Senate to be sticking point

Australia has a new Prime Minister elect and the Labor Party is searching for a new leader, but it’s what happens with the Senate vote which may shape politics for the next three years.

As expected, Tony Abbott led his Coalition to a sweeping victory in Saturday’s federal election and while the results for Labor weren’t great, it wasn’t the landslide some predicted. Currently, it looks as though the Coalition will gain 16 seats and Labor will have lost 12 as of this morning.

For Tony Abbott it was the outcome he had been hoping for and, for Kevin Rudd, it was simply too much. Despite holding on to his own seat of Griffith, he has decided it is time for the Labor Party to find a new leader to fight the good fight. Mr Rudd announced on Saturday evening that he had called Tony Abbott to congratulate him and of his own leadership said, “I will not be recontesting the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party. The Australian people, I believe, deserve a fresh start with our leadership. I know this will not be welcome news to some of you.” In taking responsibility for the election loss he said, “Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight. And as your PM and as your parliamentary leader of the great Australian Labor Party I accept responsibility. I gave it my all but it was not enough for us to win.”

However, Labor and the Greens still control the Senate until July next year, which means Tony Abbott may find it difficult to pass some of the reforms he promised to implement in his first 100 days as leader. And it may not get much easier for the new PM once the new Senate takes its place as the Coalition looks to have lost one, or maybe even two seats in the Senate. While Australia won’t know the exact composition of the Senate for another two weeks, it appears that the minor parties may be the big winners. Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party (PUP) looks to have secured two seats, and single-issue parties such as the Australian Sports Party and the Australian Motorists Enthusiast Party, so this is one seat each likely to make up the Senate landscape come July 2014.

Watch Kevin Rudd’s leadership announcement at ABC.net.au

Read more about the likely Senate make-up at TheAge.com.au

Watch Tony Abbott’s victory acceptance at SMH.com.au 

Opinion: We did have a choice

Many Australians may have felt they had no choice in who was to be our next Prime Minister, but when voting for the Senate, they made their opinions clear.

I’m not sure of the usual percentage of how many people simply vote above the line on a Senate paper, compared to those who go through the painstaking process of marking each individual candidate, but it seems that in this election, more people took the time to make their choice. The result will be a Senate which will have more minor and single message parties than we have ever seen before. While Labor and the Greens had held the balance of power for the last three years, the next three years may prove a little tougher for the Coalition.

I am normally an above the line voter, I never really throught that taking the time to select my preferences (1-97 in Victoria) would make a difference. This year, however, living in a safe Labor seat and seeing the writing on the wall for a Kevin Rudd led Labor Party, I thought I would take the time and make my vote count. Some research prior to Saturday made my hair stand on end – some of the policies which people chose to stand for were mind-boggling – and some just down right secular. The gun-totting fanatics, lovers of sexual freedom, protectors of animal rights and even those who chose to discriminate on skin colour and ethnic background all got the chance to try and secure my vote.

Some were quite sneaky in the way they went about it, calling themselves names similar to existing parties in the hope that weary eyes would not be able to differentiate. While others simply embraced their beliefs, no matter how bizarre they appeared to most people. And then there was Clive Palmer, who’s Palmer United Party, despite having been much maligned in the media pre-election about his seemingly unachievable promises, looks to have secured two seats, perhaps the same two Tony Abbott looks to have lost?

Having taken the time to complete the ballot paper, it pleases me to note that these single-interest warriors and minor players will have a voice come July next year. With the Coalition likely to have only 32 seats in a 76 seat Senate, it will require the support of Labor or the Greens – good luck with that – or six of the eight cross benchers, many of whom are single-interest candidates, to pass legislation.

So you see, we did have a choice and let us hope those choices keep Tony Abbott honest and accountable in the next three years.

Do you think the power battle will be won and lost in the Senate over the next three years? Or do you think that the minor parties will be happy to do the Coalition’s bidding?

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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