Tony Windsor tells a great story. It takes place in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, stitched together with Windsor's support. Windsor was an independent who, as a state member, supported a NSW Liberal government, but when elected federally and faced with another hung parliament, chose to back Labor.
He's a fan of minority governments. Anyhow, the story he tells is of his last interaction with Scott Morrison. The way he tells it, Morrison came to Windsor's office trying to get the independent politician to come to the party on an amendment to a bill. Windsor says Morrison presented him with the amendment written by the clerks under Windsor's name. Windsor said he would not be supporting the amendment. Windsor says Morrison replied: "You can go and get f---ed then."
Windsor predicts Morrison will "go off like a frog in a sock with a hung parliament".
Both leaders have said they won't be making arrangements with independents or other parties. It's a bid to encourage voters to put major parties first. The way the polls are looking at the moment, that looks like hubris. A hung parliament might be exactly what we can expect after May 21, and may indeed better reflect what Australia wants.
Voters have a level of anxiety about our major parties - even the leaders' debate, broadcast on Sky with its usual level of impartiality, showed exactly how voters feel. What was it who won? 40 per cent to Albo, 35 to Morrison, and a whopping 25 per cent undecided, who may well be heading off to vote independent, teal or some more bizarro configuration.
Is minority government good for Australia? Windsor is confident it is. He says it removes some of what he calls the "kitchen cabinet" powers from the executive - the two or three people who really run the country in a majority government. Politicians have to then make the case for their actions in public.
"I have got no doubt about it. I think they can work better ... Parliament actually works. If you have got a hung parliament, the government doesn't have control of the committees. No one has control. In the lower house it opens up the debate to make a meaningful contribution."
And he wants to remind voters that while all kinds of independents sign all kinds of notes promising cooperation on budgets and no-confidence motions, that's all show. Those notes can be abandoned whenever. Windsor's point is that this keeps politicians on their best behaviour.
And god knows, we would love to see more of that.
The most recent Australian case study of minority government was a resounding success, says Glenn Kefford, a politics researcher at the University of Queensland. The Gillard government was able to pass significant amounts of legislation and, according to Kefford, was generally perceived to have operated in Parliament in a way more in line with what voters expect from their governments. We could see how the sausage got made. Yes, it's true there were some chaotic moments after the 2010 election - but after that, it was all business.
Majoritarian politics has imposed a confrontational culture in government which isn't serving the interests of voters. It's also left serious issues unaddressed. Kefford lists climate change, gender and disability, among others, unless you count a Prime Minister whose sole contribution on disability was to say during the debate that he and his wife Jenny were "blessed" to have children without disability.
So why are the major parties so anti-minority governments? Well, they don't like being told they will have to play nicely, to negotiate what they want rather than just demand party loyalty and be done with it. Instead, they will have to explain themselves at every turn.
Kefford also says there is a fear that opening the door for a small-c coalition would encourage voters to drift away from the major parties in even larger numbers.
"Yes, there's a myth the major parties wouldn't negotiate, but that's just bullshit," he says.
He also wants to point out that the majors may have no choice. Kefford and colleagues have devised a really handy dashboard to see who is spending what on this election. The teal candidates, particularly Allegra Spender in Wentworth, Monique Ryan in Kooyong, Zoe Daniel in Goldstein, Kylea Tink in North Sydney and Sophie Scamps in Mackellar, are "generating really significant donations from their own communities". In Daniel's campaign, says Kefford, the million dollars raised has come mostly from individual donors.
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Leuven University's Heath Pickering, an Australian in Belgium who is also researching minority governments, reminds us we already have a coalition running the place - neither the Liberal Party nor the National Party could form government without the support of the other. But he says the messaging from the leaders about hung parliaments and minority government is also to signal strength. No one wants to appear as if they don't believe with all their hearts that they will win a majority.
He also says commentators who say minority governments are mad, bad and dangerous need to take a long look at themselves. There have been successful minority governments in Europe and in New Zealand, and everyone survived.
Will all this negotiating cost Australians time and money?
Funny you should ask. Niklas Potrafke, a professor at the ifo Centre for Public Finance and Political Economy in Germany, decided to look at that very question. As he puts it, there is this idea minority governments may well increase government expenditure and deficits, because minority governments need to organise majorities in Parliament for every individual bill they want to pass.
What did he find? He scoured through OECD data since the 1960s looking for minority governments, and found no evidence they influenced government expenditure and deficits in a different manner to that of majority governments.
I had a darling friend tell me recently that we needed to vote for majority governments if we wanted to see change in this country. That's what our leaders want us to think. But voters might want to try something new if we ever want to see real action on climate, on gender, on disability. You can understand why. Plus, we probably need grown-ups, not frogs in socks.
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