Nurses, Firefighters, Union Thugs: Election Stunt Must Be Outlawed

ARROGANTLY SMUG in knowing they got away with it in Victoria, Australia’s militant, anti-democratic, lawless unions are readying to deploy nurses and other service workers in dozens of electorates to campaign against the Abbott government at next year’s election. Campaign they might, but to do so in uniform must be outlawed as an abuse of trust. Any surplus union thugs masquerading as nurses and the like should be prosecuted.

Something I wanted to talk about on Tuesday — until Bill Shorten decided he would bask in the glory he thought he could milk out of two gay marriage bills to be introduced to Parliament by persons unconnected with the ALP, that is — concerns a despicable little stunt used by Labor and its thuggy brethren over at Trades Hall at the state election in Victoria last year, and which probably cost the Coalition government.

Regular readers will recall that I spoke about this in the washout from that election back in November, and I would encourage anyone who did not see my article at that time to read it here before we progress too far: the reason will become apparent soon enough.

For the ACTU has announced it will replicate the campaign used to devastating effect against the Napthine government in Victoria, and roll it out across Australia at the federal election due in less than 18 months’ time; and aside from being incandescent with rage that something like this could once again be used to unseat a conservative government, my anger derives not from the unions exercising a right to protest, but from the abuse of taxpayer-funded services, the misuse of responsibility, and the abuse of public trust this particular style of campaign is predicated on.

To some extent, it is also fraudulent, and we’ll come back to that point.

But sending out “uniformed firefighters and nurses” to campaign against a federal government is one of the most deplorable intellectual deceptions the Left has yet managed to conjure up, given firefighting services and hospitals are all operated by the states; what makes it worse is that one of the seats singled out in the report — Corangamite — sits in Labor-governed Victoria, and with a change of government here six months ago the buck for any trouble in the state’s hospitals stops with the very beneficiary of the unions’ efforts last time they wheeled this outrage out, Premier Daniel Andrews, not the Prime Minister or his MPs.

Still, when you’re Labor and the unions, facts and honesty and the truth can never be permitted to get in the way of a good story, and the most telling truth of all is that it wouldn’t matter how well a conservative state government managed to run schools and hospitals and emergency services: the same lies would be trundled out by the same vicious thugs in the knowledge enough gullible people would trust the people in the uniforms — and believe it.

I watched ambulances drive around Melbourne for months last year, scrawled with anti-Liberal slogans; it was obscene, and the most disgusting thing of all is that when the ambulance employees’ union settled with the State of Victoria over their pay claims — less than a week after Labor beat the Coalition in November — it was to accept a “deal” that was, to all intents and purposes, virtually identical to the one they had spent most of the year knocking back from a Liberal government.

I am going to keep my remarks as succinct as possible from this point; there are few things as incendiary to me personally as the union movement and the unmitigated bullshit it carries on with, and to the extent I get called a “hater” by my opponents — a tag I dispute — it is in any case necessary to look only as far as Trades Hall to see why I might attract such accusations at all.

I don’t dispute the right of unions to protest (although I disagree with them vehemently) and I don’t advocate making it illegal for publicly employed and/or funded essential services personnel to campaign against a conservative government.

I do, however, think that having been caught unawares last year by both the “trial phase” of this sort of misbehaviour at a couple of state by-elections in Queensland and then subjected to the patent lies and downright reprehensible misuse of public services in a full-blown state election campaign in Victoria, the Coalition — which has now been served advance warning that the same treatment awaits it federally — needs to act, and act quickly.

To be clear, I would be just as adamant that if peak industry groups (for example) or other business-based entities were doing what the unions now regard as their universal right, that should be knocked on the head too: there is a “red line” that is being crossed here, or several in fact; this kind of campaign is indecent, to say the least, and a flagrant abuse of positions of privilege.

Much as it pains me to acknowledge it, the unions do enjoy a position of privilege too: as advocates for their members, it is incumbent upon them to deal fairly and honestly in their interactions with their membership base, the public, and politically. They don’t, of course. But that’s not my problem to fix.

What I do think should happen as a matter of some urgency is that uniformed workers in public service — nurses, firefighters, paramedics, Police, SES personnel, the armed forces, the whole box and dice — should be summarily dismissed if they campaign politically, especially during official election campaign periods, in uniform: it should be a sackable offence.

