A moderate pace is best indeed. The greater hurry, the worse speed.

All of the 150 House of Representatives seats now have a clear winner. Unlike some other recent elections, there has not been any real knife edge seats, which is probably just as well given the uncertainty over who will form government. Given how finely balanced things are with the hung Parliament result, it could have caused real mayhem if the 2007 result in the Victorian seat of McEwen had been repeated this time around.

On that occasion, it took two full weeks for the Electoral Commission to declare Labor’s Rob Mitchell the winner by just seven votes. More than a week later, after a full recount, the Liberal’s Fran Bailey was declared the winner by just twelve votes.  Labor appealed this result to the Court of Disputed Returns, which handed down its judgement more than seven months after the election had been held, ruling that the Liberals won by 31 votes (and ironically even that judgement originally indicated the margin was 27 votes, which had to be adjusted to 31 after the AEC provided clarifying information and notification of a clerical error in information contained in the original judgement).

No doubt the Courts would have ruled on the issue much more quickly in 2007 if government had then been hanging in the balance in the same way it is now. Even though our electoral system and our administration of it is light years ahead of the ramshackle farce that occurs in the USA (and is generally better than pretty much every other country on the planet), these sort of glitches are a reminder of how crucial it is to get these things right.

If we had had a knife edge seat this time which had also involved inappropriately handled ballot papers, which looks to have occurred this time in the fairly close but not knife edge seats of Boothby and Flynn, things could now be getting very ugly indeed. It is a reminder that getting things as right as possible takes time, and when results are very close, it is crucial that there is public confidence in the system.

Having followed some of the individual seat and booth counts in specific seats more closely than usual this time, I noticed a few not insignificant errors in the counts. Whilst some element of human error is inevitable, I do wonder if the strong demand for delivering results from each booth as quickly as possible on election night increases the likelihood of such errors.

This isn’t to have a go at the Australian Electoral Commission, which as I noted above, is possibly unmatched when it comes to managing the electoral process. But the reality is they have to employ a huge number of casual staff solely for the election, at least some of whom have no previous experience. Partly this is for the handing out of ballot papers during the day, but it is also these people who count the votes after the booths close at 6pm. Even one person not turning up on the day – which can happen just as often when the AEC employs casual staff as it can when McDonald’s use casual staff – can create a big headache at an individual polling booth.

All of us want to know the ‘official’ result on election night as quickly as possible – no one more so than candidates and their parties – but perhaps a bit less haste on the night might mean fewer mistakes that have to be picked up later. Anyway, whilst people seem to be gettng more and more edgy that the Independents still haven’t decided who they are supporting to form government, more than 10 days after the election, we should recognise that it is not really that long a period. As with counting the votes, it is better to take some time and properly assess all the information, rather than rush in due to pressure to produce a quick outcome.

It is almost 3 months since the elections in Belgium and the Netherlands, and as yet neither nation has managed to form a government. As yet, the sky has also not fallen in in those countries.

The current hung Parliament in Australia provides a real – and very rare – chance to get some long lasting improvements in the way our Parliament operates. I would much prefer to wait a few extra days to make sure these improvements were as good as possible, rather than miss this opportunity just because of unnecessary anxiety about the need to have an outcome as quickly as possible.

If there was a seat this time as close as McEwen was in 2007, we would be having to wait a lot longer in any case, so we should count our blessings that there are no knife edge contests this time and leave the people who have to make the decisions sufficient time to ensure they make one that is fully informed.

PS The title of this post derives from my googling the ‘more haste, less speed’ maxim. This showed some variants of the term were used as long ago as the year 1350.  The specific phrase I used for the title of this post derives from 1705, but won’t show up on a google search because the word ‘moderate’ was written as “mod’rate”.  The idea of mirroring   something written over 300 years ago appealed to me more than any concern over having an overly long or not very specific title to my post.

