On the 21st August Australia went to the polls with the aim of deciding on a new federal government. What has happened though is that Australians have lodged a national protest vote. Swings away from the ALP (Labor) has seen a spectacular fall in their numbers, however the traditional LNP (Liberal/National Party) have failed to capture enough vote to win a decisive majority.
The ALP has had a terrible time in government. They did do well during the global financial crisis in managing Australia through that difficult time without condemning Australia to recession. However, many of the programs that they credit for that success have been woefully mismanaged. The public were already revolting before Julia Gillard plunged the dagger into Kevin Rudds back, and they have never recovered.
Over the election campaign the ALP has focussed on policies that are not a massive leap from those of their traditional LNP rivals due to their march to the right. In the last few days the ALP decided to try and revive Work Choices fears. Fear mongering around Work Choices was a success in 2007, and Tony Abbott was a major proponent of the unpopular policy. ALP desperately hoped that reviving those fears was possible despite Mr Abbott repeatedly saying that it was dead. The people of Australia were not brainwashed into voting ALP.
They also were not convinced by the LNP either. The LNP failed to capture enough votes to claim a decisive victory. What they have though accomplished is amazing for a party that was smashed at the previous election. The LNP are likely to be proud to have the first indigenous representative and the youngest ever representative, and have increased their proportional representation. Have they won the right to form government though, the answer is clearly no.
Why has this happened? The reason is that neither the ALP or LNP have released radically different policies. Further, neither side has a real nation building package in play with perhaps the exception of the ALP version of the National Broadband Network (NBN). As such neither major party captured the minds of the voting public, in essence a fail all around.
The LNP and ALP now face the prospect of negotiating with the 4 x Independents and 1 x Green to form government. Depending on those negotiation will determine whether Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard will become Prime Minister. Neither though has a clear mandate. As such there is a chance that the NBN as planned by the ALP may will be retained in the form proposed if the LNP form government, personally I hope so. Similarly if the ALP form government the internet filter may need to be ditched, again I personally hope so.
Where did the voters turn to? The Green vote is up 3.8% nationally and hovers around 12%, however due to the preferential voting system in Australia they are only likely to attain any more than 1 seat in the lower house. This does though represent the Greens first elected member of the Lower House. The Greens are the new left wing alternative and have a range of policies aimed at building the nation.
The Greens have overachieved in this election with next to no media coverage and being cut out of the leaders debates and forums. If they had the opportunity to discuss their visions in the same manner as the ALP and LNP they may well have an even greater presence. Next time I hope they are given the respect and offered the opportunity to impress or fail in line with the ALP and LNP.
Australia now lives in limbo until the final results and negotiations are complete. Nervous yes, however I now trust more in our democracy than previously. Hopefully the message that was sent to both the ALP and LNP will not be lost, and that message is that they need to be more positive, visionary and different!
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