THE past two weeks of political dealing and card playing between the major parties and the Independents to form a minority government reminds me of Kenny Rogers’ ode to The Gambler.

The song’s chorus, in particular, sums up the quandary faced by the political gamblers:

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done.

After much agonising and poker playing by all sides, most Australians believe it’s time the three country Independents – Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor - showed their hand and revealed whether they will support a Labor or Liberal government.

Comments to online news sites have displayed a growing impatience over the political stalemate.

Granny of Melbourne summed up the level of frustration in a comment to the Herald Sun: “Just how long do these three independents intend to hold Australia to ransom? With Bob Katter as their spokesperson this government limbo could last for years. They have been given the answers to their questions and they still cannot make up their minds.”

But it doesn’t always pay to fold first. The decision by the Greens that their only Lower House member, Adam Brandt, would support Labor was not surprising. However, rogue Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie’s move to also back a Gillard government was a big gamble for him.

After winning a pledge of up to $1 billion from the Coalition to build a new hospital in Hobart, Wilkie - who runs a rug shop in Hobart – pulled the rug out from under Tony Abbott’s cash splash and accepted Labor’s counter offer of $340 million to upgrade the existing facility.

Many Tasmanians felt cheated by the deal and expressed their disappointment in comments to The Mercury in Hobart.

Sally wrote: “What kind of madman knocks back $1 billion to upgrade an ailing health system in favour of just a third of that amount? We’re not winners here. We’ve been sold out by Wilkie, who has only proved to Tasmanians how naive he really is.”

Disappointed RHH Doctor of Hobart added: “Truly heartbroken at this news. After years and years of broken promises about a new Royal Hobart Hospital we finally get a chance to get one and Andrew turns it down - after asking for it in the first place! And what do we get? Some band-aid solution that is never going to really fix anything.”

Les of Merton suggested: “Maybe Mr Wilkie should have kept his powder dry until the other Independents had made up their minds.”

Election promise costings by both the Coalition and Labor have been among the stack of cards closely scrutinised by all the Independents. Labor seems to have the ace up its sleeve on this count, gauging from online reaction after Treasury’s finding that the Coalition’s campaign promises were out by between $7 billion and $10 billion.

Michael wrote to Yahoo!7 News: “There’s no doubt the revelation of the Coalition’s enormous stuff-up with their estimates has had a major impact. Several people I have spoken to who voted Liberal have said they would not have done so had they known how financially incompetent Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were.”

But Jason of Springwood thought both sides lacked credibility, writing to News.com.au: “Gillard has a great big mining tax and Abbott has a great big black hole.”

Hadagutfull thought the pork barrelling would continue to dominate regardless of whether the Coalition or Labor won the necessary support to form government, writing to the Daily Telegraph: “The truth is, whomever these self-righteous and overly smug Independents get into bed with, will spend the next three years trying to pork barrel marginal seats in an attempt to curry favour in 2013 (if this parliament lasts that long).”

To add to the pressure weighing on the shoulders of the three country Independents, two opinion polls released on Saturday showed more voters wanted them to throw their support behind a Labor government than a Coalition government.

However, the feeling online is less conclusive.

Sean wrote on Yahoo!7 News: “It doesn’t matter what the latest polls say. The Independents have to respect the wishes of their electorates, which clearly indicated they would prefer a Liberal government ahead of an ALP one. Simple. If they end up siding with Labor they will be booted out at the next election.”

But another reader, John, said: “The dilemma for the Independents is how to remain Independent while supporting one or the other of the major parties. Seems to me that the test will come at the first sitting of the new parliament. They will fall into line one way or another or there will have to be another election.”

As the stalemate dragged on, and with north Queensland Independent Bob Katter admitting there has been “all sorts of tricky stuff” going on to win his support, many commenters thought going to another election was the most sensible option.

