The open rumour today is that the Opposition will move a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives next week, potentially terminating the current Labor government. It either won’t happen, or it will fail.
As the fallout and retribution from Thursday’s disgraceful Australia Day riot continues, consideration is apparently being given, in opposition ranks, to the movement of a no-confidence vote in the government in an attempt to force a fresh election.
It’s true that what occurred on Thursday was completely unacceptable, and it is no exaggeration that the episode at The Lobby restaurant shamed Australia internationally.
As the questions are progressively asked in terms of who knew what and when, it is equally true that despite the sacking of a ministerial advisor that questions in terms of the wider picture of what happened remain unanswered.
Tonight, I don’t want to debate the issue afresh, but rather to look at the option of a no-confidence vote and analyse the likely course of events should one be presented.
Indeed, Andrew Wilkie — the Independent who incurred severely burnt fingers as a result of dealing with Julia Gillard — has indicated he would support such a motion.
Technically, what he has agreed to support is the movement to suspend parliamentary standing orders to allow a no-confidence motion to be debated, but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing.
I don’t believe a no-confidence vote against the Gillard government will succeed — this time — and it’s not a question of the merits of the motion; rather, it’s a question of the numbers.
With ex-Liberal traitor and general shitbag Peter Slipper occupying the Speaker’s chair, there are 149 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives; 75 of them add up to a win on any piece of legislation or on a motion such as this one.
There are 71 Liberal and National MHRs.
Add Andrew Wilkie to that, and presumably WA National Tony Crook — if he values his re-election prospects — and that makes 73.
Add Bob Katter, too; he wanted to put the Liberal Party into government with his vote as a crossbencher after last year’s election.
Nothing has changed in terms of the issues Katter stipulated as the terms for receipt of his vote, so we’ll add him in — and that makes it 74 Coalition-aligned votes.
The 72 ALP MHRs will obviously vote for themselves, as will the
Communist Green MP Adam Bandt; so there is 73 guaranteed pro-Labor votes.
Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are a different story.
Oakeshott’s papers are firmly and clearly marked; having thrown his lot in with Gillard — as the holder of an overwhelmingly conservative electorate, but with very few tangible political smarts — it’s fairly obvious that he would line up on the government side in any no-confidence vote.
Which makes Tony Windsor the key, on the current make-up of the House.
Windsor is very different to Oakeshott, despite holding a similarly conservative electorate, in that he a) has some political nous of his own, and b) has unfettered access to the political brain of his relative Bruce Hawker, the ALP strategist.
His own polling numbers in New England are holding up better than those of Oakeshott in Lyne, to the point that Windsor — whilst still likely to lose his seat on paper — may yet find a way to survive.
Perhaps bringing down the Gillard government in a no-confidence vote might be just the circuit-breaker he needs.
But I still think — not just yet.
For those readers unfamiliar with the whole idea of no-confidence motions in Parliament, the reality is fairly simple: if one is moved and succeeds (meaning the government loses the vote on raw numbers) then by convention, the government must either resign or call an election.
My instincts are that this issue, whilst absolutely deplorable and reprehensible, isn’t the hook Tony Abbott and the opposition need to ensure Windsor’s vote and get the fresh election they seek.
Craig Thomson might be a very different story, in a month or two…
The sheer depravity of the allegations against Thomson are one thing; for him to be charged, as seems increasingly likely, are another.
And if he is, the brief of evidence will be available, and that will form the basis of a no-confidence motion that may very well succeed.
I’d make the point that — paradoxically — it is now in the best interests of the Coalition to defer an election for a while; with half the parliamentary term now gone, a window opens in a bit over twelve months to take half the Senate to an election as well as the House, which would avoid either two elections in two years and/or a separate half-Senate election, the last of which occurred in 1973.
So if there is to be a no-confidence vote next week (and there may), I’d be surprised if it were successful.
But whether there is or not, or whether it is or not, a solidly legitimate pretext for another go is not too far away.
And if this analysis is correct, then Craig Thomson — holder of a classic marginal seat with an alleged penchant for hookers — might find the price of a screw to be very high indeed.
And so might the Prime Minister and her government.