Australian hung parliament – lessons from 1940

Australia has woken up to its first hung parliament in 70 years. The 21 August 2010 election has striking similarities with its 21 September 1940 forebear. Like now, Australia was involved in a faraway war which had bipartisan support. Like now Australia had a first term government (with Menzies leading the United Australia Party) and like now it had an insipid election campaign where Menzies refused to make any specific promises (though his opponent John Curtin was more forthcoming).

In 1940 Menzies and his Coalition partners dropped eight seats to Labor and its allies leaving it with 36 out of 74 seats. It turned to two Victorian independents to keep them in power. Arthur Coles is best remembered as a founder of Australia’s second largest retail group. But he was also Mayor of Melbourne in the 1930s and he gave that up to win the seat of Henty in 1940. Alexander Wilson was a member of the Northern Irish aristocracy who joined the Australian squattocracy when he moved to Victoria to become a wheat grower. He ran as an independent in 1937 and held on three years later.

Coles and Wilson were conservatives and they gave their support to the UAP. With the war worsening in Europe, Menzies spent most of 1941 in London arguing strategy with Churchill. But his position was worsening at home. He was forced to resign in favour of Country Party leader Arthur Fadden. Coles and Wilson were upset at Menzies’ overthrow and didn’t like Fadden’s agrarian-socialist philosophy. They voted against his budget causing the Government to resign in October 1941. After pressure from Governor General Gowrie, the independents agreed to support a Curtin ministry. The Labor Government muddled through to 1943 when they inflicted a crushing defeat on the Conservatives.

The 1940 election showed it is possible to avoid an election for three years despite a lack of a majority. The three key independents in 2010, Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor, all have impeccable conservative records that make them an ideal fit to back Tony Abbott as the next prime minister. As an independent state MP in 1991 Windsor kept Liberal leader Nick Greiner in power.

But as I wrote last night there is no guarantee it will happen this time. Katter and Windsor have unfinished business with former colleagues in the National Party. Both despise Barnaby Joyce and Katter said Nationals leader Warren Truss “attacked me personally last night”. Both support the NBN rollout, which the Coalition has rejected on the philosophical grounds it is owned by the Government. Katter however, said there is no alternative. “A privatised broadband, I mean, please, don’t even talk about it, privatised Telstra has been absolutely disastrous for rural Australia,” he said.

Oakeshott has said a key policy of any government should be an ETS – putting him at odds with the Abbott agenda. He called climate change a top priority. “I would personally say, let’s go back to the Garnaut report and try and get something through based on that,” Oakeshott said today. “The template is there, stick to the script, keep it simple.”

Oakeshott said he wanted a “fairer go” for regional and rural Australia. There will be a major focus on regional and rural issues by whatever party forms the next government. There is no reason why Labor cannot be that Government. But as the Menzies experience shows, another brutal assassination of a leader would be their death knell.

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3 thoughts on “Australian hung parliament – lessons from 1940

  1. No matter Kevin is doing what in Canberra

    Hung parliament result the fact people need fairer live resources supported

    “Health Olympic Australia” is a nationally and international significant movement in the 21 century “knowledge economy” in “Health Economy Gold Rush”:

    ● By pass all economy in human history that benefit to every habitant on earth;

    ● All habitant must to face either lost, or to win;

    ● The dead lock situation either lost health supply, or getting enough supply to win the battle of health demands in health rebuilding in her/his own right efforts to achieve wealth creation.

    There are at least five economic productivity outcomes will resulting significant GDP progressing from a “Health Olympic Australia” as follow:

    1. Reductions in Australian Health Workforce cost;

    2. Reduction in Healthcare cost;

    3. Reduction in lost productivity cost;

    4. Increase from agriculture outcome;

    5. Increase from “Health Olympic Australia” creation in goods/products exportation.

    Ma kee wai
    (Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

  2. What Australia hung parliament demonstrating deep in voter’s heart?

    Australia citizens now enter a very challenging political era for 70 years in the 2010 federal election, many reforms are demanding by voters are looking for a change with anger to share fairer resources supplied lives from the first term of government?

    Voters handed down their decisive votes during election time are looking for an efficient, effective and economically run government. A high transparency in less mistaken caused processing under no discriminately enforced services government. A long term wealth creative vision with fast action moving forward progressing resulting value add to voters benefits in each term of governing.

    Voters are crying for action right now to have improved resources support lives that suppose lead by a government in the following eight commitments:

    1. What vision of prosperity voters seen?
    2. Why action not enough in the past 3 years?
    3. How many election promises has been fulfilled?
    4. Where productivity motivation to voters?
    5. What materials to speed up election promises processing?
    6. Why some election promises in powerless process?
    7. How far transparency in each department service voters wanted?
    8. Where prioritized direction to empowerment the nation?

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