So, what was that all about?

According to the logic of my last post on the political situation, when Andrew Wilkie declared his intention to support Labor, the other three independents should have followed suit after a dignified interval. I think the analysis was mostly right, except that, as Ken predicted, Bob Katter turned out not to share my premise that stability meant at least 77 votes in the event of a no-confidence motion. That put Windsor and Oakeshott in a position whereby stability could no longer be the main criterion. So they had to make their choice on other grounds.

I’m happy to take at face value their statement that Labor’s broadband and greenhouse policies were decisive; although, as Ted Mack point out, self-interest recommended Labor because they have a common purpose with Labor in keeping their seats out of Coaltion hands. In any case, the theory that they were merely holding out on Abbott in order to maxmise the concessions they could extract from him, has been put to the hard test and falsified. To be more precise: the hypothesis has been falsified for at least one of them. For example, it’s possible that while Windsor had made his mind up early, Oakeshott truly was vacillating, and only the alaming prospect of another election reconciled him to following Windsor’s lead (he was probably offered a ministry by both sides).

But one question remains. What motivated Katter’s choice when he knew that he’d be backing the losing side in the end? Even if it’s true that Abbott’s response to his ‘Twenty Demands’ was superior, the ‘my tribe, my country’ justification could only make sense if Abbott had a good chance of prevailing. Or did Katter perhaps hope that by depriving Windsor and Oakeshott of the 77-73 option he could tip their preference the other way? This being unlikely, his quixotic gesture might remain a mystery even to himself.

The problem doesn’t seem to be any visceral antipathy to Labor, since Katter says he would probably have preferred them if they hadn’t brutalized his friend Kevin Rudd. Nor was there anything rash about his decision, apparently. A likey reason for the long delay is that Windsor and Oakeshott truly thought they could talk him into a unity ticket, so he had plenty of opportunity to grasp the cost his constituents will incur.

On the other hand, the Opposition’s tactic of messing with the independents’ minds — I have in mind the hysterical public warnings by Minchin, Hockey and the like about the spectre of an ‘utra-left wing’, ‘Green-Labor coalition government’ with ‘Bob Brown as de facto Deputy Prime Minister’ — this tactic was increasingly likely to succeed with each extra day that passed. It’s no great surprise that Katter should have been the first to be spooked by this.

In any case, if one of the three was going to throw his lot in with the Opposition, it’s a blessing for Labor that’s it’s the unapologetic protectionist, and the one who scorns both mining taxes and carbon taxes.

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Rafe
11 years ago

They are all three loose cannons so it is most unfortunate that they have achieved such a powerful position. This probably means that the Gillard administration will be even worse than the previous regime.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
11 years ago

Yes, I wondered about Katter. I don’t quite understand why he didn’t go for Labor. Is it possible that he has more power like this than if he was just another supporter of the government?

He held a somewhat odd news conference. Did he jump in first to make his announcement in order to bring some last minute pressure on the other two to change their minds? Or was it because he would look irrelevant if he followed the other two? Did the other two have this in mind and delay to wait for his announcement? Idle questions.

Reflecting on last night’s QandA, Katter looks lonely. Maverick is good (just traditional Country Party) but he is looking a bit like a crank.

Richard Green
11 years ago

Katter may just be acting in his own self interest, which includes looking independent and not being dragged into anti-labor antipathy that his electorate may still have.

He can’t be blamed for not providing stability. The 76-74 count doesn’t mean that’s how all non-confidence motions will go. Just because he hasn’t pledged to support Labor in all non-confidence motions doesn’t mean he’s obligated to oppose them. In the meantime he also gets to say to his electorate that he didn’t sell out and support Labor whilst still offering his vote in return for pork (or policy) whenever the government could not corral all four of their independents in a vote – a reason why he would want the current parliament to continue for a while.

If he was cynical (and he is a politician) the best thing he could have done was waited til he was sure that Windsor was going to go with Labor and then back the coalition. He would then know that Oakeshott would have to back Labor since only they could form government. He could therefore duck the responsibility of providing stability (at the cost of his independence and the possible wrath of his electorate – especially for any future actions of the government) whilst still retaining his new found bargaining power. It’d be a bit of bastardry towards Oakeshott, but it’s the best position he could take in terms of his own self interest.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

I think the analysis may have come down to personal stability, not national stability. Katter knows he will be re-elected. Oakeshott and Windsor don’t, and both want to lap it up as long as possible. Which means backing Labor who won’t call an election out of fear that they will hand it to the Coalition.

Maybe.

Link
11 years ago

Tend to think Katter is indeed one wiley old coyote who certainly did have his tribe, his country and the continuing support of his constituents in mind when he decided to go against the flow. And if there was another election, what possible guarantee is there that the result would be any different?

Rafe
11 years ago

Day 1 and the first of the shit starts to hit the fan. Well, we were warned, did someone said it was going to be ugly?

Looking on the bright side, maybe having a government that can’t actually do anything much will bring stability, in a Pickwickian kind of way.

Senexx
11 years ago

Rafe, that’s your partisan streak showing mate.

Katter is securing the votes in his electorate. It is the only logical reason to do what he did. It’d be a mistake to underestimate Katter.

What a brilliant election result. Democracy as always intended has finally been delivered. There is a balance of power in both houses moderating the excesses of all Parties’ legislation.

So often, the government with little or cursory debate rams through legislation, knowing it has the numbers. Government and Opposition backbenchers, and independents, are treated with disdain. It is no longer and all or nothing situation and regional Australia will finally get effective representation.

Finally we have a representative democracy where policy and legislation is front and centre. This is just the beginning.

Rafe
11 years ago

It will be the beginning of people subjecting the policies of the Greens to serious scrutiny. I think that the people who thought that Green is Good by definition will be surprised.

By the way, democracy means different things and there is a world of difference between the idea of majority rule and the idea of limited government with elections to turn over the leadership from time to time.

Maybe it will be the beginning of some overdue discussion about the meaning of democracy and its problems, like corruption by the vote-buying motive.

conrad
conrad
11 years ago

“It will be the beginning of people subjecting the policies of the Greens to serious scrutiny. I think that the people who thought that Green is Good by definition will be surprised.”

Perhaps what will happen will be similar to the German experience, where the major parties essentially assimilated many of the green ideals whilst rejecting some of the crazy stuff — this would appeal to many people who wouldn’t vote Green but want a green agenda, although it’s hard to see the Libs with their current bunch trying to assimilate the Greens out of existence like that.

Gummo Trotsky
11 years ago

Democracy – the best form of gummint there is, as long as it delivers the right result.

Geoff Robinson
11 years ago

Katter is more conservative on immigration and environmental issues than the other 2 indies and is thus closer to the Coalition. His nationalist-protectionist economics are equidistant from both Labor and the Coalition. His decision is what you would expect from his views and he has a much longer pedigree in conservative politics.

Senexx
11 years ago

Let’s hope you’re correct on both counts, Rafe.