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Grattan on Friday: David Pocock has only just arrived in the Senate and now he’s negotiating with the PM

He wouldn’t relish the comparability, however at the beginning of the Albanese authorities Senate crossbencher David Pocock finds himself with the type of pivotal energy unbiased Brian Harradine loved in the course of the early Howard years.

Harradine, along with one other crossbencher, enabled the passage of key measures together with the partial sale of Telstra. However he additionally may say “no” – most notably to the GST, forcing the federal government into negotiations with the Australian Democrats and a reasonably messy compromise.

You are reading: Grattan on Friday: David Pocock has only just arrived in the Senate and now he’s negotiating with the PM

A extremely polarising determine, the Tasmanian senator was a former Labor man, for whom Gough Whitlam as soon as spectacularly put his management on the road in a bitter get together brawl. He was finally expelled by the ALP, earlier than he ran for the Senate in 1975.

Harradine was a deeply dedicated, conservative Catholic and used his political energy to pursue his religion, particularly his opposition to abortion. On points affecting the on a regular basis lives of working households, he mirrored his Labor roots.

Some facets of our democratic system appear lower than democratic, though seen from one other angle they increase democracy. Senate crossbenchers might be able to frustrate a authorities. They’ll additionally enhance that authorities’s laws. Or maybe worsen it. All of it relies upon the place you’re coming from on a difficulty.

Within the final parliament, the Morrison authorities typically needed to herd higher home crossbenchers. On this parliament, when the Coalition contests laws, largely it is going to be a matter of Labor herding Pocock. The federal government wants just one further vote past the Greens, who’ll normally have nowhere else to show.

With a nationwide identify as a former Wallabies captain, Pocock is the federal government’s pure go-to man, a progressive with a robust tinge of “teal”. He made historical past by profitable his ACT seat from the Liberals, however he’s nearer to Labor in his views.

On the commercial relations invoice, Labor’s most troublesome legislative problem thus far, the federal government hasn’t focused crossbencher Jacqui Lambie. Pocock is a better dance accomplice.

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However he’s not a pushover. With energy comes ache; laborious judgments inevitably alienate some voters. Pocock has been inundated with representations for and towards the IR invoice, the contentious a part of which extends multi-employer bargaining.

He has native small companies nervous a few new legislation to strengthen workers’ clout to pursue wage rises. Then again, the ACT is a public sector city, with a robust union presence.

Pocock has undertaken group consultations. However, ultimately, he has to make his calls.

He’s wished the omnibus invoice break up, to delay the day of reckoning. The federal government has refused. With intense haggling over the advantageous print, Pocock has been time-poor, repeatedly complaining concerning the rush. Two Fridays have been added to the fortnight Senate sitting to assist with its basic workload.

He’s been agonising concerning the threshold for a “small enterprise”, set within the invoice at fewer than 15 workers. He needs the quantity elevated, and a Senate inquiry report, tabled this week, has urged a marginal change to fewer than 20.

Pocock doesn’t desire a union having a veto on whether or not a proposed settlement is put to a vote. He additionally favours an inquiry into how the laws is working. The Senate committee recommends such an inquiry be “no sooner than three years” after the legislation takes impact, conveniently publish the following election.

The federal government will conform to an inquiry, make a modest change within the small-business definition, and provides another floor. Anthony Albanese is speaking on to Pocock.




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Pocock is prepared to make use of his energy to advance the particular pursuits of his voters, though the extent to which he may turn into a “transactional” politician within the months forward is unclear.

Actually he gained’t match Harradine, who was shameless. Folks used to joke concerning the extraordinary largesse he extracted for Tasmania, particularly to enhance its communications. Anyway, the rich ACT is not any Tasmania.

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Pocock did lately float the thought of getting the ACT’s housing debt worn out. Lambie had set a precedent, with a housing take care of the Coalition as a part of negotiation on laws. Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, additionally an ACT senator, rapidly declared: “I’m not finance minister for the ACT …] I’m finance minister for the nation and I don’t suppose it’s proper to waive money owed for the worth of a vote on the Senate flooring, which is the way it’s occurred prior to now.”

Pocock later stepped again, saying he wouldn’t cross-trade on the IR invoice. He may, nonetheless, get some concession on housing previous to the election.

Pocock is ensuring one native measure is delivered earlier than the parliament rises – the territory’s proper to legislate for voluntary assisted dying. Parliaments in all states now have such legal guidelines; the ACT and the Northern Territory have been legally unable to handle the problem.

Labor was dedicated to early motion on territory rights. However Pocock’s significance ensures that, whatever the Senate’s time constraints, the invoice (already by the decrease home) can be put to a (free) vote this sitting. The Senate thought of it on Thursday nonetheless a vote has been delayed till subsequent Thursday. A pissed off Pocock tweeted, “Let’s simply get this achieved, please.”

It is going to be achieved. Pocock may have made good on a constituency concern that’s additionally an ethical concern. It’s one victory that, after all, would have appalled Harradine.




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Other than the issues of element, Pocock has confronted one other query with the IR invoice. Wouldn’t it be an overuse of his energy to carry up this main laws into the brand new yr?

Labor claims the invoice’s speedy passage is required as a part of getting wages shifting. Enterprise critics say haste is unwise on modifications with extensive ramifications (now additionally within the context of Reserve Financial institution Governor Phil Lowe’s warning this week about inflationary wage rises).

If he had been alive right now, Harradine would differ with Pocock on most points. However what recommendation would he have for the ACT senator on this invoice, the place they may share a great deal of frequent floor?

In Lazarus Rising, John Howard wrote that Harradine “remained at coronary heart an actual Labor man when it got here to industrial relations”. Fairly possible he’d say bluntly, extract your deal after which let the federal government get on with it.

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