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Elect another people?

Ideas@TheCentre – The CIS newsletter (Sydney), 27 August 2010

As you can tell from their statements, the political class is not amused about the result of the federal election. Forming a government is all too difficult, they complain. There was no clear mandate, and getting bills through both houses of Parliament could become a bit of a nuisance.

Maybe they would appreciate the advice given by German playwright Berthold Brecht. He once suggested that in tough times, it might be easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect another.

Brecht was not serious, of course, and neither am I. But perhaps it would be a good idea to stop complaining about the election result and instead accept it as it is.

And while we’re at it, could we also stop a few other things, please? For example, asking what the Australian voter really wanted to say with this election outcome.

In case you didn’t notice, there is no Australian voter. There are 14,088,260 of them. They each had one vote and in giving it to the candidates according to their preferences, they did not submit any explanatory statements.

Of course, this does not stop politicians and commentators from second-guessing. Is a vote for the Greens just a protest vote? Did voters wish to express their disapproval of Julia Gillard’ treatment of Kevin Rudd? Did they appreciate Tony Abbott’s final 36-hour campaign marathon? And who won the baby-kissing contest?

None of these questions was answered in the election. In fact, the voters weren’t even making a choice between Gillard and Abbott. Though it may look different, Australia does not vote for Prime Ministers but still only for local Members of Parliament.

This is how we should treat the election result, then. So please, no more over-interpretation of the ifs and buts, the whys and wherefores of this election. No more pseudo-psychological analysis of the mind of the Australian voter, either. Actually, if there was an Australian voter, he’d be pretty schizophrenic for giving his two-party preferred preferences to Labor and the Coalition in almost equal measure.

The political class may well agree that it would be easier to elect another people so they can get the result they desire. But in all seriousness, they would do us all a mighty favour if they accepted the result and just got on with it. That’s what they were elected for.

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