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Aussie – governed by a lame duck

Written By: - Date published: 11:21 am, July 3rd, 2016 - 51 comments
Categories: australian politics, International - Tags: , ,

Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull’s double-dissolution electoral gamble to get around a often hung senate has effectively now gone and hung the lower house as well. (see double-dissolution triggers).

While the final results of the election won’t be known until postal votes are counted on Tuesday, as of this morning, it looks like roughly this in percentage terms.

With 96.94 per cent of the first preference vote counted, there has been a 3.22 per cent swing against the Coalition in the two-party preferred count, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.

The Coalition is sitting on 50.04 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, compared to 49.96 per cent for Labor.

At 1:40am, there were just 8124 votes separating the two major parties. The Coalition was leading on 4,929,311 votes compared to Labor on 4,921,187 votes.

Party Group Declared
2013 2010 2007
Coalition 65 90 72 83
Labour 66 55 72 65
Other 5 5 6 2
Close or not detirmined 14

The Greens got just under 10% on the night, but because aussie still runs on those archaic geographical seat rules has just one confirmed seat.

What does that mean in the lower house (wikipedia and wikipedia and AEC and NZ Herald) ? [revised after removing seats that are ahead but not certainties.]

As well as the undeclared, some of the declared seats are still possibly in contention with postal votes. It appears possible for the Coalition to form a majority with 76 seats and unlikely that Labour to form a majority government.

However it is highly probable that there is effectively a hung lower house of parliament, as several of the seats in contention have strong swings to Labour or with independents and minor parties.

The overwhelming majority that the Coalition got in with in 2013 has been dissipated in the intervening years by the internal faction fighting inside the Liberals, the obnoxiousness of Tony Abbot that led to his dumping by the Liberals, and the ineffectual flailing and lacklustre campaigning of his successor cabinet.

This is pretty apparent in the polling where Tony Abbot rapidly lost support for the Liberals in 2014, was replaced in 2015, and then they lost support again. Quite simply, the Coalition had this election to lose and the Liberals performed well at the task.


Two-party-preferred vote opinion polling since the last election – moving average line of aggregate data.

Labour under the more stable leadership of Bill Shorten didn’t do spectacularly in percentage terms, but clearly did the work on the ground to flip a large number of marginal electorates.

And now the Senate, which triggered the double dissolution. Well if Malcom Turnbull or his successor does manage to stitch a coalition together, they still have to face the expanded cross-bench in the Senate.

In the last senate, the Coalition had 33 senators, Labor 25, the Greens 10 and there were eight cross-benchers. The Coalition needed on each vote to get 6 of the 8 cross-benchers to vote with them.

However, it appears the Senate crossbench could be even bigger than the eight-strong bloc – not counting the Australian Greens – that thwarted both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull during the 44th Parliament.

While preference flows will be critical, both major parties and the Greens appear to have lost seats in the upper house.

The Senate result makes it even more unlikely that a re-elected Turnbull government would be able to pass its bills in a joint sitting.

These results are still rather fluid because of preferences. However it looks like the Greens will have dropped from 10 to 8, but the cross-bench has increased to 12. Moreover Nick Xenophon in South Australia appears to have dragged in another senator and possibly two. While Pauline Hanson returns to the Federal parliament after 18 years, possibly dragging in another One Nation senator.

Fun times in an increasingly divided Senate 😈

Now I suspect that Malcolm Turnbull may be able to create barely working fracticious  and fragile majority in the lower house, subject to many bloated and argumentative political egos. Those that come immediately to mind are those of Tony Abbot, the parts of the Coalition that are not Liberals, and probably some independents. However with those cross benches in the Senate – that makes anything that Malcolm Turnbull (or his successor) comes up with fraught to try to pass both houses.

I suspect we are looking at a lame duck government in our biggest trading partner. While we wait for their next early election, we’re likely to see either not much happening at all, or a series of quixotic gestures aimed at bolstering uncertainty and reinforcing the need for “stable government”.

It is hard to see how either Malcom Turnbull or the Coalition can survive a full term or even more than a small number of bills failing to pass either the lower or upper house. The bitter factionalism that has been lying just below the surface inside the Liberals and the Coalition is sure to rise sooner rather than later (and Tony Abbot hasn’t been noticeable about holding back). Anyone care to take bets on new election this year or early next year.