Any of these people who get on the phone to voters in marginal seats in their official capacity (as the unions also did last year) with fabricated stories about medical negligence, budget cuts that didn’t exist, horror stories about specific cases that might or might not have been invented, and all the rest of the bullshit unions got up to in Victoria should also be subject to dismissal.

Anyone joining these campaigns in facsimiles of official uniforms (or, worse, in genuine garments “borrowed” for the purposes of political campaigning) should be charged with impersonating public officials, and prosecuted.

And any person or persons found to have vandalised public property in the way the ambulance union had its employees do in Victoria should similarly be charged with property damage offences and prosecuted.

(I don’t give a rat’s arse that Fair Work Australia — a keystone regime set up as a sop to unions, and to enforce their industrial will, by the Gillard government — declared the defacement of ambulances to be lawful, either: it was a disgrace).

Penalties for union personnel found to have organised, influenced, coerced or otherwise orchestrated this kind of stunt should be set steeply as a permanent deterrent: up to a million dollars for individuals, and up to $10 million per union per offence.

If the unions have $13 million to bankroll a campaign predicated on the abuse of public trust in essential service personnel, then they can afford the kind of penalties that should accompany them.

And the Abbott government can do this; enabling regulations might or might not require legislation, but could be applied under either the commonwealth Electoral Act or the federal criminal code: either way, the means to stamp this sort of thing out once and for all is well within the Abbott government’s grasp.

To reiterate — and for clarity — if nurses and ambulance drivers and firefighters want to campaign for Labor and/or against the Liberal Party, they should remain free to do so, in plain clothes, on their own unpaid time, and to do so without the legitimising imprimatur of acting in their official capacity.

But when the ambulances and fire engines and the rest of the union bullshit apparently set to confront voters at the next federal election is rolled out, nobody can say they weren’t warned; and equally, nobody should pay the slightest attention to the message.

I know I have used the word “outrage” and others similar to it perhaps a few times too many in this article, but if you can’t win an election on facts and argument you shouldn’t win an election by union manipulation and a dishonest stream of taxpayer-funded lies.

Attorney-General George Brandis should get onto drafting up the required measures to outlaw this obscenity as a high-order priority when he returns to his office next week.

Nobody is calling the average voter stupid, but allowing such audaciously fraudulent campaign strategies to flourish and be propagated is hardly a recipe for genuinely democratic choices or outcomes either.

 

Senate Reform: Democracy About Choice, Not Snouts In Troughs

THE TRAIN WRECK that is the Senate — at elections and in their aftermath — must indisputably be overhauled; the parliamentary paralysis and dysfunction (and lowest common denominator outcomes) that for at least five years have kneecapped decent governance in Australia must be consigned to the dustbin of history. Yet for deeply partisan advantage, Labor seems set to place expediency above genuinely democratic options.

It is — surprise, surprise — a relatively brief post from me this morning, on the run again as I am, but I should first like to note the significant reaction to yesterday’s article about gay marriage and the deplorable scheme by Bill Shorten to cover himself in the alleged glory of public enthusiasm for the measure to save his festering “leadership;” whilst no comments (surprisingly) were posted, the back-end metrics WordPress provides shows the article has been extensively shared and read around the world, which merely underlines the point that whilst gay marriage may or may not be legislated in Australia, its significance far transcends the petty and I maintain valueless political aspirations of an opportunistic grub like “Bull Shittin’.”

Yet petty political aspirations and worthlessly trivial agendae have again caught my eye over coffee this morning; this time where the lottery-like method for electing Senators is concerned and, importantly, sorely needed reforms to stop vested interests “gaming” the system to get candidates elected with negligible electoral support and/or to entrench the Senate as a permanent frustration (or, indeed, instrument of destruction) to be wielded by the Left whenever a conservative government holds office in the lower House.

Regular readers know we have considered the Senate numerous times in this column over the years, culminating in this article last November which consolidated my thoughts on Senate reform and contemplated some of the practical barriers to implementing an alternative system based on multi-member districts returning Senators on rotation at half-Senate elections.

It transpires, of course, that the changes the Abbott government is instead seeking to legislate — possibly ahead of a snap double dissolution election to “clean out the crossbenches,” to use a current Canberra colloquialism — focuses on the elimination of group ticket voting and the introduction of optional preferential voting as an alternative to forcing voters to number every box if they choose not to follow the recommended party ticket.

