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I’m beginning to like Rob Oakeshotte. From the start, he seemed elegant and eloquent than the other two independents and he seemed to garner their respect and support.

Now, he has devised an ingenious solution to a conundrum that must have been plaguing him. I have said that the policy preferences of the 3 rural independents seems more closely aligned to some of Labor’s policies than the free market Liberals. I have also said that the three also are conservative. The missing piece of that formula is that the independents themselves must come from conservative electorates. The crucial difference in phraseology is this – an independent conservative might buck ideological ties to join the ALP, but an independent from a conservative seat will be kicked out by his own electorate at the next election if he supports a left-wing government – particularly one in coalition with the Greens.

A ‘dream team’ government is an innovative solution to that problem. Oakeshott himself does not appear to fit any easy description. He is a social liberal and economic conservative. He supports an ETS, but also strongly supports farmers’ rights. He wants a broadband network but is also a fiscal conservative. Tony Windsor is a milder form of the same.

I rather like the idea of a pluralist government, with the best ministers from both sides of politics forming a government together. Not terribly practical, but I think it works.After all, if Kevin can’t be foreign ministe in an ALP government, and Malcolm can’t be shadow environment minister in a Liberal opposition, how could they hold those positions in a joint ALP/LNP Cabinet?

If it could be done, there would be great benefits – but also grave dangers. After all, the US has a system where backbenchers jump ship all the time and that path leads to chaos. Any time contentious legislation is proposed, a thousand amendments nullify any true reform. Unless of course, the name of the bill abbreviates to the word PATRIOT. Still, its worth reflecting on. I think Westminster Responsible Government could do with a dose of extra responsibility.

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2 Comments

  1. The moment anyone disagrees they’d have to resign from cabinet unless they toe the collective line… I think it would just lead to instability.

  2. That is a good point, Danw, and I suspect the Westminister system will be modified to adapt.

    But will that cause more instability than having every single backbencher being able to veto government bills?


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