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Time for the major parties to acknowledge their significant others

By Richard Denniss and Brenton Prosser - posted Thursday, 12 September 2013

Australia has listened, it has voted and it has decided.

Australia wants political arrangements 'other' than what the major parties intended.

It's not what Sophie Mirabella expected before being 'outgunned' by the independent forces of Cathy McGowan and Tony Windsor.


It's not what ALP faceless man, Don Farrell, expected when he gave up his number one SA Senate position to Penny Wong.

And it's not what PM-elect Tony Abbott expected when he warned voters away from independents and minor parties.

Both major parties stated in the Election campaign that they respected the 'will of the Australian people'. Well, what is that will? Clearly, it is other than the will of the major parties.

And if the election was a referendum on the illegitimacy of independent voices in the parliament after the 'chaos' of minority government - then it was soundly defeated.

Australians want more voices in parliament, not more power in the hands of a Prime Minister.

A one per cent swing to the Liberals in the Lower House and a one per cent swing away from them in the Senate is hardly a landslide. Indeed, can this result really be called a 'mandate'?


But while the Coalition's vote barely moved, voters fled the ALP and the Greens in droves. Both lost around four per cent of votes (or around 400,000 voters a piece).

The big winners from the 2013 Federal Election were the 'others' - that is, the independents, micro parties and candidates like Adam Bandt (who successfully managed to campaign on his own brand in an election where his party went backwards).

Despite concerted efforts by the majors to win back the seats of Melbourne and Denison, Adam Bandt recorded a 7.7% swing to hold his seat and Andrew Wilkie recorded a 14% swing in his favour.

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About the Authors

Dr Richard Denniss is Executive Director of The Australia Institute and an adjunct associate professor at the Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University.

Brenton Prosser is Senior Research Fellow in Policy, Sociology and Public Health at the University of Canberra. He is also adjunct to the Schools of Sociology at ANU and Education at UniSA. Previously, he worked as a director in the Commonwealth Public Service and was Senior Policy Adviser to Independent Senator Nick Xenophon while the Senator shared the 'balance of power'. He has published three books, including a guide to ADHD, which has sold over 5,000 copies internationally.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Richard Denniss
All articles by Brenton Prosser

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