I took a certain pleasure from the Australian election results, although the final outcome is still uncertain. Obviously the Coalition has won government, but it's the final mix of results in both houses that's still unclear.
I am not close enough now to the detail of counting to comment as anything approaching an expert. However, the thing that i notice in the House of Representative seats is the large number of votes still to be counted. Consider the seat of Fairfax where Mr Palmer is presently leading on a two party preferred basis. There appear to be between 6 and 7,000 votes still to be counted. In the Victorian seat of Indi where the Australian Electoral Commission figures show independent Cathy McGowan leading Liberal Sophie Mirabella on a two party preferred basis, there are also an unknown number of postal and pre-poll votes.
The position in the Senate is still more complex, with the vote at a much earlier stage. I actually have no idea what the final Senate mix will be. As we have seen in previous elections, results are likely to vary quite a bit as the voting proceeds. Anthony Green's Senate calculator may be fun, but it can also mislead. And as an aside, am I alone in thinking that the post-poll coverage of the actual results of the voting has been very poor? At least in the on-line main stream media, there has been damn all coverage that i can find of progressive voting in safe seats. We are forced back to inimitable blooger William Bowe for at least some detail.
So far, this has been an outcome that has dissatisfied most in some way, satisfied most in other ways. The main reaction from Labor supporters seems to be an overwhelming sense of relief that things weren't worse. Labor post vote parties became celebrations as total rout was avoided. There was also a feeling among many that the vote provided an opportunity to put the dysfunctional instability of the Rudd-Gillard era aside.
The Liberals are obviously pleased to be in Government, if disappointed with aspects of the vote and especially the likely Senate outcomes. Both Liberal and Labor suffer from the political equivalent of the divine right of kings; I have a mandate (whatever that may be) Mr Abbott tried to tell the yet to be finalised Senate, so get out of my way. Things don't work like that. We have a mandate from our voters, replied Labor and the Greens.
In aggregate voting terms, the Greens did quite poorly. However, they went into this election fearing the loss of their one lower house seat plus senators. The Green vote may have gone down, but they consolidated their parliamentary position. Melbourne now looks like a safe Green seat. That's quite a remarkable achievement, by the way. The Nationals take pleasure in recovering their Northern New South Wales heartland, yet the Party failed in WA and also has to accept that the Northern New South Wales seat of Richmond has become a safe Labor seat with a very strong Green tinge.
One of the reasons why change of Government is so important from time to time lies in the way it allows alternative positions their place in the sun. This year, the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Vote Compass provided a remarkably good if high level picture of the geographic dispersion of views across Australia. The views held in Sydney seats such as Wentworth, Kingsford Smith and especially Grayndler (the most left leaning seat in the country) are not representative of the national position. Further, just because a majority of views support one position (action on climate change, support for gay marriage for example) doesn't make it so. The intensity of support or opposition is also important.
Politics is all about accommodation of differing views, an accommodation that takes place against slowly shifting shifting perceptions in the broader electorate. Different things are tried. Some fail on practical grounds, some on political grounds.
Labor didn't deserve to win this time. Labor minister Tanya Plibersek put it this way. We could govern the country, we couldn't govern ourselves. The new Coalition Government will bring new approaches. Some (Stop the Boats) I disagree with as expressed on value grounds. Some (direct action on climate change) I object to on practical grounds. Some, indigenous recognition in the constitution, I agree with. Regardless of my views for or against, things will work themselves out in practice.
On the voting so far, the big and somewhat unexpected winners were the Liberal Democrats, a libertarian party. Their success was less than the Palmer United Party, but they didn't have lots of money. Media responses here have treated the Liberal Democrats as another new fringe group. They are fringe, but not new for as a party they have been around since 2001 with an intellectual tradition dating long before this. They are also more prominent in the bloggosphere than in the rest of the world. Think skepticlawyer or Catallaxy.
I welcome the possible presence in the Senate of the Liberal Democrats, or indeed other minor parties including the Palmer United Party even though I might disagree with their views. Why?
in institutional terms, we live in an increasingly rigid and indeed sclerotic system in which the need for order and consistency presses heavily on our capacity to bring about any form of change. I have tried to argue against this in rational terms, presenting evidence as best I can. This doesn't work very well. Maybe the change in electoral mix and the need for the political system to adjust will help.
I may disagree with the results of all this. But then, in our system I have a chance to present an alternative view. And that's our strength.