Today is the first sitting day in the Senate for the newly elected members and because of the quirky outcome from the last Election, no one quite knows how the House will operate.
It will be a wondrous days for the noobs and because of the inexperience of those from the smaller parties, there is a chance that some will be swept away by the pomp and ceremony and perhaps even by the aggressive style of Tony Abbott via his Senate colleagues. It’s certainly no sheltered workshop and even a quick check of Question Time will show the level of bullying that marks this current Government is pretty full on.
It is not pretty to listen to.
The purpose of the Senate is to be a House of Review. In lay terms it means the Senate is the safety net for the Voters. When the Government of the day starts to frighten the Voters with extremist behaviour, they are our last line of defence. Yes, the current way it works has been corrupted somewhat by the “voting the Party line”, but it still gives some measure of protection.
We know it can do the job because it has irritated many Prime Ministers. From Gough, to Keating, to Howard, and especially Tony Abbott, all have been frustrated by not being able to crash through the House.
Interestingly, the only successful tactic that has defeated the Senate came from John Howard. To bring in the Never Ever Ever GST he had a serious problem with the Australian Democrats who until that point had appealed to the Public with the claim they would “Keep the bastards honest”.
Those who naively voted for them based on that mantra, me included, suddenly saw John Howard come up with the mysterious claim that he “had a mandate”. Apparently Australia had suddenly changed to a winner take all type of Democracy where Electoral promises meant nothing and that meant those of us not voting for the winner suddenly lost our representation in the Senate.
Quite amazingly the then Leader of the Democrats, Meg Lees, and her dodgy side kick who’s name I have forgotten, thought this made perfect sense and allowed the promised Never Ever Ever GST to be passed.
It may have made sense to the Aussie Democrats as they wallowed in leadership disarray, but the Voters were suffering no such confusion and that was effectively the death of a party who had strong ideals under Don Chipp, but lost the plot as time went by.
That was a straight failure of the Senate and it came about because you don’t always get the result you are looking for if you discover some politicians have hidden their weaknesses. Sure, you get to punish them eventually, but a lot damage can be done in a 3 year period without effective opposition.
True to the Abbott aggressive style, his Government is going to try and hit the new kids in the House with the dismantling of the effective Carbon tax before they start finding their feet. It does make sense from a manipulative point of view even though it fails from the common sense test. Hit em hard and fast before they start reading the Science and realise what really needs to be done.
In a way it is the PM’s only option. When it comes to negotiation he is a walking disaster area. The crash through or crash style only works if you can bully your way through. Anything else has him giving ground and he can’t stand compromise even when other solutions are far better than his thought bubbles.
Watching Tony trying to form a Government when he notionally had an edge with the non-aligned members, then watching Julia Gillard give him a lesson in negotiation to pip him at the post, was an excellent example of how Tony Abbott negotiates. It isn’t in his skill set.
If the new Senators can withstand the opening salvo, they can make Tony Abbott’s life a misery and ultimately reshape the Liberal party with a Leadership change. That won’t be their intention, but it is a likely outcome when a Party Leader can’t handler the job.