David Leyonhjelm guest post. Motley parliaments

In the years to come we’re going to have plenty of motley parliaments, with fewer major party parliamentarians and larger crossbenches of independents and minor parties holding the balance of power. We better get used to it.

At the Commonwealth level, the minority Coalition Government is dealing with eight crossbenchers in the House of Representatives and 19 in the Senate, each holding the balance of power.

The number of crossbenchers in the House will probably be unchanged after the federal election, so while most observers expect the federal election to deliver a Shorten Government, a poor result for Labor might mean it only wins minority government and still requires the votes of crossbenchers in the House.

In the Senate, Labor is expected to pick up seats at the expense of the crossbench thanks to the 2016 deal between the Coalition and Greens to change Senate voting rules, but it will still fall well short of a majority. And the crossbench will still have a significant green-tinge despite the plunge in voter support for the Greens party.

Minor party voters who oppose the Greens will go for one of the Liberal Democrats, One Nation, the Christians, Conservatives or Katter’s party. Regrettably, most of these voters will fail to preference all the anti-Green parties with the result that, under the new Senate voting rules, it’s more likely none of these parties will gather enough votes to beat the Greens for the last Senate seat, at least in some states.

It’s clear why the Greens wanted these new Senate voting rules, but why the Coalition wanted them is anyone’s guess. (Note to voters: if you don’t like the Greens, fill in a lot of preferences for non Green parties!)

At the state level, motley parliaments are the new norm. One in seven state parliamentarians is a crossbencher, and these crossbenchers hold the balance of power in each of the state upper houses. At the upcoming NSW state election the size of the crossbench is set to swell with minor party candidates like Mark Latham and me looking to join the ranks.

The cause of this swelling of the crossbench is clear; voters are turning off the major parties.

For more than three decades the internet has allowed far-flung people to form new connections. Increasingly, people identify with niche groups rather than a mass movement, and also support niche parties. This includes single issue parties like those focussed on science, the arts, seniors, anti vaxxers, animals, marijuana and assisted suicide.

The formula of the major parties — of attempting to appeal to everyone and offend no-one by being heavy on platitudes and light on principle — doesn’t cut it anymore.

Whether the overall influence of crossbenchers is positive or negative depends on the quality of the crossbenchers.

Crossbenchers can stop governments doing bad things, such as when crossbenchers in the Senate (me included) stopped the Coalition Government from increasing the use of mandatory sentencing.

But crossbenchers can also stop governments doing good things, such as when crossbenchers in the Senate (not including me) blocked cuts to university and welfare spending.

Good crossbenchers take into account how individual decisions add up. Do they support spending cuts to balance their desires for increased spending in their pet areas? Do they have a view on the overall size of government, the tax burden and government debt? If they achieved all their sought after protections of society and the environment, what would be the overall impact on jobs and prosperity?

Above all, the quality of crossbenchers depends on their willingness to compromise and accept that they won’t achieve everything they want. Nick Xenophon cut deals, Jacqui Lambie did not. Nick Xenophon sometimes voted for the government’s agenda while racking up personal achievements. Jacqui didn’t.

We’ll also get better government if both major parties are willing to compromise to get things done. The born-to-rule attitude of the Liberals under Tony Abbott hurt them in the Senate. In contrast, Scott Morrison’s deal-making as a minister augurs well for his time as Prime Minister. On the other side, Labor are consummate deal makers and can be expected to do whatever it takes to navigate the motley parliaments of the future.

Our future governments and parliaments might not be a disaster, but only if we elect parliamentarians, from both minor and major parties, who are willing to cut a deal.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

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16 Responses to David Leyonhjelm guest post. Motley parliaments

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    More motley the better.
    We can’t discredit the current mob fast enough.
    Unfortunately the lefty MSM has a class-driven cause, which is to polish the uniparty turd.

  2. stackja

    Party names mean what nowadays?
    Parties represent who?
    Other than PHON who really holds true?

  3. candy

    I’ve got an inbuilt distaste for the “deals”.

