Thursday, February 5, 2009

The other Stimulus package...

Much like the US and many other countries, Australia is in the grip of stimulus fever; and much like the US the package selected by government has caused a showdown with the main opposition party.
Unlike our friends in the US, there is much less doubt as to what will happen between the two parties over this. Australian political parties almost universally vote on party lines, crossing the floor is a news worthy event and unless on a so called "conscience vote" ; something that risks you being black-balled by both sides if you do it too much.
Australia generally only has minority governments at state level, federal parliament's lower house is generally ruled by the governing party , it is the senate and it's small but vital population of minor parties and single independent that hold the future of this bill.

I must take my hat off, this is the first decent political tussle of Kevin Rudd's government; it seems that the opposition have finally found their feet and have progressed beyond the school boy childishness that we saw at the start of the parliamentary season in 2008. (The Internet filtering bill was less of a tussle as it was so unpopular with the public, and seems doomed in the face of opposition by the Greens and Liberal party.)
Malcom Turnbull as opposition leader is staking alot on this, it's a high profile blocking of a very high profile (and popular) bill. Heck any bill that basically hands out cash to the public will be popular; it's why the previous govenment's baby bonus, first home grant and private health insurance subsity still exist, they are simpally very difficult to remove due to the backlash they will cause. (Even if the actual economic benifits of these rebates are highly suspect in all cases)
But this is a very deft move if it works, Rudd now has to deal with the minor parties and the indipendent to pass the bill, and naturally there may be some shifting to meet these senator interests. The Greens have stated they want to review the bill, probably by Senete inquiry, the Family First senator may swing the oppositions way but I think will be loathe to oppose a populist bill like this one (after all Family first is basically a conservative populist party),and the indipendent Nick Xenophon is expected to back the bill after an inquiry. This will slow the bill down, which may make it cool in the public imagination which will rob Rudd of some of the advantage.

Should be an interesting week or so...