I don’t think I was the only one breathing a massive sigh of relief at many minutes past three this afternoon when Rob Oakshott, after a build up worthy of some shitty second rate reality TV show, put the nation out of it’s misery and announced that he would guarantee a Labor government the passing of supply bills as well as his support should (read: when) a motion of no-confidence be moved against the Prime Minister.
What he also did was bring to an end what has possibly been the most intriguing two and a half weeks in Australian politics, since the election was left without a firm outcome on August 21.
But the worrying thing for me is what this period and, now, this outcome have showed about the Australian people when it comes to the government of our country. We’ve been shown to be a scared, easily impressionable, uneducated about our own country mass of people who’d fallen into believing that our electoral system was an Australian Idol style competition where there is always a winner. And to me, that little revelation, is utterly shameful. We, as a country, should be so much better than that.
Yes, this is the first time in about two generations that we’ve been in put in the position of having to be governed by a collection of people who individually didn’t have enough power in the House of Representatives to form a parliament. But that is not something that is wrong. It is not something that is undemocratic – if fact it’s the exact opposite. It is not something that is to be feared.
What a lot of people seen to forget is that that minority governments are par for the course among many European nations that share a similar parliamentary system to us. Germany, for many years, has been ruled by a minority parliament headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was only a few months ago that we saw England – the very model of government that our system was based on – end their general election with a coalition Conservative/Liberal-Democrat government coming to power after a hung parliament on polling day. Hell, even Israel managed to form a functioning minority government back in either the late 90s or the early 00s (my memory is middle-east Jewish state politics is a little fuzzy. Give me a break).
But think what was the highlight of the populations ignorance of our Westminster system of government was the loud calls that a hung parliament meant that the formation of a government via negotiation with minor party and independent members was going to lead to a situation that, in their view, was undemocratic.
This idea is, frankly, absurd and pretty much offensive to anyone that believes in the foundations of this country and the formation of its government. This mindset only highlights that you have no understanding of how the Westminster system of parliament works, instead opting into the completely made-up idea that we can only choose between one of two parties – either Labor or the Liberal/National coalition.
And speaking of the coalition for just a moment: Just because they did the deal before the election and everyone knew about it, it’s still a minority government. Neither of those parties has the support to form a government. So, simpletons,
sit on that.
sit on that.
I just wonder how many of those people calling this formation of a parliament “undemocratic” would be saying the same thing had the independents decided to support the other option?
This is seen more during the campaign, but what we’ve also seen is the move towards people seeing our general elections more like an American presidential campaign. The idea that we’re voting in our Prime Minister – and that the whole Kevin Rudd thing deserved to be an election issue – only further demonstrates the rampant misunderstandings that people have about ow our system of government works and how our leaders gain their offices.
Long story short, we don’t elect our Prime Minister in the same way that the United States elects their president. It doesn’t work like that at all. Our prime minister is the leader of the parliament in the house of representatives. Typically, they’re the leader of the party that has the power to pass legislation through the house. Now we, the voting public, have absolutely no say in who either party chooses to be their leader. A party can change their leader whenever they damn well please. We see it constantly from opposition parties. Just because the Labor party decided to change leadership while in government does not mean that they’re stripping away some sort of self-determined democratic right you think you have to choose who leads this country. Our system just doesn’t work that say.
So, once again, I’ll say it slowly:
WE. DO. NOT. ELECT. OUR. PRIME. MINISTER.
It’s just like how we don’t elect the King/Queen or the Governor-General.
When you boil it down, this election certainly has been an eye-opener. Hopefully what will come of it is a deeper level of understanding about how our government works which should push us towards a change back to how it was intended to function. Remember, this whole two-party thing is entirely of our making. The constitution was written around a legislature that would be drawn along state lines, not parties.
Have a good think Australia. What’s happened with this election isn’t wrong, it isn’t undemocratic, it isn’t something that’s going to rip this country apart. If anything, it’s the first true demonstration of how this country is supposed to be governed that we’ve had in a very, very long time.
And you know what? It’s fucking brilliant.