• Rikki Lambert

Labor in government? There is another, Joyce


What electoral gifts will messrs Bandt, Albanese, Morrison and Joyce offer? Rikki Lambert ponders...

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce sought to deflect the 'psychogate' affair about derogatory text messages concerning Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urge colleagues and voters to consider the spectre of a Labor-Greens government.


Earlier in the week, channel Ten claimed to have text messages attributed to former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in conversation with an unnamed Liberal minister making derogatory comments about the PM. NSW Liberal Treasurer Matt Kean was initially accused of being the other correspondent, but on Ben Fordham's program played on Flow, denied any involvement.


The Deputy Prime Minister Mr Joyce sought to shift the focus of the affair to frighten voters of the prospects of a Labor-Greens coalition government. After all, in a hung parliament in 2010 after Mr Abbott and Ms Gillard locked horns for the Lodge, the latter emerged victorious in part through a coalition deal with the Greens.


As is common before elections, Anthony Albanese's Labor party has already sworn off of a subsequent deal with the Greens. That can all go out of the window when parliament is hung and someone has to form government.


That being so, there is another alternatives Mr Joyce is not talking about - Labor winning with a clear majority.


With the state of the parliament as it is at present and polls - if they are believed - pointing to a thumping Labor win, Mr Albanese may not need to talk to any crossbenchers to secure confidence and supply in the House of Representatives - especially the Greens.


The Senate might be where the terrain becomes boggy for an Albanese government, but Mr Joyce overlooks that a vast majority of legislation either passes with the other major party's support. If not, negotiations occur between Labor and the Coalition to amend legislation - as Mr Joyce well knows as a former senator.


Only when a Coalition refuses to negotiate will the Greens come into play in the Senate. As such, a Liberal-National opposition in the senate would present a moderating force against the Labor-Greens bogeyman Mr Joyce portrays.


The Coalition has pledged its support for net zero carbon emissions, albeit not in the way the Greens or Labor Left would want it to occur. Recent commitments from the Coalition and worries about the workforce affected by a radical shift away from coal mining and heavy industry suggest that in legislative terms there is little between the two major parties on climate.


The reality is that whoever secures government holds the 'treasury benches' to the Speaker's right - and that is where the policy agenda and ideology of the government can play out without any reliance on whatever numbers the Greens may hold in the parliament.


It is incredibly difficult to halt government spending via the parliament, only to highlight to the press gallery the largesse that occurs and via question time to hold ministers accountable for malfeasance, misfeasance or other fiscal errors in office. Even those repercussions, absent a resignation, rarely come home to roost for a government until a subsequent election.


The Coalition might do better to highlight the fundamental differences between themselves and a potential Labor government than throwing red herrings to television audiences.