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So, I just watched another Bob Katter interview – it looks as though the three rural independents in the House (and Nick Xenophon in the Senate) had met prior to the election to discuss the election.

Listening to that interview, it seems that Rob Oakeshott has some influence over the other two other independents. But there isn’t any convergence in their message lines. Tony Windsor pre-election had been saying he would give it to the one with the highest popular vote. Nonetheless, I am confident that they will vote as a block given that this is their best chance of securing their common goal of protecting the country.

Interestingly, Bob Katter he would be fighting not just for farmers (where the Coalition has a mild advantage) but also for workers and pensioners (where the ALP has a strong and mild advantage respectively, in terms of recent policy).

The commentator also noted that Katter has previously called himself the most anti-Green person in the Senate.

So in summary here is the state of play:

The rural independents have enough seats to bring the Coalition over the line but not the ALP – they will need to bring one Green on board. This gives them weaker bargaining power with respect to the ALP (obviously), but also in terms of what they can extract from the LNP.

The (2) Greens cannot give either party government on their own but they have strong bargaining power over both parties because firstly, they control the Senate. Secondly, they can (combined with the rurrals) give the ALP Parliament again.

Although, numerically, it would be easier to assume that the rural independents will align with the LNP to win government because they only need to negotiate with one party, I think that doesn’t take into account the human factors (like sheer desperation on the ALP’s part) or the relative strength in bargaining power.

Although, I continue to believe that the LNP has the strongest chances, here is an almost equally likely scenario. The Greens (behind closed doors) threatens to veto any crucial bills the Liberals pass in the Senate – including supply bills which under-spend on infrastructure and pet issue X, Y and Z. Perhaps, they may even hint at this publicly. The LNP has the “confidence of the lower house” but the Whitlam affair shows that the Senate is also relevant to the Constitutional conventions surrounding the appointment and dismissal of Prime Ministers.

The ALP offers the Greens a Ministerial position (for a Senator), and perhaps the rural independents a seat in the greater Cabinet or a minor Ministerial position. A rough agreement is fleshed out where the Greens agree not to make hay on certain key environmental issues (environmental flows in the Murray Darling, certain sustainabikity issues) in exchange for support on issues of agreement, such as sustainable population, salinity/water table issues. The ETS, if one isput in place, will almost certainly have giant concessions to the farmers.

It will not be an easy alliance. In all likelihood, the rurals will have a secondary say in the running of the country vis a vis the Greens. However, they will have secured several key concessions – probabily in terms of certain infrastructure projects and a commitment by the Greens not to push those issues outlined.

I am no longer sure whether I would prefer to see a ALP-Green-rural alliance or a LNP-Green alliance. The former is most likely to go down a protectionist path because that is the area where the rurals and the Greens have the most in common. The latter will hopefully moderate itself in terms of economic policy. However, it is very worrying that the Liberals will control the Executive again and all the power that entails to make administrative decisions and to write regulations.

Edit: Just watching Insiders – Chris Uhlmann points out that the party with the confidence of the lower house must nominate a Speaker – who has a casting vote. He points out, and I agree, that the Speaker will be given to one of the rural independents.

Annabel Crabb points out that the WA National who ousted WWilson Tuckey also wants to join the cross-benches. Good point.

Andrew Bolt thinks the independent rurals may split down the middle, offering a 75:75 tie. I’m not sure I agree – those rurals will vote as a block. He does point out that personality will play a key role and those former Nationals have been treated badly by the National Party.

The other very, very important factor is that Adam Bandt, the Green member for Melbourne has said he will always support the ALP government.

Edit 2: Annabel Crabb has said that Kevin Rudd has been very keen to praise the independents whilst in the House, always prefacing any answer to their questions with lengthy praise of their independence.

Bill Shorten, correctly, points out that Julia is a skilled negotiaor.


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