See also

Even if Turnbull wins, he loses. And even if Shorten loses, he wins

51 comments on “Aussie – governed by a lame duck ”

  1. Lanthanide 1


    Also I think that two-party graph would be more useful if it included undecided’s. Right now the lines are just mirrors of each other, so one of the lines effectively conveys 0 information in its own right.

    But if undecideds were in there, then it’d be easier to gauge where that big inflection in 2015 came from – Labor voters changing their preference, or undecideds who had been sitting on the sidelines now committing to the coalition.

    • lprent 1.1

      Because of the STV system, they tend to portray it as a two party preferred voters. Since the chart is an aggregate of many different polls each with a different methodology for handling undecided, then this is about as good as it gets.

      You’d need to look at a single polling company to see trends at the level you’re interested in.

  2. dukeofurl 2

    Thinking about early elections has to be tempered by their rules for senate elections ( which are nowdays run at same time as house)- if they had an election last month the short term senators would have had terms backdated to start in July 2015 and thus a new election in 2 years from now.
    depending on how senators are split into short and long terms, it may be advantageous to go as soon as possible to increase main party numbers in senate.

    ” The effect of the 2016 double dissolution is that the next House and half-Senate election is most likely between March-May 2019, although it would also be possible between August-December 2018.

    As we can clearly see for this election , bookies put odds to make money not to predict election outcome.

    • lprent 2.1

      Agreed. But the frustration levels are going to be very high in this term.

      I suspect that the most probable excuse for a new election would be a double-dissolution, probably caused by narrowly passing bills in the lower house and being unable to cobble together votes to pass in the Senate. Routinely not being able to pass “signature” legislation through a two house system is
      usually a cause for some significiant political frustration with politicians, their supporters, and with the interest groups pushing for changes.

      The most likely reason to hold off for a few years is to allow the existing changes in the senate electoral rules that make it easier for the two major parties to get control of the senate without the cross-benches. However that won’t happen if they do a double dissolution because the current rules on a double dissolution tend to favour electing minor parties and independents. However that would mean limping along with a lame duck government for more than two years… a cause for some significiant political frustration with politicians, their supporters, and with the interest groups pushing for changes.

      I’m interested in seeing what political joint the steam explodes from 😈

  3. Not sure about the table with declared results. The AEC had the numbers reversed at the point it stopped counting. Labor ahead in 72, the coalition ahead in 66. However, the coalition appear to be in front in the majority of the undeclared seats, so it may end coalition 73, Labor 72, others 5.

    • lprent 3.1

      Yeah I saw that. It showed up in one of the wikipedia entries as well. However I went back and checked on the declarations on sky and ABC. This is the best I could figure out.

      I’m picking that both major parties will be closer than this, and that the Coalition doesn’t hit 76.

    • lprent 3.2

      Had another look through the results and weeded out the seats where the result is really close and the count is too low. Now have my best guess.

      I think that the Coalition will be largest party pipping Labour. However I don’t think either can get 76 seats.

  4. Greg 4

    What does stable government mean, in party speak…
    we want the Treasury the credit card?

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      all I know is that this FPP based system is unrepresentative and archaic.

      • tinfoilhat 4.1.1

        What is your preference when it comes to voting systems CV ?

        • Colonial Viper

          For NZ I think that our MMP threshold should be halved to 2.5% to increase proportionality, reduce vote wastage, increase the influence of third parties and provide for minimum caucus sizes of 3 MPs or more.

      • Whose system are you referring to, CV?

      • aj 4.1.3

        The Australian voting system is STV, is it not? and far better than our existing MMP.

        • mosa

          No its not STV its the preferential system aj
          MMP is more proportional than the aussie voting system.
          And the senate or upper house can slow the progress of the passage govt bills especially the contentious ones faced in the last senate leading to the rare double dissiloution

          • mosa

            Sorry Dissolution is the correct spelling.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Actually Australia does use STV- for their Senate.

            Their House elections, however, are held using IRV, which is similar to how Wellington elects its Mayor. So you vote for one winner in one electorate, but you can still rank your choices, so that Left and Right parties can compete with each other without swinging the overall vote to the opposite wing if their opposition is united. It’s slightly better than FPP.

            Arguably STV is reasonably proportional, but focuses on being proportional within a smaller area (in Australia, that would be each State) than the entire nation, so on a National level there are irregularities.

