Hung parliament could be the making of Gillard

Cover, The Age, Monday 23 August 2010This remarkable election outcome should be a wake-up call for all three parties. The people have spoken, and with a clear message.

There was a massive and well-deserved loss of confidence in the Labor Government's policies. But the Coalition's insubstantial policy alternatives barely benefited from it. The increasingly well-informed Australian electorate saw through the triviality of what both major parties were offering. The Greens — a serious party — gained massively, yet there is no room for complacency in that party either.

Australia now truly has a three-party system in place. The remarkable erosion of support for the two major parties was focused in Australia's best-educated inner city electorates. So it is a harbinger of more to come.

I am quite sure that this result is attributable primarily to the major parties' pusillanimous policies on climate change, leading to a progressive loss of confidence among thinking voters in either party's fitness to govern the nation. The Greens vote will continue to grow in future for as long as the major parties cling to scientifically ignorant, pressure-group-subservient climate policies which are little better than spin and greenwash.

Gillard could fail here, as Rudd and Abbott failed. All three leaders have turned a deaf ear to the people's urgent demand that Australian federal governance take decisive policy action against disruptive climate change.

Rudd, Gillard and Abbott now have paid the price for this. In a hung House of Representatives, no government can be formed without the support of four or five Independent MPs (three ex-Nationals, one Green, and probably Andrew Wilkie). And after July 2011, no new policy will pass the Senate without Greens support there.

Looking at the past policy profiles and post-election statements of these independents in the Lower House, I believe a Gillard Government is likely. Abbott is only arithmetically and formally still in contention.

The three NSW/Queensland sitting Independents are open-minded or progressive on climate change policy and all share a healthy scepticism of market rationalist economics in confronting the water and climate change crises. Wilkie is ethically focused, and Green MP Adam Bandt has, of course, Green values. I cannot see them working with the Coalition as led by the erratic and undependable Abbott.

The Greens will need to use their new power responsibly. They should hold to their principled 2009–2010 position that Labor's carbon-trading ETS was corrupted and ineffective. They should firmly press on with concrete proposals for a carbon tax, and talk with industry and trade union leaders, and with the Independents Windsor, Oakeshott, Katter and Wilkie on this. They have a lot of educational work to do.

The Greens need to continue to broaden their electoral base, setting aside the lingering unpleasant whiff of anti-Catholic prejudice that still hangs around some parts of the Greens culture. Speaking as a liberal-humanitarian Catholic environmentalist, I see Greens and Catholics as natural allies — we both care about our grandchildren's climate security, which must be a first-order issue now.

Bob Brown needs to encourage a serious leadership succession plan. Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young and Bandt are all reassuring figures to the mainstream public.

Gillard ran a valiant and honourable campaign, burdened as it was by great circumstantial disadvantages. She now deserves her party's full support in her challenging task of leading a Labor Government in a hung parliament. This may be the making of her as a great prime minister.

Gillard needs a wider range of better advisers to help strengthen her own instinctive commonsense recognition of where the national interest lies in difficult times. The Labor Party backroom boys who helped her to power lack the wider national vision that is now needed. This is how her prime ministership will stand or fall now. I believe she will hold the loyalty of the Independents and the Greens for a full term, if she governs ethically.

Gillard needs to get up to speed fast on climate change science and public policy. She should ditch the foolish idea of a citizen's assembly, and see off the discredited ETS market-trading approach to carbon dioxide emissions reduction.

She needs expert climate policy advice now. She should set up a commission with real expertise, comprising scientists, energy and systems engineers, economists and leading responsible business and trade union voices.

The Commission should have a sharply focused mandate: to advise her government on the feasibility of a carbon tax and on the best means of setting it up; and on how the proceeds of this tax should be spent (or returned to voters) to facilitate the most rapid possible transition to a decarbonised energy economy.

The roles of market incentives and of government regulation in road-mapping this urgent national energy transition should be evaluated, without ideological preconceptions.

For the past three years, the denialist Murdoch press and conservative status quo coal-mining and industry groups have run rings around Australia's established environmental organisations. The latter need to come together, well before the new Senate in July 2011, to decide how they can equip themselves better to play a more policy-positive national role on climate change.

I am confident that the new Gillard Government will get the economy, health, education and foreign policy settings about right. Climate change policy is the real challenge — the real policy blindspot in conventional Australian policy thinking — that she must rise to meet.

