Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Traffic Between the Benches

It's been quite an extraordinary week for the Howard Government, when you look at it. Has there ever been a week where so many Coalition MPs have made serious threats to cross the floor? One of the features of the government has been their extreme discipline. Sure, MPs were allowed out on the leash to pursue contrary theories within their electorate, but Ministers - fall behind Howard or fall.

Kerry O'Brien's interview with Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone on last night's 7.30 Report was a cracker - and what's more, Vanstone contradicted the Prime Minister's line, made in Parliament only hours ago, that Indonesia played no part in the decision to implement harsher immigration regulations. Apart from being so implausible (something O'Brien eventually coerced Vanstone to admit), the notion of Howard appearing to appease the same nation that just let Abu Bakar Bashir out of jail is just not a good look. Opposition Immigration Minister Tony Burke was particularly effective in pushing the notion of kowtowing to Indonesia at the expense of human rights, also defending his position later on Lateline. Should all the MPs who have threatened to cross the floor over this issue, it will be easily overturned, not only in the Senate but the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, former ACT Chief Minister Gary Humphries has come out (no pun intended) in opposition to the government's attempts to overturn the ACT's Civil Unions Bill. It's still not clear whether this decision will actually go to a vote, though the Coalition cabinet room did debate it. However, Humphries has made clear his bitter disappointment in the Cabinet's decision, as well as the fact that while this debate took place, Philip Ruddock was already at the GG's house shoring up support for the overturning of the bill, and foreshadowed his decision to cross the floor on it.

Will they actually cross the floor? Or will Howard bludgeon them into submission? It could be a very interesting day in Parliament, given last minute talks are taking place over the Immigration bill, with a group of people who I really can't see agreeing to compromises which do not include abolishing offshore processing.

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