Monday, 30 April 2012

I am going to be political

today. If you are not interested in the shenanigans of Australian politics please stop reading now.
However, at the request of three regular overseas readers of this blog, I am going to say a word or two - or perhaps a few more.
Yes, we had some political tremors over the weekend. It was not, as some hoped, the forerunner to a political earthquake - or, not yet. Australia is not due for a federal election until 2013. The question is whether the government can hang on that long.
The Prime Minister returned from an overseas trip at the weekend and finally took some action that, even in her own party, was regarded as long overdue. That action however does not change the political landscape.
The Speaker stepped aside before that. By doing so he deprived her of his casting vote should it be needed and a vote on the floor of the house because the Deputy Speaker is a member of the government. (The Speaker was not.)  What the PM did say to the Speaker however was that he should not return to the position until all the allegations against him have been resolved.
And then, after months of distraction, the PM moved against another of her MPs - or appeared to do so.
Mr Thomson, member for Dobell, has been the subject of lengthy investigations. He denies any wrong doing but there are many unanswered questions. The union he once led is also the subject of investigations. It has taken Fair Work Australia a very long time to produce a report - a report which still has not been made public. The PM claims she told Mr Thomson he had to go and that he has gone.
That is not quite the case. There can be little doubt that something else has happened behind the scenes. Party strategists have been trying to work out how to handle the situation without losing any votes on the floor of the house. Their solution was to ask Mr Thomson, through the Prime Minister, to "suspend" his membership with the ALP.  Mr Thomson agreed. He will now sit on the cross benches as "an independent" - and continue to vote with the government.
So nothing has changed but the PM is claiming she has shown "strong leadership". In reality she is bowing to public pressure to do something - but not actually doing anything at all.
Some say that the Speaker, if he has any sense, will resign - thus keeping all the entitlements of his office in his pension package - rather than risk being kicked out. That would not make any difference to the government if they decided to go the by-election route. They would still, just, have the numbers with the support of the "independent" MPs. They are likely to cling to their positions as long as they can because they know they are not likely to be re-elected.
The government is on the nose because of a string of broken promises and wasteful programmes designed to buy political support. There are increasingly vociferous demands for an election - now coming from the media as well as the community.
How long can the government hang on? I do not know.
Should there be an election? It is probably the only way this mess will be resolved.

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