With two country independents backing Gillard, the Labor party will now pass the only threshold needed in Australia to form government – a majority on the floor of House. There is no other test, there is no other requisite, there is no other qualification needed to control the Treasury benches.
But this constitutional reality will not stop some. Indeed, it merely marks the beginning of what will become a long festival of delusion, conspiracy and outright lies – where its hysteria will only be surpassed by its grubby bitterness and its commercial exploitation.
With so many having invested so much in the defeat of the Labor government – including the leadership of what was once the national broadsheet of this country – to be denied victory by political inches, leaving a fragile incumbent holding the most delicate of majorities and being reliant on a handful of cross-benchers representing ideologically discordant electorates, creates a result that will not be respected.
What we will witness over the next 18 months or more is a Great Unhinging –an orgy of hysterics that will far surpass the duplicity, dishonesty – let alone the complete arsehattery – that substituted for public debate on matters of government during the previous 12 months.
The goalposts of what constitutes government legitimacy will be moved from the constitutional to the convenient, from the reality of the parliamentary majority to concocted nostrums about mandates to govern.
Every policy and utterance the government or the Independents make will be creatively analysed, deliberately distorted and whose fabricated consequences will be shouted from the rooftops. This will not be an exercise in political analysis, but an infection of pathological political syphilis. It will not just be a campaign against the government, but one rolling, frenzied campaign after another, where each new contrived outrage will assume a greater level of mania than the last.
The Independents will be targeted in a way they are probably not prepared for – they will be demeaned, ridiculed and treated with contempt, where their honourable characters will be distorted into debased caricatures. The character assassination will be ferocious and their connection to their electorates will be serially brought into question, particularly from a group of ostensibly inner urban media elites whose acquaintance with New England and Lyne extends no further than peering down from 30,000 feet as they fly between capital cities.
But it won’t just be the usual suspects here. There will be an angry that we haven’t seen for a long time, from a group of disgruntled political zealots.
The Liberal and National parties have a profoundly successful ability at attracting a disproportional quantity of the most embittered, politically pungent elements of Australian society as supporters – a dark, angry, belligerent underbelly that believes the only acceptable outcome of any political contest is the one they believe in.
Monday’s Essential Report, taken last week before we knew who was going to be government, hammered this reality home when it looked at public views on the election result – a set of findings that aren’t new in their tone mind you, for the same theme has been remarkably consistent by Coalition supporters in the polling since Tony Abbott took the leadership of the Liberal Party . Firstly, Essential asked about the quality of minority government:
After the election neither the Labor Party nor the Coalition has a majority in the House of Representatives – they need the support of independents to govern. Do you think this will result in a better or worse Government for Australia? (A lot better, a little better, a little worse, a lot worse, make no difference)
The “total worse” response from Coalition voters was nearly twice that of Labor or Greens voters. Not only do a majority of Coalition voters believe that minority government would be worse, but a plurality of Coalition voters believe it in the strongest possible terms available in the survey. If the Coalition can’t rule in their own right, many Coalition voters believe it is simply not acceptable.
Secondly, Essential asked about what should happen next:
Do you think Australia should have another Federal election in the next 12 months?
65% of Coalition voters want another election in the next 12 months – the only partisan block to carry a majority on the question, and the partisan block with smallest number of open minds represented by the Don’t know response. If the Coalition doesn’t clearly win, a majority of Coalition voters believe it is simply not acceptable.
A large proportion of the Coalition vote base believes there is one and only one acceptable outcome in politics – theirs. And it is this zealotry that will explode.
The temptation for the Opposition to continue to exploit this belligerence, as they so successfully did in the lead up to the campaign and in the campaign itself, will be overwhelming. When all that stands between the Opposition and a new election – a new chance at *power* - is one scandal, one stuff up, one member of parliament changing – the attraction of flicking the switch to rhetorical overdrive for effect, and righteous indignation to incite their masses, will simply be too great. No distortion will be too large, no lie too audacious, no accusation too brazen.
And they will be ably assisted and their supporters commercially exploited, by the leadership and opinion section of The Australian – not to mention the curmudgeonly Lesser Scribes infesting the sewer end of the News Ltd tabloids and that growing group of feeble minded cowards at the ABC whom appear to have lost any capacity for intellectual autonomy when it comes to independently assessing the dynamics of Australian politics.
Yet the Great Unhinging won’t be a one way street. The forces of good within the Liberal Party – the Malcolm Turnbulls, the Simon Birminghams, the Greg Hunts of this world – will, must, start to push back against the tawdry politics and tea party style behaviour that the Coalition will ultimately pursue under Tony Abbott. Someone will take a rhetorical step too far, and the tinder box that has been the Coalition will ignite with a fury.
The National Party – the political group that has done more to piss the living standards of rural people up the wall than any other – now face rural independents that for the first time have real power. The Nats ultimate weakness threatens to be publically exposed in their heartland – that they are impotent, do nothing ratbags that rely on the ideological patronage of their constituents and give them three fifths of five eighths of sweet fuck all in return. When, later this term, the fruits of Windsor and Oakeshott start rolling out through regional electorates – from health upgrades to the NBN to a plethora of inevitable policy programs – the National Party will start to be seen by their own constituents for exactly what they are, and the fallout will not be pretty.
What we are about to witness will indeed be a new paradigm, but not the one being advertised. This term looks to be the most policy rich in a generation – the NBN, health reform, a tax summit, campaign funding reform, federal whistleblower protection, a Parliamentary Budget Office and a proper review of climate change policy to name but a few – yet while this incredible agenda with its long, far reaching consequences for the nation will be on the table, there will be one side of politics and one wing of the media doing its best to turn it all into a complete and utter circus.