Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Australian conservative voters betrayed

The three country independents should have looked to their own seats to decide which way to jump – the voters indicated their preferences clearly. Here are the results from the AEC website on Tuesday morning.

In New England, the Nationals got 20,337 first preference votes against Labor’s 6,472. In Lyne, the Nationals got 25,994 first preference votes against Labor’s 9898. And in Kennedy the LNP got 17,309 first preference votes against Labor’s 13,659. In all three cases the preference distribution shows that the Nationals and LNP ran second.

In all three cases the voters of those electorates have CLEARLY spoken but Windsor and Oakeshott chose to ignore that and install a Labor government. I can't imagine that their voters will be happy with them -- JR

Kevvy is back!

As if they haven't had enough bungling from him already! They must be brain-dead

DUMPED prime minister Kevin Rudd will be welcomed back into the senior ranks of the Gillard Government within days. Less than three months after she toppled him, Julia Gillard held out an olive branch and invited Mr Rudd into her Cabinet. "I gave Kevin Rudd a commitment that he would be a senior member of my ministerial team, a Cabinet minister, and he will be," she said.

Mr Rudd has been mooted for the Foreign Affairs job and has also expressed interest in health and indigenous policy.

Labor's caucus will meet in Canberra tomorrow and Ms Gillard said she expected her new ministerial line-up to be sworn in at Government House early next week.

The Prime Minister signalled she would follow in Mr Rudd's footsteps and choose her own ministry, rather than let the factions divide the spoils. "Obviously as Labor Party leader, (the Cabinet) is my prerogative," she said. "But I intend to work with (Deputy Prime Minister) Wayne Swan and with my leadership team with (Senate leaders) Chris Evans and Stephen Conroy to have the discussions to form the new ministerial team."

Ms Gillard has room to move with new appointments following the resignation of defence minister John Faulkner and the retirement of finance minister Lindsay Tanner. Maxine McKew's loss in the Sydney seat of Bennelong also opens the door for Ms Gillard to appoint a new parliamentary secretary.

The future of the so-called "faceless men" who helped Ms Gillard secure the top job will be her most contentious issue. Some sources said parliamentary secretary Bill Shorten and junior minister Mark Arbib would be promoted. Others claimed they would be kept on the outer to calm the factions. Former ACTU leader Greg Combet is a contender for a promotion, along with South Australian MP and parliamentary secretary Mark Butler.

Labor is still on the brink of a brutal internal war over its election performance. Victorian powerbrokers Stephen Conroy and David Feeney are believed to have drafted a secret motion that they plan to put to the party's national executive to oust ALP national secretary Karl Bitar.

Factional heavyweights Anthony Albanese and John Faulkner are also believed to be courting numbers for a reform group to launch a full-scale review of the party and override any attempts by Mr Bitar to establish a "soft review" of the Labor Party's performance.


Julia Gillard's second chance

As corrupt as one would expect

JULIA Gillard has negotiated her way to victory in the August 21 election by agreeing to funnel $10 billion into rural and regional Australia, to lock in backing from two independent MPs.

But the Prime Minister's second term has come with a heavy political cost, as Labor is faced with funding the deal by stripping money from its city electorates.

Under deals finalised yesterday, Ms Gillard will hold a tax reform summit by next July and has offered NSW independent MP Rob Oakeshott a seat in cabinet.

The independents' announcement that they would support Labor ended a fortnight of uncertainty since voters stripped Labor of 16 seats in an election that produced the nation's first hung parliament since World War II.

Ms Gillard said she had heard the clear message from voters about Labor's first term in government as she dedicated herself to greater co-operation, the elimination of needless "partisan bickering" and a new emphasis on rural and regional services, including guaranteed shares of funding under major programs.

"Labor is prepared to govern," Ms Gillard said after clinching the backing of Mr Oakeshott and fellow independent NSW MP Tony Windsor. "Labor is prepared to deliver stable, effective and secure government for the next three years."

Tony Abbott conceded defeat soon after, declaring he was extremely disappointed not to have won the election but lauding the strength of Australia's democratic processes. Pledging he would not take a spoiler role in the knife-edge parliament, the Opposition Leader nonetheless promised ferocious scrutiny to keep the new government accountable.

Mr Abbott, whose election campaign performance exceeded the expectations of his party, his opponents and many pundits, said: "My job is not to become the best Opposition Leader never to become prime minister."

The weeks since August 21 have been dominated by tense negotiations as five independent and minor-party members of the House of Representatives found themselves thrust into the role of determining the election outcome.

Yesterday dawned with Labor commanding 74 of the house's 150 votes, two short of the number needed to form a government, with the Coalition on 73. Three MPs, Mr Oakeshott, Mr Windsor and Bob Katter, were left to declare their intentions.

The Coalition moved level just after lunch when Mr Katter revealed he would back the Coalition because he favoured its policies in 20 areas of concern, including its pledge to sink Labor's proposed mineral resources rent tax and a guarantee not to introduce a carbon tax.

About 90 minutes later, with Parliament House frozen in anticipation, Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott said they would support Labor, ending the deadlock and giving Ms Gillard the 76 votes needed to make an appointment to visit Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

Mr Oakeshott said he had wrestled with a "wicked dilemma" and named Labor promises on spending on education and the regions as his key motivators. The member for the NSW coastal seat of Lyne said he would consider Ms Gillard's offer of a ministry, but stressed it was not a condition of his support.

Mr Windsor said he was captivated by Labor's promise of the National Broadband Network, including the promise that wholesale prices for access would be the same across the nation.

