Independents took a leaf from Kenny Rogers’ book
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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