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Minority Government My Arse!

01/06/2011

Technically, Australia has a minority government. That means when Julia Gillard formed government, she did so with members of parliament from other political parties and independents. The coalition has tried to paint this as some kind of unworkable mess. Yet as I write this, the current 43rd Parliament has passed over 100 bills in less then 8 months. And there does not seem to be any slowing down.

When Julia Gillard sat in front of the nation and piled her plate with tasks that would make a majority government run away, Tony Abbott could smell a way to take her and the ALP down. The ALP opted to juggle not just minor ‘stuff’, but huge reforms that other nations fear to touch.

A carbon price, health reform, regional processing, tax reform, and the biggest of them all, the reform of an economy.

These issues, as I said, has majority governments running away in fear while singing and dancing to make it appear they are not running away.

Why are the ALP doing this? Why do they think they can get all this in with a minority government?

Because they have nothing to lose.

The newspapers and some journalists still harbour bitterness to the ALP for their ineffective first term. And despite having a majority, the government failed to get into place its critical ETS reform. When the ALP then panicked and ousted Kevin, they were, according to many journalists, dead in the water.

The election came and went and the people decided. The nation split their vote in two (with change) and out of those 17 days of negotiating, the ALP minority government was formed.

From day one, there was confusion as to how this would work. But it has. And it has done so quite well.

Abbott and the coalition went after the independents with a vengeance. Satan apparently made a few calls. There was talk that Abbott had made a deal with family first for senate control. The coalition made fun of the word coalition. Of course they put a rainbow in front of the governments coalition. In fact they alluded that this tell tale fragile alliance will fall apart any minute now. 8 months later….

In the beginning of this government, while it still was trying to find its feet, the earth quaked, the winds blew, the waters rose. I have seen long standing governments fall over unstable weather conditions. Ask those in Katrina.

Every session of this 43rd parliament has had a condolence motion. So much pain. So much sorrow.

And yet it is still here.

And yesterday, something wonderful happened. Okay two things.

The first is a worlds first. No other nation has been able to get such harsh reforms into the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry came out fighting. So did ‘say no Tony’. In fact, before he was even asked his opinion, he said no.

In another time, in a different parliament, Abbott would have stood firm supporting the industry that, as we have discovered, give the Coalition 97% of all their funding WORLD WIDE. And the reason they did this was Australia must not introduce plain packaging.

As I said, in a different time, Abbott could have argued that plain packaging is just a nanny state approach. But yesterday, the Liberal Party of Victoria introduced a fine for swearing. So much for the nanny state argument.

So Abbott read the writing on the wall and fell into line. The coalition would be backing plain packaging. Well when Abbott said coalition, he meant that his party would have crossed the floor in droves. Despite how he wants to sing this, he was forced to back down.

And by so doing, Abbott gave the ALP its first reward. It’s first decision and delivery target. Plain Packaging was targeted in the first session of the 43rd parliament. Now in just the third session, Plain Packaging is on its way to the delivery table.

Now the government has this on the table, the coalition lost a major argument. They would no doubt be coming down hard on the PM saying where is all this decisions and delivery you talked about and here they are helping them deliver their first.

Climate Change is gathering steam. Details are meeting proposals. People are starting to see the walls and soon will be able to walk around and kick the tyres. And with that Abbott loses his greatest tool: confusion. You can sow confusion where there are no details. But as they come into place, sowing confusion where there are clear facts saying otherwise makes you look stupid.

The NBN is rolling on, despite the oppositions’ opposition. Plain Packaging too. The fact that all states sat down and agreed that  pokies need  to be reformed must also get to Abbott. I am sure he was hoping one of the Liberal premiers would be against it. But no.

Still on the table is health reform, tax reform, carbon pricing, and regional processing. Very very major reforms. But each and every day that passes by, I think the government is getting more and more self assured and confident that they will take these issues head on.

And that is the point. They have nothing to lose. If they get these things in, or even make in roads so that future governments of either persuasion can make it happen in the future, then they will take this chance to do so. If they get in one major reform, then this could even set them up for a third term.

Of course the coalition want to keep playing it negative. If they can slow down or stop the government, then that looks bad for the government as it has folded to the opposition or been unable to get their policy through.

So when the second most important thing happened yesterday, my heart skipped a beat.

Harry’s near resignation was barely uttered out of his mouth when Tony Abbott quickly realised his error and stood up to pass a motion of confidence.

I sat fixated. You see, if Harry was to go, and if the ALP was able to install Slipper in to replace Harry, then parliament moves from 72 – 72 to 73-71.  (NB 72-71 actually! Thanks Mike!) And that is without the independents.

So it was no surprise to see Harry getting support from Abbott. Mind you here is the man that has been trying to say the current government is unworkable and we should be heading to an election: here he is and he is basically given a parliamentary crisis which he could have played on, and he declines to take the offer.

Mind you if indeed a Coalition MP became the new speaker, Abbott would have less numbers when he needs to call a division. Not that any of his MPs turn up for those it seems.

So Abbott when faced with Harry’s game of chicken, chickened out.

Lets get this straight. Harry could have EASILY ousted Baldwin for one hour if he wished to. He chose to go for the 24. There was no problem in a previous session when Pyne I believe was named for 24 hours as that was on the last sitting day. But on a Tuesday, there was no way Abbott wanted to lose a vote.

I had all things running in my mind. When Mr Abbott rose to offer confidence, I was expecting Harry to say.

‘So you trust me? You have 100% confidence in me? Is that what you are saying Mr Abbott? Good. I name the member for Paterson. Again.’

But he did not. Not this time anyway. Abbott now needs to control the level of rowdiness or this will come to a head again and Harry may just decide it is not worth his while to be there if the opposition refuse to acknowledge him and us watching and listening with respect due.

It seems Harry is saying the side show stops at the door people. As this threat can either hurt the coalition or the government depending on who is named, methinks both sides will heed the warning.

A. Ghebranious 2011 (All ideas from my crazy brain)

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4 Comments
  1. Catching up permalink

    According to Mr, Pyne, the Coalition save the government and the PM from embarrassment when they moved a confidence motion in the Speaker yesterday.

    Mr. Pyne and Mr. Abbott added that someone had to lead.

    Mr. Pyne forgot to add. that just before Mr. Baldwin was named, the Opposition Leader was also named. It was a very noisy session with the speakers warnings being ignored, especially by the Opposition.

    When Mr. Baldwin was named, the usual procedure took place with the government whip demanding he leaves the house for 24 hours. As usual the Opposition voted against this motion, leading to the Speaker threatening to resign.

    I do not believe that the Speaker will agree with the Opposition assessment of the situation.

    At the most, the Opposition fixed a situation which they caused in the first place. Good on them.

    I believe that the Opposition and Mr. Oakeshott should be thanking the PM that they are not looking at the government being able to lead in their own right.

  2. Mike Middlewick permalink

    Your description of the parties numbers are not quite right. If Slipper were to replace Jenkins, then parliament would in fact move from 71-72 to 72-71.
    The ALP and the Coalition have 72 seats apiece and there are 6 crossbenchers. Since the speaker is from the ALP, their total on the floor of the house is reduced by 1 giving 71-72.
    If Jenkins resigns and Slipper is installed Labor gain 1 and the coalition lose 1 leaving the numbers reversed at 72-71

    • Thanks! As I said in a tweet, Not sure if coherent as had not had coffee yet 🙂

  3. Jennifer Baratta permalink

    Thanks Ash!

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