One of the richest pleasures available to the Australian voting public every three years, when it chooses one of the two available major party groupings to govern this nation, is the orchestrated addition of a Senate crossbench designed to infuriate whoever wins the Treasury benches.
It’s our specialty. Nothing gives us a greater thrill than sending fleets of Democrats or Greens to torture the Tories, or knitting a hair-shirt of the Democratic Labor Party blacksmiths, racists and pro-lifers for a Labor PM.
In the past term, Scott Morrison’s had a relatively easy time of it.
His 36 government senators – when they behave, which isn’t always – are only three votes short of a majority, and usually he can count on Pauline Hanson and her colleague Malcolm Roberts to back him in, with a third vote needing to be fossicked from Jacqui Lambie or the crumbs of the Xenophon movement.
But what fresh hell are we about to visit upon whoever prevails on May 21?
Bandt’s big hopes
Greens leader Adam Bandt, speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, reckons the Greens are odds-on to hold the balance of power in their own right.
His prediction is that his party will hold on to what it already has (nine senators at present) and add three more on May 21 to make them the largest third-party contingent of all time.
Tell him he’s dreaming? I mean, all the climate attention’s on the teal crowd, right?
But the teal crowd’s not running in the Senate. And only three Green senators are actually seeking re-election on May 21 – Dorinda Cox in Western Australia, Lidia Thorpe in Victoria, and Peter Whish-Wilson in Tasmania.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese yesterday ruled out increasing or even reviewing the JobSeeker allowance during the first term of an Albanese Labor government.
This means that across the two major parties, there is now quite a remarkable consensus: that in a high-inflation environment, Australia’s poorest people should not receive any more money at all, while the richest should receive, from 2024, nearly $ 20 billion a year in tax cuts.
If there are enough voters who object to this deal in South Australia, New South Wales or Queensland… well, who knows? Perhaps there’s a chance that the Greens leader will indeed get the Bandt back together.
And if the Greens do seize the balance of power, Bandt says he’ll use it to force the inclusion of dental cover in Medicare.
But Wait! There’s less!
There was a hell of a ruckus coming out of the One Nation yurt today, and grandiose promises of a Big Announcement – which turned out to be Nationals retiree George Christensen defecting to join Pauline Hanson’s Senate ticket.
Shrieks! Gasps! Until the fine print was revealed…
The former LNP Member for Dawson will be running at number three on the Hanson ticket, which he’s about as likely to win as Eurovision.
Christensen’s defection should thus not interfere with his recently-announced intention to spend more time with his family (from whom no response to this development has yet been obtained).
What it might do, however, is snare Christensen about $ 100,000. Lovely. Nice. Different.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
Before we leave the subject of Senate shenanigans, it’s worth checking in on Tassie – which apart from boasting a lovely cheesemaking subculture and flawless skies, is the easiest place in Australia to get elected to the Senate.
Not if you’re Eric Abetz in 2022, though.
The arch-conservative Liberal senator is nearing the end of his third decade in the Red Room but has been bumped down to the unwinnable third spot on the Liberals’ Tassie ticket – a development that has awakened in the Abetzian breast a new interest in the concepts of sexism and ageism.
“One thing I can’t do about the day I was born, nor the sex that I was given courtesy of the chromosome interaction, whatever, that caused me to be a male,” said Abetz of the decision, in a form of words that may take some time to erase from the old hippocampus.
A few years back, when sitting Liberal Richard Colbeck (an Abetz enemy) was similarly relegated, Abetz was most disapproving of Colbeck’s decision to run a personal campaign advocating that Tasmanians vote for him below the line in defiance of the Liberal preselectors.
So who could possibly be behind the slew of unbranded “Vote Abetz” placards now cropping up?
Albanese managed to scramble back onto a preferred patch of policy territory when, in Melbourne, he announced that a Labor government would build 50 bulk-billed, late-opening “urgent care” medical centers to give people the option of avoiding the emergency room when they slice themselves chopping onions or get things stuck up their noses.
Morrison – super keen to use the word “jobs” wherever possible just now – staged a campaign event yesterday at which he claimed that a Coalition government would create 1.3 million jobs if re-elected.
The low unemployment rate means that realistically we will need immigrants to do lots of those jobs. Today it emerges that the factory at which Morrison delivered his remarks is in fact offshoring jobs to Vietnam. Ouch.
Meanwhile, meet the seat of Parramatta!
Everybody wants to be the MP all of a sudden and Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja is staging a mercy dash to the Solomon Islands to try and run interference in Honiara’s defense deal with China.
One more day of campaigning remains before the mutually-agreed Easter Fainting Break is observed by all parties. I cordially hope you enjoy both.
What to watch out for tomorrow
After stumbling on day one in a wide-ranging press conference, there was a different approach to handling the media for the Labor campaign today. Albanese took far fewer questions than he had early in the week.
Campaign observers will be closely watching if it’s an indication of a new approach to limiting questions in a bid to limit gaffes.
Catch up on today’s stories