Sunday, 22 August 2010

Election results are rarely as tight as this one and it's fairly certain that despite the rumblings from Coalition leaders about their having won the overall largest number of votes nationally, the Governor-General will be faced with a difficult decision come next week when she has to decide which leader to ask to form a government.

At the moment it looks as though there will be three rural independents (Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor) plus one Left-leaning independent (Andrew Wilkie) in addition to the new Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

All of these MPs will be in favour of the National Broadband Network, which the Coalition has campaigned strongly against.

On other issues, the rural MPs would be likely to side with the Coalition, especially on such issues as gay marriage. On such issues, Wilkie would most likely favour a more progressive stance than the current Labor policy allows for. Needless to say that Bandt would favour gay marriage if it came to a vote in the Lower House. Ditto on all counts for a carbon tax.

It's early days, yet, however. There remain about 1.8 million pre-poll votes to count, including over 800,000 postal votes. These votes will be critical in determining the final constitution of the Lower House.

Even if the Coalition is asked to form a government, the Upper House will be dominated by the Greens. The result in practical terms will be centrist legislation designed to appeal to a broad cross-section of society. In the medium term - given an inability to pass legislation through both Houses - it is also possible that there will be a double dissolution - a measure that Kevin Rudd is not doubt wishing he had availed himself of a year ago when his climate bill was refused a second time in the Senate.

Both the Labor Party and the Coalition will now be shopping ideas to the five oddly-matched winners.

In Tasmania recently, we saw the Governor ask the Labor Party to form a government despite the fact that it won fewer votes than the Coalition in aggregate. This was because the Greens publicly said that they would not block supply in the Lower House. This declaration was enough to convince the Governor that a Greens-Labor coalition could work. So far, it has worked.

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