Tony Abbott is hedging his bets for another election. The Opposition Leader is an uber-competitor – not the type to baulk at the finish line. But there is a view in parts of the Coalition – depending on how the final seats fall
that it might be in the interests of conservative politics to play a longer game, either by manoeuvring to return to the polls immediately or allowing Julia Gillard to form a shaky minority government with ”the extreme Greens” and the ”flaky” independents that would fall apart, preferably just in time for the federal poll re-run to get caught up in next year’s NSW state election Labor bloodbath.
Another election was also being pushed by some commentators yesterday who were writing off the possibility of a minority government before the final seat count was even determined and before the independents had even begun negotiating.
It was with an eye to the possibility of another election that Abbott refused to submit his costings to the Treasury – a reasonable request from the independents who will be asked to guarantee supply. Abbott’s excuses were not convincing.
On Wednesday he said it was because the Treasury was incapable of costing opposition policies – even though it would presumably have been capable of costing them if that opposition had become a government and even though – as the independents put to him – he could provide the Treasury with all his own workings and assumptions, the absence of which is something that puts oppositions at a disadvantage during the election campaign costings procedure.
By yesterday the Coalition was saying that a leak to the Herald left them worried that the Treasury would ”tamper with” their assumptions. It’s strange that this one leak has apparently, in the Coalition’s view, tainted an entire central agency of the bureaucracy, while the flood of leaks to the Coalition from their ”mole” Godwin Grech apparently did not.
The Coalition is really worried that Treasury will come up with a different – bigger – answer to what its policies will cost, which would be a big disadvantage when it came to re-running the ”debt and deficit” argument in another election campaign.
It remains a real possibility that stable minority government will be out of reach for either side. The public statements from the Queensland independent Bob Katter indicating different views from the other independents and from each of the major parties makes it hard to imagine a government that was absolutely dependent on his vote.
But the way the seats have fallen, it is most likely that a government formed by either side would require three or four of the five crossbench votes in the lower house.
Since one of them is a Green, that makes Abbott’s job harder, but by no means impossible.
Surely it’s worth having a shot at working with what the people decided before thinking about going back to the polls in search of a more favourable outcome.