Three political parties – the ALP, the Liberal Party and the National Party – dominate Australian politics. This dominance is particularly noticeable in the electoral contests for parliamentary lower houses, especially where these involve single-member electoral districts and electors cast a preferential vote.
In general, the vast majority of Australians vote for the three main parties. The dominance of the three parties’ representatives in state and federal parliaments reflects this.
Occasionally, developments in the party system can challenge this major party dominance. In 1955, for instance, the Labor Party split and the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) was created. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Australian Democrats party emerged, declaring it intended to “keep the bastards honest”. And in 1998, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation burst on the scene.
Neither the DLP nor the Democrats ever succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Representatives. One Nation also failed to win a lower house seat in the national parliament, although it did win seats in the Queensland parliament in 1998.
Here was prima facie evidence of the capacity of new parties to upset major party dominance over election outcomes. But this was to be overshadowed by another recurring theme – new parties quickly imploding due to weak organisation.
Within months, all the Queensland One Nation MPs left the party to form a new body (the City Country Alliance). At the next election, they all lost their seats.
Since then, other minor parties have similarly secured stunning lower house victories, only to be overwhelmed by internal instability.
Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party secured a House of Representatives seat in 2013, after which the party fragmented.
In 2016, the Nick Xenophon Team’s (NXT) Rebekha Sharkie won the House of Representatives seat of Mayo. Fifteen months later, Xenophon resigned from the Senate to create yet another party (SA-Best) to participate in the recent South Australian state election. SA-Best appears to have failed in its bid to win a seat in the SA Legislative Assembly, and the rump of the NXT left behind in the Senate now has no leader and apparently no organisation.
Arguably the non-major party with the greatest impact in the party system is the Australian Greens. The party has secured House of Representatives seats on four occasions (a byelection win in Cunningham in 2002, and the seat of Melbourne in general elections in 2010, 2013 and 2016). This was matched by a significant increase in the number of seats held in the Senate, and by lower house success in state elections in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania (albeit under a proportional electoral system).
It is stating the obvious to note that these minor party successes are the result of swings in voting behaviour at the expense of the major political parties. The total national primary vote cast for the main parties has been in decline.
But this in itself is no guarantee of inevitable change in the representational share between the major and minor parties, especially in single-member district electoral systems.
The shift of voter support away from the major parties has been variable and spread over a large number of alternative minor parties. In the 2013 and 2016 federal elections, more than 50 organisations registered as parties with the Australian Electoral Commission. Few of these parties polled over 1% of the vote. Only a handful polled over the 4% threshold to qualify for public funding.
Once again, only the Greens – and, in the 2016 election, the NXT – have been capable of amassing a sufficient primary vote in a particular seat to have a chance of winning lower house representation.
But as the Batman byelection reminds us, even a primary vote approaching 40% does not guarantee victory. Bland references to declining support for the major parties tend to obscure just how difficult it is for minor parties to win lower house seats, especially if their electoral support is evenly spread over a wide range of districts.
By the same token, the increasing proportion of the Australian electorate casting a primary vote for a party other than Labor, Liberal or National is a significant development, and appears to be a recurring theme in recent elections.
It is also having a representational impact, but not in lower houses that use single-member electoral districts (that is, all Australian parliaments except Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory).
Rather, the real locus of minor party impact is to be found in those parliamentary chambers elected under a proportional system. The SA-Best result in South Australia is an example of this: while his party failed to win a lower house seat, Xenophon’s latest venture did secure two seats in the proportionally elected Legislative Council.
The Greens might have suffered an adverse swing in the last state election in Tasmania, but still hold two seats in the House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, the minor parties have a significant impact on national policy debate by holding the balance of power in the Senate. This has been the reality in the Senate for some time.
The recent elections in Tasmania, South Australia and the byelection in Batman have left an impression that the advance of the minor parties has stalled, maybe permanently. This is not necessarily the case.
If the demographic patterns to the voting alignments in Batman are repeated at the Victorian state election on November 24, the Greens could win at least four lower house seats. Meanwhile, the current rate at which electors are voting for minor parties can still have significant representational consequences for proportionally elected chambers such as the Senate.
The sense of minor party failure associated with these recent election contests has been due in part to the tendency to make hyperbolic claims about their prospects in the first place.
The flipside of this is to guard against hyperbolically pessimistic conclusions on the basis of recent electoral events. Tasmania, South Australia and Batman were not good elections for SA-Best or the Greens (or, indeed, Rise Up Australia, the Jacqui Lambie Network or the Australian Conservatives), but that may have been due to the peculiarities of the particular elections.
There is a significant non-major party vote in the Australian system. The place to observe its impact is in the contest and representational outcomes for Australia’s proportionally elected upper houses, including the Senate.
