OK, so it’s going to be tomorrow. We’ll all be told who the three independents will side with tomorrow morning.
The betting market thinks it is going to be Labor – $1.30 to the LNP’s $3.25. To which I say, bull. No one knows how this will go – and there is no form to go by, so any betting market on this is as dopey as putting a market on whether or not red or black will come up in the next spin of roulette and offering black odds on.
Sure there are Libs saying they are “buggered”, and sure some of what the independents have said seems like they might go to the ALP, but anyone who tells you they know which way they’ll jump is just selling you snake oil, and you best ignore them – because neither Gillard nor Abbott will know for sure until they hear from the three that they will or will not be supporting them.
The media is no more help with this than anyone else. They can relate to us things that have been said, but unlike the vote on a piece of legislation or the vote on a spill, there’s no leaking going on here. Windsor, Oakeshott and Katter have all kept silent – because they know they need to or their negotiating position would evaporate.
The media though is most unhelpful when it tries to tell the independents which way to vote. The Australian today reached the nadir of its transparent bias towards the LNP when it put the link to an op-ed piece by Kenneth Wiltshire, a professor of public administration at the University of Queensland Business School on its front page. His piece detailed the philosophy of Edmund Burke and made some suggestions about how his philospohy should guide the three independents to vote for Tony Abbott. It was nice little piece that was interesting reading, apart from minor little point that it completely distorted what Burke said about how MPs should act.
It started by saying:
EDMUND Burke has some good advice to the three country independents holding the future of our nation in their minds.
In his famous speech in 1774 to the voters of Bristol the great British statesman observed that an elected member has four loyalties: "To his conscience; to the wishes of his electorate; to the nation; to his party".
There is the slight problem that Burke never actually said that quote – not even close. So God knows what Wiltshire is quoting, but it ain’t Burke. In my academic days I was always taught that quotation marks mean a direct quote. I guess things have changed since I left.
He then does correctly quote Burke – giving what Wiltshire thinks is definitive proof that the independents should side with Abbott:
Speaking of the constituents Burke said: "Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own."
And yes if that is all of what Burke had said Wiltshire would be right – if still indulging in some rather spurious logic that because Edmund Burke said something back in 1774, Tony Windsor should do something 2010. But the problem is Burke straight after that sentence said this:
But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
In citing only Burke’s first sentence and ignoring the following, Wiltshire is like a film publicist who says “Critic Joe Blogs said “Many would call this the best movie of the year…’ ” and ignore that the rest of what Joe Blogs said was “… but I think it is the greatest pile of garbage ever committed to film”.
For such a piece of writing to make it to the front page of our only national newspaper, is just one more reason added to the pile of “why people like me wait until a story is confirmed in another media outlet before they believe what they read in The Oz”.
Here is the part of Burke’s speech for which he is perhaps most famous:
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.
You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.
If Edmund Burke is their guide the three independents won’t give a damn what a Newspoll of their electorates says. Part of me thinks they don’t, but that’s just pure supposition.
As I have said, nobody knows anything, but let’s look at he tea leaves and see if we can discern if what we think will be will be.
Tony Windsor is in favour of climate change – he “proposed Australia's carbon emissions be cut by at least 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 - and by 80 per cent by 2050”. This has ALP supporters feeling confident, but then he says that it is time to “reconsider, look at the options, you know, the real action that Tony Abbott talks about, the need for a market mechanism possibly, rather than debating the politics of it." This has the Liberal Party thinking, you little beauty!
There’s a lot of that in the independent’s language – like a horoscope it all depends on what you want to read into it.
For example today Windsor and Oakeshott said that if it is 75-75 one of them may need to reconsider. The ALP supporters hear that and take a deep breath because that would mean 2 have gone for Abbott and 1 has gone for Gillard. But given Windsor and Oakeshott are the ones saying they may need to reconsider their vote that could mean both are thinking ALP, and are just wondering what they will do if the other 2 go for the Libs. They were also specifically asked about the 75 all possibility, so it may just be all hypothetical.
We have Abbott and Robb and Pyne and Hockey going nuts over the weekend talking about the far left ALP-Greens Government and how it would be inconceivable for the three independents to back the ALP. This does seem they’re panicking, but they may just be panicking because Windsor, Oakeshott and Katter are good at playing poker. They may be making life tough for Abbott because they feel that they need to play tougher with Abbott because he expects their vote more than Gillard.
Tonight the three have asked Abbott to tell them which way WA National Party MP Tony Crook will be voting. That Abbott hasn’t locked in Crook’s vote is a sad indictment on how Abbott has gone about things. Crook’s vote should have been locked in a fortnight ago. You need to get the basics done, and Abbott hasn’t. Very poor form.
[UPDATE – Crook has confirmed he will support the Libs in a no-confidence motion and supply, but not on policy, and he will not join the coalition. So in effect he’s as much a part of the LNP as Wikie is of the ALP.]
But “what does it mean?” Does it mean that Oakeshott is pointing out that even with their votes Abbott couldn’t form Government, so it’s all over – they’re siding with the ALP. Or are they telling Abbott – look dopey, we want to vote for you, but at the moment there’s no point because you haven’t even got Crook on board.
It could mean either. Or it just could mean the independents want everything nicely squared away before they make their announcement. And given pretty much everyone expect Crook to side with Abbott, is his vote really that crucial?
Tony Windsor says the NBN is the way to go – saying “You do it once, you do it right, you do it with fibre”. This gets the ALP’s hearts a flutter, but who knows, they may have got an NBN type deal for the bush from Abbott.
We don’t know what they have been discussing, anymore than we had any idea Abbott had offered Wilkie $1b until Wilkie told everyone (and I don’t recall reading any journalist giving us the scoop that the $1b had been offered).
I really don’t know what will happen. I would love to say the ALP are looking good, but I truly don’t know, and like all true believers I am always expecting something to happen to take Government away from us.
Windsor is just as likely to say “throughout the discussions it was always clear that the ALP offered the most stable chance for Government” as he is “we were very close to making a deal with the ALP, but we all feel the Coalition will offer the most stable Government”.
We shall see, and then we shall all be retrospective experts.