Abbott losing his own election referendum
If the election was a referendum on the Government then the Coalition has lost.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott may have fond memories of referendums because of 1999, but his statement at 1.56 am on election night that the 2010 Federal ”…election has been a referendum on the political execution of a Prime Minister” could come back to bite him. If the Independents take his advice he’ll probably remain in Opposition for the foreseeable future.
The media and the Opposition are suggesting that the country rejected the current Government: “a humiliating rebuff” was the way ABC Radio National’s breakfast presenter Fran Kelly framed it in her interview with Federal minister Tony Burke on Monday morning.
The truth is more complicated, since Labor actually saw a swing towards them in several states and only a significant swing away from them in Queensland and New South Wales.
As Professor George Williams said in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, there are centuries of convention out of Britain about who should form Government when there’s a hung parliament. Far from being an aberration, hung parliaments happens often—we just haven’t seen one recently at a Federal level.
The basic rule is that the Government has first option to try to form Government. If they fail, then the opposition has a go. If they then can’t get the numbers, well then the country goes back to the polls. Total vote numbers and plurality of seats don’t really come into it, except insofar as they may be factors used by the individuals who need to make a choice.
Currently, the ones needing to make a decision are the Independents. Abbott’s notion that the election was a referendum on the current Government might be a way for them to adjudge the mood of the nation. In fact, statements made by Independent Tony Windsor before the election appear to confirm that they will look at these sorts of factors:
“Considerations that I’d take into account was who won the most seats? Who got the greatest vote? What would people in this electorate want? What are some of the significant issues in terms of regional Australia? And, most importantly, [who would provide] stability of governance for the rest of Australia.”
So, if this election was a referendum on whether the current Government should continue, then what was the result?
The template for referenda is set out in the Australian Constitution. There, the basic formula is that a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ proposition would require assent of a majority of voters in total and in a majority of the states (not territories).
Since our system enforces compulsory preferential voting, so that the final count in each electorate is usually between the two major parties, it is quite simple to use the two-party preferred (2PP) vote nationally, and in each state, to apply this to Abbott’s idea.
Using Abbott’s words, the proposal might be “Do you want to overthrow the current Government because of the way it treated ex-PM Kevin Rudd”. A vote for the Coalition would be a ‘Yes’, a vote for the Government a ‘No’.
Bearing in mind that vote-counting is still continuing, I am going to use the figures on the AEC website as of 10.40am Monday morning, after almost 75% of the total votes had been counted, to work out a provisional result:
As you can see, Coalition referendum to overturn the Government would fail on both measures.
Firstly, it would only receive 49.34% of the total vote. Despite the media reporting that the Coalition had won the popular vote, reference to the AEC website even on election night showed the Labor Party always ahead on this measure.
The Coalition also would not achieve a majority of the voters in a majority of states. It would end up 3 for Labor, 3 for the Coalition. If the territories were included, which is strictly unconstitutional, thuugh indicative, then the result favours Labor a resounding 5-3.
Only in Queensland and WA is Labor relatively unpopular. In NSW, it is just below parity and in NT slightly better than par. Labor is strongly popular in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.
Frankly, it is hard to see the argument for the Coalition to take Government based on these figures. If the Independents decide to use this methodology, Abbott may rue an indiscriminate comment after about three days without sleep.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…