EDITORIAL FRIDAY 03.09.10.
Don’t worry, we should all finally know who will form government early next week, possibly on Monday. But until then it is still anybody’s guess. It would be easy to think that the Labor Party has pulled slightly ahead of the Coalition as being more likely to emerge as the victor because of the deals dome this week. On Wednesday, Julia Gillard signed an agreement with Greens leader Bob Brown guaranteeing the support of the newly elected Green Adam Bandt, and yesterday Andrew Wilke, the Tasmanian independent, also declared his support for Labor. This brings the tally to 74 seats controlled by Labor, 73 controlled by the Coalition, with the three country independents yet to make their decision. Labor still needs two more seats, and the Coalition requires three more, and with the three amigos virtually certain to act collectively, it could still go either way.
Of course, if the three from the country choose to support Labor it would mean a larger majority in the House than would be the case if they choose to support the Coalition, but only by one extra seat. It has been suggested that if stability of government is the highest priority then a majority of two is twice as good as a majority of one, so on that basis Labor should get the nod. On the other hand, Andrew Wilke chose to support Labor at least in part because it is clear that a majority of his constituents in Dennison would prefer a Labor government. If the three country independents were to apply the same principle it is clear that they should throw their support behind Tony Abbott and the Coalition. But of course, there are other factors that will also come into play, including the policy agenda of each party as well as the contentious Treasury costings of the Coalition’s promises.
Then there is the personal factor, with individual relationships having the potential to sway the final decision one way or another. Kevin Rudd has a long standing friendship with Bob Katter, while none of the three independents have a warm relationship with the National Party. Even though the policies of the Labor Party may not align with everything on Mr. Katter’s wish list, there is every chance that the courtesy extended to him in the past might now be returned by support in the Parliament. But there are no guarantees either way, and it remains anybody’s guess just which way it will go next week. Either way however, it is the Independent members who have the most to lose if there is another election before the Parliament runs a full term. Whichever side they eventually choose to support, you can bet your bottom dollar they will do everything they can to hold onto the influence they have had unexpectedly thrust into their hands.