Politics: Hung Parliament and Bob Katter

Lordy. Apparently the Great Australian Public voted ‘Hell, no’. To everyone. For those overseas, or any Australians living in a small hole in the ground, we have a hung parliament. At present, of a possible 150 seats in the House of Representatives, Labor has 71, Liberal / National has 71, the Greens have 1, 4 seats are held by independents, and 4 are in doubt.

No party has any possibility of getting the 76 seats required to have a majority government. And, in effect, 14 million Australians have decided to have their government decided by four independents (Bob Katter, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie) and a Green (Adam Bandt). Incidentally, this is the first time a Green has got into the Lower House in Australia, and we also look to be having a record number of Greens in the Upper House – Antony Green was saying the Greens would have the balance of power in the Senate regardless of who won. In normal circumstances, this would be something I’d be jumping up and down about gleefully. In normal circumstances, I’d also love to talk about scrutineering last night. But everything is overshadowed by the mess in the House of Representatives.

This is, to put it mildly, not the result I had hoped for. Especially as three of the independents are former National Party members. Some hope for the left can be derived from the fact that they all want better telecommunications, and Labor definitely has the better policy here, and that according to Independent Bob Katter, “Warren Truss was the leader [of the Nationals] and he attacked me personally last night… and (Nationals Senate Leader) Barnaby Joyce in a similar piece of incredible unfortunateness.” Oops. Gillard, on the other hand, went out of her way to congratulate them all early. No flies on her.

So – and you just knew I’d be asking this – who are these four independents? And who, for that matter, is the Green? Let’s start with Bob Katter.

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Politics: Hung Parliament and Andrew Wilkie

Admittedly, we don’t yet know whether Andrew Wilkie will get in or not, but if he does, he will be the other Independent potentially deciding who gets to govern Australia. And, after a brief google, I’m rather hoping he does get in. Wilkie is the Independent candidate for Denison, an electorate in the Hobart/Glenorchy region of Tasmania, ‘a former Army lieutenant colonel and well known campaigner for truth in politics.’

What branch of the Army, you ask? Well, actually, it would appear that Wilkie was a senior intelligence officer at the Office of National Assessments, which is, I understand, a branch of ASIO, who in 2003 “resigned in protest at the Federal Government’s actions over the Iraq war”. (As Andrew said, oh, he’s thatguy…) The ABC interviewed him at the time, and you can find the transcript of a really interesting (and brief) interview with him here. He wrote a book about this, called Axis of Deceit, in which he talks about the way in which intelligence was manipulated to justify the Iraq war, and there are also a number of articles by and about him online on this general topic. He comes across as very intelligent and with lots of integrity. I like him already.

After his rather spectacular whistle-blowing, he joined the Australian Greens and stood against John Howard in Bennelong in 2004, where he got 16% of the primary vote. In 2007, he stood for the Senate in Tasmania as the second candidate (after Bob Brown), but the Greens didn’t get enough of a quote for two candidates. I’m not sure when or why he left the Greens; as far as I can tell, he still agrees with them on most things, but thinks that people are better served by Independents who don’t have to compromise to a political party. Anyway, he’s definitely standing as an Independent this time around, and, while he says he isn’t going to get too excited until he knows whether he has been elected, but he does have this to say:

“I am genuinely independent… I am going to put it to the Labor Party and the coalition to convince me that you can deliver stable government for three years, competent government for three years and ethical government for three years. I’ll support whichever party can do that.”

His website tells me:

I’m standing for election as part of my ongoing campaign for better government. The community is rightfully appalled by government dishonesty, reckless policies and self-interested politicians. I’ve been working to rectify this for much of the seven years since I was the only intelligence official in Australia, the UK and US to question the Iraq war publicly before Australia joined the invasion in 2003.

I’m fighting for the people of Denison in particular because for too long we’ve been denied our fair share of Federal money on account of the electorate being regarded as a safe Labor Party seat. As an Independent I’ll focus on the public interest, not party interests, and work with whoever wins the next Federal election to ensure more money is directed our way – starting with the money to rebuild or replace the Royal Hobart Hospital. I’ll also be a local Member who cares about the local community and is always available to help people in need.

I believe I have the skills, experience and views to represent the community effectively – please give me your number one vote at the Federal election. Feel free to contact me.

As a resident in a safe Labor seat, I can tell you that’s going to be a winning argument – as indeed, it appears it has been.

His ‘Big Issues’ section includes sensible policies on Disability (he supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and any policies that will leave people with disabilities and carers better off), Aged Care (better services, including assistance for those who want to stay at home and maintain their independence), Economic Stability (lots of infrastructure spending, though), Education (schools to be funded according to need, not whether they are private or public, and Austudy and Universities to be better funded), internet filtering (don’t bother), broadband (yes please), WorkChoices (never again), Poker machines (against), the Environment (opposed to the Gunns Pulp Mill and logging of old growth forests, concerned about climate change and cautiously in favour of an ETS, in favour of some kind of mining tax, but doesn’t think much of either of those proposed so far, commenting that “in both cases the policy appears to have been developed too quickly”), health (free, accessible care for all, including dental and mental health), pensions (bring them back into line with the cost of living) and asylum seekers (“Australia must honour the UN Refugee Convention to which it is a signatory. It must protect people fleeing persecution, war or violence, promptly hear their claims and give refuge to those in genuine need of asylum. The full weight of intelligence, police and legal capabilities should be brought to bear on the people smugglers”).

Actually, if you want to hear him going off on a rant on the subject of John Howard, people smuggling, and asylum seekers, you can read this article.

Yeah, I like him. Hell, I’m developing quite the crush on him – brains, courage and integrity, what’s not to like? If I were in Hobart, I’d vote for him. I have no problem whatsoever with him being one of the five people who choose our next government.

Politics: My first election day as a How To Vote Hander-Outer and Scrutineer

We’ve got Howard back. Worse, we’ve got him with an increased majority in the lower house, and an absolute majority in the senate. We don’t even have the Greens in Senate; due to the preferences of Labor and the Democrats, Family First is getting a seat instead. This is doubly annoying, because the Green vote was almost enough for a seat in their own right, whereas Family First were nowhere near the quota.

I’m not going into how disappointed I am. You can probably all guess this already. I do hope the US manages to get rid of Bush, though, or there is no hope for us.

Now for yesterday. Yesterday turned out to be a very long day indeed. While in the end someone else put up the signs at dawn, I was at the booth from 11:30am to 8:30 pm or thereabouts. I ended up handing out how to vote cards for nearly six hours straight – it would have been four, but one of our relievers didn’t show up, and the other one got a call from his workplace 20 minutes after he arrived and had to leave. So I was back on again. A sensible Catherine might have been less hyperactively manic in the first two hours, but I don’t know any of those…

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