All down to Wilkie?

The world’s most inscrutable man?

I’m probably completely wrong about this, so please help me improve on the analysis.

1. Windsor, Oakeshott and Katter do not want another election. They mean to enjoy the leverage the election outcome has given them.

2. They have consistently invoked ‘stability’ as their main objective in deciding which side to support.

3. Stability means one side commanding at least 77 votes in the House of Representatives. A government with only 76 votes would be just a single by-election away from losing its majority, a state of affairs that most people would regard as too precarious.

4. Given that Labor now has the formal support of the the Greens member Adam Bandt, both sides currently have 73 votes.

5. Therefore, a stable arrangement requires that all four independents choose the same side.

6. Andrew Wilkie has no particular loyalty, and will make his choice independently.

7. The three ex-Nationals do not want to be seen to actively favour Labor, as their mostly conservative constituents will punish them for doing that. So they need a really good public rationale to do so. The stability argument will suffice for that purpose.

8. They can use the stability argument if Wilkie declares his intentions first, even if they don’t concede they are merely following Wilikie.

9. Wilkie is playing his cards very close to his chest, and they don’t know which way he will go. So it’s best for them if they wait for him, in case he opts for Labor.

10. Therefore, it all comes down to Wilkie.

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Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

However it looks to me that Katter will side with the Coalition come what may. Thus, if Wilkie goes with Labor then the remaining two Independents will be faced with backing a party with only 76 votes irrespective of which side they throw their lot in with. So neither they nor the rest of us are going to get much in the way of stability whichever way they jump o that scenario. In those circumstances Oakeshott and Windsor’s electoral self-interest would point in the direction of backing the Coalition, whereas their apparent policy convictions (especially on climate change and the NBN) seem to point in the direction of Labor, as does the fact that even Labor with 76 votes has a better chance of getting legislation through the Senate than the Coalition. But that may well seem to them a mixed blessing assuming they really are conservatives in some senses, because they’d surely be worried about the Green tail wagging the dog well beyond the climate change issue (I know I am).

Senexx
11 years ago

Incontestable logic, James.

I would also recommend Ben Eltham’s piece on the ABC’s The Drum Unleashed today as well. I would provide a link but the ABC seems to be down for me at the moment.

Rob
Rob
11 years ago

Looks right, James. Good call.

Senexx
11 years ago

Link to The Drum Unleashed piece I was talking about.

Marks
Marks
11 years ago

I would have thought that the critical issue for the independents is not whether the electorates are conservative per se, but whether their own voters had conservative second preferences.

In fact it might be argued that if any of the independents got over the line on ALP preferences it would be better to favour the ALP.

Further, if one crunches the numbers, it would probably be fatal for any independent who did not win in their own right to side with the second biggest party.

For example if the second biggest party was the Coalition, would siding with the Coalition make any Coalition voters give the independents their primary vote next time? Hardly. It would be just as likely to make the ALP give their second preference to the Coalition to tip out the ‘disloyal’ independent at the next election. If, otoh, the independents sided with the ALP, they would retain ALP preferences at the next election and if they could retain enough of their primary vote, probably get over the line.

Bob Katter, however, would win in his own right I suspect, hence I agree that he is likely to vote for the coalition.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

Kim over at LP doubts James’ hypothesis about Wilkie’s centrality to the outcome, although her argument seems to be more based on viewing Wilkie with profound suspicion than actually taking issue with James’ reasoning.

I met Wilkie and talked with him at some length when he was a speaker at a CDU symposium I helped organise a few years ago. I must say I was quite impressed with him, although I’ve been less impressed by his demeanour and utterances since the recent election. As Kim observes, you’d have to wonder why he would decline briefings by Treasury etc. It’s hard to conceive any rational argument against putting oneself in the best position to make an informed choice.

Senexx
11 years ago

Well if we isolate the independents to Wilkie and in the context of James Farrell’s post we can see James doesn’t assert anywhere that Wilkie has to support either side – so the logic is still sound.

That said, I am getting the same impression that Kim is getting which is Wilkie wants the best of all possible worlds and is showing some political naivety where internal politics are concerned.

