. JeffJL

    ‘what you might call a well-hung parliament’ – Booooooo

  2. king1394

    A hung parliament with a skilful negotiator leading can provide excellent government, as many of us are aware we had previously with the Gillard led parliament . Unfortunately it looks like this one will be led by a bunch of egotistical people who think they were born to rule. Interesting times

  3. Kaye Lee

    I thank Tony Abbott for making a large swathe of Australians more politically aware and active. This election was a start for people to understand that they can have a voice and that it makes a difference – they must bear the consequences of the Senators they elected. How long will it be before Pauline says something stupid? What is Derryn going to say with the protection of parliamentary privilege? What will the Fred Nile Senator say in the lead up to the plebiscite?

    Perhaps by next election we can have brought some sensibility to the debate. I have faith in young people – or at least those young people who aren’t told by their parents how to vote.

  4. Matters Not

    Just think of the power that Abbott, Abetz, Andrews, Dutton, Christensen and Allies will now exercise in the lower house. I suspect the ‘plebiscite’ on same sex marriage will be reduced to a mere footnote in the historical record.

    As for the Senate, I can’t see any of the ‘zombie’ tax measures having a ghost of a chance. Morrison and Cormann will never produce a ‘balanced’ budget. The ‘deficit’ will balloon as will the ‘debt’. Their mantra of ‘debt and deficit disaster’ will ring forever in their ears.

    Will have to be another DD.

  5. paul walter

    I like the last couple of comments here. What will the Coalition do with the hope of a joint sitting now gone and the IPA blue print, the only policy option they’d consider, stalled?

    I suppose the rest of the year will be about gridlock as the conservative msm awaits a chance for consent manufacture when the public have gone back to sleep.

    In the end it comes to this: Can they think of a way of fobbing off Abbott or Turnbull or eventually Morrison onto Australia.

    Ideally, Labor cobbles enough seats together to revisit the Gillard years and governs with the help of Greens and independents, but that is no certainty either and its going to be weeks before we know who gets those last few seats- very 2010.

    Hopefully the ALP and the Greens can work some thing out (at last.. heaven forbid!) and that will need to include dealing more realistically with asylum seekers..a good move would be for the ALP to bring the Manus and Nauru internees here, something that would begin to defuse the issue and some of the tensions between the two groupings. That issue that has done Australia so much harm the last fifteen years.

  6. Athena

    Any government is going to have a tough time dealing with such a mixture in the senate. The RWNJs will be a problem because they are likely to make outrageous demands and let anything through just to see their demands met.

  7. Steve Laing -

    The result is a curates egg – good in parts, but that is a separate article. But in summary if not hung in the lower house, it will almost certainly be in the senate, which as has been already said, will require very skilled negotiation to navigate.

    Turnbull must have recognised this yesterday evening, and its probably why it took him so long to make his speech. You can almost here it going through his head “how the hell are we going to negotiate any legislation given the moronic ideologues I have in my core team?” No wonder the poor sod was so angry. The frustration is palpable.

    Ahh, the true price of ambition is beginning to dawn on the bold Malky. If he does manage to cobble together a government, it will undoubtably be as ineffective as the last 9 months. The clock on his removal is ticking, and is almost certain if he doesn’t manage to get enough seats to form a government. However if that is the case, it won’t matter – at least this ship of fools won’t be in charge. The worry will be if he does manage to take control because there is no chance of stability.

  8. paul walter

    So often the most critical seats fall the wrong way in elections like this. Think of Fielding and Harradine. A sad and largely ignored result has been the removal of the homespun but willing to learn and honest Ricky Muir for Derryn Hinch, a noisy disruptive, destructive noise machine the voters of Victoria showed lamentable bad taste and sense in electing to a Senate where numbers will count. And surely Lazarus was a better candidate than Hanson and the result is worse if her quota sees others of her ilk in riding on her coat tails..

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