30 June, 2011

Who elected these three?

I really shouldn’t be surprised when my intelligence is insulted any more, but being the naïve young thing that I am, I still take it to heart every time is happens.

Today’s example comes from business leaders, Gerry Harvey, John Singleton and John Symond.  The three of them have called for a fresh election to “restore confidence.”  Symond said, “We've got a government in limbo, dictated to by minor factions.”
Wow, do you think he means the mining industry?

Predictably enough, Tony Abbott agrees with them.  So can we assume that if he had been successful in securing the support of the independents last year, that he would have called another election less than twelve months into its term?  Place your bets!

It bothers me that people who are so powerful are so ignorant about how the Australian government works.  As I wrote last week, we don’t elect a government, we elect a parliament and that parliament is the government.  The Australian people, in their collective wisdom, chose a hung parliament and if that displeases a small group of millionaires, then they can cry all the way to the bank.  We have elections when it is constitutionally mandated, not when a few minor factions decide they want a do-over.

There is also the enormous conceit in the assumption that a new election would return a clear majority.  Who says it would?  While it’s fair to say that nobody expected this result, this election is really no different to any other.  Every electorate voted in their representative, and there are a lot more voices being heard in this parliament than there would have been under either a Labor or a Coalition majority.

If Harvey, Singo and Symonds don’t like that, then their vote is worth just as much as the next person’s.  And doesn’t that piss them off.


  1. Do you ever discuss parliamentary elections with Americans? I've found they get confused about holding elections outside of every other November.

  2. Almost daily.

    I can kind of understand the confusion over not directly electing the head of government when you're used to a presidential system. Far too many people in parliamentary systems don't realise they're not voting for this leader or that leader and most of the parties are happy for it to be that way.

    Really, it's more like congress. Nobody voted for John Boehner. They elected a congress and congress appointed Boehner. I'm not saying that's good or bad, it's just how it is.

    There's good and bad in both systems. I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the US system of the president appointing cabinet from outside the government. I know they have to be approved by congress, but it strikes me as less accountable than having a cabinet of elected representatives. On the other hand, having cabinet drawn only from representatives and senators means that ministers may not even be conversant, let alone experts, in their portfolios. I'm not really sure which is the lesser of two evils there.

    Several states here have moved to fixed four-year terms. I'm not for fixed terms. I like the idea of a government than can fall any day if things go badly. Someone said last year that fixed terms are like leg-warmers - they seemed like a good idea in the 80s but nobody wants them any more. New South Wales has only just gotten rid of a government that had been dead in the water for at least two years.

    While the federal election is called at a time of the prime minister's recommendation, that time is within a window of about 6 months at the end of the term. At this moment, an election can't be called without a) a no-confidence vote, or b) a bill being rejected twice in the senate. Even in the event of the latter, there doesn't have to be an election. Kevin Rudd had a double-dissolution trigger last year and chose not to use it.

    While the three businessmen and the opposition are entitled to their views, if they don't understand these aspects of the system, they shouldn't be commenting on what should happen next.