By JR on Wednesday, December 28, 2011
THE Labor government's tenuous hold on power has already cost taxpayers almost $15 billion.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard spent $65 for every Australian in order to keep the Greens and independents happy - and her party in government - all while facing global financial turmoil and a wafer-thin budget surplus, The Daily Telegraph reported.
An analysis shows the costs extended beyond deals struck after the election, with Labor forced to extinguish political spot fires and buy votes for policies such as the carbon and mining taxes.
The $14.95 billion bill after less than half Labor's term is in contrast to a $950 million revenue windfall after a Greens campaign to adopt its fringe benefits tax to encourage a reduction in driving.
NSW independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott strengthened their positions as major powerbrokers, involved in deals worth $4.2 billion compared to the $364 million of Andrew Wilkie.
Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan defended Labor's economic record, pointing to the regional focus of much of the funds as returning the proceeds of the mining boom.
But the opposition attacked the greener initiatives as wasteful and evidence that Ms Gillard was unable to stand up to Greens leader Bob Brown.
University of Melbourne professor Mark Considine said there were only minor positives in what he called an "inefficient form of democracy".
"It's very similar to what has happened in the American system where every bill has to contain inducements across the board for bringing people on board," he said. "There is a high cost in the time spent bringing people on board and the exaggerated power of some minority groups and electorates that distorts everything."
The Greens have won $10.275 billion - headlined by the $10 billion clean energy fund - while Queensland independent Bob Katter scored a $335 million renewable energy promise a day after backing the Coalition.
In one vote-buying spree last month, Labor spent $320 million securing three lower house votes to allow its mining tax package to pass.
At least one promise has blown out, with the $75 million pledged to Mr Oakeshott to expand Port Macquarie Hospital rising to $96 million.
Mr Windsor, who was promised $20 million for Tamworth Hospital but has since scored another $120 million, said his efforts had won important money for the regions and improved the outcome of key policies. "Very little is local (in my seat)," he said. "I don't think the punter in the street would object to much of this."
A spokesman for Mr Swan defended the deal-making, insisting the federal government still had a strong economic record on jobs, interest rates and maintaining the AAA credit rating.
"Regional Australia - where one third of Australians live - has every right to decent government services and to enjoy the benefits of the mining boom," the spokesman said.
Opposition government waste spokesman Jamie Briggs said while he did not object to regional initiatives such as health and road, he claimed many of the billions demanded by the Greens was a waste.
"Gillard's lack of courage to stand up to the Greens is costing taxpayers," he said.