The Budget and the Cross-Benchers

I still don’t know what to do.  This is one of those weeks when it’s very hard to believe that ordinary Australians have any power at all to influence the government, or even politics in general.

But that’s only half true.  I have to believe that.

At this point, I don’t see that there is much to be gained from writing to Tony Abbott, to Joe Hockey, or to any other members of the Coalition.  From everything I’ve read in the last day or so, they really believe in this budget, and they aren’t going to change their minds about that.

But the Coalition is not the only party in the Senate, and frankly, they aren’t the majority, either.

In fact, if this graphic from the Australian is to be believed, the Coalition is going to have a lot of trouble getting some of its policies through the Senate at all.  It’s a giant game of chicken, and we just have to hope that the ALP, the Greens, the Independents and the micro-parties don’t blink first.

(well, except the LDP.  They can blink as much as they like.  But I think we all know I was never going to have much in common with them – in fact, their sole issue with this budget is that some of the taxes have gone up.)

Let’s have a look at what they are saying, shall we?

The ALP have said they will oppose deregulated university fees, the Medicare co-pay, the fuel tax rise and hits to pensions and the dole, and while I’m really not knowledgeable about the way politics is played at that level, it certainly seems to me that this budget has given them an unparalleled opportunity to gain points with the electorate, and perhaps even regain power.  After all, their support was at 52% even before the budget was handed down, and honestly, the way this budget targets the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the young, and basically everyone who is neither a business nor super-wealthy, I would be surprised if support for the ALP hasn’t increased since then.

The Greens do not like this budget one tiny little bit.  Nobody is surprised by this, the Coalition least of all, I’d imagine.  They oppose the abolition of the renewable energy agency, and, surprisingly, the deficit levy, and they have spoken out against the changes to the dole, which they believe will lead to homelessless and a rise in the crime rate, as well as the Medicare co-pay.

Independent Andrew Wilkie has made a statement that basically objects to everything about the budget, with particular attention to Medicare, people on disability and other pensions, and education.  Again, with his background (he started off as a Green, and is known for his whistleblowing ways), this is not surprising, but nonetheless, I say go, Ando!

Clive Palmer has said that the budget is a ‘nightmare‘, has pledged to oppose the Medicare co-payment, and, interestingly,  won’t support the Government’s Direct Action climate change policy if the government makes any changes to the pension.  He also wants to raise the pension age for politicians, and to give his MP salary to charity, so I’m feeling rather positive about Our Clive right now.

Nick Xenophon opposes the budget for its cuts to the auto industry, and is apparently very, very popular in his electorate and thus has little to lose from another election.

Bob Katter also opposes the budget for its effect on jobs.  While his statement is all over the shop, it’s pretty clear that he’s not a big fan, and might well oppose this budget on principle, if it doesn’t mean standing too close to the Greens.

The Catholic DLP views the budget as ‘devastating to the family unit‘, and particularly objects to changes to Family Tax Benefits.  Exploring John Madigan’s Facebook page, I learn that he also opposes the changes to university fee structures, and (on a non-budget-related note) is also writing scathing things about the government removing the right to appeal for Tamil asylum seekers.  Goodness.  I might start liking this lot if they continue down this path.

Interestingly, Bob Day from Family First gives the budget ‘seven out of ten’.  He doesn’t comment on the effect on poorer families, but he’s all about reducing taxes, and seems to have buddied up with David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats on the subject, which is not a recommendation in my view.  The Liberal Democrats are quite pleased by the cuts to pensions and the medicare co-pay, but do object to the raised taxes.  The Liberal Democratsy are also unhappy with the Liberal Party’s legal moves to force the LDP to change the name of their party.  This probably doesn’t help us with the budget, but I figured it was worth mentioning because I find it vaguely comforting that the LDP and Coalition are not BFFs, at least at present.

I haven’t found a statement by Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, but I understand that he is allied with the Palmer United Party, and is thus likely to vote with them.

Brand new Independent Cathy McGowan has responded fairly cautiously to the budget but has expressed significant concern regarding the Medicare Co-Pay and changes to Newstart for young people.  She is encouraging her local community to give her feedback on this one, so if you are in Indi and have concerns, consider this an invitation!

I’d imagine that the Nationals aren’t feeling too comfortable either, as the new budget is looking quite likely to strongly and adversely affect those in rural areas.

I think it’s noteworthy that even businesses have reservations about this budget. After all, if nobody can afford to buy what you are producing, you aren’t going to get very far.  While this will affect smaller businesses first, I think even larger businesses will be affected eventually.


Abbott has threatened to call a double dissolution if the Senate blocks this budget.  He’s banking on the Independents and micro-parties wanting to protect their  seats, and he might be onto something there.  But I wonder who is really going to be most threatened by this if it actually happens?

I am reluctant to be truly optimistic at this point.  With the ALP and the Coalition working on legislation to make it more difficult for microparties to get elected, some senators may choose to compromise rather than risk being thrown out in a double dissolution election.  And it must also be confessed that the ALP has displayed something of a genius for turning gold into lead.  There is no guarantee that they will actually grasp this opportunity for what it is.  I am, in fact, desperately afraid that they will fold – which will, I think, be the beginning of the end for them as a party.  But I do have a little bit of hope – Shorten’s response to Abbott’s threats of a double dissolution was basically ‘Bring it on‘.

So no, I don’t think it’s too late for letter-writing.  But don’t waste your time on the government.  Write to your Labor MPs and Senators.  Write to the Greens, to the DLP, to Palmer United and to the Independents.  Express your support – tell them to stand firm against the budget.  Give them a reason to believe that there are votes in it for them – because realistically, there are.  How many votes?  I don’t know, and nor do they.

Let’s help them find out.

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