Federal

Aug 27, 2010

Common sense from independents has conservatives deeply unhappy

Against expectations, the rural independents have made a strong start in their quest for political and economic stability. And conservatives don't like it.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Putting aside the usual froth-mouthed idiocy of Steve Fielding, our new hung Parliament politics is resolving nicely into a conflict between two implacably-opposed forces, just the way we like it. There's the independents, who are committed to a new approach to politics, one based more firmly on cooperation and eschewing the reflexive combativeness that has typified Parliamentary politics for generations, and there are those who are happily aligned with this approach i.e. the Greens, those have belatedly signed up to that cause -- chiefly, Labor, which is happy to go along for the ride if it keeps them in power. And there's Tony Abbott and his colleagues, who are retaining the same combativeness and negativity that have delivered the Liberals to the brink of power. Why, the logic goes, should they stop now given how successful it has been? Having got this far, way beyond his critics' expectations, Abbott might oppose his way right into the Lodge. The Liberals seem quite happy to savage Treasury as part of this process. They have long attacked Ken Henry for being a Labor stooge -- "first against the wall", as one staffer likes to say -- but that has now been extended to the entire department, which can no longer be trusted, according to senior Liberals. And lined up with them is the right-wing media. The goal of the Coalition and the right-wing media is to delegitimise any process that delivers a minority Labor Government, to suggest that the Liberals have had the election stolen from them by the independents -- who are increasingly being targeted by conservative commentators for acting beyond their remit. You can see how this will play out -- there will be remorseless attacks on an "illegitimate" government composed of Labor, economically-irrational hayseeds and lunatic, latte-set left-wing Greens. The only answer, Coalition cheerleaders like The Australian are saying increasingly shrilly, is another election, to get rid of this annoyingly inconvenient outcome and deliver an Abbott Government. Expect the theme of business and investor uncertainty to get a stronger and stronger run as days go by. Crikey also understands that the Liberals are investigating legal options for preventing the formation of a minority ALP Government which, even if they have little chance of success, can strengthen the theme that there is something illegitimate about an outcome that doesn't feature a Liberal Government. The irony is, the three rural independents have conducted themselves with common sense and the strongest possible commitment to stability. It may be surprising to use a term like "common sense" about Bob Katter, but by putting aside their own policy interests, emphasising the importance of a stable result from a hung Parliament, awaiting the finalised outcome for disputed seats and asking for Treasury advice on the cost of each side' election commitments, the independents are adopting the most economically-responsible approach. What has gone missing from the discussion about their demands, which has naturally been dominated by the Liberals' refusal to have any independent source look at their policies, is that they pave the way for whatever party forms the minority government to implement its election commitments without having to negotiate each individual policy with them. In effect, if the independents receive advice that the parties' platforms have minimal impact on the Budget, that surely will be a strong argument for Windsor, Katter and Oakeshott to pass associated legislation, on the basis that it reflects the platform the party took to the election. Still, that's being lost in growing criticism of the independents led by conservative critics angered that they won't simply gift the Coalition power, and mainstream media journalists plainly uncomfortable with the shift away from conflict-based two-party politics. All this political peace and love stuff could yet give away to something deeply divisive and dangerous.

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “Common sense from independents has conservatives deeply unhappy

  1. Liz45

    And if the GG decides that the Labor Govt with at least 76 members could/would provide a stable govt, would the Coalition still resort to a legal challenge? Where would that be heard? Does the High Court have precedence over the decision of a GG? If Julia Gillard has a majority along two party preferred, does the GG still have to take the advice of the PM? I’ve always been angered by the Coalition’s assumption, that they the only ones who have a right to govern? A higher authority, of their making. Arrogant bastards!

    Those in the Coalition were determined to get rid of the Whitlam govt. Funny how Khemlani just faded off the planet after Nov.11? The right wing media were after the Rudd govt for at least the last 18 months! It would serve them right, if another HoR election took place and the Coalition was trounced???I’d like to see that? They haven’t stopped their dummy spit since Nov.2007! Perhaps when this current crop have gone from the political landscape, they may have some people with some sort of maturity! It’s not in evidence at this time!

