August 23, 2010

Horse 1099 - A House Divided

"It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period"
- Chinese Proverb
...we however do not live in a chaotic period.

If you were to believe the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph this morning, the so called "failure" of the Australian people to elect meaningful and obvious government is either the death of democracy or the end of the world as we know (and I feel fine).

The truth is that we actually do have a functioning government right now, it's just that we do not see it.

The Government is formed out a majority of members and even then only by convention. Section 61 of the Constitution provides that the actual "executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative". In the normal course of business this revolves around the Ministers of State (provided by in Section 64) who form the Federal Executive Council (provided by in Section 62).
AT NO POINT does the constitution mention that government must be formed from a majority of members and also AT NO POINT does the the constitution mention that in the event of a hung parliament, that government can not be formed.$FILE/ConstitutionAct.pdf

In fact, the government may be formed forcibly by the Governor-General using his reserve powers and him/her appointing anyone he actually feels like from either/any party he wants to as Ministers of State.

As it stands with the Labor Party holding 70 seats and the Coalition nominally holding 72 seats (assuming that the Nationals and the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party hold ranks), no-one is currently in a position to hold a majority in their own right, however through negotiation either side might be able to.

Of course it is assumed that Labor and the Coalition would not join in a 142 seat super-majority, however the reserve powers of the Governor-General are such that he could force it.

The idea isn't all that stupid as you might think. Whilst it hasn't happened in Australia, in the United Kingdom whom we inherited the Westminster System from, there were several in the 20th Century.
A so called "National Government" was declared no less than 5 times, with PMs Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill all running governments quite effectively.

What is wrong with selecting a Cabinet from both sides? If I was the Grand Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else, I would select a "Ministry of All the Talents", and select the strongest possible government and so include most leading politicians from almost all groupings.
Imagine what sort of government would have Joe Hockey as PM, Wayne Swan as Treasurer, Julia Gillard as Deputy PM and Minister for Education, Tony Abbott as Minister for Health and Ageing, and Barnaby Joyce as Minster for... who cares? He's a right hoot anyway. Pick the bets members for the Cabinet posts regardless of political persuasion and colour.

Furthermore the whole idea of actual Party Politics didn't really exist before about 1850 in the UK. Governments would be formed from elected members, who could be very swayed to switch sides if it was in the best interests of their constituents. Possibly Robert Peel the founder of modern policing was the first proper Prime Minister elected on the basis of his party in 1841, though the idea of a leader of the opposition wasn't properly solidified until about 1851 when Benjamin Disraeli assumed the title by himself.

Personally I see this result as a clear statement to both parties, and that is actually reflective of the campaigns which both sides ran. Both Labor and Liberal repeatedly told us that their opponents were not fit to run the country. I think that the Australian people have agreed with them and in an almost perfectly balanced fashion, actually told both side that that they are precisely that - not fit to run the country.

In the wash-up the most likely scenario is Labor 72, Coalition 73, Others 4 and one Green Raca Baka*. Whatever the outcome my learned friend Brendan is quite correct. The world will not blow up if either side is not given or returned to power, and despite protestation we will not have unstable government...

... but if we do have unstable government then I want to see chairs start flying like they do in some parliaments. It would make Question Time far more exciting.

*Raca - is a Hebrew word which could mean either fool, empty one, or even effeminate. All of which are appropriate.
Baka - is a Japanese word which either means fool or idiot. Both of which are also appropriate.

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