The Greens, Independent and Minor Parties (GIMPS) are a rising force in Australian politics.
Their rise has been at the expense of both major parties. The graph on the left shows the decline in the Coalition vote over the last 20 years and the graph on the right shows the decline in the Labor vote the consequent rise in the GIMPS vote.
The GIMPS are likely to transform the political landscape in Australia in the next decade. Unlike the other two major voting blocs, the Coalition and Labor, the GIMPS are much more difficult to define as the membership is far more fluid.
The most stable element of the GIMPS is the Greens party with a stable voting base and relatively long political history. But the rest are quite different proposition.
Take for instance ex-GIMP Clive Palmer who went from gimp to wimp in one parliamentary term. From touting himself as a future Prime Minister, he is now fronting court likely to face charges for all manner of corporate misdemeanour.
The departure of PUP has left significant vacuum in Federal Parliament. Glenn Lazarus and Clive Palmer may not have been political heavyweights but weighing in at around 250 kg, they were certainly a presence.
Predominantly a Queensland phenomenon, the PUP has been replaced in Federal Parliament by another one of the GIMPS, Paul Hanson’s One Nation.
Brian Burston, Pauline Hanson, Rob Cuttleton and Malcolm Roberts
With Cuttleton already facing legal challenges to his election based on various potentially criminal misdemeanours, One Nation will provide significant entertainment value if not gravitas.
Nonetheless, with four Senators, One Nation can be ranked as a minor party along with Nick’s Xenophon’s Team-X which has three senators and one member in the lower house.
While the Greens will be a stable voting bloc in the Parliament, it remains to be seen whether the remainder of the GIMPS will prove so stable. The history of PUP shows the difficulty of holding disparate members together. There is nothing in the way that the members of One Nation or Team-X have been selected that leads you suspect they will be any different.
This means that the GIMPS will prove to be extremely difficult for the government to negotiate with. A bit like nailing jelly to the wall.
It also remains to be seen whether the non-Green element of the GIMPS can form a reliable and stable voting block. It looks unlikely given the lunatic policies of parties like One Nation and a particularly narrow focus and political opportunism of Team-X.
With the GIMPS vote moving towards 30%, the proportional representation system of the Senate means that all government legislation will need to be negotiated past a fairly disparate group of Senators who may take an increasingly demanding attitude towards influencing that legislation.
It is likely that the Senate will play a much more important role in deciding government policy in the future.
If the lower house continues to return close results as it has in two of the last three federal elections (a minority government and the government with a majority of one) then the role of the GIMPS will become increasingly important.
But the voting system means that minor parties such as the Greens will always struggle for seats until such time as the GIMPS forms of effective electoral bloc and their primary vote surpasses that of the Labor Party.
Until such time, the influence of Independents like Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie will continue to grow.
The day of the GIMPS is coming, it won’t be pretty and it won’t be easy.