There was not really much new in last night’s Four Corners on the independents’ dealings after the election. Especially not on revealing the major parties’ manoeuvring behind closed doors to win their votes in contrast to the more public way they had to get our votes. But it did at least confirm what was already reasonably evident at the time.

The program’s narrative spun it out as though a decision was being made over the course of the two weeks, but it probably wasn’t. Right at the beginning it was clear what the key determinant was for their decision, the one thing that united them all – the quest for stability. Naturally, if it was really about stability they could have forced another election where the odds would have been that the finely split balance of the current Parliament would not have been repeated, and one party or the other would have gained a clear, stable, majority.

No, what the independents mean, of course, is the stability of the current situation where they had maximum power and, as Tony Windsor said to Four Corners last night, that meant backing Labor who were most afraid of going to the polls anytime soon. The rest was really just political positioning to justify their eventual choice and it was presumably why Four Corners cameras were let in. Not out of transparency, we didn’t get too much of that, but a political presentation of what was basically some pretty ordinary horse-trading but with exceptionally weak major parties.

So we had Windsor and Oakeshott seen in meetings with Stern and Garnaut over climate change, unlikely to have been deciders given that both were already strong supporters of the climate change agenda – a fact often forgotten by those who prefer to see climate change purely in terms of left and right.

But neither, it seemed was even regional funding. Probably the most revealing, and new, bit of information from the program was that Abbott made a major financial pitch to the independents on regional funding that outstripped Labor’s offer. Not surprising given that the Coalition is hardly averse to rural pork-barrelling for political purposes. What was surprising, though, was the independents unhappiness about it. Both Oakeshott and Windsor made it clear that rather than being pleased at what their ‘negotiations’ had produced, they seemed to more regard it as making it harder to justify the decision they had already made. But, of course, it made no difference and fortunately, neither they, nor Labor, nor the Coalition, have had any real interest in publicising Abbott’s largesse, so it has slipped under the radar.

What was also interesting was to see the context of Katter’s decision-making process. It was only after Wilkie finally confirmed his endorsement for Labor, that Katter knew it was safe to side with the Coalition by coming out with his twenty ‘demands’ without threatening what they all wanted throughout; a Labor government by the narrowest of margins and the best way to keep both parties exactly where they wanted them.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 5 October 2010.

Filed under Tactics

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15 responses to “Independents feed off the weak – an update”

  1. Senexx on 5th October 2010 7:18 am

    When you realise the Nationals are useless, giving rise to the Independents and that Labor, Liberal and the Greens don’t care about the regions one way or the other as long as they get their vote, you can quite easily make a case for these parties feeding of the weak regions abrograting responsibility for the last 60 years.

    I find it so oh fascinating how the parliamentary reforms are actually working – the same sort of reforms others have offered whilst in opposition but never implemented – and it took a cross-bench of independents to do it.

  2. Tweets that mention Independents feed off the weak – an update :The Piping Shrike -- on 5th October 2010 7:20 am

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  3. Ash Ghebranious on 5th October 2010 7:28 am

    Actually I semi agree on some of what you say.

    The reason it took 17 days was it took 16 days to get the reforms signed off on.

    It was always about the reforms as which ever party was going to get the nod, would need those reforms including the pairing.

    Katter held off his decision until this was signed other wise he could have split and announced his choice the day after Wilkie’s.

    I’ve also seen footage of Katter post the meetings on climate change and he sincerely said he wished he was there. This could mean he wanted to hear what they had to say, or it could mean he hoped to be there to discredit what was said to the others; take your pick.

    Regardless, he held off his decision until the reforms as they favour independents in the future and not just now.

    The fact that after the decisions were made and the Coalition were not annointed, they then began to change their minds on the pairing is an insight of their thinking all along.

    How could Abbott believe that the Independents would side with him if he threw more money at them? Especially when his costings were in question by billions?

    To use my favourite movie; Where did he think the money was going to come from? Was he going to gestate it in a box?


  4. Al. on 5th October 2010 7:32 am

    It seems to me that Tony Windsor was the unappointed ‘mover and shaker’ / leader of the 3 … the one that at least APPEARED to guide the other two, I’d say the ‘brains’ of the outfit. Well, it seems to me he had at least Oakeshott’s ear.

    I don’t think Katter was big on detail, came across as a ‘big picture’ man, not one who wanted to wade through, digest, understand documents …Seems he was ALWAYS going coalition, no matter what, with his hatred of the Greens. It would have been a bitter pill for him.

    Abbott came across as a thug, when he tried to intimidate the reporter ‘Sarah Ferguson .. (no NOT the ‘duchess of ‘pork’ ! ) when she simply repeated the line that maybe he had “something to hide” re the costings. She was merely echoing the conclusion / possibility first raised by Bob Katter, who himself was only speaking the obvious thought.

    From HER .. he found that ‘offensive’. She was just doing her job, and well within her rights. He got caught with his pants down (so to speak !) Yes, he comes across as a bit of a ‘bully boy’.

  5. Ash Ghebranious on 5th October 2010 7:49 am

    PS The ‘stability’ thing was about the stability of which ever party got in. Hence the pairing issue. Which they both signed off on and then the coalition reneged to cause instability.

    It was not so much the stability of parliament but the stability of the parliament voted for.

    And yes, that means they get more say in this term. All other terms, they have been effectively shut out.

    The other matter I wish to remind people is K. Rudd had kept strong relations with the independents throughout his last term AND he queried them on what they would do in a hung parliament situation while he was still PM.