Protest politics is on the rise in Australia. At the 2016 federal election, votes for minor parties hit their highest level since 1949. More than one in four Australians voted for someone other than the Liberals, Nationals, ALP or Greens in the Senate, and more than one in eight did likewise for the House of Representatives. First-preference Senate votes for minor parties leapt from 12% in 2004 to 26% in 2016.
The major parties are particularly on the nose in the regions. The further you drive from a capital city, the higher the minor party vote and the more it has risen.
What’s going on? A new Grattan Institute report finds that the minor party vote is mostly a protest against the major parties. It’s a vote for “anyone but them” in favour of a diverse group of parties, often headed by “brand name” personalities.
So why are Australian voters angry? And why are they particularly angry in the regions?
Falling trust in government explains much of the dissatisfaction. Since 2007, there has been a significant increase in the share of people who believe that politicians look after themselves and that government is run by a few big interests.
The growing belief that government is increasingly conducted in the interests of the rulers rather than the ruled feeds voter disillusionment. Minor party voters have less trust in government than those who vote for the majors. And outsider parties have tapped into these concerns with their promises to “keep the bastards honest” and to “drain the swamp”.
Economic factors are less important than you might expect. The rise in the minor party vote doesn’t seem to be about stagnant wages or rising inequality: the vote grew most strongly when real wages were rising but inequality wasn’t. And the biggest increase in the minor party vote was between 2010 and 2013 – when Australians were more optimistic about their immediate financial future than at any other point in the past 15 years.
But economics is still relevant. The minor party vote increased as unemployment rose, and minor party voters are more likely than others to have negative views about globalisation and free trade. The protectionist economic policies of many minor parties may therefore account for some of their appeal. And some of their anti-globalisation and “Australia first” rhetoric also taps into broader cultural anxiety about the pace and direction of change.
Many minor parties appeal to voters who don’t like the way our society is changing. Minor parties want to protect the cultural symbols and narratives associated with “traditional Australia”. They are more likely to oppose changing the date of Australia Day, for example.
These views are particularly prominent among One Nation voters: more than 90% of them strongly agree that maintaining an Australian way of life and culture is important. They are also much more likely to be sceptical about the benefits of immigration: about 50% of One Nation voters believe that multiculturalism has not been good for Australia, compared with 15% of Liberal/Nationals voters (the next highest group).
This sense of being left behind by the pace of economic and social change is more prevalent in regional Australia, where the minor party vote is higher and growing faster. Regions hold a falling share of Australia’s population and therefore of Australia’s economy.
At the same time, Australia’s cultural symbols are becoming more city-centric: less about mateship and more about multiculturalism. People in regional areas are sensitive to this cultural change and are attracted to parties that promise to restore cultural and political power to the regions. Several of the more popular minor parties to arrive on the political scene in recent years – notably One Nation and Nick Xenophon – have gained higher support in the country than they have in the cities.
The rising minor party vote sends a signal to our major party politicians: Australians are not satisfied with politics as usual. Major parties seeking to increase their appeal should focus on what matters to voters: restoring trust and social cohesion.
Rebuilding trust will be a slow process. A period of leadership stability and policy delivery could go a long way. And improving the way we do our politics – reforming political donation laws and tightening regulation of lobbying and political entitlements – could help reduce the incidence of trust-sapping scandals and reassure the public that the system is working for them.
Politicians should also seek to dampen rather than inflame cultural differences. Politicians can lead by stressing the common ground between city and country and between communities with different backgrounds.
Failure to heed the warning will mean more elections where Australians unleash their displeasure at the ballot box.
The Australian public should be dismayed and disgusted that the major banks are still attempting to cover up the extent of their complicity in manipulating the Bank Bill Swap Rate (BBSW), a key interest rate benchmark.
For years, the banks covered up the involvement of their traders in manipulating not only interest rate but also foreign exchange benchmarks, by attempting to outspend the corporate regulator, ASIC, in the courts, using shareholders’ money.
Faced with publication of the evidence they caved in at the very last minute to settle with ASIC, paying even more shareholders’ funds, for fines and legal costs.
Has any director or senior manager taken personal responsibility, or even apologised, for either the rampant misconduct or the failure to monitor it – No!
In a short media release, ANZ acknowledged, with little contrition, that
in the course of trading on the BBSW market, a small number of traders attempted to engage in unconscionable conduct on ten dates between September 2010 and February 2012. ANZ also did not have in place adequate policies and systems to monitor trading and communications of its BBSW traders.
But we should not be fooled by the references to the “small number of traders”, or “ten dates”.
