Malcolm Turnbull went to the last election looking for a mandate to get his policies through Parliament and to remove what he described as an obstructionist cross bench in the Senate.
He got neither. The previous election saw the Liberal/National Coalition win with a 30 seat majority in the Upper House. Now he has a solitary seat majority – the people have spoken – that is not a mandate. And he faces a much different cross bench in the Senate and I am certain he is not happy about that. He is now far worse off than before he called the election.
So far he has given no real indication as to how he plans to govern with such a slender majority and a potentially more hostile senate than he had to deal with previously.
I guess the first question to ask is why was the government returned with such a slender majority and why a potentially more hostile crossbench?
There are likely many reasons but one certainty is that the Australian voting public are totally disenchanted with how the two major parties function and also with the way they conduct themselves in Parliament both in Canberra and in the States. If the Victorian Premier or one of his ministers makes any form of statement, the Liberal Opposition will publicly can it – regardless of its value. And if Malcolm Turnbull or one of his ministers does likewise, Bill Shorten or one of his ministers will can it. We deserve a bit better than this, in fact we deserve a lot better than this.
Even before Parliament in Canberra has resumed after the election, both sides are blaming the other for one thing or another. Scott Morrison is saying that it is up to Labor to honour its election promises and pass key budget legislation intimating that if he doesn’t, we could be heading for a recession. Bill Shorten wants to see the detail and who can blame him. I wouldn’t put it pass Scott Morrison to slip something he knows Shorten won’t accept into one of the pieces of legislation.
So what should Malcolm do now?
He needs to make an address to the nation and tell the people of Australia that although he is disappointed with the outcome of the election, the wishes of the people of Australia must be respected. The first thing he should say is that it is time to return to the days of bipartisanship – clearly the lack of it is hurting the Parliament. He should say that he will call a meeting with Bill Shorten and discuss how they can work together to ensure that as much as is possible of the key policies can be passed through both houses as quickly and as ethically as possible.
There is a perception among many Australians that Opposition parties will oppose virtually everything that the Government proposes, even policies that they themselves had previously supported when they were in government. There is also a perception that the number one objective of many MPs is to do whatever is needed to be re-elected and if that means not supporting essential legislation, then so be it.
I share these perceptions. It’s time that our MPs behaved more professionally in carrying out the job we elected them to do.
MPs need to be reminded that they have been voted in for a three-year term and senators for a six-year term. They should accept that they might not get re-elected when their time is up. They should all work diligently to firstly support the country as a whole and also to support their electorate. This isn’t always easy and sometimes sacrifices have to be made.
If politicians have conducted themselves properly and done the best that they were able to do in addressing the needs of country and electorate, then there is a very good chance they will be re-elected at the next election. And if they were in government and their party is defeated, they will still have a job even though it is in Opposition.
With a one seat majority, Malcom Turnbull can’t claim that the majority of Australians are supportive of him, and added to that, he clearly doesn’t have the full support of his own party. He needs to assert himself and demand loyalty from those within his own party who are not supporting him. He needs to spell out that he is the Prime Minister and he has to be seen to be totally in charge. If not, he should say that he will quit and spend more time with his grandchildren. He is one person in Canberra that doesn’t need a job. Both he and his wife Lucy have made enough money, fairly and squarely, to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. But he should say to his dissenters that if he quits, it will be a certainty that Labor will win the next election in three years’ time.