Originally posted 7-Dec-2008 at truepolitik.myperspective.org.au
This week was the last week of Federal Parliament for 2008. There was legislation to be passed, including legislation on infrastructure spending.
That is where the Liberal & National coalition parties in Opposition came a cropper. The Coalition had proposed amendments to the bill, ostensibly to increase accountability. However, late on Thursday 4-Dec, they came to the pragmatic conclusion that if the bill did not pass, then there would be significant detrimental effects on the economy; and, worse, that the government could rightly blame them for jeopardising the economy, and thousands of jobs. The Senate will not sit again until 3-February. Practical politics said they had to approve the bill, or risk both an economic and a public backlash.
Liberal, & Coalition, leader Malcolm Turnbull, set the policy - the bill would be supported. Rather than support the bill, as they’d been told, 2 Liberals voted against it, 5 voted as per party policy, and the rest (25 of them) abstained, by waiting just outside the Senate doors, which were open. The National Party senators voted against the bill, and against Coalition policy. Such a principled stand on amendments to increase Government accountability was something never seen from Coalition Senators while they were part of John Howard’s government!
At a press conference, Opposition Infrastructure spokesman, Andrew Robb, tried to blame the Government for the Coalition’s disarray, telling ABC reporter Sabra Lane “They wanted to shift the blame for their dithering and mismanagement onto the Coalition“. Doublespeak! The Government proposed the legislation; it wanted it passed; the Opposition delayed it by proposing amendments, and Andrew Robb thinks the Opposition’s disarray is all the government’s fault!
The fact is, the Opposition, and Liberal Party senators, in particular, chose to abandon whatever principles they thought they had, and opted for political expediency. While-ever the Liberal & National Parties blame everyone else, including “the government”, for their own internal ructions and rebellions, they will have no chance of being a viable opposition, let alone an alternative government.