Saturday, 4 September 2010

Backdated - House of Representatives III: Revenge of the Seats.

In one way, nothing has happened. Everything still rests on the three independents Katter, Oakshot and Windsor. From another point of view a lot has happened in Australian pollitics. Some is old stuff I haven't touched on yet, and some is new. Here is a summary of the issues I think may have a bearing on the final outcome:

I) SHOWDOWN: Warren "foot-in-it" Truss V. Bob "big-hat" Katter

National's leader Truss and former National Katter have not exactly seen eye to eye for a while. It all started with the deregulation of the dairy industry, and has continued on. Normally this would be a slight hinderance to the Coalition snagging Katter and (with just 73 seats) this posses a concern. Still, Abbott could work around that and ignore the conflict.

It did not help, however, that according to Katter on the 7:30 report Truss raked up the animostiy again. On the very same night it became obvious Katter may hold the power to make or break a Coalition government.

"[H]e attacked me personally last night" Katter reported, and we can only assume that this was a verbal assault rather than a failed assasination attempt.

[Editor: Or was it? Is Truss the mysterious Bubble-O-Bill hat-hole shooter?]

To make matters worse for Abbott and the Coalition, Barnaby Joyce - the human punchline - did exactly the same thing, which Katter tamely described as "a similar piece of incredible unfortunateness".

While this has done nothing to ingratiate the Nationals with Katter, this is not the disaster it could have been for the Coalition. Firstly, Katter alone cannot descide the parliament. Secondly, Katter is more likely to be swayed by rational argument, not emotional tomfoolery. Thirdly, it has been suggested Katter might make a deal with the Coalition that then costs Truss his position. This third option is, however, as likely as a Liberal-Labor coalition. Speaking of which:

II) HEY! NOT COOL MAN. - Liberal backbencher cries.

After Adam Bandt sided with Labor to give them 74-seats, they were criticised for forming a coalition. Which would be a minor note except that the criticism came from the Coalition parties. Without wanting to recap all of Australian politics since 1922, I should point out that the Coalition is (and the name really should be a hint here) a coalition. So when they yell that Labor and Greens formed a coalition and compromised on all their policies, you think someone might take them aside and remind them that so did they - and they've been doing it for 88 years.

The real concern for Abbott is his claim that there was a secret deal before the election, because the Greens did not seriously talk to the Coalition. But given a choice between a left-wing party that wants, among other things, to price Carbon and a right-wing party that still harbours climate skeptics and whose leader once described climate-change as "bull$#!+", what was the point. They would have had to make massive concesions to bring the Liberals anywhere near the point that Labor was already at.

And environmental policies are not the only point of contest between the Greens and the Coalition. To quote the Wikipedia page on the Australian Greens:

Relations between the Greens and conservative parties are almost uniformly poor. During the 2004 federal election the Australian Greens were branded as "environmental extremists" and even "fascists" by members of the Liberal-National Coalition Government. Fred Nile and John Anderson described the Greens as 'watermelons', being "green on the outside and red on the inside". John Howard, while Australian Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, stated that "The Greens are not just about the environment. They have a whole lot of other very, very kooky policies in relation to things like drugs and all of that sort of stuff".

While the debate will continue to have no significance on the outcome, the coalition has now ruined any chance they might have had of winning Bandt back by claiming they acted as underhanded minions of the Gillard Overlorddom (Overladydom perhaps?).


While the Labor Party has been busy plotting this totally unexpected unison of Left-wing parties which no one could have predicted (See: [Editor: a link to a former PsephologyKid statement has been lost. This statement specifically predicted Labor-Greens cooperation.] see also: the coalition has been facing the exact opposite. Nationals' Tony Crook has expressed his desire to be considered a crossbencher. Apparently the WA nationals are not part of the coalition (which was news to the Liberals, AEC and Nationals in other states).

There is a very real risk that Crook may cross the floor and side with the Labor party. Assuming the Labor party backtrack on absolutely everything and become a second Liberal party, that is.

The biggest impact I can see this having would be when Crook announces that he cannot negotiate with those Leftists and backs Abbott, and the national media print every paper with the headline "CROSSBENCHER TO SUPPORT ABBOTT", scaring the daylights out of Labor supporters for two whole seconds.


