Independent Senators are reminding the two contending PM candidates in Australia not to forget the second chamber. In particular, this could be a problem for a potential Labor minority government.
Labor does not control the upper house, which has 32 Labor senators, 37 Coalition, five Greens, Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding. If Senator Xenophon, Senator Fielding or the Greens join the Coalition in a vote, they can negate government motions.
The new Senate, with the expected nine Greens senators holding the clear balance of power, does not sit until July 1 next year. (The Australian.)
Does any other country have a legislature in which newly elected members do not take office for nearly a year?
Meanwhile, Liberal-National Coalition leader Tony Abbot has slammed Labor leader (and current PM) Julia Gillard for her willingness to allow the independents in the House to see government briefs prepared by Treasury.
“Our system depends on public servants being able to give free, frank and fearless advice to government,” he said.
“And that means the advice has got to remain confidential, and what we have got here is a desperate Prime Minister trashing the Westminster system in an attempt to hold on to power. It’s a measure of this government’s complete lack of respect for our system that they are doing this.” (same source as above quote)
Some folks might wonder if the very presence of an elected Senate is not already contrary to Westminster principles…
With all seats apparently settled, the House balance now stands, as expected, at Labor 72, Coalition 73, Green 1, independents 4. (See ABC Elections.)