    Say what you want about Kevin, but he knew this would happen and that time invested in them allowed Julia to utilise the good faith he had harboured.

    Remember that opening scene when Tony is talking about a gentler kindler polity and Windsor immediately said, ‘That is not the Tony I know’.


  6. The Piping Shrike on 5th October 2010 8:36 am

    I thought Windsor was quite clear at the end about Labor being scared to go to the polls (and even more at the presser, but let’s not go there again!) I also thought Katter was quite clear why he didn’t want to go to the climate change meetings.

    In the unlikely event that Wilkie had gone to the Coalition, I see it even more unlikely Katter would have produced his 20 demands and gone as well with the others joining Labor. It would have forced another election and that would have been the end of that.

    The speaker pairing was about ensuring that Oakeshott would have had a vote, little more than that I can see. The intriguing other side was Cassidy’s comment on Insiders that it was supposed to be also because Oakeshott wanted the speakership so he wouldn’t have to vote on everything to keep the government in, some of which might be awkward. In other words, that reform was allowing one of the independents a vote when they wanted, but not all the time.

    The performance of either side was driven by internal considerations relating how they came to power. Abbott was worried about not compromising the brand. Gillard was desperate for a vindication of the June takeover. One did not suit dealing with the independents, one did.

    I guess the basic difference here is that I don’t see the independents giving Labor quite the political endorsement that others do.

  7. on 5th October 2010 8:48 am

    Should not the #ABC put the #4Corners outtakes online in “the public interest” ?? And become a true multimedia broadcaster ??

  8. Al. on 5th October 2010 12:51 pm

    On a ‘non-political’ note … boy, my Firefox
    browser SURE doesn’t like SOMEthing on this site! It has crashed now on at least 4 occasions, when I’ve come back to this site (last few weeks) … and frustratingly, when I’ve had a bunch of other tabs opened.

    I wonder if it’s happened to anyone else ?

  9. Wood Duck on 6th October 2010 8:07 am

    I think Katter’s position has been misinterpreted, although his behaviour has done nothing to clarify the situation. I don’t really think that Katter is supporting the Coalition, but rather he is not supporting Labor. In previous parliaments, Katter has been a non-voter on most issues. I suspect that he will remain one except on issues he feels strongly about such as anything to do with trying to confront global warming or the right to be able to shoot and fish wherever you want.
    If Windsor and Oakshott had thrown their lot in with the Coalition, Katter would have also declared his support for the Coalition. However, because this support would not have been real but would have actually represents a position of not supporting Labor, Katter would have presented the Coalition whips with an almost daily problem as far as ensuring that the Coalition had his support. As it stands now, the Coalition whips do not really have any control over Katter and, for this reason, Labor’s position may not be a tenuous as commentators like to make it out to be.

  10. The Piping Shrike on 6th October 2010 4:54 pm

    I agree with lot of that. As I argue above, I think Katter only went with the Colaition once Labor’s ability to get the numbers were assured. It may also make life easier back home. But he’s very big buddies with Rudd so the pigeonhole some are trying to put him in is not as neat as some claim.

    I think the mistake made by both sides is to try and fit the independents into the old two party framework. No point, since it is breaking down.

    Al, I did test the site and haven’t heard the Firefox problem from anyone else. But then, I’m somewhere between Abbott and Turnbull on the tech head spectrum.

  11. adamite on 6th October 2010 6:03 pm

    I dont agree with the cynical assessment of the independents motives you offer. Contrary to your implication, it was pretty clear that the general public didnt want to go to another election and the independents were simply picking up on that mood.

    Moroever, if it was just about securing personal power they could presumably each have asked for, and received, high level positions and other nice perks in any government they chose to support. To their credit they decided to pursue the honourable path and try to achieve some qualitative change to the adversarial cesspit known as Federal Parliament. More power to them I say.

  12. The Piping Shrike on 6th October 2010 6:14 pm

    I don’t see what’s cynical about independents wanting to avoid an election so they are in the best position to do whatever they plan to do for their electorates. They would be mad to do anything else.

    As I have argued before, it is no more cynical than a government avoiding going to the polls when they might lose. So I don’t agree with conservative commentators who say they are unjustified in not going to the polls again.

    But neither is it as much an endorsement for Labor as some are portraying it.

    The last poll I saw showed quite significant support for another election to resolve the deadlock (although the question wording was rather loaded).

  13. adamite on 7th October 2010 6:05 pm

    P.S. My strong memory is that there was pretty much universal sentiment against going back to the polls immediately after the election because the public were suffering from election fatigue. What later polls might say isn’t really relevant.

    Similarly, it is arguably a narrow interpretation to say that the independents were only concerned to advance the interests of their individual electorates. Both Windsor and Oakeshott were clear in stating that they were seeking to advance the interests of regional Australia as a whole, which is why the broadband issue was so persuasive for them.

  14. Al. on 8th October 2010 1:26 pm


    Whatever it is, it’s something to do with this site, virtually certain. I only had 3 tabs open, came to your site, and it crashed straight away. Anyhow, I’ve allowed an error report to be sent to the good folk at Mozilla, so assuming it’s a bug in their software that doesn’t like something on your site, hopefully they’ll fix it up down the track. I’ll probably browse your site via Opera browser in future ..

  15. The Piping Shrike on 8th October 2010 4:52 pm

    Drop me a line if you hear something.

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