For the past decade the Australia political landscape has been littered with hung Parliaments.
From Julia Gillard’s minority Government to the Morrison Shambles, the Independents and so-called ‘Minor Parties’ have held sway. Their votes have been crucial to the Government de jour being able to progress any legislation. They have had an importance far beyond the wildest dreams of those few who voted for them.
The media has hung on every word they have said, looking for early clues as to the way they will vote on any matter which comes before the Parliament. Independents have received far more publicity than any Government or Opposition back-bencher.
So much so that a number of those limelight-deprived seat-warmers have chosen to jump ship and become independents in their own right. Things have become so bad that rather than learning the art of negotiation, as Gillard did to marvellous effect, the current incumbent has chosen to shut the Parliament down. He has discovered the joy of governing by regulation and decree rather than parliamentary process.
Possibly the only truly useful thing our current PM has done is to draw attention, once again, to the fact that those who are elected to our Nation’s governing bodies come to live in a ‘Bubble’. Protected from the slings, arrows and reality of real life, everything is seen through the prism of the Independent votes and how they affect the passage of legislation. The voters themselves are forgotten.
Now we are in an election year, we can expect to see many moves to show how interested the Government is in what the majority of electors want. And we shall see the standard election campaign waffle and weasel words in the mass media. Yet the outcome of this election is likely to be very different.
The conservative wing of politics appears to have lost the confidence of the electorate. The polls are consistently showing a large move away from the right, in all its forms. There are suggestions that there could be a swing of between 20 and 50 seats to the Left. This will have a dire effect on those right-wing Independents and Minor Parties.
After years of being media darlings due to the way small numbers of voters have played with their preferences, these people (and they ARE people, after all) are about to be consigned to the dustbin of history. They are mostly Senators who gained their seat in a Double Dissolution although there are high profile independent House of Reps members who will go the same way.
Many will be dumped from the Parliament and those Independents who survive will lose the power of their casting vote for the first time. They will become irrelevant to the governance of Australia.
I am wondering how long it will take for the Rupert-Media to wake up to that fact. For how long will that group of journalistic prostitutes continue to interview, quote and grovel to the suddenly unimportant.
On a human level, there will be large amounts of mental anguish among the soon-to-be ex-members. We have seen how the sudden loss of public interest affects many sportspeople at the end of their career. Drugs, alcohol, societal dysfunction, depression and suicide are common results. Depression in the retired athlete is matched by depression in the defeated politician. Especially if that politician achieved nothing while in Parliament. If all he or she did was to trade principles for their votes.
Perhaps the first thing an ALP Government will need to do is to increase funding to Beyond Blue to cater for the flood of politicians who have suddenly lost their seat, their purpose and possibly their families.