Friday, September 03, 2010

Gillard might pull it off in Australia

A little update on Australia's still uncertain election outcome this morning because there's some fun stuff going on. This report, "Julia Gillard edging closer to power," gives an account of where things are. Gillard's Labor are at 74 seats now, with 76 needed for a majority, having obtained the support of the Melbourne Green MP and just yesterday the Tasmanian independent MP. The Abbot led Coalition are at 73.

There are 3 independents remaining in the undecided camp but they are possibly turning toward Labor after a "costing" has been performed by the Treasury department of both Labor and the conservative Coalition's election pledges. The Coalition's promises have apparently not held up:
Although Treasury endorsed Labor's accounting of its promises, it costed Mr Abbott's net savings as up to $11bn less than claimed by the Coalition during the election campaign.
The three independents, in the wake of this now publicly released information, will likely face great pressure to go with Labor. How could they go with the Coalition, after all, after having demanded this costing in the first place? Also now factoring in, some of the interesting details of Abott's negotiation with the Tasmanian MP have become public. Abbott offered him a sports arena, which was rejected, along with a wildly over-priced hospital. There's a fun debate going on over who had who in those negotiations but it looks like the Tasmanian MP has stuck it to Abbott by making Abbott appear unethical with the hospital offer. Two of the three remaining independents say they'll choose a side early next week. So the momentum seems now to be with Labor who now only need 2 of the 3 independents whereas the Coalition needs all 3.

Back to this costing...it seems to have been insisted upon as a demand by the independents during the negotiation, in order to have some independent verification to gauge their decision by ("Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter, who are expected to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, had requested access to economic advice normally reserved for an incoming government."). It makes sense that a government's treasury department would be tracking the financial viability of election promises during a campaign, in preparation for whichever party wins. But I'm not quite clear on whether this is a normal part of Australian politics or not, a costing by Treasury of party election promises during a campaign as part of the public campaign, because Gillard had this to say yesterday:
I would say to Mr Katter, Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott, I believe they have done the nation a great service by ensuring that Mr Abbott has finally had his election policies costed by Treasury.

Now during the election campaign, of course, many Australians were asking themselves what Mr Abbott had to hide, why he wasn’t putting his policies in for proper Treasury costing. Well now, of course, we know he has 11 billion reasons why he wanted to keep those costings secret. 11 billion reasons.
That's interesting if that is indeed what they do in Australian elections. Whatever the case, the costing's now been done and the election's ultimate result may now turn on it. It really should but these "Independents" do bear that status for a reason.

Possibly an interesting lesson for election campaign promises and negotiations in the context of "hung" parliaments.