The Hanging of An Old System

Posted on August 25, 2010 by

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I see a hung parliament as a brilliant outcome for Australian politics. After a dire campaign, filled with a sense of despair, politics as a PR exercise and leaderless leaders, we ended up at a nothing point, rejecting both major parties. Hopefully this will not turn into a mass exodus, but the beginnings of a change to the parliamentary systems of Australia.

This election campaign we lost our remaining faith in the system. The power plays became clear to the electorate and nothing else was put forward to hold on to. For some, the negativity of the Liberals struck a chord and for others there was hope for an alternative in the Greens, but most saw no hope from the past record of results and no hope for any future action. We looked to Kevin Rudd for change last election, sick of the failing rate of reform under John Howard, and we received minimal results. Our current parties are marked by infighting, instability and party politics on one side, and a coalition inexorably pulling apart on the other. But this point of Labour/Liberal parliament is not fixed, and we can evolve to a new multi-party system.

The independents with the power to decide the government have called for “a different paradigm” (Bob Katter) that no longer puts political parties before national interests (Rob Oakeshott). Most politicians care about people and the nation, but in the current system of Australia, they get lost in the politicking and the few who join for power. The three main independents, Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, rejected their parties for their lack of action. They truly want to move forward, already articulating some real actions that they stand behind. They personify the straight-talking and firm personal beliefs that so many were calling for in the election campaign. So, just maybe, a hung parliament, with three experienced politicians with strong values but a practical understanding of government who are highly respected in their electorate, will be a positive and stabilising influence over Australian politics.

Along with the Greens, these three could push non-major party representation into the next stage. With the power held in the cross benches, the government will have to sit down and work out legislation carefully, thinking nationally but also thinking rurally. They will be held more accountable for their policy decisions, and party politics will have less influence, as the party will no longer be the final decision maker. The cross benchers want to focus on concrete issues like health systems, broadband, the environment, water reserves and farming support and they have already called for reports like the Garnaut Report and the Henry Tax Review to be followed through to their end. The three rural independents and the environmental Greens want to shine the light back onto the collapse of the rural in Australia, to relieve the pressure on city infrastructure through supporting the regional and the environmental.

The independents will continue to stand strong and the parties will have to negotiate, compromise and innovate. Our stumbled upon solution to disillusionment, despair, empty policy and no hope for the future, may be embracing the country. This important and overlooked part of Australia could leave us with a taste of independent representation, a taste that we will want to repeat and grow into Australian political life.

Words – Alina Jeeves

Image – State Library of New South Wales – The opening of Australia’s first national parliament 1901

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Posted in: Alina Jeeves, Opinion