Bill Hoffman
Bill Hoffman

Frozen in headlights as Australia marks time

NO ONE should be in the slightest bit surprised that after an eight-week election campaign in which nothing much of any substance was offered for Australia's future beyond "jobs and growth" we have a Prime Minister frozen in the headlights and a country marking time, waiting to see where it will be dragged next.

In the final wash the Liberal/National Coalition secured 6,771,212 House of Representatives votes or 50.51% of the vote ahead of Labor's 6,634,419 or 49.49% - a difference of 136,793 or 1.02%.

Labor won 4,702,374 (34.73%) primary or first preference votes, the Liberal Party 3,882,940 (28.67%), the Greens 1,385,649 (10.23%), the Liberal National Party in Queensland 1,153,736 (8.52%) and independents 380,712 380,712 (2.81%).

Among the welter of minors who failed to attract 1% of first preferences, Nick Xenophon Team nailed 250,333 (1.85%), One Nation finished on 175,020 (1.29%) and Family First 201,222 (1.49%) and the Christian Democrats 178,026 (1.31%).

The noisy Rise Up Australia secured just 0.51%, the Australian Liberty Alliance (0.19%) and Katter's Australia Party 72,879 (0.54%).

Malcolm Turnbull's crazy brave decision to call a double dissolution based on an alleged burning desire to introduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission has backfired. Rather than winning control of the House of Representatives and the Senate he faces a situation where every parliamentarian holds the balance of power in the lower house and a Senate in which he must secure One Nation support for any and every policy.

The reworked Senate voting rules have worked a treat giving One Nation four senators off the back of a national vote of 593,013 first preferences, the Jacqui Lambie Network one senator from 69,074 primary votes and Nick Xenophon Team three from 456,369.

The Coalition ended up with 30 senators nationally, Labor (26), the Greens (9), Nick Xenophon Team (3), Family First (1), Jacqui Lambie Network (1), Pauline Hanson's One Nation (4) and Derryn Hinch's Justice Party (1), Family First (1) and the Liberal Democratic Party (1).

The three senate seats it lost now reside on the crossbench.

Regardless of the election night rhetoric from Treasurer Scott Morrison, that's not a mandate, it's an extremely poor pass which has set the Turnbull Government up for more trouble ahead.

And it stands as poor testament to the Prime Minister's judgement.

Malcolm Turnbull is caught between the ambitions of the far right of his own party and the unpredictable demands from Pauline Hanson who, if nothing else, can count.

Television clips of the new senator frequently feature the redoubtable James Ashby at her shoulder, an adviser whose own limited understanding of Australia's political system was revealed in evidence tabled in his pursuit of Peter Slipper over sexual harassment allegations.

Jobs and growth.

The Coalition refused to acknowledge Julia Gillard's ability to make a hung parliament work and pass significant amounts of legislation. Her performance now sits as a benchmark against which the policy paralysis of the first Abbott/Turnbull term was judged inferior and which the Prime Minister will struggle to emulate.

Construction and real estate price booms which artificially inflated GDP in NSW and Victoria are coming to an end with grave fears about the broader impact of the looming unit glut in their capital cities.

PNG has demanded Australia provide a Manus Island exit strategy after its courts found the refugee detention centre unlawful, the spotlight has finally found its way into the dark corners of our juvenile prison system, the banks have become predictably recalcitrant about passing on interest rate cuts meant to stimulate the economy locally while the global picture looks bleak with the United Kingdom's benchmark interest rate slashed to 0.25% overnight on Thursday.

Australia needs a stable government with a clear direction supported by a clear majority of Australians.

We don't have one because as a statement of national identity and purpose jobs and growth clearly does not cut it.

Things are going to get very ugly quickly. Malcolm Turnbull has made his bed but is unlikely he will lay in it long. Instead we can expect at the very least a new half Senate election as soon as he is able to call one.

Australia meanwhile marks time when it can least afford to.

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