We cannot write off his other political experiences given his background in two major parties and in Intelligence. Perhaps it is actually political nous, one thing to the public, one thing to the negotiating parties but that is not my impression with Andrew Wilkie.

It is my impression with at least two of the others.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Well Marks since Katter , Tony Windsor, and Oakeshott shat it in on primary votes so wouldn’t care about preferences.

Andrew Wilkie made it on liberal/green preferences, so your theory predicts a Liberal government if anything. Not perhaps what you thought.

Alan
Alan
11 years ago

I suspect that Wilkie will abstain. The shopping list he put to Gillard is reported as dramatically larger than anyone else’s, including the Greens. And he seems to regard much of it as non-negotiable. I cannot see either major party accepting the Wilkie proposals. An abstention would be the logical consequence.

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

Windsor’s comments on the Coalitions costing’s blackhole seems to support this theory. He appears to be building a case for why he has to support the ALP.

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
11 years ago

Hmm,

And I thought it would be harder for the Coalition to deliver what Wilke calls ‘ethical’ government than the ALP. Especially since he’s talking about the side of politics that trashed him over Iraq.

Who knows, but we surely shouldn’t rule out his playing the game as effectively for his constituents and his beliefs as possible.

And why do we know Katter is unprepared to go with the ALP? Might he not take some pleasure in being the bastard, and he’s 60 odd. Does he want the seat again? And if he does, he’s miles ahead in any event, and he can show how much mileage he’s getting for his electorate from any deal with the ALP.

Anyway these are just thoughts. Like I said – who knows?

Btw, I heard Christine Wallace saying on Q&A yesterday that in another election TA would lose the ‘protest vote’ and Julia would cruise in. I expect the opposite as Labor, in it’s usual timidity has done nothing to attack Abbott’s line that they’ve lost their legitimacy – apparently we have a new system in Australia where if a government gets a swing against it, but the opposition doesn’t have enough seats to form a government, the ‘right’ result isn’t whatever emerges from the numbers in the House and the horse trading to which it gives rise. Apparently the government has lost its legitimacy and has a hide to even try to form a government.

Anyway, I wonder if there’s been any polling on how people would vote in another election. (No doubt there’s been plenty of party polling on it – I wonder what it says?)

trackback

[…] it would be even more fun and more democratic if the negotiations occurred prior to the election. James Farrell at Club Troppo unlocks the key deduction. The three Independents have consistently stated they seek […]

Alan
Alan
11 years ago

Contrary to received wisdom, Kennedy has always been a Labor seat, except when held by a member of the Katter family, so the conservative electorate meme is just a tad overdone. Especially after the Treasury costings of the Coalition promises, I’d think the country independents are more likely to go with Labor.

I assume Abbot planned the customary ashen-faced TV appearance to tell a shocked nation that the Treasury had been completely emptied by the previous government.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

True Alan, but Katter has held the seat for so long that I am not sure that voting for Labor then is meaningful now. It is certainly a ‘conservative’ electorate.

But I also assume that Abbott planned as much, I expect that Gillard is planning as much herself – it’ll be delicate, but I have high hopes for her :)

As for Katter wanting the seat again, how much do want to bet? I don’t think he plans on going anywhere, he’s never been bigger and he looks like staying that way.

I agree with Alan that Wilkie will probably abstain but may promise not to block whoever gets up. Nick he may hate Labor as much as the Coalition, after all he may not share your prejudices!

Marks
Marks
11 years ago

So Patrick @ 8 are you saying that the breakdown of the second preferences of those who voted for the independents was a majority of them for the coalition? I have not seen the figures anywhere myself, but I presume from your comments that you have. Have you a link?

Further, if you read my post, I was using the ALP as an example only – so my theory would still hold if the opposite were the case. ie it is more important to the independents (from a re-election pov) to look at their own second preferences rather than the size of the vote of the next biggest polling party. I have not seen that refuted anywhere. Yet.

