Today the three independents put out a list of 7 demands:
- We seek access to information under the ‘caretaker conventions’ to economic advice from the Secretary of the Treasury Ken Henry and Secretary of Finance David Tune, including the costings and impacts of Government and Opposition election promises and policies on the budget.
- We seek briefings from the following Secretaries of Departments:
1. Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
2. Health and Ageing
3. Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
4. Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
5. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
6. Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water
8. Resources, Energy and Tourism
- We seek briefings from caretaker Ministers and Shadow Ministers in the above portfolio areas to discuss their program for the next three years.
- We seek advice as soon as possible on their plans to work with the Clerks of the Parliament to improve the status and authority of all 150 local MP’s within parliamentary procedures and structures. In particular, we seek advice on timelines and actions for increasing the authority of the Committee system, private members business and private members bills, matters of public importance, 90 second statements, adjournment debates, and question time.
- We seek a commitment to explore all options from both sides in regard “consensus options” for the next three years, and a willingness to at least explore all options to reach a majority greater than 76 for the next three years. Included in these considerations is advice on how relationships between the House of Representatives and the Senate can be improved, and a proposed timetable for this to happen.
- We seek a commitment in writing as soon as possible that if negotiations are to take place on how to form Government, that each of these leaders, their Coalition partners, and all their affiliated MP’s, will negotiate in good faith and with the national interest as the only interest. In this same letter of comfort, we seek a written commitment that whoever forms majority Government will commit to a full three year term, and for an explanation in writing in this same letter as to how this commitment to a full term will be fulfilled, either by enabling legislation or other means.
- We seek advice as soon as possible on a timetable and reform plan for political donations, electoral funding, and truth in advertising reform, and a timetable for how this reform plan will be achieved in co-operation with the support of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Whoah! An amazing list. As Bernard Keane on Twitter said, they’ve asked for “a burger with a lot, a Supreme Pizza and the bucket of KFC”.
Julia Gillard’s response was to ask, “would you like fries with that?”
She agreed not only to all seven items but threw in this nice tasty morsel for free:
Further, with respect to your keen interest in broadband, would you like a briefing with the Chief Executive and Director of NBNCo Mr Mike Quigley? He would be best placed to provide you with the technical information on aspects of the NBN including the rollout and other information you may be seeking.
You know, I’m thinking they might like a briefing! Not very subtle, but a nice move by Julia – in effect she’s saying here’s the books go your hardest – I think you’ll like what you find (and by the way check out that NBN!).
Tony Abbott on the other hand played Otto from A Fish Called Wanda as said, “Ummm what was the first part again?”
He gave a press conference at short notice at 7pm where he announced he would not hand over the opposition’s policies to Treasury to be costed. What is his reasoning do you ask? Well try this on for size:
"It is very difficult for the public service to understand Coalition policy with the same depth as government policy."
I’m not sure who Abbott thought was going to implement his polices if he did win government but I have a slight suspicion it was going to be the public service – the very same ones he is right now saying couldn’t understand them.
Abbott is sticking by his spreadsheet from last week – a spreadsheet which any journalist worth his or her salt could tell then was as useless as all get out (and now it’s blindingly obvious to the rest).
Yeah the numbers add up, but the assumptions behind the numbers are untested except by Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb – the accounting firm they got to “audit” their costing pointedly did not question the assumptions (because they were not asked to).
Now prior to the election, sure Abbott had some justification for not using the Charter of Budget Honesty process – it is a bit of a mug’s game. But the election has come and gone, no one gets to vote on the basis of the costings. The only people who are truly interested are Windsor, Katter and Oakeshott. They are so interested in fact they put it at Number 1 on their list. You think that might mean they consider it important?
And yet Abbott is saying no.
Abbott not wanting the Treasury to go through his costings at his point is a bit like me saying the ATO won’t be able to understand my tax return with the same depth as does my private accountant, so just trust me on what I say I am due as a refund.
Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.
Now look we all realise that opposition costings are going to be a bit out – they don’t have the public service to do all the work for them. Windsor, Oakeshott and Katter aren’t stupid, they understand this. So if the Libs costing were out a few million – say 100-200 million, it wouldn’t really matter.
But this move makes me think they’re out by a bit more than that. I think we’re in the billions territory.
This move by Abbott has me thinking that the Libs were hoping to get in, and then come out and say the debt is worse than they thought yada yada and so they wouldn’t be able to do all these things they said they would do.
In which case had they won outright they would have got away with it. But now…oops.
Of course maybe everything is kosher and Abbott is just doing this because he wants to tell the independents where to get off.
Peter Martin this morning almost anticipated this happening when he saw Lenore Taylor’s article in the SMH outlining point one. He wrote:
It may even finish them politically.
It'll show Abbott, Hockey and Robb to be anything but the sober, responsible managers they said they were.
And also a little less than honest.
They will have shot themselves in the foot, once again.
A perceptive man, that Peter Martin.
The actual election news is also getting interesting (ok, it already was, but more so!). Andrew Wilkie has Denison sewn up. Hasluck looks to be a win for the Libs. That will put them on 72. The ALP are on 71, but they are still holding onto Corangamite – on 50.34% with 84.9% counted – if they get over the line they’ll be on 72 as well.
But interestingly the ALP’s Arch Bevis is storming home in Brisbane. As Stephen Spencer (who has been glued to the AEC website for seemingly 100 hours straight) tweeted:
Bevis now under 400 votes behind and winning 56% of absentee and postals. If trend continues he'll win comfortably.
If the ALP win both Brisbane and Coranagamite (big if I know) they’ll be on 73, the LNP on 72, 4 Independents and 1 Greens. With those numbers (and given the fact that the ALP is still on 50.59% of the two party preferred (76.8%) counted, it would be hard not to back Julia Gillard to remain as PM.
It’s a big IF, because if it goes the other way and the Libs win them both – they’ll be on 74 to the ALP’s 71.
If they split them it’ll be LNP 73 versus the ALP’s 72+1 Greens.
There’s still all to play for.
Which is why it is odd Tony Abbott should act like he is going to take his bat and ball and go home.
Today I had a piece on the ABC’s The Drum. If you wish to read it (and defend me against those big meany critics), you’ll find it here.