Following Speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper’s decision to step aside pending criminal investigations into alleged fraud with respect to expenses (the sexual misconduct allegations are a civil matter that will not affect his eligibility to retain his seat in the House), the Gillard minority government has lost a very important buffer vote in the Lower House. Speculation abounds as to whether they will have the numbers on the floor to pass the Budget on May 8 without his vote, especially since Andrew Wilkie remains rather miffed that his pokies reform legislation did not get through, and thus is viewed as possibly able to be swayed to vote against the Budget.
Looking psephologically though, the situation does not seem hopeless. Slipper’s vote was a buffer vote, not a crucial vote. His replacement in the Speaker’s chair, Labor Deputy Speaker Anna Burke, will still have a casting vote if the matter goes to a tie on the floor, so that in the worst case scenario where the Coalition managed to convince Andrew Wilkie, along with already Opposition-leaning indedpendents Tony Crook and Bob Katter, to vote against the Budget, her vote would still ensure that the government’s legislation will go through.
It’s still a heavy tactical blow, and there are many questions raised about matters of judgement and ethical standards as exhibited by several persons in this particular scandal. However, it’s not necessarily a dissolution-dealing blow.
Categories: crisis, ethics & philosophy, parties and factions
Also, if for some reason the government lost another vote I’m sure they would rediscover an amazing enthusiasm for pokie reform and get Wilkie’s vote back.
And although Wilkie may make symbolic votes of opposition now I think its pretty unlikely he would want to trigger a change of government (which would almost certainly trigger an election) because in a landslide win to the Coalition he would have no leverage at all.
I think there would be more than one politician wondering if any of the skeletons in their closet might start shaking if they get too carried away with this stuff too. I don’t know if any of the independents have any skeletons, but they tried to get Gillard on something a boyfriend of hers did once, so whoever is rattling the skeletons isn’t above drawing long bows.
I also wonder if this might not reflect a bit badly on the Opposition who allegedly sat on this since 2003. I guess we will see.
I’m sure Tony will try to use this to demand an election again. I wonder if the media speculation that Joe Hockey might make a run for the leadership will get traction?