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19 Comments

  1. Fixed terms would also assist the AEC in electoral planning, including updating the roll. Combined with a lengthier period for voters to enrol or change their details (say, two weeks after writs are issued) this would also guarantee greater enfranchisement. The count itself is hampered by increasing numbers of prepolls and postals. Greater numbers of staff should be employed to count these so a result can be determined more quickly.

  2. I don’t recall any of this being part of the elction manifesto that 88% of the people voted on on August 21st.

    “The current hung Parliament in Australia provides a real – and very rare – chance to get some long lasting improvements in the way our Parliament operates”

    Yet we are seeing the sickening process of sucking up by both parties, but mainly the ALP at least publicly, and claiming we are seeing a new age of trasnparetn democracy, and agreemetns being made on low order issues that were never part of that democratic process.

    New Age hmmph – the new age of blatant and raw power politics is the only new age going on here.

  3. Ken:

    Yes, you’re right. Unmitigated bribery is now being televised and discussed for all to see and hear.

    I think a political party offering an Independent $1 billion dollars for a hospital in his electorate could be fairly hard to refuse.

    A lot of constituents would probably be applying significant pressure to get a windfall like that, particularly since both Liberals and Labor have left both urban and rural hospitals grossly under-resourced and staffed over many years.

    No matter what the final election outcome is, I think politicians will all fight like hell, turning the usual circus into civil war.

  4. Haven’t been here for awhile,and I guess as a non-voter, and deciding that is more responsible,because I am responsible than voting for the choices presented at election time,and this time again,not feeling or thinking I have devalued myself as a citizen,in anyway,by an unallowable choice.I am sad Andrew didn’t get anywhere,and I am disappointed that the Independents including a Tasmanian one haven’t been given the scrutiny they deserve.The Greens in ,my view of them, are not going to go anywhere.Global Cooling and possibly even worse is going to crowd out people’s thinking.Gillard as Zionist with Israel a Pariah State and Abbott an underling of Howard means little independence from capitulating to the extremities of Israeli friendly Jews.All this pressure put on the Iranian by ex-CIA Agent Obama has not shaken the compliant body politic at this election.The ABC sounds like a PR Machine for Zionist Murder Inc.I now hold real fear for the safety of Australians by Mossad trained Killers parading as Islamic Fundamentalists.Opinions like that wont be found at the Lowy Institute .Another thing that maybe concerning is deliberate dog freeing in the Australian landscape.And there are some big ugly ones getting about.Half trained to attack.Sorry Andrew!I recognise some of my attitudes are discordant with yours.

  5. Good news, Lorikeet!
    With the signing on of two of the indies to Gillard labor, it seems a large slab of money will be made available to deal with just those problems you mention.
    Once again, congrats Andrew Bartlett on your marvellous performance. 22% must put the greens within some sort of striking distance for a win at at this inner suburban seat at a future date.
    Although I’d hope P.A Travers is exaggerating as to “zionism”. Too many dead and suffering Arabs for my liking and its just another form of racist jingoism.

  6. being a techi, I do not understand why we don’t have digital voting. It would remove the human error from counting and would give an instant answer. Or… have a shaded card that gets scanned like university exams, also instant repsonse. Personally i’d go the computer system.

  7. now we have seen the ppl who have given there support to the labor greens govt god help us

    point one western australia is very hostile towards the govt now

    point two i dont give them six months and we will be back at the polls againe

    i herd more dribble yasterday than i have herd for a long time .

    all i can do is shake my head and think god help us.

  8. I’m hoping that the nation can find the courage and vision to grab this opportunity to explore the concept of negotiation rather than “ramming through” in the H of R. Mandela said something about our courage being limited by our vision of ourselves – I hope we can rise to the occsion and get something greater than we realise out of this rare situation. Rare so far, anyway.

  9. Yes, you made a good point, Togret. I’m fairly pessimistic about any return of democracy to the parliament. The usual circus will just become more of a civil war. I don’t think democracy and continuing corporatisation make very good bedfellows.

    Paul Walter:

    The news will only be good if the government actually follows through on its promises/bribery. I would prefer to see all rural areas provided for in various ways, instead of just those represented by those being bribed.

