We bought you fair and square

Hot custard pie is still dribbling off the faces of Tony Abbott, Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey. They offered Andrew Wilkie $1 billion (a sum he himself apparently asked for) and they were rejected. Rejected! Oh the injustice. Clearly bribery isn’t having quite the anticipated effect.

Regardless of what you think of Andrew Wilkie’s honey pot style of negotiation, it did at least tell us a bit about the Liberals’ style of negotiation. Quite simply, the Liberals were more desperate; more willing to give in to arbitrary demands. I have no idea how much money was actually appropriate. The Liberals’ offer may well have been better for Wilkie’s local constituents, but it probably wasn’t better for the country.

Hockey and Robb are outraged, but they only have themselves to blame. The $1 billion was their offer, irrespective of who first suggested it. Wilkie himself pointed out the obvious recklessness, especially when combined with the Liberals’ newly-revealed $7-$11 billion worth of “assumptions” that Treasury inexplicably doesn’t quite have a handle on.

If Andrew Robb honestly believes now that $1 billion to fix Hobart Hospital is a “wise investment”, as he told AM, why wasn’t it proposed during the campaign? Why wasn’t it proposed before the Liberals’ suddenly needed the support of one Tasmanian independent? I’m sure that Wilkie could easily have made a convincing argument for fixing the hospital, but if there really is $1 billion to spend, perhaps we should consider all the potential projects it could fund.

The Liberals’ ran their entire campaign (except, of course, for the incoherent ravings about “the boats”) on fiscal/budgetary responsibility. I didn’t buy into it at the time, and now – more than ever – it looks like a complete charade. It looks like they were prepared to promise anything to anyone, merely to get into power.

In the end, Wilkie’s negotiating style may also pay off simply by breaking precedent (or even setting a new one). If negotiation with independents is needed again in future, the major parties may be a little more hesitant about how much money they throw to special interests.