The indepenents asked Abbott to submit his election promises to the treasury to check the costs, and Abbott refused. Which is perfectly understandable, because it is the treasury's job to check the costs of election promises, and not waste time checking the costs of election promises.

Abbott was afraid that some of the information might be leaked to the Labor party. You know, all that top secret stuff they were broadcasting nationally for five weeks. So the indepenents asked Abbott to submit his election promises to the treasury. And he refused again. And this went on until someone reminded Abbott that the independents held the ballance of power.

Then the treasury looked at the figures and discovered that the Coalition had promissed $ 11,000,000,000 more than they admitted. But as Abbot pointed out, the coalition hadn't been trying to cover this up. It was a "difference of opinion".

And after all, whose estimate are you going to trust? A group of honest polliticians, or that bunch of economically-literate men and women running the national finances?


A fourth independent was elected in Denison, a seat in Tasmania including Hobart. The fight was close with Labor and the independent Andrew Wilkie, and eventually Labor had to give up. Before they could work up a bitter campaign of statistics and emotional blackmail to win his heart, though, Andrew Wilkie joined the Labor party, making my detailed examination of the seat moot. As a former Green, one might have expected this, and his support for a National Broadband Network and opposition to Work Choices would have been big hints too.

This is probably the most significant move since the election, earning Labor 74 to 73.


For a while I was predicting that the winning of Hasluck would play a key role in winning a majority of seats. While it turned out to be less significant than expected there is no doubt the Coalition would be almost out of the running completely had the Liberals not won it.

With all 73 seats, including Hasluck and the WA Nationals' seat of O'Connor, the Coalition could just reach 76 with the aid of Katter, Oakeshot and Windsor. Although this is far from stable government, we can see that Labor's 74 is only one seat stronger, and relies the Greens' Adam Bandt and Denison independent Andrew Wilkie. If either of these should oppose Labor on any point, they will fall to 73 seats - and raise the coalition to 74.

Had Hasluck fallen the other way we would almost certaily have a Labor minority government already.

VII) LET THE PEOPLE DESCIDE THEIR LEADERS? DON'T BE REDICULOUS. - A statement agreed upon by all sides of politics.

Everyone is saying the people of Australia do not want a second election. Well, I can more or less guarentee the half who voted for the loosing side will once things settle out. [Editor: see also: everything Abbott said between 2010 and 2013, especially relating to motions of no confidence and blocking supply] The fact is, the politicians don't want a second election. Here's why:

Labor doesn't want a  new election, because they will need to fight hard to keep their seats and win more.
The Liberals and their coalition buddies are in the same position, but now need to worry also about WA Nationals.
The Greens have their first seat in the lower house. Ever. [Editor: Actually, they won Cunningham in a 2002 by-election. This was their first general election win, though.] In a re-election, with voters flooding back to Labor or Liberal in droves to break the stalemate in favor of their prefered side, the Greens will almost certainly loose this.
Andrew Wilkie has contested several elections in NSW and Tasmania, and only just got in this time. For a simmilar reason to the Greens, he does not want to risk another election.
The three independents Katter, Oakeshot and Windsor now hold all the power, because the Coalition-Labor split is so close. With a re-election they can once more be thrust aside and ignored.


Look, if I knew, someone better informed than me would have published it by now.

Labor has the best promise of stable government. On the other hand, I think the Coalition is slightly closer policy-wise to winning the Independents. At a guess I would say the three amigos could easily split it 75-75 if they don't hold things together. But there will be so much pressure to decide that they now have to move as a block, or at leat give two to Labor. I think this will be the easiest solution for them, rather than maintaining their co-operation. After all, they aren't a party - they are three people with different views forced together by circumstance.

Possible outcomes:
Liberal 76:74
No Leader 75:75
Labor 76:74
Labor 77:73

If they must split but form a government, then Labor is the only option mathematically. If they reamin united, Labor offers the best prospect of a full three-year term for them to influence.

For this reason I am backing a Labor win if - and only if - I am forced to bet at gun-point.

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