So neither the ALP or the LNP can make a government in their own right. As the predictions currently stand, the LNP will need to persuade 3 MPs to join with it in government, while the ALP will need to persuade 4 MPs.
Be clear on this: any independent MPs who agree to form a government with either of the major parties do not have to agree to vote with the major party on every single issue – they only have to agree to vote with them on matters of supply. If one side can demonstrate to Governor-General Quentin Bryce that a firm commitment exists with Other MPs to vote as a majority bloc on supply, then Bryce will be able to approve the formation of a minority government. If not, then a new election for the House of Representatives (HoR) will need to be held.
So, government in the end comes down to ensuring the flow of finance for existing government departments and programs, that’s the bottom line. Thus speculations on how Independent A and Party B couldn’t possibly come to an agreement on matter X, or issue P, or policy K are all pretty much irrelevant – they don’t need to agree on any of those, simply that together they will vote supply to keep the machinery of government ticking over. Debate in the House on all those other contentious issues will then become a lot more interesting and far less predictable.
3 of the “Others” who could decide who forms a government are re-elected Independent MPs, each of whom were originally elected as Nationals but who left the party years ago out of concern that it wasn’t doing enough for rural interests, and who have all seen vastly increased majorities since they went Independent. These three – Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor – are well known around parliament and know how to play the game, and having decided to bargain collectively in a hung parliament scenario they are a formidable minority interest group.
Most of the MSM is portraying them as “conservatives” but these three men are really radicals – they see themselves as true grass-roots politicians, not at all rusted-on to the Coalition’s coat-tails. Neither major party will be able to hold on to all of its campaign platform if they end up striking a bargain with the ex-Nat Independents – there are substantial chunks that they will have to sacrifice, namely ruling out cuts to immigration (they want more workers available for rural employers), winding back free-market policies (Katter in particular believes in big government support for agrarian interests) and increasing funding for regional health services, just for starters. They especially really want the NBN in its as-planned-by-Labor form, a demand which would make it impossible for Abbott to deliver his promised cuts in public debt, because all his election spending promises rely on having most of the budgeted $42bn for the NBN available for other things instead.
The other two “Others” – Adam Bandt for the Greens and Andrew Wilkie as an independent, are less well understood in terms of how they will work with others in the Parliament. If the Coalition can come to an agreement with the 3 ex-Nat Independents, then they will probably not even need to talk to Bandt or Wilkie about what they might want. But if Labor wants to form a minority government, they need at least one of these two to agree to join with them so that they can have the numbers with the ex-Nats. 3 + 1 + 72 = 76.
It’s probably in the Greens’ interest to caucus with the ALP on matters of supply – if they can help to form a stable ALP-led government in the HoR, then they get the chance to fully exercise their BoP in the Senate. Labor can likely be reasonably confident that Bandt will swing his vote behind them in principle, but I’m sure that the Greens will be actively cutting the best bargain they can get in terms of the tensions between what they want and what the ex-Nats want.
So what about Wilkie? There’s a lot of stereotype-juggling masquerading as “analysis” going on – as a former ASIO officer he’s supposed to fall in line with military conservatism, but he was a notorious whistleblower so he’s got a maverick streak, but then again he was a Young Liberal back in the day so he must be a social conservative, but he stood for the Greens in Bennelong in 2004 so now he must be a tree-hugging radical, but he left the Greens to stand as an Independent for this last election so that takes us back to the maverick thing. I confess I find it hard to imagine him swinging behind the Coalition, but again – if the ex-Nats decide to caucus with the LNP to get to 76 votes on the floor of Parliament then Wilkie’s opinions cease to matter right now.
Conclusion: Let’s hope that Tony Abbott utterly alienates Bob Katter?