Hang time: Government limbo’s not entirely new
On Friday my daughter turned 2. By the end of the month, she may have had more Prime Ministers in her life than birthdays.
That said, the result on Saturday night was a victory for the people. As much as the two major parties don’t like not knowing if they get the keys to Treasury, this is a great outcome for all Australians.
Throughout Australia, at the state level, we’ve been through this a few times more recently than the last time this happened federally. In Queensland – my most direct experience with hung parliaments – it started in 1995.
How well I remember the days after the Queensland election when the counting went on for two weeks. In Greenslopes it was under a Queenslander, amid the dust and old washing machines.
In the Victory hotel on the corner of Charlotte and Edward Streets, Queensland government ministers sat and had beers with advisers, journalists and public servants ordered to do nothing.
These were the days before mobile phones were really prolific. The Victory became a bit of a feeder hub for information. But mostly it was gossip and speculation.
Meanwhile, the shredders were being burned out in the Ministerial offices as the convention of ‘leave no evidence’ was being followed. Rumour had it in Health alone, they killed two shredders and there were blood splatters on the last one.
Ministerial staff calculated their entitlements and considered the option of buying second hand bookshops or starting a consultancy.
It happened again in 1998 but the independents went to Labor this time.
Queensland survived. Queenslanders still had power, water (this was before the drought affected the water supplies in Brisbane) and jobs.
Every so often, the valve of political frustration is released. In 1995, they were sick of Keating and the infighting between Peter Beattie and Wayne Goss.
In 1998, it was on the right. People who had put their faith in the Liberals and Nationals at the state level, felt they still weren’t being listened to. The rest of the world went ahead meant many people were feeling left by the wayside.
Enter One Nation. We thought it was the end of the world as we knew it. But on Saturday, One Nation was no where to be seen.
The Greens rise is no more permanent than the Democrats’ rise in the 1970s and 1980s. And it would seem the Greens are more polarised on who they are than any new party should expect to be.
Lee Rhiannon is a communist, bent on taking down corporate Australia. Bob Brown is just an old senator who should worry about the new bull from Melbourne. And the fella from Melbourne probably owes a lot to the gay vote.
For such a small number of elected representatives, they will be expected to deliver change on a huge range of issues and because it’s so broad, they won’t be able to deliver.
The strong message coming from the Greens and the conservative independents is they want a better government more committed to government than what we’ve had over the past two or so years.
As for the ALP: if ever a party needed to stop talking and start listening, this is the one.
No matter which way this coin falls, by this time next year, I have no doubt that she will have had three Prime Ministers and three birthdays.
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