Abbott has won control of the Senate

Australia will now see its most stable government in a decade, with the six independent and minor party senators who hold the balance of power overwhelmingly in favour of Coalition policy.

I make this prediction with great confidence. Tony Abbott and the Coalition have won effective control of the Senate and the government will be able to pass all its major legislative program. Australia is set to have its most stable government for a decade.*

The Coalition has 33 votes in the Senate but needs another six for a majority. The backroom people in the Coalition have now done the research work and are bubbling with confidence that the six non-major party Senators elected in the 2013 election will combine to back most – if not all – of the government’s legislative program that was forecast in the campaign.

Accordingly, there will be no carbon or mining tax, the building cartel-style agreements will be blocked, self-managed superannuation will be preserved and encouraged, independent contracting will also be greatly encouraged, and this will be a government based on the interests our biggest employer group: small enterprise.

There are two qualifications to this confident prediction. First, a number of people in the Coalition and the ALP want to change the electoral act so that the 2013 Senate outcome can never be repeated. The Coalition is tempted but it has received the message that if Tony Abbott went down that track and tried to amend the electoral act, it would be a declaration of war with the new senators. The Coalition now knows that it has to choose between new Senate rules and stable government for three years, with the clear implementation of its program.

The second qualification is that the Abbott government must not be captured by the ‘big end of town’ and deviate from its 12-point plan (Abbott’s 12-point plan to transform Australia, September 9). For example, when the new minister for superannuation Arthur Sinodinos indicated he was considering an attack on self-managed funds, it was a warning sign that the government could come under pressure to stray from its clearly set out policies (Is Sinodinos stalking self-managed super?, September 30).

How will the six new senators come together? The first step is to look at the background of ‘the six’. Three come from the Palmer United party, which was established by a very successful Australian business person. The three new Palmer Party senators are by no means clones of Clive Palmer and each has different views, but with the above two qualifications they will support the government on the major issues.

I described Bob Day yesterday as the “enforcer” among the group – he will look after the detail to make sure the government sticks to its pledges and the 12-point plan (Wealth and power combine in the Senate, October 8). But he will also help some of the other new senators master the detail when required.

Clive Palmer and Bob Day are both successful business people, former members of the Liberal party who both unsuccessfully sought Liberal party nomination for a House of Representative seat. 

Another member of ‘the six’ is the Liberal Democrats’ David Leyonhjelm who, like Day and Palmer, is a former Liberal party member and was very active in New South Wales. He fell out with the Liberals over the Howard gun laws. He is a staunch believer in small government and selling off enterprises like Australia Post, Medibank and even the ABC. He will almost certainly have a similar view to Palmer and Day on backing Coalition legislation if it is in line with pledges to the Australian people.

The final member of ‘the six’, Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, is the only one without a connection to the Coalition and is a complete unknown to them. But Ricky Muir is no fool and will be a Senator representing ordinary people. The current view is that he is too smart to go out on his own and will join the other five.

At some point in the future – whether it be in a few days, weeks or months – ‘the six’ will meet together. For all I know, they may have even already met. When they do meet they will find much commonality and a sense of purpose.

Tony, you have won a victory you could never have contemplated on September 7.

*Motoring Muir joins Palmer alliance, October 10.

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