            I personally consider MMP a better system but arguably it’s capable of similar levels of digression from being proportional to the nation as STV is.

      • Australia doesn’t use FPP at all in their national elections.

        • dukeofurl

          Thats right , even local councils are elected by preferential voting- makes sense to have a single system everyone understands when you are electing one person by area.

    • I enjoyed this from the comments thread:

      The biggest fear I have heard repeated time and time again is a vote for Turnbull may become a vote for Abbott if his men get the numbers. It never ceases to amaze me how in the face of all evidence these far right wing Neocon nut jobs still think they have a message the world is dying to hear.

      Yeah, same in NZ mate.

    • lprent 5.2

      Exactly. Nice analysis of the trap the Liberals are in

      It is going to be a faction fight inside the Liberals and their Coalition partners. Over policy if nothing else. But there is simply no-one to replace Turnball that I can see, and Turnball has clearly failed at the stability he was purported to bring. Abbot is good at sniping as an internal opposition inside the Liberals. However he is a frigging disaster when he steps out of that role.

      Did I hear someone whispering Julie Bishop? Yes pleeezze..

      Shorten just needs to continue to be a good opposition, while preparing for government, and waiting for the inevitable political disasters.

      • RedLogix 5.2.1

        Spot on Lynn. Just how I read it as well.

        The other issue that will continue to destablise Turnbull is the total abortion that is his hybrid FTTN NBN. As every year passes on this it becomes increasingly obvious to everyone that it’s slower, dearer and a dead-end that will cost the country dearly.

        Everyone hates Turnbull’s NBN (unless your salary depends on not hating it) … and it has his name irremediably welded onto it.

        • lprent

          Urrh just reading about it. Your speed is limited by the copper, and because of the nature of the hubs you probably can’t pull fibre to the house.

          Instead they drag NEW copper to the house. Why? The cost would be the same or similar to drag fibre. Presumably because there were a lot of copper installers around and bugger all fibre installers. But they’re going to have to retrain anyway because copper (even recently installed) is going to be effectively obsolete within a decade at the most. The manufacturers are even stopping making it now.

          • Lanthanide

            I’ve argued before that in NZ, FTTP was too late. If we’d started it in the early to mid 2000’s it would have been beneficial. But now with VDSL and 4G and 5G networks, I don’t really think the fibre network is necessary for us – but we already have FTTN.

            Newer last-mile standards and a continued roll-out of these by telco’s (possibly with incentives from the government) would be sufficient for us. They could have put all the money they put into UFB for townies into actually connecting rural areas with reliable, cost-effective networking, where they could get actual productive benefits from such a network, compared to townies where the only service the government trots out for why UFB is good is “teevee over fibre!”.

            However since Australia apparently didn’t already have a FTTN network, it makes no sense for them to install one – especially since it means putting new copper into houses! Insane! Definitely should have just gone to FTTP.

            • lprent


              A key rationale for this national telecommunications infrastructure project was that the existing copper cable telephony infrastructure was approaching end of life and requiring substantial replacement or remediation. For example, most of Australia’s copper network is affected by water due to extensive use of faulty gel for insulation in the past.[1]

        • Bert

          Yes Turnbull and Key have so much in common

      • Ad 5.2.2


        By calling a double dissolution and that election being so disastrous for the Coalition, Turnbull has just poured sacks of salt into his own wells.

        I hope Shorten stays out of power, keeps the revived Labor Party coherent and calm, and simply awaits the inevitable collapse of the Turnbull government.

        Every day of future governmental incoherence will have Labor party stalwarts with memories reading to them across the House the reasons for a Governor-General to intervene, just as he did against Labor in 1975.

        I think there’s a growing chance, as the panic of either the lack of new government – or a dangerously non-functioning government – that the Governor-General may have to. That will scorch the Liberals for generation.

        • mosa

          The 1975 Whitlam dismissal had more to do with American interference from behind the scenes that had worked hard to destabilize the Labor Government over time.
          If Labor is too wait for the collapse of the Coalition then talk about Shorten getting replaced as leader is only going to make it harder for the public too trust them to present a stable alternative in any early Federal Election.
          I dont think the GG will intervene as that will have severe repercussions and send the wrong signals , it will come down to securing the confidence of parliament and getting a legislative programme through both houses and if it tries and fails and it becomes gridlocked then the Liberal government will ask for an early dissolution and once again will ask for a mandate for its programme .
          On the current numbers and being patient Labor would be better to wait rather than try to cobble a govt out of the current mess and not change leaders.

