WITH a new federal upper house due to convene on July 1, minor parties will be in the spotlight. Five minor parties, plus Nick Xenophon, will be represented in the new Senate and will hold the balance of power between them. The voting blocks that form out of these parties will not only determine the fate of Tony Abbott’s first budget but they could give us an insight into just how far the Senate may change in future years.
The days of the Senate being a house of review where senators represented the interests of the state or territory that elected them are long gone. Senators almost always vote along party lines rather than what’s in the best interests of the constituency that elected them — although occasionally these two do intersect. Like the major parties, none of the new senators-elect are likely to vote on issues put before them purely on the grounds of how they will affect the economy and social welfare of their state or territory. Make no mistake, all these minor parties will also be voting on issues according to their party’s policies and the driving philosophies behind them.