Rundle in the House: Clive upstages his PUPs on day one of the new Senate. Judy Sloan wags a finger at Stiglitz. The plot thickens over Tinkler’s mysterious buyer. WikiLeaks cables show Prabowo’s brutal past. Keane on Palmer’s next move. The offshore carbon credit schemes that don’t add up. Oz’s escalator of decline descends again. And voters heart refoulement? Abbott’s offshore manoeuvres pay off.
Day One of the new Senate showed that the Abbott government can take nothing for granted — and if it displays the customary arrogance which it can safely deploy in the House, then there will scarcely be an Abbott government at all. Clive, the ultimate deal-maker, will call the tune, and the next two years will be a patchwork of compromises.
That will be a source of some relief for those who believed that the election of the microparties and the PUP bloc marked the ascent of a Right-wing insurgency in the Senate. If Palmer makes good on his promises to defeat $9 billion of welfare and service cuts, then critics of Abbott’s first budget will see much of what they value about Australia preserved.
The danger is that the makeup of the Senate will turn politics into a process of US-style horsetrading, rather than a process of major parties bringing full programs to the people to vote up or down. The fact that some of the most extreme reforms of the Coalition government may not go ahead could lull progressives into the idea that no serious work must be done.
And since the Labor Party has spent 20 years ducking the serious work of offering a reconstructed social democracy, that would be a dangerous result indeed. Every mongrel was a pup once.