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Election 101 - The Balance of Power

what does balance of power mean


reporter: Irene Scott

Throughout the election campaign you're going to hear a lot about the importance of who has the 'balance of power'.

But if your eyes glaze over every time it's mentioned, let Hack help you out.

So in the Aussie political system, there are two houses. You've got the House of Reps (or the lower house) and the Senate (the upper house, sometimes known as the 'house of revue').

In an election, the party that wins the most seats in the House of Representatives becomes the Government. But even though there are heaps of political parties in Australia, realistically, only one of the major parties, Labor or the Liberals (The Coalition), will have enough seats to win.

That's all fine and good, but it's in the Senate that the idea of the 'Balance of Power' generally comes up.

To pass legislation in Australia (or in other words make laws), the idea needs to win the most votes in both the House of Reps AND the Senate.

Neither major party is likely to win the majority of the seats in the Senate. So in order for them to have enough votes to pass legislation, they will need to convince one of the minor parties to team up and vote with them.

And this comes at a price. It means that the minor parties get to negotiate changes they want to see in the legislation before they'll agree to sign up. That can mean that a very small party with only a few senators, can have quite a big influence on what gets through the Senate and what doesn't.

This bargaining influence is called the 'Balance of Power'!

For example: There are 76 Senators in the Senate. Say Labor

wins 35 seats and the Coalition wins 35 seats. Even Stephens!

That leaves 6 seats. So just to simplify things, let's say that the Greens win the remaining 6 seats.

So what we've got is:

Labor - 35 seats + Coalition - 35 seats + Greens - 6 seats = 76 seats

Say Labor has an idea to rename Australia, they want it called 'Labor Land'. But the Coalition thinks that's a rally crappy idea and will all vote against it.

Problem is, that means it's 35 votes for and 35 against. Labor doesn't have enough Senators to win the vote!

So even though the Greens only have 6 seats, they have a lot of power in this situation. If they decide to vote with the Coalition, then the idea is crushed. But if they decide to vote with Labor, then we're now all residents of Labor Land ;)

So in this situation, The Greens will go to each party, and see who will offer them the best 'deal' for their votes.

Making sense? So back to reality. what does the Balance of Power mean in this year's election?

In this year's election the Greens will most likely hold the Balance of Power. So that means, for legislation to pass the Senate, either Labor or the Coalition will have to negotiate with the Greens to get anything done.

From The Greens point of view, even though they may not win the election, they're will try to make their Green influence rub off on the government's policy.

Still not too sure? Listen to Clem Macintyre from Adelaide Uni explain the Balance of Power below

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Category: Forex

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