Peter Smith

Flaky conservatives

Politics independents style is an interesting new species of democracy. It finds expression in preening; in delusions of grandeur; and in an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance to the national well-being. If we were looking for historical parallels perhaps Mussolini best captures its essence. It disdainfully repudiates inconvenient democratic principles such as paying attention to electors.

Katter, Windsor, and Oakeshott represent electorates that in aggregate managed to cobble together not quite 42 per cent of the primary vote for Labor; that is 14 per cent per electorate on average. Add in the Greens and the average per electorate increases to around 18 per cent.

If this isn’t enough, the Newspoll results reported in The Australian on Saturday should make salutary reading for our trio. If the small numbers of undecided voters in the sample were evenly split between the Coalition and Labor, the results would show a two party preferred breakdown of 62, 57 and 60 percent for the Coalition in Kennedy, Lyne and New England. That would make them all safe seats for the Coalition.

Quite simply Katter, Windsor and Oakeshott should stop messing everybody about and understand that while they have, in our system, some license to follow an independent line on particular issues, they have no license to support a party, and an accompanying philosophy, that their constituents do not support. They are not in their seats to represent themselves or Australia. They are there to represent the people who live in their electorates. Will they eventually understand this? Who knows? But their antics so far do not inspire confidence.

If the trio’s antics are anomalous, Tony Crook’s are perplexing. The newly elected member for O’Connor in WA claims to be an ‘independent’. The Prime Minister for obvious reasons wants to believe him. The problem is that he isn’t. He went to the election as a National. The Australian Election Commission reports his votes against “The Nationals”. The National Party of WA is affiliated with the federal National Party. Sure the WA Party is not in coalition with the federal Liberals but the preference of O’Connor electors is clear enough. The primary vote of Labor and Greens combined in O’Connor was 26 per cent. The combined primary vote of the Liberals and Nationals was 67 per cent.

If Adam Bandt, in spite of relying on Liberal preferences to get ahead of Labor in Melbourne, had not expressed his preference for Labor I would have been amazed. After all, with an impeccable socialist background as befitting a member of the radical Greens he had nowhere else to go – the communist party not being available. I had equally assumed that one National and three independents, with past National affiliations, representing conservative regional electorates, would have been a shoo-in for the Coalition. This says a great deal about the left and right side of politics.

At least you can say of those on the left that they know where they stand. They know whose side they are on. That is a great strength against political dilettantes on the conservative right.

Katter and company and Crook need to realise that a Labor Greens coalition represents higher taxes, income and wealth redistribution, misguided grand schemes like the NBN and potentially crippling and useless taxes on energy. It is a recipe for relative impoverishment. The Greens hide a socialist agenda behind an environmental front. The Labor Party is benign in comparison but exactly how is a party controlled by the unions and in league with the Greens helpful to Australia’s prosperity or in tune with the needs of regional Australia?

There has been speculation that the rise of the power of independents may encourage more independents in future. Hopefully it will encourage conservative-minded electorates to discover in advance whether candidates share their philosophy. This might avoid electing flaky conservatives whose heads can be turned by the sniff of power; and whose allegiance depends on which way the wind is blowing; or on some relative triviality such as whether Abbott’s or Gillard’s costs are out of whack; or on whether some precise amount of pork-barrelling money can be extracted.

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