Insisting voters wanted stability and not a new election, Mr Windsor said a Coalition minority government would be more likely than Labor to seek excuses for a fresh poll. Asked why, Mr Windsor said: "Because I think they'd be more likely to win." He said Labor was "more likely to be here for a longer period of time" if it did not see the chance of victory in a fresh election....

According to documents released last night, the funding deals involve $763m of new spending, all of which the government has offset in budget estimates.

Asked whether hospital infrastructure needs in cities would be ignored in favour of regional hospitals, Ms Gillard said her promises had to be considered within the context of all government spending.

She said the government had already delivered billions of dollars of new health capital to cities, was boosting its share of hospital funding and was building GP superclinics. "I ask Australians in capital cities to understand that what is in this agreement builds on a huge suite of changes to get our health care system ready for the 21st century," she said.


Recipe for uncertain government

The independents backed Labor because they did not want to face another election: Pure self-interest

JULIA Gillard has won the tightest election in Australian history by the smallest margin: she is a minority Prime Minister with a 76-74 floor majority surviving on an alliance with the Greens and three out of four independents.

This is a recipe for weak and uncertain government where Gillard has a majority in neither house. The historic irony is that two independents from conservative regional seats have delivered Labor's victory.

This decision will leave a legacy of bad political blood. It will be fanned because the rural independents, unable to agree, split 2:1 yesterday for Labor and argued their obligation was to prevent another election during the next three years, ultimately an unacceptable and unjustifiable stand of dubious political integrity.

Rob Oakeshott, who has left open the option of joining Gillard's executive and becoming part of the Labor government to which he gave the kiss of political life, will be targeted by the conservative side.

The result guarantees a new flow of funds to regional Australia and will ignite a political war between the pro-Labor rural independents and the Nationals. The Abbott-led Coalition campaign against Labor is already manifest: that Gillard's minority government is without legitimacy.

After a 17-day delay Gillard has saved her prime ministership and perhaps saved her career. The relief in the Labor Party will be palpable. Having lost her majority, Gillard is salvaged by two independents, Tony Windsor and Oakeshott and she promptly visited the Governor-General late yesterday.

Within the Labor Party Gillard will enjoy enhanced authority; it is her skill, discipline and will-to-power that has kept Labor in office and saved the party and herself from a historic humiliation.

Gillard's capacity to manage this diabolical situation should not be underrated.

Abbott could not have come closer to office; he won more seats than Labor and he won more of the primary vote. But Abbott lost out in the "second election" competing for the votes of the independents, thus falling short of a miracle victory. Abbott was gracious and measured in his comments last night, saying it was time to avoid "partisan rancour".

But there is no reason to doubt his election night belief that Labor lost its legitimacy to govern. Abbott said last night the only test for Gillard's survival now was that of "good government" and the timing of the next election depended on her performance. He sensibly said he would not lightly move "no confidence".

Gillard has a survival floor majority that depends on just one vote. A single by-election or major scandal could bring her undone. Windsor and Oakeshott have not given an unqualified promise on confidence.

The raw numbers mean Gillard may govern for three years. But there are no commitments on her legislative program or her policy. Oakeshott says Gillard can claim no mandate; the independents deny the concept.

Securing contested legislation will become a nightmare. The political logic of this result will undermine pro-market reform and promote government intervention and special fixes.

Gillard has won a new opportunity to renovate Labor in office but is burdened by a minority government dependent on the Greens' Adam Bandt, along with Windsor, Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie. In the Senate, the Greens hold the balance of power. This is a recipe for a combative and possibly bitter parliament.

The sheer unpredictability was captured in Oakeshott's line that "it's going to be beautiful in its ugliness". Quite.

"In remarkable times there is opportunity," Gillard declared last night. She has promised "stable, effective and secure" government. Gillard's mood was relief. It was her decision to authorise the June coup against Kevin Rudd and she carried that responsibility.

At their 3pm media conference that delivered Gillard office, Windsor and Oakeshott made clear they backed Labor on two grounds: stability and policy. Windsor was down-to-earth, nominating broadband and climate change as the policies that tipped him to Labor. Oakeshott was agonising, sounding like a guilty man and trying to insist it was a "line ball" choice. It was unconvincing.

The policies he nominated as decisive were broadband, climate change and regional education.

But the Windsor-Oakeshott argument on stability is contentious in the extreme. Indeed, it will become a moral and political gift for Abbott.

They backed Gillard, they said, because the best chance for a three-year term was under Labor. Windsor even said Abbott would be tempted to an election some time because he'd be "more likely to win". Oakeshott declined that view but both independents made clear their vote for Gillard was based on a determination to get a three-year parliament; that is, the stability argument.

Yet in this situation there is nothing special, ethical or superior about a three-year parliament. What, pray, is wrong about another election at some stage? Why shouldn't the people get the chance to decide the issue that the independents arrogantly assume is their right to decide for the next three years? How ineffective does the parliament have to become before the people get the right to elect a new parliament?

These comments smack of the independents putting their own interests first. The assumption in the Gillard-Greens-independent position that the parliament must last three years is inconsistent with the Constitution (sections 28 and 57) with its repudiation of a fixed-term parliament and its enshrining the notion of a parliament that endures subject to its workability. This rule is more vital than ever in the present situation.

Understand what happened yesterday. The independents decided to back Labor and to avoid letting the people revisit this contest for another three years.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I'm glad Abbott didn't get in on these sorts of terms. I suspect whoever forms Government now will not be doing so in three years time.