Whether the Coalition will have enough seats to form government remains unclear and it is by no means certain that it will be able to remain in government. But one or two certainties are clear. Most importantly, the governing of Australia will be much more difficult, perhaps as difficult as it was under Whitlam when the initial budget was put together by Whitlam and his Deputy on their own. The Turnbull government has already introduced a budget but that has still be considered by Parliament. Labor will doubtless argue that Turnbull’s bad election result means that this budget needs to be revised. As Terry McCrann points out below, any budget now needs to also take account of the likely reduction in Australia’s AAA credit rating.
McCrann also points out that if we get a Labor government now it will be “much, much easier for it to get its agenda through the Senate”, a Senate which will include a number of new “independents” with widely different views and who will be there for six years. Whoever the government is will need to “buy” support from these independents. For example, the One Nation party will have leader Pauline Hanson and may have another member too. She has indicated support for a Royal Commission into Islam (see Hanson’s Policies) and, while that seems unlikely, the issue of Islamic extremism requires more attention.
McCrann’s article highlights a number of such issues, not the least of which is the future of Turnbull, who has belatedly “fully accepted” responsibility for the campaign (but not the policies he espoused). It is difficult to see how he can retain leadership but he seems to be attempting to do so. Presumably the test will come when the Liberal Party meets once the results are known for the various 8 or so close seats. But even then the much better performing, more conservative National Party will also have a much stronger say. So far Barnaby Joyce has shown public support for Turnbull but in an interview of him I heard he was struggling to do so.
There is also strong support for forcing Turnbull’s resignation, including letters by John Stone and others. There is support there for Abbott to be brought back (see Letters Favour Turnbull Departure). One difficulty in trying to force such a resignation is that a number of Liberal MPs remain “loyal” because of the favouritism accorded them by Turnbull’s appointments. But there will now be stronger support from the “conservative” side, which will reflect inter alia the revelations by Peta Credlin about the poor management of policy during the election campaign by Tony Nutt, who was also chief of staff under former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (see Credlin & Other Comments on Election). One imagines that those who support Turnbull will eventually see it is in their own longer term interest to force him to resign.
I have previously referred to the failure of the Coalition to tackle industrial relations and the unwarranted power of the unions. Yet that power is well illustrated in the attached survey of the extensive union campaigning in marginal seats, which will almost certainly have had an important influence on voting in those seats (see Election & Union Influence). Dealing with the unions power was the most important “miss” by Turnbull.