Australians will vote for a new lower house of parliament on May 18th after PM Scott Morrison announced the widely expected polls. In a very Australian turn of phrase, Morrison described the vote about giving people a ‘fair go’.
The current government is formed by a coalition of Morrison’s Liberal Party (he took over as PM after ousting Malcolm Turnbull last year) and the National Party. In Australian terms the Liberal Party is a broadly conservative force. The opposition is dominated by the Labor Party. The current parliament has a number of independents who have exerted a lot of power over the minority government.
Elections to the House of Representatives are conducted using the alternative vote (or instant runoff voting) in single member constituencies and voting is compulsory. At the last election, the Liberal/National coalition was re-elected with 76 seats – a bare one seat majority in the 150 seat house. Labor won 69 seats and Greens, Centre Party, Australia Party and two independents won a seat each.
Since the 2016 poll, two Liberal members faced (and won) by-elections caused by the dual nationality crisis. One Labor member faced a by-election for similar reasons and the party held the seat. At present five seats are vacant – four due to the nationality issue.
Current polls put the coalition marginally ahead with 38%, Labor on 35%, the Greens on 11%, One Nation on 5% and others on 10%. However, the AV election system often results in straight fights between the top two parties after minor candidates have been eliminated. The majority of these voters favour Labor and so the two party preference polling currently shows the party leading 52-48 over the coalition.