I also specifically mentioned Katter. He (and his Pappy and Grandpappy) have been there forever, so I figure that he knows his electorate better than anyone else around, so whichever way he flips would be the right way for him – whatever some theory or other might predict.

Geoff Robinson
11 years ago

Wilkie is at more risk from Labor in Denison than the rural 3 are from the Nats I think Greens would punish him if he backed the Coalition.Kennedy is the type of seat Labor can win at a highpoint but only just such as 1990.

MikeH
MikeH
11 years ago

The conjecture about who would do what be helped by some thought being given to the nature and characters of the individuals who are the independent Representatives in the lower house.

Andrew Wilkie a man who sacrificed a career in the intelligence community and the Commonwealth PS for a matter of high principle and his view about seriousness of the falsehoods being passed around by Government when the Howard government committed Australia to Iraq. He has endured the breakdown of his first marriage. moving between states, establishing a business to survive and has very young children. Andrew Wilkie will be nobody’s man and will take his role as a parliamentary representative very seriously indeed. Expect him to remain an independent.

Tony Windsor. Former Country Party (National) member, farmer and economics graduate who has supported his family and farm through some hard times indeed. Well respected and much liked by his electorate. A decent man of integrity who rebuffed a clumsy and tawdry attempt by Anderson and the Nationals to bribe him out of the New England seat and then exposed the sordid affair by making it public in a speech to the house. Has experienced and worked in a minority government at the state level. Windsor will support the Government who is best able and willing to support and develop regional NSW and country Australia. A man who actually takes issues and policy on their merits and does not suffer fools gladly, calls a spade a spade but keeps his own counsel. Not impressed by the current Nationals at all and ambilalent to the Libs despite his inherent country conservative outlook. In all shares the views of the electorate at large neither impressed by Labour or Liberals. Will take a pragmatic view based on the evidence given him and therefore may support either Party, has given the Libs a second chance this week to get their economic act together.

Bob Catter. Again former National and North Queenslander. Eccentric and irrasible and contrary, again a decent and honest man. Holds some strange views like his electorate at large on many issues political and economic but deeply passionate about the bush and rural and regional Australia. Loathes the Labour Party and city clowns. Will support the Libs but it will be a volatile association with unpredictable swings of highs and lows.

Oakeshott.Former National staffer and National. Holds a seat with a very mixed electorate of old and young people, retirees, coastal escapees and hinterland farmers, a mini gold coast in NSW. Prone to sucuumb to flattery and attention and not a deep thinker but intelligent and energetic. Heart says go conservative but head may go Labour, will take Windsors lead on indications. Capable of working with Labour or Liberals.

That makes two for the Libs, Catter and Oakeshott, one on the merits for either party, Windsor, and one who will be nobody’s puppet, Wilkie. Basically the Libs have a few more weeks to get their act together economically, if they can and it is credible then my money is on the Libs forming government, if they can’t then it will be a minority Labour Government until the spin doctors in the Party reckon they can have another run at the polls.

MikeH
MikeH
11 years ago

PS – The Greens are not relevant in the thinking of any of the independents. They are all prepared to take them on and generally find the Greens view of the world to be city-centric and problematic for the bush even though all of the indepedents are not anti-conservation or the environment, on the contrary they would probably argue they know more about it and are more involved in it. The fact that the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate is irrelevant to their thinking or consideration of the issues at hand. Many of the Greens views on soft social issues actually is offensive to many of the independents. They don’t have to deal with them and the Green vote is not an issue in their electorates. The role of the Greens is a tactial problem only for the group that gets to Govern, Liberal or Labour.

Alan
Alan
11 years ago

1990 was not a Labor high point. The ALP got whacked with a 6.4% national swing and lost 8 seats. Nevertheless, Kennedy went ALP.

Let’s just assume that people who live in the country independent electorates can tell the difference between voting independent and voting National and stop finding interpretations that amount to saying the Nationals hold seats which they have actually lost after fiercely contesting them.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
11 years ago

In 1990 Labor got whacked in Victoria (due to a backlash to the Cain state g’ment) it would not have won government if it hadn’t done so well in Queensland. Interestingly it was Victoria Attorney-General Rob Hulls who won the seat off Bob Katter.

