Country Report Australia October 1996 Main report

Political scene: A federal by-election looms

The federal seat of Lindsay must be re-contested in a by-election, following the High Court decision that the successful Liberal candidate for the seat had breached the constitution, by holding an office of profit under the Crown at the time she was nominated for the election.

Neither the Liberal/National coalition government nor the Labor opposition wants to be put to the test in such a by-election. The Liberals regard their gaining of the seat in the March 1996 election as a fluke, and are dubious that it can be repeated. In their view, the size of the government's lower house majority (it holds 94 out of 148 seats) makes it vulnerable to a protest vote. A substantial swing against the government in the by-election would unnerve some backbenchers and could, at least temporarily, damage the government's resolve to pursue its reform agenda. On the other side of the house, Labor fears that the government is still too popular for a major protest vote to emerge. A poor showing by Labor in the by-election would reinforce the perception (both inside and outside the party) that it faces an immense task, if it is to have any chance of making a respectable showing at the 1999 federal election.

© 1996 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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