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The situation is very fascinating.

The ALP has 69 seats, the Coalition has 70 seats, there are 3 ‘conservative’ independents (two of whom are former National Party members), one Green and one Green-leaning independent. Six seats (Boothby, Canning, Corangamite, Greenway, Hasluck, Lindsay) are in doubt.

76 seats are required to form a majority government. Currently the 6 seats in doubt are splitting 3:3 between Liberal and Labor. That means that no major party can govern in its own right.

The media (or at least the ABC) has been focussing on the headline figures – which factor is going to persuade the independents more? The national primary vote? The national two-party preferred vote? The party with the most seats? (Democratic legitimacy) Does the incumbent government get the first chance to form government? (Stable representation)

In practice, I think that it is all going to come down to bargaining power and arguments of democratic legitimacy or stable representation are only relevant insofar as the winners will use them to justify their backroom deal.

The 3 rural independents have continually been adamant that they will not automatically fall in line with the Coalition – they are adamant that the Nationals have abandoned the country. My prediction is that they will vote in a block and favour the party that provides the best policies for the rural vote.

The Greens will be seeking to capitalise on their massive nation-wide primary votes for democratic legitimacy but ultimately this will fall down to the fact that they hold the balance of power in the Senate. Without a compliant Greens-controlled Senate, a Liberal and independent House of Representatives cannot govern effectively and they will push this point. After all, if the rural independents want to pass a bill that hurts the environment but benefits the farmers, they have a buckley’s chance of passing it if they piss off the Greens now.

A Greens and rural independent coalition sounds unlikely. Their values seem totally dissonant, particularly on social issues. But these are seasoned professionals who can agree to disagree on issues like gay marriage – at least for a week whilst they nut out an agreement. The only issue that I can see blocking a Green/rural coalition is the fact actually the environment (in certain issues). The Greens have been arguing all of tonight that they have earned a higher primary vote than the Nationals in many rural areas, but ultimately land-clearning, water usage and other issues directly clash.

This will be a maturing issue for the Greens – can they stomach abandoning parts of their environmental policy and spin it to their own members? Sure, they can say that proper landcare management (preventing salinity and other issues) are both environmental and rural areas, but these are not minor issues they are throwing away. They will need to cut environmental flows in the Murray-Darling basin. A huge issue.

But on to the most important issue – who will the independents align with? ALP or LNP?

The ALP may actually be ahead of the LNP in terms of telecommunications (the NBN project, privatisation of Telstra) as well as certain other issues. Again, their recent Murray-Darling water policy may be harmful. But I can’t think of any solidly pro-rural policies on the part of the LNP that would convince the rural independents.

My prediction is that the LNP will ultimately win more seats, and (as an unrelated question) convince the rural independents as well as the Greens to form a coalition. But I am utterly unconfident of this prediction.


One Comment

  1. Well…regardless of what happens this government will be one of or a combination of the following:

    1)Short lived
    3)Focused on the next election
    4)Utterly pointless
    5)A waste of time
    6)A terror to behold if there is another period of economic instability.

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