Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.
Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics 2011.
Once again, the myth that the Gillard Government is an illegitimate government has surfaced. Once again, it's time to deal with this myth.
When the negotiated outcome to form a minority government was completed in September 2010, this charge of illegitimacy was promoted by the Opposition and was supported by various quarters in the media.
At the time this charge was based on three myths:
1. That the Coalition won a majority of the vote in the 2010 election - false.
2. That hundreds of thousands of more people voted for the Coalition than the ALP - false.
3. That the Coalition won more seats than the ALP - false.
I wrote a piece at the time called "Still more myths" 20 September 2010 (included below for your reference) which dealt with each of these myths.
The summary read as follows:
"In the end, all that matters is which party is able to command a majority of votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, and we now know that is the ALP. Only those who still refuse to accept the result will continue to promote these myths and will use them to call into question the 'fairness' of the outcome, with the constant refrain of 'we wuz robbed' as their rallying cry. Sensibly, however, all the ridiculous discussion in the media about the 'legitimacy' of the Gillard Government has finally subsided and not before time."
Now the charge of illegitimacy appears to be based on two factors:
1. That the Gillard Government is proposing to introduce a carbon tax when it had promised not to do so.
2. That the Coalition is leading in the opinion polls.
Neither factor is the basis for claiming that a government is illegitimate.
Are they seriously suggesting that anytime a political leader introduces a policy that they either said they wouldn't introduce (like the carbon tax) or one that they never spoke of at all (like work choices) that we should return to the polls?
While it explains why the public is cynical about politicians, it is not grounds for another election.
As for leading in the opinion polls, while it may provide a motivation for those who believe they are in front, it is not a justification for claiming illegitimacy or for forcing an election.
Tony Abbott had two opportunities to win government in 2010: first, at the August election - yet he was unable to form a majority government; and second, in the post election negotiations - yet he was unable to form a minority government.
On both occasions he failed. Now he is suggesting he will do everything he can to force a third contest well before it is due.
There will be a third contest, and it is due in the second half of 2013 - over two years away. He will have his opportunity then.
The Australian political system is not a plaything for those who were unable to win at their first two attempts, when the contests were real and legitimate, to be manipulated into a premature third contest by those who cannot accept that they lost.
Where I grew up they called such a person, a sore loser.
Still more myths 20 September 2010 (Excerpts).
Myth 1: The Coalition won a majority of the vote in the 2010 Federal Election.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has now finalised its two party preferred calculations for the ALP vs the Coalition and found the ALP received 50.12% of the two party preferred vote (6,216,435 votes) to the Coalition's 49.88% (6,185,948 votes) - a narrow victory of 30,487 votes to the ALP.
In this twitter age of instant gratification and superficial analysis, waiting for the final and correct count from the AEC proved too much for the political world. For much of the time, as many as eight seats were not even included in the overall two party preferred figures and so the running totals were not complete.
It even got to the ridiculous stage following August 30 when some commentators, and many politicians, interpreted a "change" in the ALP's two party preferred vote estimate on the AEC's website - resulting from the removal of three electorates (Batman, Grayndler and Denison) from the overall national count thereby causing an adjustment down in the ALP's two party preferred vote from about 50.4% to a little under 50.0% - as a swing back to the Coalition.
A multitude of TV, radio and newspaper headlines then sprung up claiming, in their various inaccurate ways: "Labor loses the two party preferred vote", and continuing with, "The Coalition has now leapt forward in the two-party-preferred vote, taking over from Labor with a lead of 496 votes on the Australian Electoral Commission’s latest count".
Myth 2: Hundreds of thousands of more people voted for the Coalition than the ALP.
This myth is based on the view that the combined Coalition parties achieved a primary vote of 43.62% compared to the ALP's 37.99%, translating to 696,000 more people casting a first preference vote for the Coalition than the ALP.
But that's a bit like looking at a 4 x 100 metre relay race at the end of the second baton change and declaring a result.
Australia has a preferential system of allocating votes, not a first past the post system, and seats are determined by which party, or candidate, won more than 50% of the two party preferred vote. The primary vote is a component of the two party preferred vote, but it is the two party preferred vote that matters.
The Coalition and the ALP together recorded 81.61% of the primary vote, which indicates that 18.39% of the electorate cast their vote elsewhere - 11.76% for the Greens and 6.63% for the Others.
The preference flow back to the ALP from these 18.39% gave it a two party preferred vote of 50.12% - a majority share.
Myth 3: The Coalition won more seats than the ALP.
This one is more problematic than the previous two and is probably better seen as a legend than a myth.
The ALP won 72 seats. The Coalition won 72 seats, plus there is the seat of O'Connor which the WA Nationals', Tony Crook, won from the Liberals', Wilson Tuckey.
Prior to the election, Crook indicated a desire to sit as a cross-bencher, which may have gone a fair way to helping him differentiate from the Liberals and most likely contributed to him winning the seat.
Following the election, the WA Nationals disputed the ABC's Antony Green including them as part of the Coalition's seat count, and Marty Aldridge, WA Nationals State Director wrote this note to the ABC:
"The Nationals WA as an independent political party are not bound by the rules of a coalition agreement. We unashamedly make decisions based on what is best for our electorates and Western Australia. We had made a request to Antony Green from the ABC to have Tony Crook's number counted separately to the Coalition. We were advised by Antony that we could not achieve this without separating him from The Nationals due to the way in which the ABC election site was programmed. At this point we made a call that whilst Tony has not pledged his support for the Coalition, he is a National and should be counted as one."
However, since the ALP has now been able to form a minority government, Crook has again confirmed that he wishes to sit as a cross-bencher, which leaves the Coalition on 72 seats.
May 13 2011 Update: Tony Crook does now sit as a cross-bencher, as he always suggested he would.
In the end, all that matters is which party is able to command a majority of votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, and we now know that is the ALP.
Only those who still refuse to accept the result will continue to promote these myths and will use them to call into question the "fairness" of the outcome, with the constant refrain of "we wuz robbed" as their rallying cry.
Sensibly, however, all the ridiculous discussion in the media about the "legitimacy" of the Gillard Government has finally subsided and not before time.