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They’ve got a mandate

By 2353NM

You’ve probably heard politicians and commentators suggest that various acts should be undertaken because ‘they’ve got a mandate’. One of the recent examples is new Environment Minister Angus Taylor claiming there is now a ‘mandate’ for a lack of any meaningful action on managing climate change in Australia.

You can read the full definitions of a mandate here but if Taylor is claiming …

a command or authorization to act in a particular way on public issue given by the electorate to its representative

… he is sadly deluded. If, as the definition suggests, the command must be given by the electorate the assumption would be that the majority of the electorate would have to give the command.

But, you say, the Coalition were given the majority of votes in the recent election. According to the Australian Electoral Commission’s website (at the time of writing — not all seats had been declared) the two-party preferred result is Coalition 6,552,111 and the ALP 6,137,087 you are correct. But it’s not that clear cut. A quick scan of the results in the table below shows that the ALP got more direct votes that the Liberal Party. In fact you have to add the Liberal Party, LNP and Nationals (all different political parties when it suits them) together to beat the ALP figure. Clicking this link will take you to the up to date figures at the time you are reading.

Party 2019 Vote
Liberal Party 3,943,957
Liberal National Party (Queensland) 1,230,442
The Nationals 639,412
Country Liberals (NT) 38,557
Australian Labor Party 4,669,111
The Greens 1,456,890
United Australia Party 483,713
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation 435,037
Animal Justice Party 115,474
Independents 475,399
Informal 822,819

All other political groupings received under 100,000 votes.

In a great case of product differentiation, the Liberal Party and National Parties market themselves as the protectors of small to medium business and the ‘aspirational’ in the case of the Liberal Party and the protectors of those in the regional Australia in the case of the Nationals. Interestingly, they then divvy up the spoils of victory and attempt to enact policies that are diametrically opposed to the interests of the those that rely on being able to continue to grow crops and run livestock (as Taylor’s claimed mandate for lack of meaningful action on climate change attests) and small to medium business such as having to be dragged kicking and screaming to consider the Royal Commission into Banking and Finance — which exposed considerable disregard for the ‘aspirational’ and small business — unless you were also a banking executive.

As a consequence of their agreement, the two parties do not generally compete against each other. This maximises the vote for the National Party so they can target message and funding where it does the most ‘good’. It’s probably also the reason that the Nationals get a number of seats in Parliament when they receive less direct votes than the Greens, who contest most if not all seats regardless of the representation or candidature of political parties with similar ideals and policies in those seats.

Australia generally operates under a ‘two party preferred’ preferential voting system, where candidates with the lesser number of direct votes are gradually eliminated from the counting until one candidate has 50% +1 of the total vote. The Australian Electoral Commission’s website advises

To vote for a Member of the House of Representatives, a voter is required to write the number ‘1’ in the box next to the candidate who is their first choice, and the numbers ‘2’, ‘3’ and so on against all the other candidates until all the boxes have been numbered, in order of the voter’s preference.

By inference, the numbers 2 and higher on your ballot paper are given to candidates that you believe to be not as close to your requirements for a representative in Parliament as your first choice. It also stands to reason that you haven’t given the lesser preferred political party a mandate to introduce their policies without opposition. If you wanted all of their policies without review or discussion, you would have given the candidate your first preference.

Most also get to a position where they have two or three individuals they absolutely don’t want in Parliament, which logically you would give your lowest preferences (or higher numbers) to. However, due to the ‘two-candidate preferred’ system, your vote may filter down to one of these candidates through the elimination process. This means although you abhor the candidate and their political party — and all they stand for — you are probably helping them get an office in that large building built into a hill on the big roundabout in South Canberra.

A mandate is a direction from the voters to do a particular thing. You would be looking for an overwhelming mandate to be able to state with certainty that the government is following the will of the people. The Coalition in its various guises certainly didn’t get the 6,000,000 or so votes prior to preference allocations they needed to be able to say that more than half of the eligible voters actually voted for them (neither did anyone else). So nobody has a ‘mandate’ to force their policies onto Australia without discussion.

To get a policy through the Parliament will require consensus, probably as a result of negotiation with people from the other political parties that are represented in the Parliament. The people that voted for ‘the other guys’ did so because, in their view, ‘the other guy’ had a better policy mix. Accordingly, the Coalition should be discussing any and every piece of legislation and direction given to the Public Service with representatives from other political parties to come up with an agreed position from a majority of the representatives of the Australian population. And that is what Parliament is for — not for ramming unpopular and unnecessarily divisive conservative ‘matters of faith’ such as no real environmental protection, tax cuts for seven years into the future or ‘religious freedom’ provisions into legislation. Because at the end of the day the Coalition had well under half the population vote for them — they haven’t got a majority of Australians supporting their ‘mandate’, neither do ‘the other guys’.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Win Jeavons

    Perhaps it is time to consider a concensus position on leguslature, as some nations now do. That would force more cooperation on the part of exremists like the so called Nationals, amd hopefully more serious thought and less vituperation.