Also it would be interesting to know how much the Katter name had previously slanted the seat to the Nats – in regional seats the sitting member is much more important factor, and Katter has certainly always drawn attention. It would probably be a marginal Nat seat by a couple of per cent, but only just (maybe slightly safer than Hinkler), the seat includes Mt Isa which is a pretty solid Labor state seat – held by Labor for the last twenty years.

Alan
Alan
11 years ago

I certainly hope I’m better at guessing Kennedy than I was at Denison.

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

5. Therefore, a stable arrangement requires that all four independents choose the same side.

You make it sound like there are exactly two sides, making it a simple A/B decision. The truth is nothing like that… If Wilkie makes an agreement with both parties that he will not block supply and will not support a no-confidence motion then that guarantees stable government right there. He can vote all over the place on other issues (and as far as I can see, all the others intend to do just that).

However, if I were in that position, I’d be extracting a reciprocal agreement from both parties that the civil service will properly report to parliament and the Australian people rather than secretly reporting to a tiny executive quorum. We have had a cascade of governments who have used secrecy and their position of superior information as a weapon against both the opposition and the people of Australia. There’s no valid and constructive reason for such behaviour, it is merely a convenience for government to get away with more than they should.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

My gut feeling on what is probably the night before D Day is that Katter and Oakeshott will go with the Coalition and Windsor, though otherwise minded towards Labor, will plump for the Coalition as well to avoid deadlock. However I hope I’m wrong.

James Farrell
James Farrell
11 years ago

At least one of them must be leaning hard toward the Opposition, or they would have decided by now. Presumably that would be Katter. I’m hoping the delay is because the other two are still trying to talk him around to make it 77-73. But perhaps you’re right and Oakeshott too has finally decided to keep the peace with his own constituents.

All the same, I thought Bruce Hawker had a point, on the radio this morning, that if Labor holds on to government they will be striving to keep the independents in their seats next election, whereas the Coaltion would be trying to get NP/LNP candidates into their seats. That’s something they can’t have overlooked, though I did in the post.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

James

Oakeshott wouldn’t have asked about the position of WA National Tony Crook unless there was a very real prospect of all three country Independents backing the Coalition. If it was your scenario (Oakeshott and Windsor trying to talk Katter around for a 77-73 split and greater stability) then you wouldn’t imagine that Oakeshott would have needed to ask that question. 76-74 is the best they can achieve with the Coalition even with all three of them, and that’s also the outcome with only Windsor and Oakeshott backing Labor. Thus Oakeshott at least must be thinking it might be better on balance to back the Coalition, and it is more likely that he’s trying to convince Windsor to jump on board that train.

And it’s been clear for some time (if not from the beginning) that Bob Katter is playing games and intends backing the Coalition. I can’t interpret all his playing to the gallery and laying it on with a trowel about the supposedly stringent efforts of Kevin and Therese Rudd to get him to back Labor in any other way. That’s Katter’s attempt to throw petrol on the fire of ALP bloodletting that will be unleashed if/when they finally lose government, or if Katter is sitting effectively with the Coalition with the other two sitting alongside a minority Labor administration with a wafer think survival majority.

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Tony Crook cannot support the mining tax.

I challenge any and all of you economic boffins to turn up in a Kalgoorlie hotel one evening and explain to the punters why a resource super-profits tax is a great idea for Australia.

My prediction is Abbott will gently allow Julia to win, simple because Abbott has effectively already won by coming in a whole lot better than anyone expected six months ago. Julia is desperate and thus a better target for the country folk to shake out a few giveaways. Katter’s games (and the background spectre of ALP bloodletting) are merely his way of letting it sink in to the current Labor leaders just how vulnerable their position really is. Abbott knows how to bide his time for next turn round.

James Farrell
James Farrell
11 years ago

Yes, Ken. After catching up with the evening’s utterances on Lateline, I agree with all of that. Especially when you throw in Windsor’s comment about someone possibly having to yield to the others in the interests of stbility.