Good luck, Julia — you could yet become Australia's greatest prime minister.

Tony KevinTony Kevin is the author of Crunch Time, a book exploring Australia's inadequate policy responses to the climate change crisis. 

Topic tags: Tony Kevin, Gillard, Abbott, hung parliament, greens, katter, bandt, oakeshott, wilkie, windsor



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Existing comments

From a previous Eureka Street:

"Tony Kevin March 19, 2010
In Australia's next federal election, I'll vote One, Zero, Zero — Greens 1, Labor 0, Coalition 0. This is the only way I can fulfil my voter duty"

So what did you do Tony?

Of course, if we took your advice we would now have a majority Coalition government because all those Green votes would have been informal.

Please explain?

chris gow | 24 August 2010  

Oh come on! There's no way that the independent three will get into bed with Julia. As for her becoming a great Prime Minister, she won't get the chance ever if Labor were to win power. There is the King of the sharp knives just waiting to take over after a reasonable time...Shorten with whom Julia collaborated to assassinate Rudd. Labor is finished for another ten years.

philip | 24 August 2010  

Where is this "increasingly well informed Australian electorate" of which Mr Kevin writes? I met a woman in Church on the Sunday after the vote. She told me she voted as directed by the Green "How to Vote" card. As she was obviously a Catholic I asked how she could accept that party's abortion policy. Her respponse showed she knew nothing about their advocacy of abortion on demand. On the Saturday I quizzed two Green volunteer workers both of whom send their children to private schools. Neither knew anything about the Greens' attitude to these. I received by mail, two days before the election, a Green pamphlett in which none of the above were mentioned nor were their drug policy or support for the legalisation of homosexual marriage. This is just my, necessarily, limited exposure to this well informed voting public. Let's hope one man's frame of reference is not a reliable guide to the whole.

deceitful greens | 24 August 2010  

From a previous Eureka Street:

"Tony Kevin March 19, 2010
In Australia's next federal election, I'll vote One, Zero, Zero — Greens 1, Labor 0, Coalition 0. This is the only way I can fulfil my voter duty"

So what did you do Tony?

Of course, if we took your advice we would now have a majority Coalition government because all those Green votes would have been informal.

Please explain?

chris gow | 24 August 2010  

As always, a thoughtful and helpful piece from Tony Kevin.

As a committed Catholic and environmentalist, and as a grandmother who wants a healthy planet for the long term future, I also made what I deemed the most ethical response: I voted Green. The major parties ignored or trivialised the issues, giving us the most depressing election campaign in a generation. I was well aware of the full Greens platform, but in a democracy, one has to look at the big picture, not single issues - and most of the Greens policies are well in accord with Catholic Social Teaching.

I appreciate Tony's optimism, and I am very impressed with most of the independents, Rob Oakeshott in particular. We have to make this work, otherwise society becomes increasingly polarised and we continue to destroy our planet as the big polluters plan to do.
I look forward to more positive contributions from Tony Kevin and more cooperation from our elected representatives.

Jo | 24 August 2010  

I have not previously emailed Eureka Street to comment on an article but Tony Kevin's article cannot go unchallenged. Whilst I expect Eureka Street articles to be strongly social conscience based and generally opposed to the coalition policies, this article is beyond the pale. I almost stopped reading it when the writer referred to Tony Abbott as "erratic and undependable"; I continued to his further description of Julia Gillard's campaign as "valiant and honourable".

None would describe this article as balanced.

B rian Hamer | 24 August 2010  

Another grandmother agrees and for the same reasons. During the campaign we were given the impression this was a contest between two people. What we need is much more consensus, much more consultation, accepting good ideas whatever the origin. Having to persuade the independents could well mean decisions are thought through more carefully than has been done lately. I only hope it does not degenerate into a contest of buying support by giving tit for tat. Consensus is much more effective.

Patriaia Ryan | 24 August 2010  

What planet does this author live on?
Last Saturday 14m people voted. (Almost 2m votes remain uncounted.) What is clear is the deep distrust of Labor and that will not change until the ALP develops a national conscience not one dictated by the grubs living off focus groups and governments addicted to ministerial power, self preservation and perks of office.
Look at the hypocrisy in selling coal fired power stations in NSW and Qld. If they were serious they would be closing them down not transferring them into private ownership.

