Flat White

The Senate: as ye sow, so shall ye reap

4 August 2016

9:15 AM

4 August 2016

9:15 AM

The final Senate results are in and the Star Wars cantina of the last parliament will look monocultural compared to this menagerie of madness.

Nine Greens (better than 10, I suppose), three centre-left Xenophon populists, four Hansonite populists, the Human Headline, and Tasmania’s answer to Boadicea. At least the is some returning soundness in Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Family First’s Bob Day, whose liberal thinking puts many big “L” Liberals to shame.  And climate sceptic, section 18C-hating new Queensland One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, could prove a surprise packet of common sense emanating from Pauline Hanson’s camp.

That’s a lot of cats for PM Malcolm Turnbull to herd if he wants to do a bit of actual governing.  There’s never a more exciting time etc, etc …

Meanwhile the Coalition has lost three senators. Labor treads water, but can be expected to make the place as unworkable as they can, smelling the Turnbull government’s self-inflicted vulnerability.

Whoever the bright spark was that persuaded Malcolm Turnbull to call a double dissolution rather than let his eminently sensible Senate voting reforms wash through over two half-Senate elections, should be sacked.  In rushing to a DD, and now without the assured numbers to pass the DD-triggering Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation in a joint sitting, the government is weakened, uncertain and has lost its political GPS.

And if it doesn’t sort out its political management, governance and direction by Christmas, and make sure the staff-work fiascos behind rejecting Kevin Rudd’s UN bid and the shambolic setting up of the NT youth detention royal commission aren’t the new normal, the government will become slowly-burning toast as this chaotic parliamentary term and Senate ego-fest unfolds.  On current performance, the unthinkable of a Shorten Labor government within three years is actually a real possibility if things don’t change fast, and even yet another change of leadership wouldn’t save the Coalition.

The PM has reaped the whirlwind that created this new Senate.  It’s now up to him as to whether it blows away his leadership, and the Coalition government generally.  Turnbull can make this sorry mess work, but it’s going to need every political, policy and persuasive skill he can muster.  On the evidence of his government so far this year, that’s a very big ask indeed.

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