03/03/2011 - 00:00

Is the Lib-Nats alliance on shaky ground?

03/03/2011 - 00:00


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Subtle moves by the Liberals may signal some insecurity about the alliance with the Brendon Grylls-led Nationals.

THOSE who’ve read US President Barack Obama’s 7,000-word State of the Union Address from January 25 would have noticed the word ‘climate’ doesn’t appear.

This is because a presidential election is due in November 2012.

Last November’s huge mid-term gains by the Republicans in the House of Representatives were in part due to mounting nationwide opposition to President Obama’s obsessive propagandising of alleged global warming, which ever-fewer Americans believe is occurring.

In this he’s been like former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and his successor Julia Gillard, who still haven’t moved on.

Moreover, North America’s last three severe winters did nothing to help the White House’s determination to introduce yet another tax, one on plant-nourishing carbon dioxide gas.

Nor is the alarmist climatic case being helped by the fact that, at last count, 31,487 American scientists, including 9,029 with PhDs, signed a congressional petition stating no convincing scientific evidence exists to justify the panic being promoted by so many United Nations bureaucrats and politicians worldwide.

So President Obama’s spin doctors finally decided that the best way to avoid repeating last November’s swing to the Republicans is to cease carping about climate change, global warming, and emissions trading schemes.

Thereafter it’s cross your fingers and hope voters forget the Democrats were once obsessively fixated about ameliorating alleged global warming by taxing carbon dioxide gas, via slugging electricity output and gasoline at the pump.

Given this turn of events, State Scene wondered if something similar may have occurred here as far as problematic government policies is concerned.

One way of testing this was to go to Premier Colin Barnett’s equivalent address, the premier’s statement, which he delivered in the Legislative Assembly on February 15.

This exercise proved easier than anticipated because a tip-off from an insider said if I checked that 40-minute, 6,400-word statement I’d find the phrase ‘Royalties for Regions’ doesn’t appear.

How true.

Not once was Royalties for Regions uttered.

And the reason is that the Barnett-led Liberals know their allies – but non-metropolitan-based rivals – the Nationals, have a stranglehold on this phrase.

So much so that across all non-metropolitan electorates, voters immediately associate Royalties for Regions with the Brendon Grylls-led Nationals, never the Liberals.

This catchy phrase has sunk so deeply into bush voters’ minds that Liberals now hate hearing it.

So displeased are they with this Nationals recognition factor that they’ve concluded they’re unlikely to ever be able to become associated with infrastructure spending beyond the Perth metropolitan area, even if the spending was initiated by a ministry they occupy.

The 24 Barnett-led lower house Liberal contingent is increasingly seen as a city-based fraternity preferring to outlay huge sums on projects such as the strange-looking Perth Waterfront development, presently billed at $440 million, but, like all such extravagances, likely to cost far more.

State Scene will be amazed if this unnecessary and unneeded excavating of water’s edge land won’t end up costing well over twice that.

Let’s wait and see.

Further inquiries about the silent adoption of the Obama ploy revealed someone within Liberal ranks issued an edict to all Liberal MPs and ministerial press secretaries that ‘Royalties for Regions’ must never be uttered in their speeches or press releases.

Failure to comply guarantees a stern dressing down.

Like President Obama, who has expunged the word ‘climate’ from the White House’s lexicon, the Barnett Liberals have axed ‘Royalties for Regions’ from their vocabulary.

Let’s consider this more closely.

Firstly, current conventional wisdom across Liberal ranks is that they’re doing so well in the polls against Eric Ripper-led Labor that they, meaning the Barnett-Grylls alliance (it’s not a coalition), is unlikely to be dislodged from power at the March 2013 election.

So where’s the problem? It is, of course, the Nationals, without whom the Liberals could not govern.

In the Legislative Assembly there are 26 Labor MPs, 24 Liberals, five Nationals and four Independents; meaning since one must have, at minimum, 30 MPs to form government, that’s easily covered by 24 Liberals, five Nationals, plus any one of the four Independents.

But it’s also covered by the 26 Labor members and five Nationals.

We shouldn’t forget that after the 2008 election Mr Grylls’ Nationals seriously considered doing what ex-Nationals and Canberra MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott did last year when opting to back Labor under Ms Gillard to form a government.

Keep that in mind.

However, just as Liberal leader Tony Abbott hasn’t discounted the possibility of Messrs Windsor and Oakeshott coming over to help him form a Liberal-Nationals-Independents government, a Labor-Nationals one could similarly emerge in Perth well before WA’s 2013 election.

Back here in the west, the Liberals dream of a time when they can govern in what’s called their own right; in other words, without the Nationals.

That, incidentally, is the reason for banning use of the phrase Royalties for Regions.

Like it or not there is bitter behind-the-scenes rivalry between the Liberals and Nationals especially out in the bush.

And the one thing that riles the far larger Liberal camp is all those hundreds of millions of Royalties for Regions dollars Mr Grylls and his markedly smaller team can splash around beyond Perth on bush-vote-buying spending sprees.

But an eruption could surface well before next election, meaning later this year, or even early next.

And the reason is that the 2013 election will be fought on new electoral boundaries as a result of an electorate redistribution to be undertaken this year.

All sorts of expected and unexpected things occur with redistributions, including perhaps seeing more seats allocated to metropolitan Perth.

For that to happen one or more seats would need to be taken from the less-populated non-metropolitan regions of Agriculture or Mining and Pastoral, where the Nationals presently hold their five seats.

If that occurred – something the metropolitan-oriented Liberals would undoubtedly like to see happen – there would inevitably be fewer safe or even not so safe Nationals seats.

State Scene has had a Machiavellian expert guide me through a range of redistribution possibilities the Liberals and Nationals would favour, as well as possibilities both would dislike.

Interestingly, every option the Liberals would prefer the Nationals would find toxic, since their long-term survival and current balance of power position, that’s so markedly helped by Royalties for Regions dollars, is threatened.

Two things should therefore be kept in mind.

All parties present submissions to the redistribution committee in which they set out how they’d like to see new boundaries drawn.

It’s quite a standard process whereby everyone can fairly promptly view what each party says it wanted instituted.

More pertinent, however, is if the Nationals should decide that a particularly devised Liberal submission gravely threatened their viability, and the Liberals refuse in confidential negotiations to withdraw or modify their stance.

Wouldn’t that be enough reason for Mr Grylls to pre-emptively cross the floor and help form an Eric Ripper-Grylls government before the 2013 election?

State Scene is keeping in mind something this Machiavellian informant said: “Anything’s possible in parliamentary politics.”

Deleting reference to Royalties for Regions in all Liberal speeches and press releases may well be an early sign we’ve begun treading this path.



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