Penny Wong had a department of experts with hundreds on the payroll. What are they doing? Replacing pink batts?
Gillard/Rudd sought one thing - personal power. Gillard in answer to a question from Lenore Taylor at the National Press Club last week on pork barrelling said - "Oh dear cynicism cynicism cynicism." All her own work. And now for a new pork barrel. From Australia's greatest prime minister?

Damien | 24 August 2010  

At last some balanced thinking. I was appalled at Tony's four dot points of policy hammered over and over in his TV ads, including "stop the debt","stop the waste" and "stop the boats". What an extraordinarily negative set of visions. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz lauded Australia's handling of the Global Financial Crisis and spoke of the "fetish of deficit". Our debt is equal to $6000 for a person earning $100,000 who may happily have a mortgage (debt!) of 40 or 50 times that amount. I won't bother with stopping the boats or ask HOW? Tony attacked Garrett for the insulation deaths. Was he responsible for the hospital deaths in Queensland when he was Health Minister?

Lochee | 24 August 2010  

I don't mind if Gillard and Abbott share the term - one year each.

First year should go to Gillard as I want to see renewable energy sector running and the making of 1st class broadband internet - both are the future of Australia and the world - or the future of the countries that want to start another step of human civilization.

After that whatever for Australia can be fine.

AZURE | 24 August 2010  

I agree with Tony Kevin that the major parties, especially the Liberals, failed to deal adequately with the problem of climate change. However I am not hopeful that Julia and Labour have learned this lesson yet, although a majority of Australians want the problem addressed adequately. They have already spoken, both at this election, and in a survey. But Julia insists that we need more debate and consultation, a citizen's assembly. That will only cause more delay, and is a failure to take responsibility and lead on the issue.

I agree with Tony that an expert commission to advise her on a carbon tax, and ways to promote green energy would be the way for her to go. Let's hope the Greens can persuade her of this.

Tony santospirito | 24 August 2010  

When I switch on my computer in the morning I used to open Eureka Street's email first. After reading Tony Kevin's article especially about Tony Abbott as "erratic and undependable" then Julia Gillard as "a great Prime Minister", I Know I am wasting my time making a comment about this strange article. I just want to express myself to Eureka Street, I know Eureka Street is left wing, but publishing this article cheapen the Jesuit publication. In future I will open ES email last, that is if I have time.

Ron Cini | 24 August 2010  

Are you kidding? Climate change is a hot issue, but so are others just as important. Sustainable population growth is an urgent matter and so is the question of asylum seekers and the economic future of our country in the light of World Development of China and India. No Party has any vision, and I question Kevin's one sided assessment of politics!

Peter M | 24 August 2010  

My electorate of Ryan in anti Labor Queensland swung to the Greens - 19.1% because voters include many well educated, well travelled, well heeled people informed and concerned about social justice,law, international reputation, climate change and technology for the future. Greens' policy on asylum seekers and refugees was a positive bonus shaming both major parties and drawing supporting toots and waves from tens of thousands of passing motorists over three weeks at a major roundabout for the simple home made sign: ASYLUM=PROTECTION =HUMAN RIGHT.

Frederika Steen | 24 August 2010  

Tony you don't get Gillard do you? The great hero of her life is Philip Ruddock and his brutality towards refugees.

Confronted by suffering the only thing she does is tell people to get lost, unless they are the wealthy mining lobby.

You need to read Lenore Taylor's and David Uren's "Shitstorm" to see how far out of the loop she was and how disinterested.

She would not even take the time for 18 months to defend the BER because it was Rudd's plan, the best thing this country has seen in years.

And Gillard has no vision or ethics beyond the vision in her mirror.

Marilyn Shepherd | 25 August 2010  

A balanced appraisal that recognises the stregths and wekanesses of Julia Gillard and the obstructionism of Abbot who should know better.

Geoff Kennewell | 25 August 2010  

Speaking as a Catholic liberal environmentalist I am disappointed that Tony Kevin perceives a "lingering unpleasant whiff of anti-Catholic prejudice that hangs around some parts of the Greens culture". On what does Mr Kevin base this perception? Is it Catholic opposition to voluntary euthanasia? Is it Catholic opposition to embryonic stem cell research? Is it Catholic opposition to humanely terminating extremely handicapped new-borns?

