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Federal

Aug 30, 2010

The power of Wilkie

Andrew Wilkie is playing a clever hand with his anti-pokies policy auction by promising a decision before the other three independents have barely started sweeping deliberations with department heads and senior big party politicians.

Andrew Wilkie is playing a clever hand with his anti-pokies policy auction by promising a decision before the other three independents have barely started sweeping deliberations with department heads and senior big party politicians.

Julia Gillard met with Wilkie for an hour on Saturday and was given until today to respond to his letter listing 20 key areas of interest with the two so-called deal breakers being meaningful pokies reform and some funding for the long neglected Hobart hospital.

Tony Abbott is meeting with Wilkie today to receive the same letter and then the famous intelligence whistleblower expects to announce his decision by Wednesday.

Whoever wins Wilkie’s support gets into the driver’s seat by moving to 74 seats, assuming you allocate WA National Tony Crook to the Coalition and Green Adam Bandt to Labor. My money is on Wilkie’s choice determining the government because the successful applicant would then only require two of the three rural independents to form a government.

Whilst Katter is a wild card, Oakeshott and Windsor will probably stick together and pursue an outcome than retains their key balance of power position. Unless all three are emphatically behind one side or the other, the only way to take Katter out of the equation is to follow Wilkie’s decision.

If Wilkie supports Gillard, it is very hard to see how the three rural independents could prop up an Abbott Government which served for more than a few months.

For starters, various renegade Nats could bring the house down, although the two most voluble – Barnaby Joyce and John Williams — are in the Senate and irrelevant to any vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives.

The other destabilising element is the coming High Court challenge to two new Coalition MPs who foolishly failed to resign their positions on local councils before being elected.

Former Campbelltown mayor Russell Matheson, the new Liberal member for Macarthur, is even promising to stay on Liverpool council despite serving in the Federal Parliament.

And George Christensen, the new CLP member for Dawson, only formally quit the Mackay Regional Council last week after it was clear he’d scored a political promotion.

Both these chaps could fall foul of section 44 (iv) of the Constitution which prohibits anyone enjoying an office of profit under the crown from nominating for Federal Parliament.

Independent Phil Cleary and Liberal Jacqui Kelly both faced by-elections after coming a cropper in court challenges relying on this constitutional provision, but the High Court has never been asked whether this includes councillor stipends.

As a councillor in Victoria running for the Senate, I received very strong advice to quit before the election but this was ignored given there was no prospect of success.

The Coalition holds Dawson by just 2.08% and Macarthur by 3.17% so Labor sympathizers would definitely have a crack at the High Court given success would trigger two by-elections in winnable marginal seats that would bring down a minority Abbott Government.

As the major parties contemplate just how far they push the pokies reform agenda to secure Wilkie’s support, it is worth considering a report in the Fairfax broadsheets today which quotes an academic study showing John Howard’s guns buyback policy reduced suicides using a fire-arm by 200 a year.

If you can buy back guns and water licences, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t buy back pokies licences.

Sure, it will be expensive to compensate State governments, but think of the benefit to those citizens who are currently losing almost $10 billion a year playing the pokies. A whopping $4 billion of those losses are estimated to come from Australia’s 100,000 problem gamblers.

No other country on earth has comparable statistics, so why wouldn’t Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott take up the challenge and commit to things like the $1 maximum bet as the Productivity Commission recommended?

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67 comments

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67 thoughts on “The power of Wilkie

  1. Robert Bromwich

    One correction and one addition – the correction is for the member-elect for Dawson who was preselected for the LNP (put it down to fat finger syndrome).

    The addition is Jane Prentice, the Brisbane City Council representative for the Walter Taylor ward. My understanding is that she took leave of absence for the duration of the campaign and only submitted here departure notice with council after polling day.

    Given the tightness of the 2010 result, could mean that the ‘coalition’ could be reduced to 70 and independents/minor party reps up to 8.

  2. Joan Fox

    stephen thanks for such an incisive informed review of the current situation. general news type facts provided by most are fine but knowledge and insight of the kind you have provided here are really what makes an article excellent, and the exchange between reader and writer worthwhile.

  3. Go for it!

    The only government that has any chance of surviving is the ALP.

    I cant see Wilkie ever supporting the LNP but if by some fluke Abbott gets to be PM he wont last that long and Labor will be back with a big majority.

  4. sickofitall

    That’s a very interesting statistic about suicide by gun. Is there any figure (I’m not pro-gun per se, but it seems worth asking) as to what the figures were before and are now. If for example it was 10000 people a year (I suspect it’s nowhere near that!) then 200 is better than nothing, but still negligible. If it was 1000, then that’s, well, 20%, which is pretty good. If it was 250…. and on…

  5. David Sanderson

    Given that these stipends are little more than compensation for expenses incurred it seems unlikely that constitutional challenges will succeed.

    The general thrust – that a Gillard government is more likely – I do agree with, pretty much for the reasons stated in the article.

  6. shepherdmarilyn

    Yes it might have reduced suicide by gun but did it reduce over all suicide numbers? I don’t think so.

    As for the lieberals, they are making a dog’s breakfast out of everything and Chrissy Pyne was trying to defend Heffo and Schultz this am as if ringing and announcing the devil is calling is a good look.

  7. Michael R James

    Neither ALP or Coalition will agree to Wilkie’s no pokies wish, but I reckon Gillard can agree to a conscience vote on the issue. It is hard to see such a vote not succeeding in the House. But I suppose I may be looking through rose-tinted glasses given that the Liberals combined with Labor to defeat the $1 limit in Tasmania so as to appease the gambling industry there! This is the first time in the 4 months of the Labor-Green coalition government that the Greens have put their foot down: are those people who continue to slur the Greens want to speak up and call them the Loonies?

    As to making up the “lost” revenue, that is like saying government should subsidize the losses of drug dealers when there is a heroin drought! In fact forcing this issue may just bring some clarity to the miner’s tax nonsense: Australians need to realize that there is no free lunch and if they want bigger pensions and all sorts of social welfare costs borne by the state (some created by the gambling problem) then ask them where they want that money to come from. Their salary taxes, problem gamblers, drinkers and smokers, stamp duty, higher road tolls or poorer health care—or a fairer share of the booming mining profits?

  8. sickofitall

    @Michael R. James: very well put indeed.

  9. Syd Walker

    I have no particular wish to support the Coalition.

    Even so, the two Coalition politicians currently facing electoral challenges have my sympathies, to some extent.

    I think the current, rather unclear legal situation that forces many potential candidates to resign public sector jobs or other positions and to reliquish dual nationality – BEFORE being successfully elected to the Federal Parliament – is neither reasonable nor justifiable.

    It needs to be sorted out by Parliament, followed by referendum if necessary. We need simple, clear and rational eligibility requirements that do not unduly discriminate against potential new candidates (thereby favouring the major parties and especially sitting members).

  10. sickofitall

    @Syd Walker: I must say I agree and was about to post something similar. Once you are elected, yes, you must leave your jobs. But, if a public servant decides to run for (say) the ALP, and has demonstrated fairness and professionalism, why not let him or her run, and go back to their job. If they are seriou0sly compromised, that can be dealt with. If not, what is the harm.

    Of course, the Lord Mayor of Sydney is the latest in a long line to hold two elected positions. she seems to be able to do both (whether one agrees with her or not is a different matter…)

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