Not who you might think.
Yes, Labor was given the numbers to form government today. With the support of Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, they now have the requisite minimum of 76 seats. )Bob Katter, earlier today, threw his support behind the Coalition, and made it clear that one of his reason for doing so was because Labor had ‘dumped’ Kevin Rudd.)
Gillard, predictably, was modest about Labor’s victory. Her speech revolved around the ‘new era’ of Parliament and her pledge to work for the good of the nation. She also extended a hand to the Coalition, inviting them to work in consensus with the government. The big surprise came when she confirmed that she has offered Rob Oakeshott a role as a Minister in her government, so that he could help bring about the promised Parliamentary reforms. (Oakeshott says he’s considering it.)
Before Tony Abbott could make his speech, we heard from Barnaby Joyce, who let fly with scathing criticism of the Independents. Oakeshott and Windsor had ‘betrayed’ their electorates, who clearly wanted a Coalition government, and they would pay for it at the next election. All in all, not a good look.
Abbott was gracious in defeat, but reminded everyone again that the Coalition had garnered more of the primary vote. He also didn’t waste any time in sledging Labor on their broadband policy, describing it as ‘school halls on steroids’ and ‘a minefield of waste and incompetence’. (I’m sure those are phrases we’ll hear repeated many times in the coming year.) This was remarkable, given that broadband had been a major factor in both Windsor and Oakeshott’s decision process. If Abbott was looking to build rapport with the Independents to aid the Coalition in their role as Opposition, this was definitely the wrong way to go about it.
Warren Truss, dismissive of what he called the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ of Labor and the Greens, sounded the Red Scare warning. He didn’t quite say that the new government was full of Socialists, but the implication was clear. He also made much of the fact that none of Labor’s cabinet lived in rural or regional Australia. Apparently, we are supposed to conclude that this means Labor can’t understand regional needs.
On Thursday the Coalition party room meets for a leadership challenge. Both Abbott and Julie Bishop confirmed that they would be standing for the positions of leader and deputy leader respectively. Speculation is running wild as to whether Malcolm Turnbull or Joe Hockey will challenge.
I said the winner isn’t who you think. The winner today isn’t Gillard. It isn’t Oakeshott, or Windsor.
We won. The people of Australia. There’s a lot of fear and anger flying around the airwaves right now. ‘We’re one by-election away from chaos’, ‘this government is too weak’, ‘we’ll be back to the polls inside six months’, ‘Abbott will just block everything’, ‘it’s a subversion of democracy’ – the sentiments are a more extreme version of what we’ve been seeing with increasing frequency as the days wore on. That fear is unwarranted – or at the very least, premature.
We have a government. We don’t have to endure another election campaign. The Independents and Adam Bandt have secured strong Parliamentary reforms that will change the way business is done in the House. Local members will find that their voices are louder, and more likely to be heard. We’ll see election advertising closely scrutinised, and some actual information communicated to the People via both advertising and Question Time in Parliament. We have a government committed to serving out a full term, and that will have to seek consensus to pursue its legislative agenda.
Whether you’re left- or right-leaning, this can only be a cause for celebration.