Malcolm Turnbull went to the election warning against the instability of a “hung” Parliament and a minority Labor government. It’s now clear that the most unstable outcomes within the range of possibility are those where the LNP forms a government with 76 seats (working majority of 1) 75 or 74 (presumably relying on Bob Katter and/or Nick Xenophon for confidence votes). The knives are already out for Turnbull, and there are at least three potential successors in the wings, all convinced they could do a better job than Turnbull or either of their rivals. So, any understanding Turnbull might reach with independents is liable to be overturned at any moment.

On the Labor side, the rules changes introduced by Kevin Rudd make it just about impossible to remove a sitting PM, and there is, in any case, almost no appetite for a change. So, if Labor manages 72 seats or more and forms a minority government, there’s a good chance that the government and parliament could run its full term.

75 thoughts on “Stability

  1. @Ivor

    Half the Senate elected this time is in for three years, half for six years. Note that it’s three years and six years, not one HoR term and two HoR terms. (And its actually closer to 4 and 7 years because of the timing of the election). Hanson is in for six plus because she is the third Senator elected in Qld, after the No 1s on the ticket for LNP and Labor. She is in the Senate until 30 June 2023.

  2. Anthony Green says on Twitter for LNP;

    73 is definite
    74 is also likely
    75 is possible
    76 is less possible

    It strikes me he should be able to assign percentage quantified probabilities to all these outcomes if his model was good enough. At the same time, it strikes me that the percentages of that list must add up to more than 100%. Since 73 seats is definite then that is 100% probable according to Green. What is the correct term for this sort of list (with essentially overlapping probabilities which will add up to more than 100%)? Is there a correct term?

  3. The AEC has published the current seats here:

    AEC Tally Room

    Coalition 74
    Katter 1
    Cath McGowan 1
    NXT 1
    Wilkie 1
    Greens 1
    ALP 71

    Although this is not the final Declaration of Seats.

  4. @Apocalypse

    Nope. After a double dissolution, the nominal commencement of the terms of elected Senators for the States is backdated to 1 July before the election. Those elected at this election will have terms expiring either on 30 June 2019 or on 30 June 2022. The terms are not extended past six years (or three years).

    (These terms can be shortened further, but only by the moderately unlikely event of another double dissolution.)

  5. @derrida derider
    Derrida Derida is always a common sense read, but this business re Labor not being prepared to drop the raw prawn (after thirty or forty years of ecological critiquing from scientists and pol economic theorists) rankles deeply.

    How long before Labor confronts itself as to its irrationalist and inward looking approach to this issue, the symptoms are of denial and blinded, it lurches from failure to failure because it can’t accept the world as it is rather than through rose coloured glasses, rather like Tony Blair.

  6. @paul walter

    hardly, derrida is a cold war warrior.

    And Labor is not inward looking and there are no symptoms of denial.

    Labor does not lurch from failure to failure and it is Turnbull who frefuses to accept the world as it is rather than through the myoptic vision of merchant bankster greed.

  7. If there was more interest in policy and less in funny deals with developers, also promotion of the developer ideology I might agree with you more.

  8. @paul walter

    Yes, that is exactly the REAL problem with Labor.

    I am thinking that Jerermy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are signs of different pathways for labour in the future.

    UNfortunately we are stuck with Shorten and the ghost of Keating.

  9. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would question how Labor’s seat tally stalled and how all late counts always seem to favour the LNP. Of course, I am not a conspiracy theorist and I do understand why late tallies favour the LNP. It is still galling to watch however.

    Well, I suppose the rich and/or conservative old people and middle aged people have again decided “I’m all right Jack, so stuff the young people.”

    Again, the youth and young adult people will be condemned to the continued failure to solve youth unemployment, to being dependent mendicants on the system and their parents and to the general and seemingly endless stupidities of neoliberalism. Young adult people will be limited in life chances, less able to find secure full-time employment, less able to form households and more prone to depression and suicide. These are the costs of rich and/or conservative old people and middle aged people keeping everything set up to suit themselves. What a pack of selfish B’s we have become.

  10. The old Senate voting rules would not have kept out One Nation because (a) Hanson herself does not need preferences and (b) if the far right micro-parties in NSW had lodged similar group voting tickets as in 2013, their preferences would have gone to One Nation ahead of the major parties, the Greens and progressive independents and micro-parties, and ensured the election of a One Nation Senator.

  11. @Ikonoclast

    Ikonoclast, more than a million Australians haven’t bothered to enrol to vote. Failure to enrol is skewed strongly to “youth and young people”, together with indigenous Australians. So while I’m sympathetic to your point, their remedy is in their own hands.

  12. @Paul Norton

    The old Senate voting rules may well have reduced the representation of Hansen. A normal half senate election may well have blocked Hansen.

