Federal election: Power to the pesky

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Debate 300dpi (2) (1)TONY Abbott hates the idea with a vengeance. Kevin Rudd has a similar attitude. The trouble with minority governments for men who would be kings is that they might be held accountable.

A hung parliament (to use the pejorative term) means that the party leaders cannot simply run a three-year dictatorship.

The current election is confusing for so many Australians. They simply do not know who the candidates are in their local electorate. Rudd, Abbott and a complicit media have turned a Westminster election into an American-style presidential race. However, people in Canberra do have some options to make the next Federal government more accountable.

It makes these leaders angry. Really angry! It is the one thing that puts them on the same page, singing a similar tune. It is those pesky independents and crossbenchers.

Abbott has made it clear that he will not lead a minority government. In simple terms, he will not accept the will of the people and will not accept having any of his decisions questioned. This is the same man who thought he would be able to end the previous minority government by simply running a negative campaign for a number of months. He made the prediction that the Gillard Government would be short-lived, incompetent, would not be able to get any legislation through or be able to govern.

He was wrong on all counts. Julia Gillard was able to negotiate unprecedented amounts of legislation through the parliament and maintain a mostly stable government. The instability for Gillard did not come from crossbenchers such as Bob Katter, Adam Bandt, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott. It came from within the Prime Minister’s own ranks, constantly fuelled by Kevin Rudd and his band of disaffected cronies. Look how quickly Rudd moved to consolidate his own position and make sure no one could again do the same thing to him.

In the two Canberra electorates there would have to be a massive swing to oust either Gai Brodtmann from the seat of Canberra or Andrew Leigh from the seat of Fraser. And the truth is that neither has performed poorly. In fact, Andrew Leigh in particular has been an outstanding contributor for a first-term member.

However, if voters wish to send a message about accountability, minority government and the importance of the crossbenchers they can simply choose any of the smaller parties ahead of the majors on their House of Representatives ballot paper.

In our preferential system, the vote will move to the majors, but the message will be clear if enough voters choose this option.

The real choice across the ACT is in the Senate. Any analysis will show that Kate Lundy is secure as a Labor Senator. She has been a competent and hard-working Senator building up a strong profile. The same is not true of the Liberal candidate, Zed Seselja. He established a reputation in the Legislative Assembly, but within months of building the trust of the people of Tuggeranong he jumped ship. This seat is vulnerable.

The ballot paper for the Senate will provide many opportunities for the people of the ACT to ensure that Canberra is no longer taken for granted. Ideally, vote below the line. It does not take much more time and it stops preference deals that concentrate power. Put the major parties last on the ballot paper is the simple message.

There will be a number of small parties and independents contesting the election, but the most likely crossbench chance is Simon Sheikh.

He played a key role in GetUp! before deciding to contest an ACT Senate seat for the Greens and has an impressive track record. Whether the government is Coalition or Labor he could play a critical role in ensuring accountability.

Send a message to both political leaders. This is Australia! We do not have an American form of democracy. For accountability, vote below the line and put the major parties last.

Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.


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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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