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Hung parliaments and minority governments


A recent Parliamentary Library paper examines the hung Commonwealth Parliament, the formation of the minority ALP Government, and voting dynamics in the House of Representatives together with a number of related issues such as the next federal election and hung parliaments and minority governments at the state/territory level.

After a hung Parliament emerged from the 2010 federal election (the first in almost 70 years), both the ALP and the Opposition engaged in negotiations with the cross-bench parliamentarians in order to form government. The ALP was ultimately successful, forming government in mid-September 2010 after signing agreements with the Australian Greens and with three of the other cross-bench members. These agreements provide a basic level of support for the Government and cover a range of matters including working relationships between the signatories, parliamentary reforms and policy agendas.

Since the first meeting of the new Parliament on 28 September 2010 both the Government and the Opposition have been dealing with the new political realities of the hung Parliament. The fluidity of the cross-bench votes and the instability of majorities remain basic factors heading into 2011, although in the 2010 sittings (and perhaps unsurprisingly) the cross-bench members with whom the Government has agreements voted predominantly with the Government. Independent Bob Katter voted more with the Government than with the Opposition, while Nationals WA member Tony Crook voted predominantly with the Opposition.

The paper also discusses a range of related matters including:
  • the composition of the Senate from July 2011 and the change in the Senate balance of power
  • the timing of the next federal election, the Government’s ability to call an election, and the scenario of the Government losing majority support
  • the last hung Commonwealth Parliament and the minority governments of 1940–43
  • hung parliaments in the states and territories since 1989 and state/territory minority government agreements, and
  • hung parliaments and minority governments overseas.