WHILE Julia Gillard has been running a closely watched minority government in Canberra, the Victorian government’s wafer-thin majority has attracted comparatively little attention. For the moment, premier Ted Baillieu has a workable majority of one. But unlike his federal counterpart, if he loses that majority he doesn’t have the option of calling an election to seek a fresh mandate. The inevitable result would be parliamentary deadlock.
The problem has two causes: Victoria’s system of fixed election dates, introduced in 2003, and a very close election result. In November 2010, the Liberal–National Coalition secured forty-four seats in the eighty-eight seat lower house. Labor won forty-three seats, with one seat undecided for more than a week after the poll.
Eventually, voters in suburban Bentleigh gave the seat to the Liberals with a majority of just 261 votes, and Victoria dodged a constitutional bullet. But a similar bullet could be fired once again, this time with a fatal result, because Victoria’s constitution is silent on the question of what would happen if the numbers in the Legislative Assembly after a general election were balanced at forty-four all…