by Gary J
Sat Nov 24th, 2007 at 10:13:46 AM EST
Provisional results (as at 3.20 am, Sydney time) for the House of Reptresentatives. Things may shift a little, when the final figures are known, but the basic picture is clear. This is the result as predicted by ABC.
Australian Labor Party (43.5% of primary vote) 86 seats (+24 from estimated 2004 results on these boundaries)
Liberal (36.5%) 52 seats (-21)
Nationals (5.5%) 10 seats (-3)
Combined Liberal/Nationals coalition (42%) 62 seats (-24)
Greens (7.8%) no seats in the House (no change)
Others (6.7%) 2 Independent seats (no change)
Update [2007-11-24 10:13:46 by Migeru]: Bumped on election day. See comments for election results.
Diary rescue by Migeru
[editor's note, by Migeru] rest of intro moved below the fold for the front page
The Commonwealth of Australia is a realm, which is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Australia. A Governor-General is appointed, on the advice of the Australian government, to exercise the constitutional functions of the head of state.
Australia is a federation. Six British colonies (now the six states) combined to form the Commonwealth on 1st January 1901.
The Australian constitution was largely drafted in Australia but was enacted by the UK Parliament. The Australians seem to have taken a copy of the US constitution and adapted it for a parliamentary system. Thus the two houses of the Federal Parliament are a Senate (with equal numbers of Senators from each state) and a House of Representatives (apportioned by population).
The current election is for all the 150 seats in the House and half of the Senators for the states (36, six per state). There are also four Senators for the territories (two each for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory).
Members of the House (known as MPs) serve a maximum term of three years, but the House can be dissolved earlier if the Prime Minister requests a dissolution and the Governor-General grants it. Subject to the possibility of a double dissolution (part of the mechanism to resolve deadlocks between the two houses), the Senators from the states serve a fixed term of six years (starting on the 1st July following their election, so there can be long delays between the election and the start of the term). The territorial Senators serve for the same term as the House members, so they take office immediately following each election.
The executive power is, for practical purposes, exercised by the Prime Minister and his cabinet. By convention the government is responsible to the House of Representatives, so if they lose a vote of confidence the Prime Minister must either resign or advise a dissolution. The government is not responsible to the Senate in the same way (although there was a constitutional crisis in 1975 when an opposition majority in the Senate refused supply and the Governor-General forced a dissolution by dismissing the Prime Minister and appointing the opposition leader to replace him on condition that the new PM asked for a double dissolution).
Voting is compulsory. In the House elections the alternative vote is used; in single member districts known as electorates, into which each state or territory is divided by the Electoral Commission. Senate elections are held at large, with the whole of a state or territory voting. The Senate elections are by a form of the single transferable vote, but because most voters use the above the line option (which accepts the party list of preferences) it works in practice much like an ordered party list version of proportional representation (except for the allocation of the last seat).
Having set the scene I turn to the current position.
[editor's note, by Migeru] Fold was here originally.
The current Australian Prime Minister is one John Winston Howard. Howard belongs to the dwindling band of national leaders who really want to be best friends of George W. Bush.
Howard is apparently known by his political enemies as 'The Rodent', thus terms like 'Team Rodent' are applied to his supporters.
To confuse non-Australians the centre-right party Howard belongs to (comparable to the British Conservatives or the US Republicans) is called the Liberal Party of Australia. It was formed in 1944 to replace the United Australia Party (itself formed by a merger of the Nationalist Party and a breakaway Labor group during the Great Depression). The Nationalist party was a merger of the original Liberal Party with another breakaway Labor group during the First World War. The first Liberal Party had been a merger of the Protectionist Party and the Anti-Socialist League (formerly the Free Trade Party) in 1909. As you can see the history of this part of the political spectrum is just a little complicated.
The Liberals (and predecessors) have been in an almost continuous coalition, since the Bruce-Page Ministry of 1922, with a party of rural conservatives. They were originally known as the Country Party, but nowadays call themselves The Nationals. The combined Liberal/Nationals group is called simply 'The Coalition' and for most purposes function as if they were one party.
The main opposition party is the Australian Labor Party (which uses the American spelling of labor rather than the normal Australian spelling of labour in its name). The ALP is currently led by the former diplomat Kevin Rudd. He seems to be a Tony Blair type figure, in the sense of re-positioning his party so it is not so scary to middle of the road voters as those nasty socialists who came before him.
It is likely that the next House, like the last one will only consist of Coalition and ALP members with possibly a few independents. There has been a trend in recent elections for some rural voters to become discontented with The Nationals current leadership and elect dissidents formerly from that party as Independent MPs.
In the Senate no state has, since the last expansion in its size, elected fewer than two Senators from each major group in an election. Only once has a state elected four from one of them. The normal pattern is for there to either be three seats to each major group, or for there to be a 3-2-1 pattern with the last seat going to another party.
The usual other party has, until the last election, between the Australian Democrats (a small l liberal party founded by former Liberal minister Don Chipp "to keep the bastards honest"). The Democrats tend to split their lower preferences, so half go to the Coalition before the ALP and half to the ALP before the Coalition. Unfortunately after internal dissension the Democrats poll rating has collapsed to 2%. It is expected to lose its last four Senate seats at this election.
The current major third party is the Green Party. It will probably not win any House seats, but seems assured of several additional Senators. The Green Party and the ALP are preferencing each other so there is potential for a centre-left bloc.
The other party which might win a Senator, if all goes well for them, is Family First. This is a right wing, christian group. They will exchange preferences with the coalition. In the past Family First have won a seat, from a very low primary vote, by 'harvesting preferences' from a disparate collection of what the Australians seem to call micro-parties.
It is more difficult to summarise polling data for Australia than in most countries, due to the complications of preference polling and the tendency to limit most polls to particular states.
A Morgan poll taken on November 10/11, estimated Coalition primary support at 39% and Labor primary support of 48%. An estimate of the two party preferred vote was coalition 43.5% and ALP 56.5%. Such a distribution of support, if it proves accurate, suggests a Labor landslide is in prospect. Other polls seem to be slightly less favourable to Labour but still with a decided ALP lead.
The outgoing 41st Parliament was elected on 9th October 2004. In the House the Coalition had 87 seats (Liberal 75 and Nationals 12), ALP 60 and Independents 3. The Senate (half for the 2002-2008 term and half for 2005-2011) consisted of Coalition 39 (Liberal 33 ad Nationals 6), ALP 28, AD 4, Green 4, and Family First 1. The seats up for election this year are Coalition 20, ALP 14, AD 4 and Green 2.