Hung Parliament = More Government, Not Less

Though there’s plenty of healthy cynicism over the notion of a “new paradigm” in Australian politics, there also seems to be an idea doing the rounds that since a hung parliament makes it difficult for legislation to be passed too easily, that it’s good for libertarian principles. Perhaps in some instances this is the case, but if history of the senate has taught us anything, it’s that those who hold the balance simply trade off: “You give me legislation in this area, and I’ll support you on this one.” I find it hard to recall of a time where an independent or minor party candidate ever successfully negotiated less government interference in our daily lives (though I’m happy if someone can point to an example.)

It now seems Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie has decided that his main policy is poker machine reform (remember how in the 80’s, “reform” was all about removing market impediments? God, I miss the 80’s!,) and I’m guessing he’ll get some action in that area. Of course, poker machines would generally be a state issue, which is why Wilkie ever so helpfully suggested use of the Corporations Act – the Fed’s favourite tool for trouncing state’s rights. What this effectively means, is that an independent from Tasmania is laying down the law for NSW clubs and their patrons (all for the greater good, of course).

Just in case you were thinking this is a small enough price to pay, rest assured it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The new minority government (whichever side that might be) hasn’t even started legislating anything yet – all of the current “negotiations” are just for starters. I found the following to be a particularly ominous sign:

The trio (Gillard, Wilkie and Wilkie’s wife and media adviser, Kate Burton) then began talks over a jug of water and a thin black binder placed on a coffee table.

The binder looked identical to packages Ms Gillard handed recently to three other independent MPs which touted Labor’s record and election promises bearing on their electorates.

Welcome to the new paradigm.

UPDATE: Wilkie has now released his 20-point list of priorities. Delivering on these would cost billions – and that’s just for the dental plan. But most amusing was number 20, which basically asks for a bigger office:

Adequate staffing and office space to deal with the workload of an Independent Member of Parliament.

7 thoughts on “Hung Parliament = More Government, Not Less

  1. A hung Parliament in NSW ended with the Wood Royal Commission.

    Less police corruption means less Government, but so does the cconverse, unfortunately.

  2. Poker machines suck. We only have as many as we do because more convensional and sociable forms of gambling (poker, two up, craps) have been regulated out of existance. However I certainly don’t support a ban on poker machines and especially not by a federal government.

  3. I find it hard to recall of [sic] a time where an independent or minor party candidate ever successfully negotiated less government interference in our daily lives (though I’m happy if someone can point to an example.)

    For certain values of “our”, that is just precisely what the 19th century Irish MPs did with their strategy of join and sabotage (of parliamentary proceedings). Since they didn’t have and intrinsically could never hope to get the numbers to attain their objectives directly, they concentrated on making Westminster fail to deliver for other interests too, in the hope of getting a trade off (when they almost did, they inspired similar intransigence against that from some of the other interests – and parliamentary “reform” to allow governments to steamroll parliamentary proceedings, e.g. the guillotine on debate).

    Incidentally, the Irish MP contingent provide a counter-example to Australian republican claims that nobody would ever jam up their proposed systems since nobody could ever have an interest in jamming things up. Permanently off side permanent minorities can have interests like that, and have resorted to that once they figured it out.

  4. I think it’s worth remembering that just because a particular Act isn’t amended, repealed, or enacted, doesn’t mean an executive cannot dramatically alter things: witness the Libs boasting that ALP workplace acts needn’t be changed – tweaking regs and ministerial fiat can do that without parliament being involved.

    I’m hoping that greater scrutiny over the executive will happen from the tight HoR. While I’m a believer in big government, at odds with my more libertarian friends, I’m certainly a believer in having more transparent debate, and the less the executive can do behind closed doors, the more real debate there is in parliament to justify actions, the better off I think we’ll be, and I think those of a more libertarian disposition will be happier with a constrained executive too.

  5. Dave – in the case of the workplace laws the executive only has broad powers because the legislation gives it to them. The current government also has those powers. To grant powers on the hope that they will be used only as you intend is folly.

  6. Where is the evidence that this will mean more spending? Its not there in the list of demands. Few of these demands will be met. It will be a re-ordering of spending priorities rather than much of an increase in spending. Take the contrary case. In a non-hung-pariliament spending ran wild under both Howard and Rudd. There is simply no comparison.

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