  2. Matters Not

    In the Australian political system (and elsewhere), it’s the numbers present and voting that matter. Claims of a mandate, or lack of same, might be good for the metaphorical soul but unless it effects the voting numbers, it’s just an overused word without political consequence.

    Moral rights or wrongs OR goods and bads might be interesting intellectual distractions for armchair critics and others but they play no part on the floor of Parliament when the vote is taken. And seasoned politicians know that.

    This is not to say that the electoral structures we have can’t be greatly improved. They can. Until then … just count the numbers.

  3. Phil Pryor

    They have no mandate, just an itchy date. They have, as a coalition, about 41%n of the primary vote, far less than the ALP and Greens vote combined. They have no control of the Senate, having not enough votes, They have a weak country party, posing as the nationals, a bunch of thieves, liars, perverts, dills, and under educated deficients. Had they a large majority, overwhelming numbers, genuine policies, control, they would not be whingeing for a mandate. They owe turds and trash like Hanson, Palmer, Rinehart and Katter, a big bedpan of political pooburgers, a huge thanks for getting back in the larceny saddle, with the bribery spurs, the media manipulation bridle, the wanking radio blathering boofhead whip. What a team of faecal flows we have in, and supporting, this government.

  4. Perkin Warbeck

    I am over politics in Australia. The last federal election was too much to take. I saw Menzies, the draft dodger extraordinaire, sending kids to American wars, and maintain power.
    I saw Fraser complicit in a coup aided and abetted by both UK and USA, gaining power and being re-elected.
    I saw Howard with his vile transparent ‘children overboard’ get re-elected.
    I saw Abbott whispering his poison to a female prime minister and gaining power.
    I saw the creme de la creme of mendacious, hypocritical arseholes get re-elected.
    So. Fck you all. The next three horrendous years will be richly deserved.

  5. Florence Howarth

    The only mandate available is each MP getting enough votes to sit in parliament. No other exists. if the voters have given the Coalition a majority on the floor of both houses, they will get their policies through. If not, they will have to work with the parliament the voters duly elected. Come up with a compromised that suits all.

  6. Phil

    Taylor is a crook. Nuff said.

  7. wam

    ‘It also stands to reason that you haven’t given the lesser preferred political party a mandate to introduce their policies without opposition.’

    A good reference but by re-electing the scummo government, it stands to reason you have given them a mandate to continue governance as before the election?

    A sad as it seems that includes no further action on climate change than the plan that, according to the word of the minister:
    “Angus Taylor has reiterated his calls for Labor to back the … government had “laid out to the last tonne” how it planned to meet its Paris targets.”

    ps I am with you, Perkin.
    Since 1952 I have seen workers and labor voters scared and conned into supporting sharp slimey conservatives. With labor patiently waiting in the wings until a maestro puts them on the stage.

    Is albo a gough, hawkie, the lemon? Has he the skills of keating or gillard?
    Will he overturn the perceived ‘truth’ and put the lie to ‘that labor cannot run an economy?
    If not scummo will win 2022?

  8. whatever

    We have this 3rdWorld building frenzy that is producing apartment towers that crack apart, and all the Govt. does is continue to harass the Construction Union.
    BTW, it is becoming more apparent that much of the apartment-building craze that is happening in cities all over the world is funded by international money laundering ventures. Have a look at Cleveland, Ohio……

    Ukrainian oligarchs accused of laundering $470b, buying up much of Cleveland

  9. Kerri

    In an electoral system where a candidate can become a senator on 19 primary votes, no-one has a mandate!

  10. Paul Davis

    You gotta love Mandy Vanstone, she tells it like it is. Caught her on My ABysmal this evening giving her usual full and frank responses to each and every news topic. For instance when the issue of jerrybuilt apartment blocks came up and the fact that grubments in their rush to strip red tape allowing entrepreneurs to build without licences or qualifications while the industry self regulates, Mandy said “well of course no sensible person would ever buy or invest in apartment blocks these days” or words to that effect. Yep, you can always rely on current and former LNP ministers to tell us exactly what the score is.

    By the way, Q&A tonight featuring a scientific panel was interesting. By inference, although the scientists were vewy vewy polite it showed us what a shit for brains bunch we reelected last month.

    And yes Kaye, i forced myself to watch the Incredulous porn flick with mr Adani. That contribution would certainly make Sky profitable this year for sure. I was so reassured by mr Adani’s commitment to the environment, to job creation and to improving the lives of millions of untouchables and other low caste peasants, as well as people in rural India, AND he sang the praises of using Queerlands outstanding highest quality coal towards helping with climate change. What a man.

  11. Zathras

    The only mandate a Government has is to be able to introduce Legislation into the Parliament which is to be debated, improved, approved or rejected and then enacted as law in accordance with our parliamentary system.

    It’s not a blank cheque to do whatever they wish regardless of negative unforseen impacts on the economy or society. That’s not how our system works. Otherwise the non-government members can take the rest of the parliamentary term off and just go home.

    If the government insist that a conditionless mandate is indeed the case then the opposition must therefore have a mandate to oppose and reject all legislation regardless of merit. They can’t have it both ways.