Alf Proctor of South Tweed expressed the waning patience he shared with many others over the political process in a comment to the Daily Telegraph: “Quite honestly, I don’t give a toss who joins with whom. It won’t last 12 months. So let us have a new election now.”

A final deal may be sealed as early as today, but one thing this game has revealed is how adept the Independents are as poker players. It’s a skill that will serve them well in holding the balance of power.

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24 comments

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    • Pork Pies says:

      07:20am | 06/09/10

      Adept? Independents?  Gullible, would be more the word to describe them, for trusting Labor when even its own can’t.  Labor will cut them loose them as soon as it gets into power and they are expendable.  It knifed its last PM so it won’t stop at doing the same to the Indies.

    • Muttley says:

      10:35am | 06/09/10

      as opposed to the mad monks deceit with regards to his policy costings? Yeah, there’s a fella to trust. You want pork pies? Check out the libs.

    • Pork Pies says:

      11:21am | 06/09/10

      Mutley, as against what? How about Labor’s uncosted $43 billion NBN that will, on past performance, end up twice that?  Now that is a black hole in the making that you seem to have conveniently overlooked.

    • acotrel says:

      12:21pm | 06/09/10

      As a form of infrastructure , the NBN is an investment in Australia’s future.  But the Coalition wouldn’t know about that - they have NO VISION!

    • Muttley says:

      12:36pm | 06/09/10

      would that be the plan they were happy to have checked for a basis in reality? My only point was that Labour was content to hand in its paperwork to be checked. If speedo boy had nothing to hide, why carry on like a petulant child? I have conveniently over looked anything. Merely pointing out that the supposed economic management experts didnt want anyone to see the numbers. And you trust that? In that case, i’ve got a bridge with harbour views to sell you….. You pointed out that Labour cannot be trusted. I was merely providing the counterpoint that there are plenty of reasons to distrust the Abbott team.

    • Mike t says:

      03:36pm | 06/09/10

      Mutley…. how well have the ALP costed projects over the last three years?? i would point out the massive blow outs, but i dont think i need to. How acurate the LP’s figures are is open to debate as they are a matter of opinion at this stage, just like the NBN. Labours poor predictions/costings are there for all to see over the last three years!!!!!!! But hey just make sure you keep on debating the hypotheticals rather then the hard facts that have occured….. as or PM keeps on saying “Lets Move forward”..... do we wonder why she keeps on making that statement???

    • Blackant says:

      08:17am | 06/09/10

      I for one don’t plan to vote differently if another election were held. I think a likely result would be the three Country Independents replaced by the Coalition, Wilkie by Labor & another 5 Labor either to the Greens or Coalition. In any case, let Labor get the poisoned chalice now - they’ll self destruct soon enough.

    • Rosie says:

      08:24am | 06/09/10

      I look forward to the time when the Independents will get off their power trip and are picked up by the media when their demands are not met and their electorate become unhappy.  When they also find out that the Greedy Greens are not really the people they think they are.

    • Vic Rhodes says:

      08:38am | 06/09/10

      A billion bucks should be 50 dollars for every Australian,50 bucks generally gets me through to about lunchtime,on that basic amount ,running the country might cost 5 billion a day,  35 billion a week,therefore 1750 billion a year,is this enough to buy an Indi vote,no wonder Pollies are rash with the cash, they,ve got a neverending supply. Wilke is a bloody dreadful gambler,he has folded way to cheap. Everyone knows we,ve got a fool house.

    • Sven Gali says:

      09:17am | 06/09/10

      Kudos to Andrew Wilkie for impeccable timing and execution.

      By siding with Labor after Adam Bandt stuck to his pre-election commitment to do the same, and after Oakeshott and Windsor had made public Treasury’s discovery of the 11 billion reasons why Abbott wouldn’t release his costings before the election, he made Bob Katter irrelevant (to Labor, but still crucial to the Coalition), and rubbed salt into the wound by turning the fine tradition of pork barreling on its head. Wilkie having sucker punched Abbott, perpetual fall-guy Andrew Robb then had to pretend that the billion in a paper bag Abbott had offered him is still part of their plan, even if they lose.

