Though there’s plenty of healthy cynicism over the notion of a “new paradigm” in Australian politics, there also seems to be an idea doing the rounds that since a hung parliament makes it difficult for legislation to be passed too easily, that it’s good for libertarian principles. Perhaps in some instances this is the case, but if history of the senate has taught us anything, it’s that those who hold the balance simply trade off: “You give me legislation in this area, and I’ll support you on this one.” I find it hard to recall of a time where an independent or minor party candidate ever successfully negotiated less government interference in our daily lives (though I’m happy if someone can point to an example.)
It now seems Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie has decided that his main policy is poker machine reform (remember how in the 80’s, “reform” was all about removing market impediments? God, I miss the 80’s!,) and I’m guessing he’ll get some action in that area. Of course, poker machines would generally be a state issue, which is why Wilkie ever so helpfully suggested use of the Corporations Act – the Fed’s favourite tool for trouncing state’s rights. What this effectively means, is that an independent from Tasmania is laying down the law for NSW clubs and their patrons (all for the greater good, of course).
Just in case you were thinking this is a small enough price to pay, rest assured it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The new minority government (whichever side that might be) hasn’t even started legislating anything yet – all of the current “negotiations” are just for starters. I found the following to be a particularly ominous sign:
The trio (Gillard, Wilkie and Wilkie’s wife and media adviser, Kate Burton) then began talks over a jug of water and a thin black binder placed on a coffee table.
The binder looked identical to packages Ms Gillard handed recently to three other independent MPs which touted Labor’s record and election promises bearing on their electorates.
Welcome to the new paradigm.
UPDATE: Wilkie has now released his 20-point list of priorities. Delivering on these would cost billions – and that’s just for the dental plan. But most amusing was number 20, which basically asks for a bigger office:
Adequate staffing and office space to deal with the workload of an Independent Member of Parliament.