The Government will have a majority in the Senate come July 1 – but will they control the chamber? The Brisbane bloggers at Online Opinion put a wonderful starting point for debate on this subject on their site yesterday. But first, some personal reminisces.
When the Howard Government was elected in 1996, I worked for Senate Leader Robert Hill on tactics. Getting dixers – questions for the new government from our own backbench – was like pulling teeth. They simply weren’t used to their new environment.
Later on I watched another boss, Amanda Vanstone, get grilled by Senate Committees that our own Senators often didn’t bother to turn up for or, if they showed, largely stayed mute. We would have liked some covering fire but, to mix the metaphors, all we got was the odd lifeline.
The Governments Whips in the Senate, Jeannie Ferris and Alan Eggleston, are going to be busy. Why? Well, Online Opinion’s Graham Young, a former Liberal staffer and party official, puts it perfectly:
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It is amazing how many people miss the bleeding obvious, including those who should know better. Barnaby Joyce has been salivating with glee at the prospect of being able to hold the Howard Government to ransom on rural issues. (His latest demand a 15% tax rate for rural workers.) Others sound like they have just slashed their wrists and are on the way to the Bundaberg Hospital when they talk about what Howard will do to eviscerate the Senate process. None of these people appears to be able to count.
There are actually 39 “balance of power” Senators, and yesterday one of them put the Prime Minister on notice a lot more quietly than Barnaby Joyce has.
Liberal Senator Marise Payne is backing Petro Georgiou’s private members bill on asylum seekers. Unless Georgiou gathers much more support than he has, Marise won’t get to play a role in changing government policy on this issue, because Georgiou’s bill will never pass the House of Representatives.
But other issues, such as how the committee system is run in the senate, how committees are constituted and what they inquire into will.
In an earlier post primarily on Brett Mason I drew attention to the fact that Marise was unlikely to win pre-selection for another term and speculated about what she might do with what time remains to her. We might now be getting some ideas…
Get the photo? This will be an interesting term of Parliament, and may even confirm the usefulness of Upper Houses, even when the government notionally controls both chambers.” Perhaps the end of the world isn’t nigh.