    It is not preferences that determine the final seats but also the distributed surplus.

  13. @Ken_L

    To an extent that is true. However, the electoral and party system of RECD (Really Existing Capitalism & Democracy) in Australia channels almost all votes into the the duopoly parties which are basically neoliberal in economic terms. Labor is less neoliberal but now it never properly questions essential neoliberal dogma. Young people discern that “no matter who we vote for we get a government which does not care sufficiently about youth issues”. Their disengagement (of a proportion anyway) is understandable, albeit unfortunate, and against their own best interests.

    If our system were proportional, the Greens would have 14 or 15 seats in the House of Reps. Now, if you think in the paradigm of our current system you will assume, incorrectly, that all these seats would come from Labor. In fact, that is incorrect. Under a proportional system, all parties end up with proportional representation. Hence by definition and construction, half of these Green seats would come from the coalition.

    On the basis of the above, imagine this House of Reps;

    Coalition: 69 seats
    Labor: 62 seats
    Greens: 14 seats
    Oth: 5 seats.

    I am not sure of the effect of a proportional system on the “other” category so I have left it unchanged. I suspect it might actually shrink but I could be wrong in that.

    In this situation a Labor/Green coalition could and should be hammered out to give them government with 76 seats. It would be a far truer and fairer reflection of the electorate’s democratic wishes.

    With proportional representation, a Youth Party would be viable, offering a progressive, pro-youth platform but accepting pro-youth members of all ages. It would be possible for them to achieve 5 seats or so; again with proportional losses to all larger representative groups. Proportional representation would make more groups feel more empowered precisely because they would be more empowered.

    Of course, the political majors love their cosy little duopoly and would rather play in the sandpit alone; denying plurality and equality. These concepts (plurality and equality) are not mutually exclusive in socioeconomic terms.

  14. @Ikonoclast

    You can’t just take the take the votes cast in a preferential system and assume that people would vote the same way in a proportional system. If the voting system was changed, people might well vote differently. That’s what happened in NZ.

    There is absolutely no guarantee that under a PR system that parties of the Left would have enduring majorities in the HoR. If it was that simple, Tasmania would have all Labor-Green governments, all the time. But Tasmania has Liberal governments about half the time, just like happens federally.

  15. @Apocalypse

    I was assuming people would vote the same way in this or a near election; which might be a wrong assumption I grant you. I wasn’t assuming that the Left would get majorities in perpetuity. I was however hopeful something might change and shift the Overton window back to the left a bit. Amazing! And J.Q. thought I was an incorrigible pessimist.

  16. We already have a proportional system Ikonoclast. It’s called the Senate. This time round, because it’s a double dissolution, and 12 are elected from each State, it more fairly reflects the votes for minor parties. We will have to see the final results, but I expect the majority of the Senate will be right of centre parties or independents. This would be in line with the two party preferred vote in the House of Representatives where it is expected, when the final numbers come in, that the 2PP for the LNP will be about 50.5% and for the ALP therefore about 49.5%.

  17. @Apocalypse

    Why cannot you take a preferential vote as producing a proportional result?

    Obviously the lower the quota, the more proportional, but this is entirely preferential.

    Is there any other system of achieving a proportional result?

  18. @John Goss

    The Senate is only proportional within each state. On a national basis, the Senate is grossly disproportional. There are 76 senators, 12 from each state and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Thus NSW with a population of 7.5 million elects 12 senators and Tasmania with a population of 515,000 elects 12 senators. This is, as I said, grossly disproportional.

    A preferential system also gives a flawed result (though better than a first past the post system). You say that “2PP for the LNP will be about 50.5% and for the ALP therefore about 49.5%”. I have no reason to doubt you. Let us accept those figures for the sake of analysis. This indicates that a majority of Australian voters prefer a LNP coalition government over a Labor government if forced to make a binary choice. Note well the phrase “if forced to make a binary choice”. It does not say that a majority of Australian voters would not prefer an LNP coalition government over a Labor-Green coalition government, for example. They might.

    If we test the electorate with a proportional system, on the current votes, the Reps would come up about as follows;

    Coalition: 69 seats
    Labor: 62 seats
    Greens: 14 seats
    NXT: 2 seats
    Oth: 3 seats.

    In this scenario, Labor-Green could form a coalition and govern. How could one say this was not the will of the people? Equally, under 2PP, as actually happened, the result is regarded as the will of the people. In each case, we have a less than perfect system attempting to find the will of the people.

    What is the cause of the measurement error in each case above in determining the will of the people: since the systems give discrepant results? The measurement error is not in the counting. We can assume the votes are correctly counted in each case. The measurement error is in the mechanics of the choice in each case. The key mechanism rendering the 2PP vote spurious is the granting of extra votes to some people as a mechanism for generating a false binary choice.

