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May 10th 2012 print

James Allan

Declaration of Lack of Independence

Here’s a Declaration our two independent MPs might find they could sign up to.

Let me paraphrase the old gag of former New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and tell you that Craig Thomson’s move out of the Labor Party to sit with the independents on the cross-benches has done one thing for sure. It has raised the average IQ of both the Labor Party and the independents.

And what astonishing examples of independents they are. No matter how superb their bargaining power, they extract virtually nothing from Ms. Gillard’s government save for a few trifling baubles here and there. (I assume that by now no one counts the NBN as a life-altering good thing.)

They just vote with the government through thick and thin, regardless of the swirl of surrounding events.

Normally that’s not most accurately described by the adjective ‘independent’. Somewhat more apt might be descriptions such as ‘retainers’ or ‘sycophants’ or ‘lap dogs’ or, well, ‘dependents’.

You see at least when it comes to Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor they are very much dependent on this government plodding on in order to stay in Parliament. Neither has the remotest chance of being re-elected. It may well be that one or both of them won’t even have the courage to run again and take their medicine from the constituents whom they misled.

If you understand politics in terms of principles, then it’s hard to see what principle motivates these two men to keep this Gillard government in power. I suppose you could say that both were always a bit on the rural socialist side of things that fits a bit with some Labor outlooks. But if there’s any principle at work at all it seems to me to be an old-fashioned sort of hatred aimed at the National Party and Mr. Abbott, together with a puffed up self-regard that isn’t all that pleasant to observe.

Of course if you throw out that sort of template and see politics in terms of self-interest, or even of rent-seeking behaviour, then these two men just come across as incompetent. Let’s be honest. They have got next to nothing extra for their constituents. And they’ve destroyed completely their own political careers.

They will be remembered as the men who put into office, and kept there, the worst government in Australia’s history. Mr. Whitlam should be thanking them every chance he gets.

And that sort of accomplishment surely deserves special recognition. How about commemorating it in a Declaration of Lack of Independence? With apologies to Mr. Jefferson, here’s my suggestion.

When in the course of human events (including inadvertently finding yourself holding the balance of power between the political party you once belonged to and any other party at all) it becomes necessary for a few loose cannons to dissolve the bonds that separate them from not just from their former party but from the wishes of the preponderance of their constituents, a decent respect to the opinions of the ABC requires that they should support anyone but the Coalition, and continue to do so regardless of what that propped up Government does and however many breaches of trust with the voters it may commit.

Indeed we hold these truths to be self-evident. That all independents will vote with the Labor Government come what may. That all confidence votes are created equal and will not be allowed to bring down Labor. That we dependents (oops, independents) have been endowed by our creator Ms. Gillard with certain inalienable entitlements, that among those are Serving a full three years to pursue as much happiness as we can before it all goes down in flames. And that to secure these entitlements, this Government has been instituted by us, deriving its just powers from the consent not of the governed, but of us, Tony and Rob.

And lastly, whenever this Government becomes destructive of the interests and consent of the governed, tough toenails.

Now there’s a Declaration our two independent MPs might find they could sign up to. Meantime anyone who thinks either man, under any circumstances, will bring down this government seems delusional to me.