A Plague On Both Your Houses

Ballot Box

I woke up this morning wondering, once again, “Do we have a government yet?” In what’s become a daily ritual over the past week, I checked the news on my mobile phone – yes, before I’d even brushed my teeth – but alas, no government this time.

Maybe sometime before I’m 30, please?

If Australians weren’t already sick and tired of the whole politics thing before the election, they certainly are now. No one even won. We have a hung Parliament. As if normal Parliament weren’t already bad enough.

Exactly what the hung government means for Australians, specifically South Australians, is anyone’s guess. However, the closer that people follow the developing situation, the stronger their sense of impending doom seems to be. Just look at your Facebook news feed to see the panic in action – at least a thinly veiled civility existed before the election. Now, it’s descended into all-out wars between strangers hijacking unsuspecting mutual friends’ status updates.

Due to the fact that neither the Coalition nor the Labor Party won enough seats to form majority government, it’s up to six crossbenchers to decide our next Prime Minister… when they eventually get around to it.

The major parties apparently seemed to think that Australia is made entirely of Queensland and western Sydney while the election campaign was underway, so South Australia was pretty much ignored. The Labor party foolishly chose to fight a losing battle in NSW and Queensland – where the Labor brand has been severely tainted by unpopular state governments – just to spite the Coalition. They should have cut their losses and focused on marginal seats elsewhere, particularly in SA.

The 2008 Mayo by-election, in which Labor couldn’t be bothered running a candidate, turned a once-safe Liberal seat into one that Liberal MP Jamie Briggs won against the Greens by just 3%. Labor should have fought much harder in South Australian seats such as Sturt, Boothby and Mayo. Instead, they wasted the opportunity in Mayo by nominating an invisible, adolescent candidate who only graduated from high school last year.

Both major parties politely neglected SA and as a result, not a single Lower House seat changed hands. The lack of campaign attention also meant less money and planning promised to improve the state – neither party even cared enough to try buying our votes. It was hardly a fair situation during the campaign, but now that Australia’s political future rests in the hands of the crossbenchers, things look even worse for SA.

The future of Murray-Darling Basin would have been bleak enough under a Coalition government with Senator Barnaby Joyce as the Water Minister; in June, he said people should move to where the water is, rather than water being moved into the Basin. Climate change skeptic Bob Katter, one of the independent MPs who will help choose the government, openly belittled the issue last week, while two of the other independents are from rural eastern states seats and more likely to side with upstream farmers than those of us at the end of the Murray.

The security of South Australia’s water supply will probably be offered as a sacrifice by both sides in their fight for power. Fortunately, the Murray has sworn defenders in Senator Nick Xenophon and also the Greens, who will control the Senate – the house formed to equally represent the interests of the states. However, the Senate terms won’t change until July next year.

There’s a saying that people get the government they deserve. Apparently, the Australian people don’t deserve a government at all. This may be true for the rest of the country, but South Australians deserved better. We deserve to have our interests (you know… basic things like water) protected – and we don’t deserve to be stuck in an electoral mess that the major parties and the rest of Australia barely invited us to participate in.

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