Sunday, 22 August 2010


Oh boy, Networkers, I think we have a national hang-over of giant sized proportions after yesterday's Federal Election.  Parliament looks, at the moment, like it is well and truly hung.

What's going on?  We haven't a clue, have we?  The reportage wash-up on radio and television is boring, boring because all that is being done is rehashing yesterday's news.  They can't get someone in like a Prime Minister or likely to be Cabinet Minister to explore with optimism what the in-coming government will do.

I am guessing that most of us will be keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that we get to government something resembling what we voted for - and not all of us will get this, will we?

Miss Eagle believes that when one doesn't know what is going to happen, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.  So here is something for your consideration on the morning after the night before.

This link will take you to the NSW Hansard.  Once there you will need to enter the word 'memorandum' in your Find facility and it will bring you to the section where Nick Greiner - who actually led a minority government in NSW in 1991 - tables a Memorandum of Understanding signed by three out of the four independents.

The four independents at the time were John Hatton, Clover Moore, Peter McDonald, and Tony Windsor. The first three were true independents and were never politically aligned.  Tony Windsor was formerly a member of the National Party.

Hatton, Moore, and McDonald signed the Memorandum of Understanding.  In interviews, Windsor is making much of the fact that he is experienced at operating within a hung Parliament.  Could some astute reporter please ask him why it was that he was not a signatory to the MoU with Greiner?  If my memory is correct, it might have been that Windsor was part of a one-person coalition with the Greiner Liberal/National Government.  Windsor is a wily bird so I think we ought to give him a close watch.

Anyway, here is an extract from Hansard of what Nick Greiner said - in part - in Parliament at the time:
Mr GREINER: Today an agreement was signed which provides for stable government and fixed four-year terms of Parliament for the State of New South Wales. I table for incorporation in Hansard a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by me on behalf of the Government and by the member for Bligh, the member for Manly and the member for South Coast.
[See Addendum.]
This agreement has been negotiated over some four months. It is an historic agreement which will provide stability of government and substantial parliamentary, constitutional and legal reform. It is fair to say that it is the most far-reaching change ever in the governance of New South Wales. The agreement provides that the three Independent members will support the Government in votes of no confidence and on supply, except in certain clearly specified circumstances. It also outlines a program of implementation for the reforms, which will be diligently pursued by myself and by the Government. All citizens of New South Wales will recognise the very difficult economic circumstances for both the State and the nation. More than ever the State needs strong, decisive leadership and the capacity to take and stick to difficult decisions. This has been recognised by the three non-aligned Independents whom I mentioned. The agreement will overcome the perception of political instability referred to by Moody's earlier this week. In practical terms it means that, save for truly exceptional circumstances, the next election will be held on 25th March, 1995, and that the Government's strong financial and budget strategy will be pursued and implemented fully and effectively. The Government also will continue to pursue its overall program of structural reform in areas such as local government, energy, transport and health. The substantial certainty of government will ensure that the momentum and the direction of change are maintained.
There are some interesting things to note in this passage.  The MoU took four months to negotiate.  Now, I don't think the business of government would have been suspended during this period - but I ask  you to note the time factor because problems like this are not solved and articulated quickly.  You will also note, Networkers, that the Independents pushed for systemic reforms - which made a great deal of sense.

The most significant reform that the NSW Independents negotiated was fixed four-year terms.  Will this be on a wish list for the Federal Independents?  The NSW Independents also negotiated things which helped independents to do their job more effectively and which went a long way to giving greater recognition to private members of Parliament operating outside the party system.

When Steve Bracks brought Labor to government in Victoria in 1999 with the support of three independents - Susan Davies, Russell Savage and Craig Ingram.  These independents introduced a Charter of Good Governance which contained the concept of fixed four-year parliamentary terms.  Funny that!

Journalists who have been talking to Katter, Windsor, and Oakeshott are conversing about matters like a better deal and greater recognition for rural and regional Australia and recognition of the importance of high-speed broadband for the bush and the regions.

I think that reportage could also focus on systemic matters that may be on the wish-list of the Federal Independents - because I will be very surprised if the deal that is done doesn't have them on the list.  And I would expect that top of the systemic list would be four-year fixed parliamentary terms.

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