Rather than getting the government we deserve, the August 21 federal election delivered an outcome the two old parties deserved.
With both Labor and the Coalition focusing on negative campaigning, sloganeering and scapegoating refugees and other minorities, an even larger number of voters decided to cast their vote for alternatives with some vision.
A hung parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate was only a partial reflection of this growing disenchantment with the two-party system.
Close to one in five voters opted to show their opposition to both Labor and Liberal by voting for other parties.
Importantly, 11.4 per cent of voters looked towards the progressive alternative posed by the Greens in the lower house, with 14 per cent in the Senate nationally.
In a fairer electoral system, based on proportional representation, the Greens would have won not one but 17 of the 150 seats up for grabs in the House of Representatives.
A further sign of discontent was an informal vote of 5.6 per cent, unseen since 1987, and reaching up to 14 per cent in migrant working class electorates in western Sydney. More than 20 per cent did not even bother to register or turn up.
With 80 per cent of votes counted, 40 per cent of votes have not gone to either Labor or the Coalition.
Julia Gillard, stealing a quote from former US president Bill Clinton, sought to downplay the discontent with this line: “It’s going to take a little while to determine exactly what [the people have] said”. In fact, the vote and the major parties’ post-election claims for “legitimacy” show neither has a mandate.
The response from the corporate backers of these parties is also crystal clear.
Graham Bradley, president of the Business Council of Australia wrote in the August 23 Australian Financial Review that any minority government requiring the support of independents and minor parties represented a “danger” to the “bold reforms Australia needs”.
“Regardless who wins, it’s not good news for business at all”, said Myers chief executive Bernie Brooks.
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