It’s 1
July, so now there are 39 Coalition members among the 76 Senators. A
majority, on paper. But the last PM with a majority in the Senate,
Malcolm Fraser, turned up on Radio National on Wednesday morning saying that this didn’t necessarily translate into the numbers needed to push legislation through.

“I
had a number of senators who were independently minded,” he said. “They
were concerned about the role of the Senate, they were concerned about
Senate inquiries, they had to be sure the government was right.”

He
nominated two: Victorian Alan Missen and Tasmania’s Reg Wright, who
declared himself to be an independent. And there’s the rub.

John Howard is taking a few days off. Peter Costello ended up on AM this morning talking about the brave new world. Good move, PM. As Dennis Shanahan rightly observes in The Australian
today, it’s in Howard’s interest “to continue to negotiate with the
Senate as if it were hostile.” Let the treasurer play the tough guy
now. He won’t have to handle the Senate deal-making for a while yet –
and, anyway, if Meg Lees’s comments on the GST talks are anything to go by he’s not all that good at it.

With
all the talk about the Senate majority, people seem to have forgotten
just how delicate things have been for the government in the upper
house throughout the life of the government. Ron Boswell, the
Nationals’ Senate leader, never took the frontbench position he was
entitled to so he can take opposing views and not to be bound by
Cabinet solidarity.

Who says Barnaby Joyce is the only stroppy Queensland Nat?

Peter Fray

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