No major party majority - what happens next?

4 JULY 2016

Australia has voted in the 2016 federal election and neither of the two major political parties can claim a clear majority. So, what happens next?

Dominic O'SullivanAustralia has voted in the 2016 federal election and neither of the two major political parties can claim a clear majority. So what happens next?

Associate Professor in political science in the Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Humanities and Social Sciences Dominic O'Sullivan (pictured) explains that if neither of the big parties enjoys a clear majority, it's only by the people's considered choice.

"National opinion polls accurately predicted the overall outcome of Saturday's election," Professor O'Sullivan said.

"There is just enough between the two major parties for the Coalition to form government, perhaps on its own, but quite likely only with the support of the Nick Xenophon Team and perhaps one or more independents.

"Minority government will be difficult, just as it was for the Gillard government, but voters might reasonably temper their impatience by remembering that this is the Parliament that they alone elected.

"Although the Greens overall vote has declined, it may yet add to its single seat in the House of Representatives with victory over the Rudd/Gillard era's chief 'faceless man' Mr David Feeney, in the seat of Batman.

"The Greens have said that they would only use their numbers to support a Labor government; support that Labor regards, from past experience, as extreme and a certain path to defeat at the next election.

"The Independent Mr Andrew Wilkie has quite irresponsibly said that he will not support either party.

"No doubt he's nervous about the electoral consequences of backing the 'wrong' side, but members of Parliament owe their constituents their judgement and cannot escape that a Parliament's first task is to provide a government."

Professor O'Sullivan said that providing confidence does not mean a government must be supported on every piece of legislation.

"Stability does not require every government Bill to pass the lower House, but it does require the House to give one of its number its confidence to form a government," he said.

"If a member holding the balance of power fails to take a position, the Parliament fails in its duty and another election is the only possible outcome.

"With the Greens and Mr Wilkie ruling themselves out of a formal deal, Mr Turnbull may find himself able to govern only with the support of the Independents Mr Bob Katter and Ms Cathy McGowan and/or Nick Xenophon's party."

Professor O'Sullivan noted that while the new Senate's full constitution will not be known for several days, it is already clear that the double dissolution was a serious miscalculation on the part of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"The Senate will be far more difficult for a Coalition government to work with than the one it positioned as so troublesome as to justify a double dissolution election.

"There will be a larger crossbench, and although two of the groupings, Mr Xenophon's and Ms Pauline Hanson's, come with clear policy positions, their members are, apart from the leaders, politically unknown," Professor O'Sullivan said.

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan.

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