    It means the parliamentarian does not really believe in their policy and will sacrifice half of it for some kickback that benefits themselves for a “personal achievement”. So the original policy was not a firmly held belief at all, just something to be traded to rack up a “personal achievement”.

  4. I do not agree with the comment about greens filling the last spot of 6 senators at the next election.
    Below the line voting is now much easier with only 12 squares needed to be filled. This gives plenty of chance for the election of minor parties , independents and to select the order of those elected in the major parties. I believe a large portion of liberals and others will vote to have senator Molan as the first choice rather than in the unelectable position of number 4.
    Also it is harder to vote above the line now requiring 6 boxes to be filled
    I would say to everyone -vote below the line and do not put a number against any Greens, socialist alliance or ALP. In NSW put Molan first or second. I do not think the Greens will get any senator in Qld or NSW
    One hopes S HY will miss out in SA

  5. Tim Neilson

    The born-to-rule attitude of the Liberals under Tony Abbott hurt them in the Senate.

    Bullshit. Far and away Abbott’s biggest failing was his willingness to kowtow to weirdos ratbags compulsive masturbators and macro-fucknuckles. So what if legislation failed in the Senate. Far better to pass nothing than to allow the accidental tourists to dictate yet more expensive waste and virtue signalling.

  6. John Brumble

    Why the f should I vote for a minor party that professes to stand for free speech, but fails to take every opportunity to support it because ‘it was unlikely to get the numbers’? Mate, you’re a ioke. Keep talking up the loopy libertarian garbage while fudging the most important right of all.

  7. John Brumble

    David Leyonhjelm has consistently shown that his ego is more important than free speech.

  8. 1735099

    Other than PHON who really holds true?

    True to what?
    Keeping Pauline in the style to which she has become accustomed?

  9. Petros

    Good things, bad things. Yes, DL is the arbiter of what is right. It’s true. He alone knows. /sarc
    BTW macro-fuckknuckles, Tim. Gold!

  10. Tel

    Unfortunately the lefty MSM has a class-driven cause, which is to polish the uniparty turd.

    There’s big money in government advertising contracts. $157 million was spent last year… https://www.finance.gov.au/advertising/campaign-advertising-reports.html

    Major line items were the survey on the meaning of the word “marriage” and those defence force recruitment ads. Point is, you don’t piss off your major customer … and that’s never the minor parties because they don’t sign off on procurement.

  11. stevem

    only if we elect parliamentarians, from both minor and major parties, who are willing to cut a deal.

    That’s the last thing we need. We suffered Julia Gillard cutting a dealmon a carbon tax with the Greens to gain power. Further back we had Brian Harridine siphoning off all manor of funds to Tasmanjia. All deals end up either dictated to by either zealots or the twitterverse of popular opinion.
    We need a strong sensible voice from the centre with a desire to improve the lot of all Australians. We seem destined to be ruled by leftist fools dedicated to self interest.

  12. Tel

    We need a strong sensible voice from the centre

    If you put a marker somewhere at the midpoint of Cori Bernardi, Pauline Hanson, Mark Latham and David Leyonhjelm that would be the center of Australian politics … a position that has virtually no representation at all!
    * Some immigration but not mass immigration.
    * Be selective about who comes in, don’t allow queue jumpers.
    * Some tax but not the brutal repressive tax regime we have now.
    * Some regulation but lightweight regulation.
    * Don’t make radical changes to society and stick with tradition where it has worked for us in the past.
    * Safety net for people who genuinely can’t work … but not stupidly generous.
    * Prevent big government from taking over our country.
    * Climate change at best is a low priority issue, no one wants to de-industrialize for the sake of some far away potential future problem that might never happen and even if it does happen, won’t be a big deal.

    What do the major parties stand for? As many regulations as possible, often contradictory, sorted out by lawyers and tribunals a mile deep; complete lack of accountability on anything, anywhere, always blame everyone except yourself; look after your cronies (admittedly the two major parties have different interest groups they look after, but neither pretends to be even-handed).

  13. Colonel Crispin Berka, King's Fusiliers Corps.

    Feds pass Assistance and Access bill, then DL departs parliament.
    Just a random co-incidence? Or causally connected?

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