Surely these atavistic and inhumane Catholic positions are worthy of condmnation by the Greens and their Catholic liberal environmenalists.

Claude Rigney | 25 August 2010  

Thanks, as ever, to all commentators here.

My previous "One Zero Zero" essay was of course a bit tongue in cheek - I actually voted a Greens/Labor preference ticket.Of course we are obliged as citizens to cast valid votes. I wanted to make the point that on the public-interest issue that matters most - the growing risks posed to our children by disruptive climate change - both major parties are offering policies of zero value.

There is now new hope, residing in the unexpected power of the Independents and the Greens. God indeed works in mysterious ways! I was quite inspired hearing the Press Club panel yesterday of Messrs Windsor, Oakeshott, Katter and Bandt. The emphasis they all gave to climate change and the need to move Australia to safe renewable energy gives me new hope, as does the ACT Govermnent decision today to opt for a 40 per cent carbon emissions reduction target by 2020. At last, reality is starting to break through the stupidity and short-term thinking of the major parties on climate change.

I am glad my essays evoke a spirited response. I do not claim to offer 'balanced 'views on Australian politics. I do not see myself as 'left-wing', but I do write from the standpoint of my own declared values - which put responsible stewardship of our children's right to inherit from us a liveable planet first, above all other political causes.

tony kevin | 26 August 2010  

Tony Kevin's dream of a "liveable planet" must surely be rooted in the conviction that we who are "made in the image and likeness of God", should be assured that we have an inalienable "Right to Life". This especially should apply to the most vulnerable among us, those still in the womb, and those facing a long last illness, or indeed those new-born whose incapacities render them disposable to a materialistic world.

May I say that my earlier comment was an ironic one. Did anyone get it?

Claude Rigney | 26 August 2010  

I agree with the sentiments you express. But, was Labor wrong in believing that strong action on climate change would bring the government down, despite the support in "best-educated inner city electorates"? Voters whose beliefs or interests are not supportive of climate change policy probably control a majority of seats. We would hope a courageous party could change this by arguing persuasively for the need for good environment policy. I am far from convinced that many voters in the seats which swung towards the coalition voted the way they did because Labor was not strong enough on climate policy for them. This is an empirical question which deserves to be answered by a post-election survey.

John Duff | 26 August 2010  

Should all governments learn lessons what a cause of Australia historical hung parliament?

Australia citizens now enter a very challenging political era for 70 years in the 2010 federal election, many reforms are demanding by voters are looking for a change with anger to share fairer resources supplied lives from the first term of government?

Voters handed down their decisive votes during election time are looking for an efficient, effective and economically run government. A high transparency in less mistaken caused processing under no discriminately enforced services government. A long term wealth creative vision with fast action moving forward progressing resulting value add to voters benefits in each term of governing.

Voters are crying for action right now to have improved resources support lives that suppose lead by a government in the following eight commitments:

1. What vision of prosperity voters seen?
2. Why action not enough in the past 3 years?
3. How many election promises has been fulfilled?
4. Where productivity motivation to voters?
5. What materials to speed up election promises processing?
6. Why some election promises in powerless process?
7. How far transparency in each department service voters wanted?
8. Where prioritized direction to empowerment the nation?

Ma kee wai
(Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

masealake | 04 September 2010  

1. What time bombs will rock Australia democratic society?

The Australia historical hung parliament demonstrated the big gap of inequality society between the small educated elite groups who get highest pay by talk feast used mouth work controlling live essential resources of the country in every social platforms against the biggest less educated groups who get lowest pay by hands work squeezed by discriminative policies that sucking live blood from poor/less wealth off?

Voters’ voices do not hear?
Voters’ pains do not ease?
Voters’ cries do not care?

1. Poverty will not be phase out if no fairer resources to share;

2. Illness will not be reducing if no preventive measurement in real action;

3. Agriculture will not be revitalise if urbanisation continuing its path;

4. Housing affordability will not be reach for young generation if government continues cashing from young generation debt by eating out the whole cake of education export revenue without plough back;

5. Manufacture industry will shrink smaller and smaller if no new elements there to power up to survive;

6. Employability will not in the sustainable mode for so long as manufacture and agriculture not going to boost.

Ma kee wai
(Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

masealake | 14 September 2010  

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