Edition 1SUN 19 JAN 1997, Page 049
Why parties can't govern
By RICHARD FARMER
We have a parliamentary system predicated on there being two parties, one of which becomes the government and the other the Opposition.
But parliaments are elected in a way which regularly gives third forces a balance of power. The result is governments that cannot govern.
West Australian Premier Richard Court is in that position.
He was returned to office last month after his Liberal-National coalition increased its majority in the Lower House, where the government is decided.
It was a clear endorsement.
But quite perversely, proportional representation resulted in minor parties and Labor ending up with as many members in the Upper House as the Government.
There is an an element of rough justice in this.
The Labor governments that preceded Mr Court's were always in the same predicament.
It's not surprising, perhaps, that the Labor Opposition is relishing the opportunity to give a little tit for all the tat they suffered in their years trying to govern without an Upper House majority.
A pity. It's the type of short-sighted tactical decision which will reinforce the growing scepticism of the people about their political rulers.
Labor has not agreed to provide the presiding officer in the Upper House which would give the Government a majority of one.
A Labor Party truly committed to majority rule would make this concession, but political parties are not naturally democratic institutions.
In the past, our system generally produced governments sensible enough to do the things that had to be done.
Now they depend on minority support and cannot provide strong government.
Perhaps we do need an elected president.