          • Ad

            Wait and see.

            Tensions will mount fast, and only the GG can agree a government.

            It will be a weak government, and will fall fast.

  5. RedLogix 6

    Another good read on the outcome:

    But as the dust settles both major parties have been left with plenty to worry about.

    Labor recovered ground on 2013 but its primary vote is still at historic lows. The Liberal primary also took a pounding. The vote for “anyone else” has climbed to 13 per cent.

    Politics as usual is being rejected by a growing number of voters.

    Today the Coalition’s woes are writ large but Labor’s gains do not disguise the pressure it is under on left and right: the seat of Batman is still under siege from the Greens and the Liberals might take Chisholm.

    The same voter rage that drives support for Donald Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK has taken hold here. Some of it is a perfectly rational response to a political system that is not working for the people it is designed to serve.

    Australian politics broke in December 2009 when the major parties could not reach a consensus on Labor’s climate change bills.

    Mr Abbott rose from the ashes of the Coalition leadership spill and so terrified Kevin Rudd that he cut and ran from “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.


    Question … so when and how do we think it will manifest in New Zealand?

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Low turnout, stagnation in the Labour vote, National returned to power on the thinnest of mandates, NZF and Greens strengthening while the big two weaken, the appearance of other third parties.

      • mosa 6.1.1

        What a depressing prediction CV.
        Another run by the Nasty Natz with even less of a mandate.

      • RedLogix 6.1.2

        The core problem as CV has banged on about for ages is the presence of the ‘right-wing left’ inside the Labour Party.

        It’s the same in the USA Clinton is politically to the right of Trump, the UK PLP revolt against a very middle of the road socialist Corbyn, the same against Cunliffe here and an ALP that doesn’t show the much sign of progressive at all.

        For more than a generation we’ve been voting and nothing much changes except the decorations. Of course it’s bloody depressing and CV is right … it’s just some people don’t want to hear.

        Ask yourself … when did we last hear any GOOD news for the progressive left? Just basic social democratic policies that we all thought of as normal for three decades post-WW2.

        • dukeofurl

          The labour parties in every country has a broad based membership. Left fringe groups are allways going to be a small minority.

          • KJT

            If you regard a fair go, welfare state, with a reasonable chance for everyone, as “Far Left”.

            I.E. Somewhat to the right of Muldoon and Holyoak?

    • Ad 6.3

      Fracturing can be good – and we are more prepared than most.

      Turnbull tried to stick the cork back into the Senate’s pressure relief valve. And the electorate said ‘we still like our release valve for fringe-dwellers and not jobs’.

      Our mechanisms here are proving even more effective.

      • Ad 6.3.1

        Nut jobs.

      • RedLogix 6.3.2

        I see it the other way; Australian politics with it’s States, House and Senate dampens out extremism. Turnbull’s reason for calling this double-dissolution election was the failure of a measure to gut the Unions in the building and construction trades because he couldn’t get the Bill through the Senate.

        In New Zealand it would have just been rammed through our single House by the Nats and that would have been that.

        • Ad

          You are closer to the action than I.

        • Olwyn

          I am in Sydney at the moment, and am impressed by the way Shorten has played things, and the shifts that seem to be taking place. C & T look to be losing their mojo & failed to pull off the long-campaign-all-too-boring-incumbent returned plan. Shorten has managed to flush out the “Neo” part of Turnbull’s liberal, and has put him straight onto the back foot in the immediate aftermath. He is also positioning himself well for offering either a comparatively stable government or a merciless opposition, whichever ultimately applies. I sighed when he became the LP leader, but I salute the skill and commitment he is showing.

  6. swordfish 7

    Current Two Party Preferred

    Australia …………………………… 50.26 ………………49.74

    NSW …………………………………. 49.90 …………….. 50.10

    Victoria …………………………….. 51.99 …………….. 48.01

    Queensland ………………………. 46.50 ……………..53.50

    WA ……………………………………. 46.90 …………….. 53.10

    SA ……………………………………… 56.95 ……………. 43.05

    Tasmania …………………………… 55.78 ……………. 44.22

    ACT ……………………………………. 61.73 ……………. 38.27

    NT ……………………………………….57.11 ……………. 42.89

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