    Benjamin:

    I’m sure I have read some bad things about electronic voting, such as even worse rorting of the system.

    Red Crab:

    I was really glad that Bob Katter did not sell his constituents out to communists. I think he is one of the few patriots left in the parliament.

    On a Sunday morning political program, a commentator described The Greens as “economic redistributors”.

  10. Togret, it is a shrewd point.
    The last decade with its big majorities in parliarment has seen the last two federal and several state, governments go “off the boil” very quicky, when unemcumbered of adequate scrutiny.
    Now they will be under scrutiny and will have to forget their factional mates and their lobbyist friends, in theinterests of government for masses of other Australians, too.
    As for income redistribution, surely a good thing if it works from the rich down to the poor, rather than currently, where the system rewards the rich and powerful at everyone else’s expense.
    Do people really think the masses should starve so criminals like Bernie Madoff and Goldman Sachs, for example, can keep their swindled ill-gotten gains?

  11. Paul:

    I don’t think the masses should starve while criminals rip them off, but don’t you think we have been locked into corporatisation for so long that it would be hard for both the government and citizens to break free of corporate control?

    I drafted an interim Aged Care policy which was designed to stop The Macquarie Group from ripping off both residents and workers and taking over church nursing homes. This involved capping of bonds, quotas on all staff classifications and equal pay with hospital staff.

    But on the other side of the argument are the superannuants who want maximum returns on their investments, and those who are still contributing to super funds (just about everyone). Remember that over the next 6 years, super contributions will also rise from 9% to 12%, further empowering large corporations financially.

    People want their returns on superannuation, but in the meantime, they will continue to be taxed to the eyeballs, perhaps negating any benefit.

    Some retirees living on super do not give a stuff about the plight of High Care residents, arguing that they only represent 10% of the ageing population.

    Does anyone have an answer to this?

  12. the only income redistribution in this country will be the govt ripping more money out of western australia and giving nothing back but as we all know if the golden goose is not fed and waterd properly it will die .

    and the boats keep comming .

  13. Red Crab:

    One method of economic redistribution occurs through the taxation system, where high income earners pay more tax than the poor.
    For many years, this has been negated by government handouts to people who don’t need the money, while others end up living on the streets due to lack of provision of infrastructure and inadequate income support.

    I suggest you read the Australian Greens’ policies on their website. This should give you a better idea of the economic redistribution methods they have in mind.

    Here in Queensland, our govt makes huge amounts of money from mining. Despite this, Anna Bligh has declared us virtually broke, with a need to sell off rail and ports. I think she has less than Buckley’s Chance of ever being re-elected.

    A friend who belongs to the Labor Party and has worked as a Workplace Delegate told me “90% of Queenslanders will never vote for Anna Bligh again”.

    I think the Premier of WA has more intestinal fortitude than the Premiers of other states, especially Qld and NSW. I believe in equal opportunity for women, but so far I haven’t seen anything much I like the sound of from Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Anna Bligh or Kristina Keneally.

  14. Sorry, Red Crab.

    I forgot about the GST, which should not really be charged to those on pensions, or earning too little to pay tax.

  15. well mabe a fare share should be taken buy the other states

    all the support groups are in the other states anyway.makes good sence to me .

  16. Red Crab:

    When you live in Australia’s largest state, you can expect to get more refugees. It isn’t as if there are millions of them.

    Just be thankful you don’t have to put up with Anna Bligh for your State Premier. I wonder if we could trade her for 2000 refugees from the Thai/Burma border? 2000 for 1 should just about do it.

  17. there are 2.5 mill ppl in w.a and 20 mill in the other states what would you call a fare share

    it was on the news today that western australia has something like 90% of them

    bligh is a whimp compared to peterson and yes i was there then and yes i have been there this year to
    you have nothing to complain about .

    exept the need for a few new faces so come on down and take your share.

  18. Red Crab:

    I saw the Premier of Western Australia on TV today. He was complaining about the same things as you are. He is sick of receiving 90% of the refugees.

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