      Of course Wilkie also played to Oakeshott and Windsor’s consistent emphasis on the importance to them of the stability of a buffer of 77 seats, not just a majority of 76, which then only Labor could provide.

      Not that Mad Bob’s likely to give them one, of course. He’s overegged it by talking up Labor while not bothering to attend meetings with “stupid” “lightweights” Garnaut and Stern, and having to be dragged screaming by Windsor to a meeting with the Greens, but his vote no longer matters, if Oakeshott and Windsor side with Labor. For those two former Nationals, it will be interesting to see which is the operative word, former, or Nationals. And having been locked up in the gimp cage while the Liberals have pretended they don’t exist, the current Nationals will be frothing if they emerge to find things haven’t gone their way.

    • Sven Gali says:

      11:23am | 06/09/10

      p.s. Actually, Ted Mack has probably nailed it ...

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/06/3003231.htm

      ” ... I think they will back the Gillard Government. The point is, if there is a Liberal-National government formed, then that government will do its best to get those three out of office because they think that those seats belong to them.

      Whereas if Labor is in government, they know that they can never win those three seats, so they have a vested interest in keeping those three seats, those three independents in power.

      I think those independents and their residents will get a lot more money spent on them than they would if there was a National Party government.

      I think that is probably the logic that they’ll follow as well.”

    • Richard says:

      02:34pm | 06/09/10

      Gotta disagree. If the 3 ex-nat Indies side with Labor, the attacks from the National party against them will be well and truly on, and nothing will hold them back, it will be a vicious, violent frenzy that will consume them all as they fight desparately for grim electoral survival.

      But if they side with the Libs, well then the bitter Nats are effectively muzzled: they can’t hit out and attack the Independents, even though they would like to, because they will be kept on a very short leash by Tony Abbott in the interests of retaining vital support.

      Its a very tricky position for the Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter, but they must realise that at the end of the day they were only elected to do 1 thing and 1 thing only, and that is represent the views of their constituents in their respective seats. If they defy the desire of the majority of their constituents to see a conservative Abbott government rather an inner-urban centric greens/labor coalition, they will be consigning themselves to the dole que after the next election, whenever that might be (possible within a few months).

    • Sven Gali says:

      03:54pm | 06/09/10

      If, as you claim, Richard, the majority of the Independents’ constituents desired an Abbott Government, then that’s exactly how they would have voted, and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, would we ?   

      I wouldn’t presume to tell the Independents what they were or weren’t elected to do, but I suspect it has more to do serving their electorate, in which case I tend to agree with Ted Mack. The Labor Party would have a vested interest in doing everything they could to enhance the popularity of the Independents, and their retention of their seats, (with the help of the inevitable attacks from the Nationals), whereas the Coalition would have a vested interest in doing everything they could to try to take the seats from them.

      If anyone knows how these things work, I suspect it’s “father of the Independents”, Ted Mack.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Mack_(politician)

    • Richard says:

      05:11pm | 06/09/10

      You’re argument Sven Gali that “if the majority of the Independents’ constituents desired an Abbott Government, then that’s exactly how they would have voted” is disingenous because none of the 3 ex-National party member stated publicly before the election that in the event of a hung parliament they would support the ALP: if they had done so, I suspect they would have garnered significantly less votes.

      For a true representation of the voters feelings in these three respective electorates, I suggest you should look at the 2-party preferred vote eg. (2007 figures) New England: Coalition 2PP 64.8%, Kennedy: Coalition 2PP 57.51% etc. is instructive.

    • Sven Gali says:

      10:02pm | 06/09/10

      No it’s not, Richard. If they’d wanted to vote for the Coalition, they would have. Thanks for reinforcing Ted Mack’s point, anyway.

      p.s. It’s your, disingenuous, and fewer.

