Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Election 2016: The only chart that matters

Election 2016: The only chart that matters

And here it is, courtesy of the ABC:

Australia's pundits may still treat the idea of hung parliaments and minority government as an aberration (I can't help noting Insiders host Barrie Cassidy's air of contempt on yesterday's program, when he said a circus tent would need to be erected on the lawns of parliament to accommodate the rabble Australians have just elected), but it looks more like the new normal.

As the chart shows, Australians have been moving away from the two major parties for decades now. And what happens when the lines of the major parties starts to intersect with that of the minors and independents? Well, as former Labor leader Kim Beazley said on the Nine Network election broadcast on Saturday night, we may be only two elections away from a Trump-like disruption in Australian politics (I'm paraphrasing from memory; I can't see that Beazley's words have been picked up anywhere).

We need to get used to the fact that the minor parties and independents are going to have a much bigger say over Australian policy in future, and that includes in foreign and national security policy. Would a minority government have joined the Iraq war in 2003? Would it have signed the various bilateral trade deals we have agreed to over the last few years, or the TPP? Would it have allowed a relatively rapid return to good relations with Jakarta after populist disruptions over causes such as the Chan-Sukumaran executions? Would it support higher defence spending?

These are just some of the specific policy questions we will need to grapple with in years to come, though it seems that overlaying them is a nagging uncertainty Australians feel about their place in the world. One of the Australian political shibboleths laid to rest by this campaign is that, in times of economic uncertainty and disruption, votes turn to Coalition governments for reassurance. But as I noted last week, far from reassuring Australians after the Brexit earthquake, Prime Minister Turnbull took the opportunity to remind them of the fragility of the global economic system and Australia's place within it. Incredibly, as Katharine Murphy pointed out in the early hours of Sunday, in his very first speech after the election, Prime Minister Turnbull chose to double down on this theme:

Early on Sunday morning, Malcolm Turnbull looked out to the Australian electorate and expressed his own profound alienation from the lived experiences of the losers of globalisation – the people who had flocked to Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson and to Labor on the basis that the ALP had climbed down partially from the neoliberal pedestal constructed by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

Voters needed to understand the reality that the winners of globalisation always insist they accept, Turnbull said, fists clenched, in a hotel ballroom on the other side of midnight. They needed to take their lumps. “The circumstances of Australia cannot be changed by a lying campaign from the Labor party,” Turnbull said.

“The challenges, the fact that we live in times of rapid economic change, of enormous opportunity, enormous challenges, a time when we need to be innovative, when we need to be competitive, when we need to be able to seize those opportunities – those times are there.”

If this is what Turnbull thinks globalisation means for Australia, then it seems voters don't want it. Since the 1980s, both major parties have committed themselves to the path of global economic openness and competitiveness. If they want to sustain that legacy and build on it, they had better find a new way to explain it to Australians, and fast.

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