In the years to come were going to have plenty of motley
parliaments, with fewer major party parliamentarians and larger
crossbenches of independents and minor parties holding the balance
of power. We better get used to it.
At the Commonwealth level, the minority Coalition Government is
dealing with eight crossbenchers in the House of Representatives
and 19 in the Senate, each holding the balance of power.
The number of crossbenchers in the House will probably be
unchanged after the federal election, so while most observers
expect the federal election to deliver a Shorten Government, a poor
result for Labor might mean it only wins minority government and
still requires the votes of crossbenchers in the House.
In the Senate, Labor is expected to pick up seats at the expense
of the crossbench thanks to the 2016 deal between the Coalition and
Greens to change Senate voting rules, but it will still fall well
short of a majority. And the crossbench will still have a
significant green-tinge despite the plunge in voter support for the
Minor party voters who oppose the Greens will go for one of the
Liberal Democrats, One Nation, the Christians, Conservatives or
Katters party. Regrettably, most of these voters will fail to
preference all the anti-Green parties with the result that, under
the new Senate voting rules, its more likely none of these parties
will gather enough votes to beat the Greens for the last Senate
seat, at least in some states.
Its clear why the Greens wanted these new Senate voting rules,
but why the Coalition wanted them is anyones guess. (Note to
voters: if you dont like the Greens, fill in a lot of preferences
for non Green parties!)
At the state level, motley parliaments are the new norm. One in
seven state parliamentarians is a crossbencher, and these
crossbenchers hold the balance of power in each of the state upper
houses. At the upcoming NSW state election the size of the
crossbench is set to swell with minor party candidates like Mark
Latham and me looking to join the ranks.
The cause of this swelling of the crossbench is clear; voters
are turning off the major parties.
For more than three decades the internet has allowed far-flung
people to form new connections. Increasingly, people identify with
niche groups rather than a mass movement, and also support niche
parties. This includes single issue parties like those focussed on
science, the arts, seniors, anti vaxxers, animals, marijuana and
The formula of the major parties of attempting to appeal to
everyone and offend no-one by being heavy on platitudes and light
on principle doesnt cut it anymore.
Whether the overall influence of crossbenchers is positive or
negative depends on the quality of the...