    • Denny Crane says:

      09:17am | 06/09/10

      This is only the start of the issues that have been thrust upon on.

      If you think the independents seem clueless, just wait if Labor does form governemnt what they will have to do, to keep the greens onside.

      Green policy is completely unfunded, so when Gillard ticks off on what they want, it will mean more debt to pay back, increase price in goods and services, and cut backs on other promises.

      Here is one example green policy is to have no rebate on health fund membership, what happens in this case.

      1. Membership will decrease, forcing those who still want to be members to pay more.
      2. The benefit governemnt had for people in health funds will go away.
      3. Public hospital waiting list will see dramatic increase, as those dropping out of being members now go into the public hospital pool

      A typical green policy not thought through, and unaware of the repercussions, when you make a change, and the incidents will go on and on.

      Denny Crane

    • The Badger says:

      12:23pm | 06/09/10

      Denny, we shouldn’t have two health systems, one for the rich and one for everyone else.

    • Denny Crane says:

      12:54pm | 06/09/10

      Badger,

      We dont have 2 health systems we have options, you can either be private, which you pay for or public which is evryones right through medicare.

      By letting the greens proposal come into being, those who can only afford medicare will be fighting harder to get medical treatment, this cannot help anyone.

      All countries have options we need to have options in health if we dont, wait and watch public hosptial lists blow out further

      Denny Crane

    • The Badger says:

      01:44pm | 06/09/10

      Denny you are right, we have options
      Would you like a smack in the head, or a whack on the knee?

      Would like that done next week, or would you like to wait two years? Who me, I’m rich, I’ll have it next week thanks. Oh, and I’ll have some rehab with that - thanks.

    • Mike T says:

      03:46pm | 06/09/10

      Badger, do you understand the concept of what Denny is explaining??? If the Private health rebate is pulled then Many of those paying for it will flood back into the public system, effectivly increasing the cost of medicare and limiting the services that we all share. Take your red glasses of for a second and thing about the logic??? To illustrate my point lets look at the unlikley scenario of every peson opting for no Priavet health insurance…  Medicare would almost collapsoe such would be the costings blow out.

    • The Badger says:

      04:17pm | 06/09/10

      Mike
      Because something is the way it is doesn’t make it right.

      from a Crikey article

      “The private health insurance rebate was a terrible Howard-era policy, designed to buy off pensioners scared about the introduction of the GST before the 1998 election. It’s served its purpose. It’s cost us (the tax payer) billions. It’s prevented the development of other innovative and efficient funding mechanisms which genuinely respond to consumer needs.

      It’s time it was pensioned off and allowed to live out its days as a textbook example of the worst health funding policy in Australia’s history.”

    • Mike t says:

      01:22am | 07/09/10

      Badger, not sure where i justified my argument using the “thats the way it has always beent”... its great you can pull an obsucure quote out, however i think you would agree that almost all senior economist believe that an effective health system requires a balance of both public and private patients. The extra funding put into the system by the private patients undoubtly subsidises the system for all to benefit from. It a very narrow minded to beleive that limiting those using private health (which removal of the rebate would do) would not increase the overall cost of the health system….that is just a simple fact mate. So if there is less money in the system we all lose out in terms of health care. The PBS reform introduced by the Howard govt had the sinlge goal of reducing the costs of medical treatment, so that it stretched further….one of the many actions they introduced was increasing the number or people taking up priavte health care. The Gillard Govt has also taken the correct stance of trying to stretch the health care spend with a number of initiatives, including a drive towards generic usage and of course by maintaining a healthy number of people opting for private health….......

    • Shawn says:

      10:10am | 06/09/10

      Why are you quoting random, pseudonyms that have left anonymous comments on online news articles?
      Rehashing anonymous comments section is a pretty poor excuse for a news article if you ask me.
      Please lift your standards.

 

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