Parliament resumes next Tuesday, but it doesn’t feel like the present.
Pauline Hanson is back (with three other mates). We’re talking about marriage equality, budget repair and asylum seekers. Forgive me for thinking that we’re trapped somewhere within a time continuum between 1996 and 2010.
Despite the seemingly indefinite election result, Australians delivered our Parliament a decisive outcome. The loss of 14 lower house seats within Coalition benches, is allowing them to hold on – with a barely manageable one seat majority. It fails to deliver the Turnbull Government the resounding mandate they often boast. Likewise, even after some tactful campaigning, the electorate still weren’t overly excited about a prospect of a Shorten Labor Government, just three years after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd saga and their thrashing at the ballot box in 2013.
In my view, Australian’s aren’t enthused with either major party, clearly seen in the blowout of the cross-bench in the Senate; now featuring a diverse rainbow of 9 Greens, 4 One Nation Senators, 3 Xenophon Team aficionados, Derryn Hinch and the return of Jacqui Lambie, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm. Whilst commanding a respectable 96% of Lower House MPs, the major parties sit on less than three-quarters of the red leather seats.
If anything, the election result is a call for bipartisan and cross-party pragmatism — MPs and Senators bridging partisanship currents to better the outcomes for Australia. However, if we look at how the major players have utilised the media over the past week, I’m doubtful this will ever eventuate.
Malcolm Turnbull used a keynote address to attack Labor through the media – asking them to support an omnibus bill to be tabled in Parliament of $6.5 billion of spending cuts that, according to the Coalition, Labor supported during the election campaign. Other senior Coalition figures Scott Morrison and Michaelia Cash promptly followed Turnbull’s lead.
In retaliation, Labor hit back – again – through the media, promising today through a National Press Club address a host of budget repair measures worth $80 billion to the bottom line over the next decade.
The media should not be the primary place of Parliamentary negotiation, least of which budgetary matters. If both major parties want to work cooperatively in the National Interest, they’d be having constructive discussions behind closed doors – not through Sky News.
Given the ruthless Senate Crossbench, it’s in the Government’s best interests to work with Labor on these issues. Should Labor and the Greens oppose Government legislation, the Coalition risks necessitating the support of Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson’s respective blocs, along with two of the remaining four Crossbenchers.
Much has been said of Tony Abbott’s performance as Opposition Leader during the tumultuous 43rd Hung Parliament. Abbott exploited every flaw; every vulnerability of the Gillard administration, leading to Labor’s demise come September 2013. Shorten appears to be rearing for the same approach in this term – entirely predictable, yet completely unnecessary.
Petty partisan politics continues to prevail over pragmatic policy outcomes.
If our major parties were serious about ‘working constructively on matters of common interest’ they’d stand down from the cameras and find a room. It might make entertaining television, but berating your opponent on Q&A won’t actually deliver bipartisan outcomes.