Sunday, August 22, 2010

What a (non) Result!

I went to buy fish at my usual place in Victoria Street, Richmond, today. As I walked in the Vietnamese guys who run the place were all watching the TV on the wall, Gillard was talking. They jumped on me and said "What was the result? You explain please. We don't understand". I thought 'well you're not alone in that boys', and tried my best to explain that there is no result and there won't be for a while. They love Labor, the shopkeepers along that strip, and this was a big disappointment to them.
Whilst there mightn't be a result there are some things that are clear:
  1. The ALP got what they deserved, they were a crappy, presidential style, failure of a government;
  2. We didn't give Tony Abbott a mandate - and that was on purpose - we don't like him that much either;
  3. Having said both of those things, the party most responsible for the result - whatever it is, and therefore the party with the greatest obligations is the Greens.
So let's work this through. I think that Australians showed a great collective consciousness. You couldn't have orchestrated this result if you had tried. It's basically a hung parliament and it's doubtful that any one party will get to form government in their own right. There's still water to flow under the bridge and there's still an outside chance that the coalition might just get over the line in their own right. I doubt it at this stage though. Therefore the Australian public has chosen to trust neither major party. A good call, and with certain caveats I think it's good for Australia.
That means a parliament with 4 independents of various persuasions and a Green. Adam Bandt won in his own right in Melbourne and more on that in a minute. Neither major party has the requisite 76 and probably won't get there. So whoever forms government needs at least some of those 5 votes in order to survive any motion of no confidence on the floor. And that's all that's required now to govern. One of those independents is new and took the seat from the ALP with Green preferences, he came from third spot in the primary vote to do it.
Here's the thing about Melbourne though: Adam Bandt's election is a sign of the yuppification of the seat and indeed you might argue that he typifies the local yuppy! A review of some of the booths is instructive. St Mark's Church in the heart of the yuppy belt of the electorate saw the Greens polling more or less double the ALP, over in Mooney Ponds it was line ball and in Elizabeth Street in Richmond, amongst the Housing Commission flats Labor won the booth. So it's not all clear cut. Adam won the seat in decisive fashion but the electorate did not uniformly vote for him.
The Greens more than any other party have delivered this result. They took votes from the ALP, they took a seat from the ALP and they have a commanding hold on the Senate - or will have from next July. That delay is a farce in itself.
The obligation that the Greens now face is to deliver not only warm fuzzy policies but good government. The stability of the Australian government will almost certainly rest with Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie - the new member for Denison who whilst not a Green in name is certainly a proto-Green.
Are they up to it? Are they up to the hard yards of being part of a government, a government with no clear majority? Are they up to grappling with the difficult, pragmatic realities of delivering to Australia in all the areas of government, not just the warm ones? I'm not belittling the environment by saying that, rather I'm saying that a solid economic and social support base is imperative if we are to have the choice to deliver on environmental needs. It's no coincidence that developing countries generally have poor environmental records and that stable financially sound governments have choices when it comes to good environmental management.
One thing's for sure: If Adam Bandt fails to deliver on his responsibilities for sound, stable government, then Gen X, Gen Y and the older yuppies will ditch him quick smart at the next election. They'll also run far and fast from the Greens in the Senate. Witness the downfall of the Democrats.
Happy days Adam, I hope you're up to it. We all rely on you.

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