Aus­tralian Elec­tion: Stormy Wa­ters Ahead

Cambodian Business Review - - Regional -

Aus­tralia’s con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment claimed a nar­row vic­tory in a week af­ter the July 2 na­tional elec­tion.

But Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion La­bor party recorded their low­est votes in decades as Aus­tralians turned to mi­nor par­ties and in­de­pen­dents, in the longest elec­tion in the coun­try’s his­tory.

A big win­ner was One Na­tion’s Pauline Han­son, re­turn­ing from the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness af­ter al­most 20 years. Her party has won three seats in the up­per house of par­lia­ment, the Se­nate.

Han­son in strongly anti-im­mi­gra­tion and against mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Her crit­ics call her racist, which she de­nies.

With­out con­trol of the Se­nate, Turn­bull will have to strike deals with Han­son, other mi­nor par­ties and in­de­pen­dents. He also has a wafer- thin ma­jor­ity in the lower house, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The 76-seat Se­nate will have up to 20 in­de­pen­dents or mi­nor party mem­bers.

And for ef­fec­tive gov­ern­ment, Turn­bull will also have to deal with in­de­pen­dents and mi­nor party mem­bers in the lower house, where the gov­ern­ment is de­cided.

The Na­tional Party, the ru­ral-based con­ser­va­tives who form the mi­nor part­ner in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, has also in­creased its strength in com­par­i­son to Turn­bull’s Lib­eral Party, giv­ing it more cab­i­net min­is­ters and a greater say in pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion.

Turn­bull's gam­ble in call­ing the elec­tion back­fired badly, with a swing to the cen­ter-left La­bor op­po­si­tion and a rise in the pop­u­lar­ity of mi­nor par­ties and in­de­pen­dents.

Turn­bull's nar­row mar­gin of vic­tory over La­bor leaves him likely to be forced to rely on in­de­pen­dents, who won five seats in the lower house, to en­sure the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion. That raises ques­tions about how ef­fec­tive his gov­ern­ment will be in the long term.

Stan­dard and Poor's cut Aus­tralia's credit rat­ing out­look to neg­a­tive from sta­ble last month, threatening a down­grade of its cov­eted triple A sta­tus, over a po­ten­tial bud­get im­passe.

"We re­ally want to see them start achiev­ing some of their fore­casts," S&P of­fi­cial An­thony Walker told a brief­ing, ad­ding that the cost of re­fi­nanc­ing Aus­tralia's debt is up to three times more than its for­eign cur­rency earn­ings.

But many an­a­lysts ex­pect the gov­ern­ment to be forced to an­other elec­tion be­fore its three-year term.

“We don’t yet know what that will mean for the na­tion, be­yond deep un­cer­tainty” wrote jour­nal­ist Emma Reynolds in The Aus­tralian news­pa­per.

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