JULIA Gillard’s decision to send Craig Thomson to the crossbenches and keep Peter Slipper out of the Parliament for an extended period will leave Labor with fewer MPs on the floor of the House of Representatives than the Opposition but still enable it to govern.
So long as the key crossbenchers Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and the Greens’ Adam Bandt maintain their support for the minority government, Labor will also be able to count on Mr Thomson’s vote and, if necessary, the casting vote of the Acting Speaker, Anna Burke, to allow it to pass legislation or ward off no-confidence motions.
None of the crossbenchers showed any sign yesterday of walking away from the government.
Mr Windsor welcomed yesterday’s announcement by Ms Gillard, saying he was not surprised that Mr Thomson had been pushed aside.
Mr Windsor said his agreement with the government still stood and nothing that happened yesterday changed that.
‘‘I’m not going to initiate some motion of no confidence against the government in a duly-elected Parliament just because the numbers are tight and someone suddenly becomes an independent or there’s an inquiry into someone’s Cabcharge arrangements,’’ he said.
When the Parliament resumes next week, there will be 70 Labor MPs on the floor of the House and 71 Coalition.
There will be seven crossbenchers – Mr Thomson, Mr Bandt, Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter and Tony Crook.
Mr Wilkie, whose deal with the government collapsed in January after Ms Gillard reneged on her poker machines deal, is still guaranteeing supply and confidence but warning he will play tougher on each piece of legislation for which his vote is needed.
The Opposition was pleased with the action against Mr Slipper but said Mr Thomson’s suspension from the ALP and move to the crossbenches changed nothing because he would be a de facto Labor MP. SMH