  2. Jim Reiher

    I am actually enjoying listening to the three independents who will decide the outcome. The two from NSW especially are intelligent and seem quite genuine in their concern for Australia and a stable outcome. Can one of them be the PM please? Let one of the NSW ones be the head of the minority government! (I know I know… not possible : no need to correct me – just having some fun thinking about it).

  3. Gavin Moodie

    Yes, Abbott currently seems like a 1 trick Tony.

    Assume that Labor ends up with 72 seats and the Coalition including the WA ‘independent’ National Tony Crook ends up with 73 seats. Assume further that Labor reaches an agreement with the Greens and the rural independents giving them 76 votes in the House of Representatives and possibly 77 with Wilke from Tasmania. Now assume the Governor General invites Gillard to form a government. Gillard does so and wins a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives.

    What would be the point of seeking to challenge the Governor General’s decision? The High Court is likely to hold that the Governor General’s decision is non justiceable, that is, not liable for trial in a court.

  4. Jim Reiher

    I wonder what the basis of their challange would be? That the Libs and Nats got 1 more seat than just Labor? (if you include the one guy in WA who is claimed to be an independent but no one is listening to him?)

    The AEC lists the different groups as:
    Labor 72
    Liberal 44
    Liberal National Party of Qld 21
    The Nationals 7
    Country Liberals 1
    Greens 1
    Independents 4 (including Wilkie)

    My first question: Why is the coalition group broken into so many other groups?

    Okay:
    If you add up all four of the Liberal and National subgroups you get 73.
    But Labor as a party has the biggest number on 72. And if the Greens and Wilkie give them support that would be 74.

    And if the independents go with them, is that really all that different to the country liberals and the liberal national Party of Qld and the nationals, going with Liberals?

    I guess they can say that they are at least a formal coalition, the others are not a formal one. But what does that mean? We have seen the stresses the coalition has been under in years gone by. Nationals threatening to break away/ not breaking away/ … real stable that group.

    On a two party preferred system the AEC has Labor on 50.48% of the vote and Liberal/National on 49.52%. (With 82% of the vote counted).

    What on earth will they try to argue? Raw votes across the nation (where the Liberals and the other 3 groups mentioned as their coalition have slightly more votes that just Labor – but not Labor and Green? Or Abbott as head of the Liberal Party and their coalition partners earned 1 more seat than labor without any others being counted towards their numbers?

    I reckon they should go for “Divine right to rule”. That sounds about as logical! But i actually hope someone can enlighten me about what they are going to try to argue…

  5. Mary Walker

    Don’t you think that the Liberal’s intention is to have another election called asap? The voters will be shat off and have more cause to vote against the ALP and the Libs will then a majority in their own right.

  6. Jenny

    Be careful, Bernard – Bolt will have you drowning in the pixie dust that is consensus.

  7. Eponymous

    Honest Question:

    Is there ANYONE on the Left that is carrying on in an analogous manner? The bleating out of the Oz and the Libs has been quite petty in my opinion. Classic ‘born to rule’ stuff.

    I’m one of the worst Leftists I know; but if the Indies deliver a Liberal Government I’ll take it on the chin.

    This is the system. Let it work and stop whingeing, please. You’re embarrassing us all. Dennis Shanahan, yes, I’m looking at you.

  8. Mark Heydon

    Bernard Keane’s observation that Tony Abbott and his colleagues “are retaining the same combativeness and negativity” brings to mind Russell the super villian on Survivor. He had all the manipulation, intelligence and nastiness to take him to the final two, but fell at the last hurdle each time because he just couldn’t change his game to win the jury over.

  9. Eponymous

    Heh, in Survivor, as in life.

    Mostly just re-posting to tick the ‘Follow Up Comments’ box.

  10. Jackson Harding

    The highlight so far today has been SuperFlake Fielding’s amazing dummy spit as he faces Relevance Deprivation Syndrome. I wonder if he’ll try and push in front of the queue down at CentreLink on July 1? Seriously, he’s a boil on the butt of democracy, he’s sole saving grace is that he’s the best argument ever for a “qualifying quota” in Senate elections that there ever could be.

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