Monday, June 13, 2011

A Minor Influence?

As many of you will be aware, the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party hold the balance of power in the NSW Upper House.

The Upper house has 42 seats.  At present (assuming that Pauline Hanson's challenge does eventually fail) the make-up of the Upper House will be as follows:

Coalition: 19
Labor: 14
Greens: 5
CDP: 2
S&F: 2

Put simply, the Coalition needs the support of either Labor, the left minority (the Greens) or the right minority (CDP and S&F) to pass legislation through.

It doesn't take a Masters in Politics to foresee the Coalition getting support mostly from the right minority.  This was reflected in the Coalition getting their IR reforms through the Upper house thanks to support from the CDP and S&F (once a few cosmetic changes were sought and granted).

In those circumstances, I thought it a good idea to have a look at the websites of these two parties. Not only is it instructive in considering where the Coalition is likely to find support from those parties, but is also interesting to consider what promises may being made in return for the support.

Christian Democrats

Fred Nile. Photo from SMH.
The CDP's policies can be seen on their website here.

Family Issues: No surprises here.  No gay marriage, no adoptions for gay couples.  

Health: Decentralised control and more funding for nurses to reduce the ratios.  The first is no surprise (being from the right, practically compulsory) but the second is a little out of the blue (and, given the broad motherhood statements contained in most of their policies, perhaps a little more detail focussed than you might have expected).

Education: This section is pretty straightforward.  School vouchers (right wing gospel, especially in the US), a limit on teaching about other cultures (protect "Australian values") and retain religious education (they are a Christian party, after all).

As well as that, they appeal to the voters harking for a "simpler time" - they call for a focus on the 3 "R's" and Australian history, perhaps sensing that people are looking for a party who will bring back the "good ol' days" and who think that this is the way to do it.

Law and Order: Textbook conservative stuff: closing hotels earlier, close the injecting room, and increase police presence whilst facing out "enforcement cameras" - it is not clear whether they mean speed cameras, CCTV cameras, or both.

Pro-life: No euthanasia, no abortions.

Social Justice, Economy and Environment: I won't try and paraphrase this section:

The 2010-2011 budget projected revenue of $57.7 billion.  Of that revenue, payroll tax was $6.2 billion and land tax was $2.4 billion.  I don't know what percent of the $5.5 billion stamp duty total the policy would knock out, but it must be a significant proportion.  That's more or less 20% of the NSW government income the CDP want to knock out.

When taken in conjunction with an increase in social services and an improvement in public transport - well, it's difficult to see how they propose to balance the books.

Islamisation of Australia:

It is interesting to motorcycle helmets lumped in this section.  Either there are a disproportionate number of Muslims riding motor cycles, or otherwise the complaint about face coverings has nothing to with law and order (where any such policy, if genuine, belongs) but is actually all about burqas, with the motor cycle helmets thrown in to try and not look racist.

So, what is there to say about the CDP? Certainly there is little there that we would not expect to see from a right-wing Christian conservative party.

I will be very interested to see what, if any, moves are made in relation to the taxation issues.  I mentioned earlier that the CDP supported the Coalitions IR changes, which should help restrain the workforce spending $24.7 billion (42% of total spending for 2010-2011) but there would need to be devastating cutbacks to fund their taxation cuts.

Shooters and Fishers

Leader of the S&F, Robert Brown.  Photo from here.
Despite coming from the same side of politics, the S&F policies have a markedly different focus, perhaps reflecting the entirely different market that the party is catering towards.

It is worth recognising that the S&F policies go into a great deal of detail - to their credit they have clearly not only put a great of careful and considered thought into their policies, but also have very detailed policy documents on their website that bear further reading.

Natural Resources: The S&F want to "expand the agriculture, mining and forestry industries" but do so in a "sustainable way".

Included is a call for a "state wide water security plan", a focus on rural and regional development and support for recreational fishing.

Essentially, their position is that "natural resource utilisation and biodiversity conservation are not incompatible." Of course, these matters are all a matter of degree - one man's "natural resource utilisation" is another man's "vicious destruction of the environment".

Safeguarding the Environment: This policy includes seeking "Volunteer Conservation Hunting", a moratorium on further marine parks and greater access to national parks.

The policies seem to be focussed on protecting the environment, but not at the expense of access to the said environment for recreational purposes.

It is also interesting to see little mention whatsoever of "pollution".  Under the Natural Resources policy, they support cheap power and suggest that renewable power will not replace coal and gas in the "near term".

Society and Service Delivery: This is a complex policy.  It includes the following:

  • Provision of "cheap power"
  • Supporting the "cultural beliefs" of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians
  • A Bob Katter-style breakdown of the market-power in the fuel and grocery industry
  • "truth in sentencing and mandatory minimum sentencing subject to adequate parole rules and policing."

Further, they suggest that government is "overly-centralised" and that rural communities suffer as a result.

Fair Recreation Access: More fishing, more hunting, more four-wheel driving. Boating, bushwalking and swimming is good too.

The S&F are difficult to pigeonhole.  On one level, they appear to be a single issue party, but anyone elected of course has to vote on every issue that arises.

Their core policies appear to centre on support of rural areas, disparaging the Sydney-centric politicking, and making sure the government don't interfere with their "right" to use the land.

Having said all that, their voting on most issues will be with the Coalition.  Despite their focus on particular issues, it is clear that they are a right wing party. Individual liberty and minimising government interference run deep. The slogan on their website sums it up neatly:

So, where does that leave the Upper House?

The Coalition shouldn't have a great deal of trouble getting support for their policies.  Whilst the CDP and the S&F have their own policies and agendas, their DNA is not that different to the Coalition.

It would be surprising, though, if we did not see CDP and S&F policies creeping into the Coalition agenda.  The most obvious example has been the decision to scrap marine safety zones.

It may end up being a difficult relationship for both parties.  The Coalition need their support, but favouring the minor parties will damage their brand with all the voters who changed their vote to the Coalition at the last election.

At the same time, the minor parties need to maintain their independence if they are keep their base, but it goes without saying that without backing from the Coalition they really can't get much of any value.

The Coalition's ability to manage the relationship to their advantage will be essential if they are to hold onto all the first time Coalition voters.

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