Last year, CBA and NAB agreed to enforceable undertakings with ASIC in relation to manipulating the foreign exchange benchmark, which was arguably much more egregious than the BBSW manipulation, as it involved sharing of information with other market participants, in particular sensitive information about clients’ trades.
Not one of the directors or senior managers of these banks took personal responsibility for the actions of their staff or their collective failure to monitor such obvious misconduct.
Traders involved in the breaches will have to be retrained before they are allowed back on their banks’ trading floors
Trading on nonpublic confidential information, which is what “manipulating the bank bill swap rate to their advantage and the disadvantage of others” was, is often punished by custodial sentences not some short court-ordered training course. This would just reiterate the rules that the traders should have been following anyway and which diligent management should have been enforcing.
The failure to monitor staff seems not to have slowed the progress of some senior managers. For example, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot, was head of ANZ’s Institutional Bank (i.e. trading operations) during most of the period in which the unconscionable conduct took place.
Why did they pursue the court cases?
So what were the boards of directors of some of Australia’s largest companies doing while this failure to monitor unconscionable conduct was going on?
While neither superstar chairmen Ken Henry (NAB) nor David Gonski (ANZ) were in place during the original misconduct, they have been in place since 2014 and have had ample opportunity to inquire into the details of the scandal.
Having read the same evidence as Justice Jagot, directors chose to proceed with the case before caving in on the day it was due to be heard in court. Investors should be tearing their hair out at such colossal waste of money on high-priced (and in the end useless) lawyers.
Did they really believe this time was different, given that other banks had already pleaded guilty to manipulating BBSW? Even if they were not in place at the time, the non-executive directors of both banks are certainly responsible for continuing this expensive charade.
Such lack of oversight should surely trigger the first investigation when the new Banking Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) legislation comes into force, as it covers directors and senior managers.
Pulling no punches
Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot certainly pulled no punches in her statutory approval of the settlement between ASIC and the ANZ and NAB banks, saying that the Australian public should be “shocked, dismayed and disgusted” by the behaviour of the two banks.
The Australian public is right to be perplexed as to why no one considers themselves personally accountable for such a fiasco. And investors must be afraid that in pursuing the failed litigation so far, without apologising, that further harm is not done by possible class action litigation in the United States.
The Australian taxpayer would be justifiably annoyed to learn that the offences admitted by the banks took place between 2010 and 2012, when the very same banks were given the free handout of a government guarantee following the global financial crisis (GFC) – that really is biting the hand that feeds you.
So, should Australian investors, taxpayers and the public be “shocked, dismayed and disgusted” as the judge suggested? Yes.
But recent history suggests that the largest banks will just try to tough it out before returning to their previous modus operandi. Only a royal commission into banking regulation will break this vicious circle.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ended a decade in power on Friday, conceding defeat in a midterm election. He didn’t expect to lose, but found himself vacating his residence after polls showed his challenger Maithripala Sirisena with over 51% of the vote, Reuters reported.
Sirisena, a former minister in Rajapaksa’s government, defected to the opposition in November, and used his anticorruption stance as the cornerstone for his campaign.
He pledged that his first act in office would be to weaken the very presidency that had allowed Rajapaksa to consolidate a huge amount of power, and reportedly plans to hold fresh parliamentary elections within 100 days of being sworn in.
Rajapaksa was re-elected in 2010. He initially came to power in 2005, riding a wave of popularity after defeating the Tamil Tigers separatist group and ending the country’s violent civil war, but his administration was dogged by allegations of corruption and…
View original post 89 more words
The link below is to an article that takes a look at a major issue facing the Christian church, with particular concern for Evangelical Christians and that is the place of homosexuality in Biblical Christianity.
With major bushfires burning around the country – Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria especially – conditions are expected to worsen before they get better. Australia is in the grip of a major heatwave with temperatures well into the forties and approaching the fifty degrees celsius mark in many areas. It has been this way for weeks in Outback Australia and is expected to continue for some time.
I guess it was only a matter if time before our meddling with the earth via fracking became a major problem, or perhaps better put, a bigger problem. Man-made earthquakes are now a reality, but this article suggests they have been around a lot longer than fracking.
The bushfire season has already been extremely active across New South Wales this season – however, today it has really exploded with major bushfire emergencies across 8 regions of eastern New South Wales. The link below is to an article that takes a look at the situation at the moment.
There are many homes under serious threat and once again houses and other buildings have been lost. The major regional airport at Williamtown has been closed, evacuated and is under serious threat with the fire burning up to the fenceline.
For more visit:
The links below are to articles reporting on a major earthquake that hit New Zealand today, measuring 6.9 and located between the two islands in Cook Strait.
For more visit:
– New Zealand hit by quake of magnitude 6.9, minor damage | Reuters
A large number of earthquakes have hit the New Zealand area in recent days.