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.
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.