    Let me explain. Imagine a three-way contest of Liberal, Labour and NXT candidates. The Labor candidate gets the most votes, say 45%. The Liberal candidate gets 40% and the NXT candidate gets 15%. Then, when the NXT candidate is scratched in counting, the NXT voters in effect get another vote. They now get to vote (even forced to vote) for the main two parties in this case. These are key points about mandatory full preference voting. First, it pressures people to vote for one of a political duopoly in the end (a false binary choice) if they wish to register a valid vote. Also in effect, it gives minority voters extra votes. When they make an ineffective vote under the Preferential system they then make another vote.

    Preferential voting has these two serious and structurally linked flaws. Yes, it is better (mostly) than a crude first past the post but it is still inferior to a genuine proportional system. Quoting the 2PP vote as some kind of litmus of the will of the people is flawed for the above reasons. The forcing of choice into a false binary choice setup is not a valid method for giving people choice, meaning democratic choice in this case.

  19. Correction: I should have written above in a key sentence.

    “It does not say that a majority of Australian voters would prefer an LNP coalition government over a Labor-Green coalition government, for example.”

    I got myself tangled in an unintended and unnecessary double negative.

  20. Ikonoclast introduces an interesting issue.

    Proportional representation has a subjective (ie moral) basis and an objective (quantitative) basis.

    Logic supports – one vote per person however this can lead to the tyranny of the majority and the relative disregard of other interests.

    So I would support the election of Aboriginal representation on a different basis to representation of others.

    They should have a different proportionality to the rest – for moral reasons.

    Representation has to be fair and accountable and not strictly proportional.

  21. Ikonoclast
    You are correct because there are an equal number of Senators per State, that the output from a double dissolution Senate will deviate from a truly proportional result. When the final Senate results are in, we can correct for this problem by reweighting. ie we would give the Senators from the smaller States a lower weight. This theoretical calculation would be expected to reduce the number of ALP/Green Senators in the reweighted Senate, as the smaller States of Tasmania and SA are more Left than the larger States of Queensland, WA and NSW.

    And then to your strange calculation of expected seats for each party in the HoR in a proportional system. (See below) You have adjusted the Coalition, Labor and Greens seats, but given no good reason why you haven’t also adjusted the ‘Other’ seats.
    ‘Ikonoclast calculation’
    Coalition: 69 seats
    Labor: 62 seats
    Greens: 14 seats
    NXT: 2 seats
    Oth: 3 seats.

    John Goss proportional calculation
    Coalition 63 seats
    Labor 53 seats
    Greens 15 seats
    NXT 3
    Others 16

    On these numbers Labor and Greens would not have a majority.

    I think there is a good argument that voter preferences have been distorted by the power of money. But the reality is that, at present, voter preferences as expressed at the ballot box, support right-of-centre parties and independents. It’s not by much, but it is the preferences expressed.
    This analysis is complicated by the fact that right of centre parties have some left of centre policies and vice-versa. eg Xenophon is arguing for a left of centre policy of a top marginal income tax rate of at least 50%. And that example illustrates why the left-right divide is an oversimplification. A simple left-right analysis is OK as a starting point, as long as one also goes beyond that. This was a point John Quiggin was making some weeks ago, (though he was not happy with even using left-right as a starting point, but wanted all analysis to be in multi-party terms). I think for practical reasons one needs to start with a simple two party preferred analysis, and then go beyond that.

  22. @John Goss

    In an earlier post, I did say I didn’t know what the effect on Other would be in a proportional system. Therefore I left it substantially the same. I did this again in my new post above except for NXT but then neglected to post my reasons. Your estimate is certainly better than mine but also certainly not perfect. Another blogger above mentioned that a proportional system will likely change how people vote. I think that person is correct. Once people (the “smart enough” proportion) know and understand a proportional system, some might well change how they vote. One possible effect could be to take votes away from “Other” as people will begin to be concerned about “too many” independents, one-issue candidates and minor “crank” candidates getting seats in the house. This factor could work to keep the “Other” vote and “Other” seats quite low. We could look at effects in N.Z. to get an initial idea on this.

    I still think there is a very good case for a proportional representation system in the Reps. We would get more “deliberative parliaments” to use J.Q.’s excellent phrase. I am not happy with a system which, as I term it, channels political choice into “false binary choices”. This sort of ideological straitjacketing performed by the current electoral system is part of the reason, in my view, that we have failed to make headway in dealing with climate change and rolling back the program of neoliberalism. It also plays a role in our inhumane refugee policies.

  23. JanetG :
    The Aust voting system is the envy of the world

    That’s impressive if it’s the world telling me that; less impressive if it’s an Australian telling me that.

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