April 7th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Free trade agreements leave us even more dependent on China

EDITORIAL Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

CANBERRA OBSERVED Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM General protection gives a false sense of security

PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE On celestial politics

GENDER POLITICS Trans ideology awash with big money from big biomed and big pharma

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

CINEMA Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

HUMOUR An Appetite for Diamonds: Porphyry Volpone investigates

MUSIC Power playing: Technique v musicality

CINEMA Peter Rabbit: More Bugs than Beatrix, but lots of fun

BOOK REVIEW We're doomed; but we're not alone

BOOK REVIEW Subcontinent set for Asian century


NATIONAL AFFAIRS The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

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Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, April 7, 2018

It looks like Australia’s love affair with minor parties may have reached its peak if the results of recent state and by-elections are any guide.

After an extraordinary run, all the “major” minor parties are suffering electorally from a variety of factors: the Greens, from an accumulation of years of irresponsible policies and gesture politics, which, despite all the crowing about their coming success, has never resulted in the party breaking into the mainstream; One Nation, due predominantly to perennial ill-discipline and naivety; and Nick Xenophon’s NXT, from hollow populism and over-reach.

For the “minor” minor parties the situation is even worse.

Factors that have lead to this apparent tipping point in fortunes include an erratic track record once a minor party achieves Parliamentary representation, lack of internal discipline and policy coherence, and, finally, a propensity to splinter further into micro-parties and independents.

MPs who are elected to Parliament on the back of a minor party brand and who then declare themselves “independents” is another major factor in the recent disillusionment of the voting public.

Currently, the Senate contains nine Greens senators, three One Nation senators, two NXT senators, and one senator each to the Liberal Democrats and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.

The remainder of the crossbenchers are all defectors, including the Australian Conservatives’ Cori Bernardi, who was elected to Parliament as a Liberal Party senator, independents Fraser Anning, who came to Parliament on the back of a One Nation senator resigning, Steve Martin, who arrived in Parliament as a Jacqui Lambie Network senator, and Tim Storer, who was sent to Parliament as a NXT senator to replace Skye Kakoschke-Moore after being disqualified.

You can add to the list Senator Lucy Gichuhi, who was elected as a Family First senator but turned independent before finally joining the Liberal Party.

John Madigan, who was elected as a Democratic Labour Party senator, but turned independent, is another example.

The sorry tale of the rise and fall of Clive Palmer’s PUP typifies this pattern of the minor parties: rapid rise through popular support, election to Parliament, lack of experience leading to dysfunction, followed by infighting, splits, electoral malaise and wind-up.

It is worth recalling that saga more fully.

Formed in 2013 as Palmer United Party, the party contested every lower house seat at the 2013 election with big financial backing from Palmer himself, and succeeded in winning three seats: Fairfax in the House of Representatives, and two Senate seats in Queensland (Glenn Lazarus) and Tasmania (Jacqui Lambie).

When Dio Wang won a West Australian Senate seat after a special half-senate election the following year after the disappearance of 1,300 votes at the 2013 election, PUP’s numbers expanded to four, and to a peak of five when Ricky Muir (elected as an Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator for Victoria) entered into an alliance with PUP.

But an inability to get on saw each of the elected representatives split from Mr Palmer, with Lambie and Lazarus becoming independents, Muir abandoning the alliance, and Palmer ultimately losing his seat.

The “last of the Mohicans”, Senator Wang, went from being “party whip” to “party leader” and then to losing his Senate seat at the 2016 double-dissolution election.

Lambie then registered her own party, the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), but was forced to resign from the Senate after it was found that she had dual British-Australian citizenship.

To top it all off, Lambie’s replacement, Devonport Mayor Steve Martin (who had been second on the JLN ticket at the 2016 election), was expelled from the party for disloyalty after he refused to make way for Lambie to return to the Senate.

How has all this been able to happen?

For some years now the two major parties have suffered from being too similar, resulting in votes from rusted-on supporters falling away, which has led to “swinging voters” growing in number. This has been happening for over two decades now.

Taking advantage of this disenchantment and the electoral rules for Senate elections has been people like Glenn “the preference whisperer” Druery, who works the system to get micro-parties elected.

However, recent state elections, at which leaders have declared “no deals” would be undertaken with minor parties, have yielded results, with Steven Marshall in South Australia, Will Hodgman in Tasmania and Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland, all getting elected on this basis.

It may be too early to declare the party is over for the minor parties, but it is possible that the voting public is starting to realise that governing with a host of disparate minor parties and independents leads to seriously dysfunctional government.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm