We already refer to our two-speed economy (even though in reality it’s more like 12-speed), but what about our two-speed parliament?
The allegations against Peter Slipper are serious and must be tested. But the impact on government, even with its razor-thin mandate, is overstated. Amid the front-page s-x and scandal, government hums quietly underneath.
It has always been so, but the nature of minority government and the concept that Julia Gillard’s government hangs by a thread has heightened every headline, imbued every fallout with a key crossbencher with new importance, and has guaranteed the current allegations against the speaker of the House will dominate front pages all week.
Perception is everything in politics, and the Labor government knew the risks it was taking when it aligned itself with a character such as Slipper. The latest incident puts those familiar question marks back against Gillard’s judgment, again it looks terrible in the eyes of voters, and again it gives the Coalition the opportunity to call chaos on the whole arrangement. They will be eager to tear the government a new one come the next question time. But they’re the optics — that’s the first speed. The second speed?
Parliament is not sitting until Tuesday, May 8 (yes, that’d be federal budget day) — time, as constitutional expert Peter Black writes in Crikey today, to resolve the constitutional and political issues surrounding this situation. The criminal nature of the Cabcharge allegations must be resolved by then. The government has expressed confidence in this happening (although the Craig Thomson timeline isn’t exactly inspiring.)
In the meantime, there’s the small matter of the comprehensive aged care package that was released last week and promptly fell off a cliff. Bernard Keane examines the policy in depth today for those of you who prefer to examine what lies underneath …
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