Monday, October 11, 2004

Bad news for the Liberals: they control the House and the Senate…

So Howard won Government for the fourth time and control of the Senate. It’s generally assumed that the Liberals having control of the Senate is a VERY GOOD THING for the Coalition but I’m not so sure. Here’s why:

1) They’ll only have themselves to blame if (when) things go wrong. The Coalition now utterly dominates the Federal political landscape. Everything that happens, happens because they want it to. No compromises with the Opposition; no deals with the Democrats; no legislation pinging back and forth between House and Senate until agreement is reached. (And of course they don’t have that other tried and true political excuse – this or that problem is a legacy of the previous Government). You break it, you own it.

2) Lots of canvas to paint on, not much inspiration to paint. The Howard Government is a fourth term Government and so has already done most things it wanted to do (apart from the big controversial stuff like the full sale of Telstra and unfair dismissal laws – which can be taken care of in the first half of 2005.) Everything they want to pass will slip through like a greased pig. What do they do for the other two and a half years? The Coalition must either churn out Bills they don’t really believe in to feed the gaping maw that is Parliament or they let the chambers grind to a halt, admitting they have no fresh ideas. Can you say ‘tired’?

3) Keep your enemies close and your backbenchers closer. Today, there is effectively no opposition. The ALP can ask snarky question in question time but apart from that it’s irrelevant. But rest assured a new enemy will be found – from within. Internal divisions that are normally kept in check in the face of a common foe – the Opposition – will run free. As the Coalition grows desperate for things to do, they will be supplied with ideas from within – from social conservatives and from the wets, from economic rationalists and from protectionists, from the urbanites and from the Nationals. Look in the mirror, here is your enemy.

In short, I believe that the Government will find total control of Parliament to be less desirable than it appears.Whether this will result in spectacular One-Nation-like self-destruction in only three years is another matter…

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