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December 01st 2010 print

James Allan

Prediction: election day massacre

But (and Peter van Onselen eat your heart out because I’m going to make an election prediction even before you do, though you’ll be relieved to know it’s not in favour of Labor) I predict now that if Tony Windsor runs again he’ll lose. As for Herr Oakeshott, he’ll be slaughtered.

The other Windsor (and the Oakeshott)

This will not be another piece about the marriage plans of a certain Mr. Windsor. Sure, that Windsor’s betrothed seems a fine choice. And there is always a certain amount of enjoyment to be gained by watching ardent republicans, people who’d follow the ins and outs of every Hollywood star going, squirm when it comes to the Royals. (I say that as a monarchist myself, but of the ‘any new system we’d end up with would be worse than what we have’ variety.)

No, this piece is about that other Windsor, named Tony, and his sidekick Rob Oakeshott. And maybe about the Green pseudo-independent too. You see I was driving into work the other day, listening as all of us masochists do to the ABC, and weren’t they talking about what a triumph it was for Julia Gillard that she got the agreement of the independents on her NBN multi-million dollar broadband gambit.

It was a tad surreal listening to these ABC commentators, as the whole thing was seemingly premised on the view that Ms. Gillard had performed some astounding feat of political brinksmanship or statesmanship or, well, unexpected competence in getting these independents to support her.

Does anyone believe that? Let’s face it. These independents are wholly and completely tied now to the Labor Party. Cometh an election and cometh the end of their time in Parliament. To put it bluntly, they have no choice but to do what Labor tells them. When Julia says ‘jump’, they will merely reply ‘how high?’.

To start, after the next federal election the Greens will be toast in the lower house, because the Victorian election has made it plain that it is worthless to give a preference to the ‘we will always go with Labor’ Greens. It’s called ‘reciprocity’ Mr. Brown. And it’s not flowing from your team. So they’ll be put last by the Coalition, and then lose their one and only lower house seat.

That leaves us with our two rural socialists, Mssrs Windsor and Oakeshott. I’m a native born Canadian and the analogy that comes to mind in describing the apparent views of these men is to Canada’s now defunct (but once potent in the western provinces) Social Credit party, sometimes unkindly described as the ‘funny money’ party.

Think of economically illiterate people, at core against free trade and in favour of government picking winners, propping up lifestyles and jobs that no longer pay their way, with a big dollop of populist dislike of banks, of city dwellers, and of government (except, of course, when they want big government to spend big dollars on something of miniscule value to anyone outside their enclaves).

Sound familiar? Now call me a cynic but I can’t see this prescription winning these two men a vote of confidence from the voters in their constituencies. I know our ‘other Windsor’ has a huge margin to work with. But (and Peter van Onselen eat your heart out because I’m going to make an election prediction even before you do, though you’ll be relieved to know it’s not in favour of Labor) I predict now that if Windsor T. runs again he’ll lose.

As for Herr Oakeshott, he’ll be slaughtered.

And I reckon both men know this. All they can do is keep Parliament going for as long as possible, before they meet their fates. And that means it’s not a real accomplishment at all that Ms. Gillard won their support on the NBN, or anything really. They can’t afford to bring her down now. And she knows it.

Sure, the Labor team may orchestrate a couple of matters where Tony and Rob can be seen to stand up to them, as a sort of bogus bit of theatre to give them something to show their electorates. But no one will be fooled.

That also means that the NBN is the make or break policy for Labor. It’s also make or break for our Social Credit look-a-likes Windsor and Oakeshott.  And that’s highly apropos because at the core of Labor’s NBN is a dislike of competition. It’s about government knows best picking of winners, with the playing field being stacked in favour of the government progeny, with every rule stacked against competitors.

In short, it’s the perfect nightmare of any small government, pro-competition as the best way of allocating society’s scarce resources person like me.

On the other hand, for those who want to blow $50 billion of taxpayers’ money between now and 2020 (and does anyone doubt the costs won’t end up higher?), who want big government to specify broadband speeds for consumers (which, delightfully for round-number-loving metric system afficianados, will be 100 Mbps) and best delivery technologies (fibre, says the all-knowing about future technologies government), and who want the taxpayers to carry all 100 percent of the risk of this project, then the NBN is for you.

And doesn’t that last paragraph more or less perfectly fit with the desires and wants of Mssrs Windsor and Oakeshott?

As I said, I’m an optimist. I don’t think the voters in their constituencies will share these Social Credit funny money type views.

The only real question is how much will have been spent before we can toss them both out and stop this.