Complexities of Australia's Senate system mean that Gillard can't win

Fielding is a Christian Senator and is very hostile to Labor. And Julia's atheism and living arrangements with her bisexual lover no doubt horrify him even more than when Rudd was in charge. He was also instrumental in seeing that Rudd could get nothing major through the Senate.

So even if Julia gets all her other ducks in a row, Fielding can block Labor for nearly a year. An Abbott government, on the other hand would have little trouble from Fielding -- if only because Abbott is a sincerely committed Christian

Abbott has said that he would not block supply (the budget) to a Labor government but that leaves open blocking everything else

The Senate is emerging as a new threat to a stable minority government. Steve Fielding is threatening to put a Labor government in gridlock next year and Nick Xenophon is vowing to force a new national crackdown on poker machines.

Victorian Senator Fielding, who can hold the Senate to ransom until July 1 next year by voting with the Coalition, has declared the "voters are not happy with Labor", and he has to decide whether to block everything it does.

The new challenge to the attempts by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to form minority governments comes as it emerges that the Coalition will almost certainly have 73 lower house seats and Labor 72 after the Liberals retained Hasluck, appeared to have won Brisbane but failed to pick up Corangamite.

As the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader continue to negotiate with the three independents in the House of Representatives to form a minority government, Family First's Senator Fielding, who is facing defeat, has warned he has to decide whether Labor deserves a second term. Senator Fielding has warned that stable government depends upon the ability of the Senate to function as well as the House of Representatives.

The pressure from independent senators came as Mr Abbott was attacked by the three independent MPs he hopes to woo for refusing to submit his policies to Treasury for costing. Mr Abbott yesterday cited a Treasury leak during the campaign as a reason for not agreeing to the independents' request for the costings.

The three independents are claiming their prime aim is to choose the side with the best chance of forming a stable, long-term government and insisting the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader guarantee serving a full term.

Senator Fielding said yesterday there could not be stable government up to July 1 next year if the Senate was deadlocked. "The Australian people have decided they don't want Labor returned for a further three years. The voters are clearly not happy with Labor," Senator Fielding told The Australian yesterday.

Senator Fielding said he was "keen to work out stable government". "At the end of the day, one of the two major parties has to form government, not some half-baked dream of power-sharing," he said. "You need to know who is to be held responsible for government decisions."

In the current upper house, Senator Fielding has the power to neutralise the government's agenda by joining his single vote to the Coalition. "I have to ask, is Labor worthy of a second term?" Senator Fielding said. "Obviously without the Senate, you can't form stable government and there is one year . . . to be served under the present Senate."

Labor does not control the upper house, which has 32 Labor senators, 37 Coalition, five Greens, Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding. If Senator Xenophon, Senator Fielding or the Greens join the Coalition in a vote, they can negate government motions.

The new Senate, with the expected nine Greens senators holding the clear balance of power, does not sit until July 1 next year.


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