Well we all knew how that was going to play out didn’t we?
Today was one of those fun days in politics where everything seemed possible and every rumour of an eyebrow raised or an elbow scratched was interpreted as a major event.
The morning found Dennis Shanahan reporting:
No-one is prepared to call the result but the momentum Julia Gillard developed last week in the public arena has slowed.
Just what the hell momentum means in a situation where three guys were making a decision was never explained, but oh well the talk was that the independents might side with Abbott.
So the true believers on twitter got nervous.
There was Abbot’s Chief of Staff in having a meeting with Bob Katter, then there was Oakeshott and Windsor talking together in a hallway. What did it all mean?
Around 12:30pm, the three independents had a meeting after which Katter pretty well stormed out, and called an instant press conference in his office. It was obvious they had split. Or it looked like it could be obvious that they had split.
And then Katter announced he was siding with Abbott… or sort of… I think. It was a pretty bizarre press conference. He said that he decided on the basis of his 20 point wish list – effectively Abbott had scored more points. He then said that if the other two went with the ALP he would support the ALP in a no-confidence motion.
So yeah, clear as mud.
Katter was a bit all over the shop. He said he would have supported the ALP if Rudd were still leader, but he was most strongly against the mining tax – which was a Rudd initiative. He also said Rudd had personally been lobbying him to support the ALP, but this held no sway. So he would have supported a Rudd Government, but he won’t support a Government that Rudd wants him to support?
Katter also said he had left the meeting with the other two because he had made up his mind, and they hadn’t. But then why announce his decision first?
This had people wondering if that meant the other two could go with the Libs, or perhaps it didn’t. Or did, or how about we talk amongt ourselves for 30 minutes because we’ve got a 24 hour news channel and we have to do something.
And so we waited.
Barnaby Joyce was on ABC24. He did not look happy.
Then out came Oakeshott. Out came Windsor.
Windsor spoke first saying with amazing understatement “for what it’s worth” that he was supporting Labor. The main reason without doubt for his decision was the NBN, a close second seemed to be climate change. He also spoke of the desire for stable Government, saying:
"We've also looked at issues of stability - if a government is formed, how long could it last? What sort of relationship would there be with the Senate?"
In answer to one question Windsor suggested that going for the ALP was more stable because he had heard noises from MPs in the Coalition that if they got in they would go to the polls as soon as possible. He then said he thought the Liberals would win an early election.
This caught the notice of a few people, but he clarified it on the 7:30 Report saying he was only saying what he thought they believed. To be honest, I agree with him. The Libs were always going to find any reason to go back the polls as soon as possible – and were Abbott PM he would have an aura of incumbency, and I believe that the Libs would win in such circumstances. Windsor however did not say he thought the ALP would lose the next election, just that he did not believe they would see any advantage in quickly going to an election. He is spot on.
But still, expect those on the right to make a mountain out of his molehill of a statement.
Windsor also referred to his maiden speech where he had mentioned that for many years the rural vote has been taken for granted – by the ALP because it knows it won’t win any seats, and by the Coalition because it knows it will win the seats. His speech was essentially a calling out of the National Party to stop being sop closely aligned to the Liberal Party – that it hasn't delivered anything to the rural areas. His call was also to the voters in these areas to stop automatically voting National if it wasn’t actually bringing anything to their electorates. In effect he was saying they should think about voting for some independents.
I wonder if any National Party MPs were listening and thinking that could be them.
Rob Oakeshott then spoke for a good 15 minutes. Quite a few commentators have criticised him for the length of his address – and it was excruciating for those of us watching – but he only spoke to lay out his reasons in full, who can blame him given what he will no doubt be subjected to.
His main reasons were broadband (again), education and stability (again). At this point (about 15 minutes in) everyone knew he was going for Labor – there was no way he would talk about stability and then go 75-75.
And so it was.
So now what?
Well the The Oz is making its views pretty clear:
Independents rescue Labor from ruins
- Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor
- September 07, 2010 3:31PM
Yep, nothing like a nice positive headline to start off the new paradigm of politics.
Expect it to get worse. Anyone thinking those who campaigned so long and hard to bring down Rudd will stop just because of the small matter of an election result are seriously mistaken.
Barnaby Joyce was quickly making sure everyone knew the spiel that would be used when he continually referred to the ALP-Greens Government, and he also referred only to 2 independents – apparently in the LNP’s mind Wilkie is not independent.
Abbott in his speech in response was fairly gracious, but then let go this beauty:
"My intention if the government does well is to give credit where it's due; if it does badly, to hold it ferociously to account."
Yeah sure you’ll give credit. The Building the Education Revolution stimulus spend has a 97% positive response and yet he savaged it as the biggest waste in the history of Australian history.
I fully expect Abbott to do everything in his power to bring this Government down as soon as he possibly can. I have no confidence the LNP in the Senate will act with any care for the next 10 months – after all they didn’t ever during the Rudd Government, so why start now?
And with every blocked piece of legislation many in the media will crow and call for another election – all the while talking about the illegitimacy and fragility of the Government.
Of course it will be fragile – but let’s not underestimate the desire of the Gillard, Windsor, Oakeshott, Wilkie and Bandt to make it work. Because it is in each their interests to make it work. If it crumbles all will face a severe test at the next election. So Abbott can huff and puff, but he only has at best 74 votes, and as Julia has displayed in the past two weeks (and in fact throughout the Rudd Govt) she is very good at negotiating and getting people on board.
My advice – don’t be timid. Yes it is “fragile” but the biggest fault they could do is to not do anything for fear of upsetting someone.
The number one lesson of the Rudd Government is that people want decisions taken. Don’t worry if it is unpopular, worry about whether or not it is a good decision. And if it is a good policy, then argue its case – be an advocate for it, not a salesperson.
When you go to court you don’t want a used-car salesman as your lawyer, you want an advocate. An advocate explains why a policy is good, defends the apparent weaknesses – in fact turns them into positives, and then savages the alternate view. A salesman says forget about that, look at all the goodies you’ll get if we bring it in. The problem with the RSPT was it was never really advocated as being a necessary economic/taxation policy, it was sold as delivering money for superannuation, money for infrastructure and being able to drop the company tax. If a taxation reform is worth doing, it should be worth doing in and of itself, not because of what things may be able to used with the money raised.
Advocacy is the key; it is the antithesis of spin.
Gillard is a much better advocate than Rudd – she needs to use all of her skill in this regard.
Yes it will be hard, and I know many think it will not last more than 18 months, but it can also be the making of the ALP. Because of the numbers, the factional types like Mark Arbib will not be able to do much backroom workings because if they do, the 2 independents will be justified in saying it’s all over, and the ALP will then be slaughtered.
The ALP needs to work out a new way of doing things – or more to the point they need to remember how things were done under Hawke and Keating. They also need (as Bernard Keane perceptively wrote today) to forget about John Howard. Just because he did something does not mean it needs to continue being done. If, for example, they think the schools funding mix needs to be changed then advocate why – and convince the electorate that you are right. Don’t cower and avoid making a decision because of some bullshit about upsetting Howard’s battlers.
If you’re not going to do things, then go to the GG now and tell her you’re not up to the task.
Be your own Government and take the public with you, not with spin but with good policies and programs well advocated.
(Oh and yeah keep the 76 MPs happy all the time as well – even easier.)