    The closest they can come is to have a clear majority in both houses but legislation should be restricted to only those items clearly promised during the election campaign, otherwise it leads to things like Workchoices and a halt to the democratic process.

  12. wam

    kerri above the line voting and we elect 6 or 12 so at least 5 or 11 don’t get our vote
    Zathras at last someone more stupid than me. Work choices came because of a majority in the senate dwell on juliar?

  13. Kaye Lee

    One would assume that any mandate would be to fulfill your promises.

    They have promised to reduce emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

    Australia’s emissions for the year to December 2018 were 0.4 per cent above emissions in 2000 and are expected to grow 1 per cent above current levels to 2020.

    Their next promise is to reduce emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.

    Total emissions in 2030 are projected to be 563 Mt CO2-e, which is 7 per cent below 2005 levels.

    Emissions to 2030 are projected to grow 4 per cent above 2020 levels, driven by higher emissions from LNG production, increased transport activity, a declining forest sink in the LULUCF sector, and growth in agricultural activity after a return to average seasonal conditions

    And any claim that we smashed our Kyoto 1 target takes some very fancy accounting as emissions in 2012 were actually 28% higher than in 1990 if we exclude the LULUCF sector (whose claimed emissions reductions are very difficult to verify).

  14. guest

    A mandate on climate change?

    Alan Jones tells us that CO2 is is only 0.04% of the atmosphere. What harm could it do?

    Yet CO2 (0.04% of the atmosphere) feeds all the plants of the world!

    How CO2 warms the world was explained on Q&A last night.

  15. Kaye Lee

    The Greens got 10.4% of the national first preference vote in the HoR. Even in the two states who voted in a majority of Coalition members, the Greens vote was significant – 11.62% in WA and 10.32% in Queensland.

    These voices are not adequately represented when they only have 1 lower house rep, the same as the Katter Party and Centre Alliance.

    Almost 60% of us did NOT vote for the Coalition. The people did not deliver this government – the system did.

  16. totaram

    Guest: Tell Alan Jones to swallow 0.04% of his body weight of Potassium Cyanide. What harm can it possibly do?
    That percentage is over 20 grams if he is only 50 Kg in weight and Wikipedia informs me that 200 to 300 milligrams is the median toxic dose. So even 2 grams, which is 0.004% will most certainly put him in the morgue.

    People who then repeat this argument are completely unaware of the minute doses of most pharmaceuticals that we take, just to lower our blood pressure for example. The fact that anyone can be taken in by this Alan Jones argument tells us a lot about people.

  17. Nw England Cocky

    Uhm ….. did I miss something?? The last time I looked before the 2019 Federal election the Lazy Nasty People misgovernment had no policies for government after the election because they believed that they would lose the election. Now after gross stupidity and too much assistance from the MSM political hacks, Australian voters are stuck with the same old, same old. YUK!!

    So if there are no policies taken to the 2019 election by the Lazy Nasty People, then there can be no mandate for “policies” produced after the elections have been finalised.

    @Pekin Warbeck: Excellent comment. However, unless we take a stand against these self-serving hypocritical egomaniacs we will be subjected to more of the same yet again at the 2022 Federal elections.

  18. Keitha Granville

    How about a parliament ? The word comes from Fr. parler, to speak. We have elected 151 members to our parliament, they need to SPEAK to each other. The team with the most gets to put forward their policies, and if they have enough support then they can implement. If the aren’t convincing enough, they can’t.

    I am tired of the US or THEM system, winners or losers. Under that operation we all lose.

  19. Terence Mills

    As Tanya Plibersek said on ABC RN this morning on the subject of tax cuts well into the future : you get a mandate on your policies for the term that you are in office not for eternity.

  20. Geoff Andrews

    Another example of the malleable logic of the grubernment: “We’ve won the election, we have a mandate but we can’t introduce the legislation until that nasty Labor agrees”

  21. Kaye Lee

    They need to realise that every member in parliament won the election and should represent the people who chose them, not just agree to whatever the government wants.

  22. Henry Rodrigues

    Perkin Warbeck……. agree with every word you said. However, if we let these bastards carry on with their ‘mandate’ mantra, we will be aiding and abetting in the destruction of the environment, our society and eventually our precious democracy. We will be also be held complicit and responsible.We have to fight back even though at the moment the odds seem almost insurmountable, and conditions , depressing.

    The MSM are the glue and the oil that hold together and lubricate the policies of these bastards. So I for one will never ever stop doing my bit to dispel and reduce their influence, on a personal level, whenever I get to discuss and talk to people. Never give up.

  23. Matters Not

    Seems apt. Parliamentary kingmaker Rex Patrick from Centre Alliance sums it up:

    “Claimed mandates have short half-lives. In a few months, the word “mandate” will have largely disappeared from the political and media lexicon. Mandate season will have come and gone, consuming ink and internet bandwidth, but without much effect.”

    Yes, then the political reality will rest on the numbers – as it always does.


    Rex Patrick has insight. Not to be dismissed, laughed at, chaffed at or mucked about with. Refreshing.

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