Keeping the score on PUP

In an earlier thread, I linked to Lenore Taylor’s article, which holds that the pattern with Palmer is to cause maximum drama then support government. Robert Merkel also linked to Taylor as well as to Ben Eltham who sees Palmer as following self interest.

For both of these to be true, the government must always act in Palmer’s interest, which seems unlikely.

According to Laura Tingle the Taylor view has become orthodoxy in the major parties:

Having sussed out the Palmer United Party, both sides of politics made pragmatic assessments that, for now at least, the PUP should be regarded as a noisy nuisance but one which would support the Coalition in most things.

She says this does not accord with the experience of the past two weeks:

Yes, the PUP ultimately supported the government’s carbon tax repeal bill with amendments. But it opposes the Coalition’s Climate Change Authority Abolition Bill, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill and the bill to repeal the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

It is also opposing moves to stop tax cuts associated with the carbon package, as well as opposing the abolition of the renewable energy target.

While it is supporting the repeal of the mining tax, it is opposing the repeal of the schoolkids bonus, an income support bonus and the low income superannuation contribution, which are all in the same bill.

It eventually supported changes to the Future of Financial Advice laws, but opposes a $435 million cut to higher education through an efficiency dividend, as well as the reintroduction of fuel excise indexation. It also supported Labor amendments to the asset recycling fund.

The net result is a cost to the budget of just over $13 billion before we even get to the contentious budget cuts.

To the casual observer Palmer’s back flip on the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) looked capricious. In fact considerable work was put in by Cormann and Malcolm Turnbull who brokered the discussions at Cormann’s request.

Mr Turnbull’s involvement in the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) matter was at the request of Senator Cormann, who did not know Mr Palmer very well. So he rang Mr Turnbull on Friday night last week asking him for help to convince Mr Palmer to talk and to set up a meeting.

Mr Turnbull spoke to Mr Palmer ­several times over the weekend and presented him with a briefing paper on the Coalition’s changes to the FoFA laws which Senator Cormann had his department prepare.

I understand Cormann and Palmer met five times in a short space of time. Presumably both gave some ground.

I think it’s too early to call a pattern in PUP voting. As to ideology, I think PUP would see itself as seeking a fair go for ordinary people. Beyond that we also have to wait and see.

Tingle’s article was mainly about pre-election positioning and selling the budget. Labor has definitely revealed its hand as supporting emissions trading. Shorten made clear that he meant an ETS rather than a tax.

Abbott is going to keep banging on about it’s really a tax and continue the scare campaign.

Labor may propose a much more modest scheme, more in line with business thinking. Business, Tingle says, is troubled by the current vacuum in real climate policy. They know the vacuum must be filled, but by what?

As to the budget, Tingle says it will need a fundamental rethink if voters are to change their opinion. Short of resolving the conflicting messages involved in, for example, plugging pensioner austerity while promoting a generous paid parental scheme, it’s hard to see what they might do.

But unless they do engage in a fundamental rethink we can expect more mayhem from PUP.