Hallelujah, the election is over! Well, overish. Well, a result seems likely, at some point in the not too distant future, definitely this year. Probably. Once the AEC, the planets and Antony Green are all in alignment. Subject to recount, rethink, relapse, the Court of Disputed Returns, and the mercurial whim of Bob Katter.
At the time of writing, Malcolm Turnbull was the more likely prime minister, not least because he’s currently the prime minister, and will remain so until anybody else is.
And while his plea of “stick to the plan” has been met by the electorate with “no thanks, we prefer knife-edge near-chaos, if it’s all the same to you”, the PM is likely to be able to make the stronger case to the crossbenchers. Perhaps not numerically, but as we saw on election night, certainly in terms of emphatic, fistpumping rhetoric.
Ultimately, of course, the Australian people choose our leaders. But we also reserve the right not to choose, and to be so underwhelmed by both options that we leave the parliament to knife-fight it out among themselves.
That’s what we did in 2010, placing our government in such a precarious position that not only was Julia Gillard forced to play nice with Kevin Rudd and Craig Thomson, but that co-opting Peter Slipper seemed like a really smart idea. And that’s what we’ve chosen to do again.
Perhaps, in our collective wisdom, we looked back at Gillard’s prodigious record of getting legislation passed and decided we’d like more of the same, please? Perhaps we felt that neither “seriously guys, stick to the plan, or we’ll have more of the instability that I caused nine months ago” or “they’ll privatise Medicare even though it’s a payments system that would defy logic to even find a way of privatising – woo-ooo, are you scared yet?” deserved to be rewarded with a comfortable majority.
Or perhaps, as I suspect, when we voted, we were thinking primarily about whether to buy a second sausage on our way home.
However we’ve arrived at this impasse, it now seems clear that stable government is off the table. Even if the Coalition cobbles together a three-seat majority, which now seems about as likely as Kevin Rudd joining Gillard in the Western Bulldogs’ forward line, the requirement to provide a Speaker will give them a narrow margin indeed.
What’s more, the Coalition doesn’t have Labor’s system of caucus discipline, instead allowing backbenchers to do their own thing as though they were members of a jazz orchestra, or enrolled at a Steiner school.
We saw some admirable examples of this from the likes of Kevin “Happy To Lead” Andrews and Cory “Going Solo” Bernardi during the campaign. Plus, Tony Abbott is still in the parliament. Malcolm Turnbull can’t rely on his whole team to fall into line, as he’ll need every vote.
Fortunately, there’s one obvious option to solve all of the potential minority government’s non-potential huge problems. And it’s the solution they use in the AFL when there’s a deadlock after four quarters.
They go back and do it again.
This may sound like an exhausting prospect, and after a horrifyingly long campaign, it is. But if our footballers can pick themselves up at the end of a punishing season for a grand final replay, then so can our politicians. And with another election, at least there’s no prospect of Collingwood winning.
Admittedly, the AFL has now dropped this rule in favour of extra time and golden point, but there’s no easy way of doing that with elections. We could, I suppose, just ask the voters of Eden-Monaro to decide, but they seem on track to lose their bellwether status, having been seduced once more by the sheer excellence of Mike Kelly’s moustache.
Having a do-over election wouldn’t be that bad. Back in 2013, voters in WA were obliged to front up for a second Senate poll. Admittedly, that wasn’t courtesy of a tight result but an AEC stuff-up – and the results differed significantly the second time around. Would it be so terrible if we had to have another go?
Personally, I’d welcome another election. Even the prospect of another series of Sammy J’s Playground Politics would be reason enough to go back to the polls. It would mean more debates, more doorknocking, more fake/real-but-amusingly-eccentric tradies, and perhaps even a more compelling reason for re-electing the Coalition than “stick to the plan”?
And best of all, it would give us all a second helping of democracy sausages.
Back in school, if you didn’t try hard enough, the teacher often sent you back to do an assignment again. We voters marked the members of our government fairly harshly on 2 July, so it’s not at all unreasonable to expect them to have another crack.
Another election would most likely mean that instead of a government of either complexion scrambling desperately for support on every issue, making unpalatable compromises with both crossbenchers and backbenchers, we would endorse a clear agenda for the next three years. Whether it was the government’s or the opposition’s, we would at least know where we were.
Or, we’d vote the same way and choose another hung parliament. At least then, unlike so many Brexit voters, we’d be clear on what we were choosing.
Malcolm Turnbull recently said he would prefer a Labor government to another hung parliament, and although he’s now eating those words as though they were made of organic green tea, he had a point.
It would be expensive to go back to the polls, but there’s a possibility that if Labor wins, or if the PM gets to run on the platform he wants this time, we might not need to have that problematic plebiscite. So there’s at least a chance of breaking even.
Unfortunately, if we had another election, it would only be for the lower house – we’re stuck with the Senate we’ve got until 2019, except in the incredibly unlikely event that the government chances its arm at another double dissolution.
But the fractiousness of the new Senate is all the more reason to go back and elect a majority government this time. In my electorate, the corflutes are still up. So let’s bulk order some more budget fundraising snags and let the people decide where we should go as a nation. Again.