Wednesday, 8 September 2010
This is not a mandate for any government. We should have a great big swear jar for the next three years and if anyone uses that word mandate they should have to chip in some money. No one party has dominance over the executive or the parliament, that is the reality of the way we’re going to do business of the next three years and that is a good reality.
Rob Oakeshott 7 September 2010
So I make this plea to country people, some of whom who don’t agree with the Labor Party, this isn’t about philosophy. Philosophy, in terms of both these parties, died about a decade ago or probably longer. This is about using the political system to advantage the people we represent and those people in regional Australia.
Tony Windsor 7 September 2010
Fran Kelly: Why do you think Tony Abbott would be more likely to go to the polls early for an early election?
Tony Windsor: Because they would be more likely to win if they did go back to the polls.
Journalist: How can you back a government that is less likely to win?
Either the independents who backed Labor have seriously miscalculated, or what Labor figures have been telling us for the last two weeks is wrong. The media has gone to town over Windsor’s comment that he didn’t back Abbott because he thought he could win a snap poll, as a denial of democracy. This is funny because while they were happy to let the negotiations to decide the government to be done in secret (and they still are), avoiding a poll because of parliamentary convenience is what elected governments do all the time. Windsor and Oakeshott are doing no more than exercising the prerogative of election timing that the major parties once used to have.
But let’s be blunt about what Windsor is saying here. They have picked Labor because it is the weakest and least likely to want an election any time soon. Windsor was doing no more than spelling out the basis of this ‘stability’ they have been talking about since the election. It is about hitching up with the weakest side that can’t shrug them off. The media were incensed about the drawn out press conference given by Windsor and Oakeshott, but actually it was quite interesting. In justifying to their traditionally conservative electorates why they were supporting Labor, they had to very clearly set out why the two party system had lost all meaning – something that probably some in the waiting media did not want to hear.
What we have seen through the last two weeks of opaque bargaining for a new transparency, is the independents taking advantage of the weakness of the two parties and how they are going to make it last. It is why it makes sense for Katter to go to the Coalition. Not only does it keep him onside with his conservative supporters for now, but it keeps the Parliament finely divided giving the individual independents maximum leverage. Maintaining this balance was why it was so important to clarify the status of Crook in the last days. They have the major parties just where they want them, and they ain’t letting them go.
For the Coalition not only do they not get government, but the Nationals in particular have to watch the independents get the type of pork-barrelling they could only dream of. The independents’ ability to get a good deal out of Labor exposes the emptiness of the Nationals’ alliance with the Liberals that used to mean something in the past and that they had been trying to hide with talks of mergers and phoney populism. It is no wonder that a morose Joyce on Lateline last night must realise his game has now come to an end.
But the real vulnerable ones are on the Labor side, it is why the independents chose them and why all the comparisons made by Labor figures over the last fortnight with recent state Labor minority governments that later produced thumping majorities are so wrong.
Firstly those state minority governments were formed when the trend was towards Labor, not against as it was in this election. In the case of SA and Victoria, these new technocratic Labor parties came as an early response to the hollowing out of the major parties. The old business-union Labor model had blown up in both states over earlier financial collapses, but were then followed by Liberal governments who took it as a sign that it was now time for faux Thatcherite agendas, which was wrong as well. Labor’s cross party alliances with the independents were a suitable means of setting out the end of two party politics, which they carried on when they won power in their own right.
This was translated to the federal arena under Rudd. Here again we had a phoney right agenda such as Workchoices exposed. But what gave Rudd his real dynamic compared to the states was the international agenda with that classic issue for undermining the old two party system, and what Gillard was again using as a basis for a new consensus yesterday, climate change.
But there are weaknesses in that technocrat model. With no clear political agenda, the governments lose their authority, partly seen by being all about spin, and also being judged on little more than the provision of services that never satisfy. As a response to the fraud of a phoney right agenda they make sense, but have nothing to offer in their own right.
This golden age of the Labor technocrat has passed. The South Australian election was the best sign of its decline at the state level and, of course, the fall of Rudd was the clearest indication in Canberra. This is the tension at the heart of the Gillard leadership. They have reacted to its decline by trying to re-assert the party’s traditional power bases and reclaim a reconnection with the electorate, but as the election showed, they have found they have nothing to offer. Gillard will no more be able to use climate change politically as Rudd could in his final months, because the international momentum has gone. Instead the focus will be on delivery like it is for state governments, and as Abbott noted yesterday, especially for the NBN. The vacuum is still there but now neither Labor nor the Coalition has any basis for taking advantage of it, leaving it to the independents to enjoy their new ‘fun’ Parliament.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 8 September 2010.Filed under State of the parties