I am content enough to at least see this measure trialled; after all, the method used to elect the Senate has been extensively bastardised over the past 65 years (ever since Labor began fiddling with it in 1948 to try to stop it returning conservative majorities) and whilst the government’s proposed solution may or may not work, it is at least worthy of trying if it increases actual democracy and helps mitigate against anti-democratic manoeuvres that spit directly in the face of the spirit and intent of democratic outcomes.

And anything that ignores the vested interests who stand to lose out can only be a good thing: there is no such thing as a right to seats in Parliament — especially if that “right” is predicated solely on the fact you’ve managed to secure them in the first place — and there is no imperative whatsoever, be it moral, legal, ethical or political, to keep the snouts of obscure fringe candidates elected under the present Senate voting system in the trough.

To this end, an opinion piece appearing in today’s issue of The Australian has motivated me to fire off this missive before i get about my business for the day; penned by a favourite of this column — former Costello adviser Niki Savva — which details, unsurprisingly, moves within the ALP to scuttle the very changes it agreed to in-principle when they were considered by an all-party parliamentary committee last year.

Apparently, this cynical exercise in self-interest (and ongoing distortion of the Senate to anti-Coalition effect) is cloaked in the noble-sounding expression of concern for the welfare of Labor’s bum buddies over at the Communist Party Greens, who Labor claims would be rendered “irrelevant” by the changes if they were implemented.

Very simply, it doesn’t take Einstein to recognise that if the government succeeds in having these changes written into law, it is almost certain to test them (and quickly) at a snap election for both Houses of Parliament, holding constitutional triggers for a double dissolution as it does.

And I have opined previously that just like the Australian Democrats before them, and in a smaller Senate pre-1984 that required higher quotas of votes to secure the election of Senators, support for the Greens is likely to remain strong enough to ensure the party retains a continuing presence in the upper House, but this is scarcely the point.

No, Labor’s new-found disinclination to support the reforms lies in a calculation that its best interests are to be served in the preservation of a splintered Senate crossbench denying, in tandem with the Greens, any prospect of Coalition control in the upper House: and thus the maintenance of its ability to try to use the Senate to destroy governments formed by its opponents.

To put it thus is no exaggeration: it is precisely what Shorten-“led” Labor has been trying to do ever since his party was booted from office 18 months ago in an avalanche. For all its talk of respect for the voice of the people, Labor disregards any election that does not see it elected to office.

There is a balance, in any electoral system, between the requirement of candidates and/or parties to secure a reasonable stipend of voter support to gain election to Parliament and the not-unimportant need to ensure representative Parliaments that reflect a range of differing voices and opinions drawn from the wider public.

For too long now and to the cost of good government, the emphasis — under what can only be described as Labor’s 1984 model — has been skewed further and further toward the latter, with a cavalier and contemptuous disregard for the former.

Senator Ricky Muir — elected with his 0.51% of the vote in Victoria — might well be a statistical absurdity, but the fact remains that too many Senators have been elected in recent years with less than 5% of the primary vote, and I don’t think an expectation on my part that anyone looking for a seat in Parliament should have to put together support from 5% of the electorate in order to do so is in any way unreasonable or undemocratic.

(I’d be happier on first past the post, where whoever has the most support wins, but I digress).

Ultimately, removing block ticket preference transfers and empowering voters to allocate preferences as extensively or otherwise as they choose is a step in the right direction.

There is no right of entitlement to preference flows for anyone, and one point that Labor (and other minor party naysayers) seem to have missed is that just as some of their crossbench pals might be disadvantaged, so too might be major party candidates in tight races to secure the final Senate berth in a given state, and for whom preference flows are critical.

But never mind that: it’s the blatherers with no public support who need to be enshrined in the Senate, as far as Labor is concerned. And why? Because they occupy seats that in most cases might otherwise be won by the Liberal Party.

This is no way to approach electoral reform, and it is no basis upon which our Houses of Parliament should operate.

The idea that the current Senate presents a workable entity that should be preserved at any cost is laughable, and of use only to the ALP.

But that’s the point. Caring only for power and not for people, Labor would rather entrench the snouts of people with no support in the trough if it means it can either cobble together Senate control if in government, or use the Senate to sabotage the Coalition when it is not.

Savva’s articles are usually impeccably backgrounded and researched, and so Labor is presented with a conundrum: allow reasonable and quite moderate changes to be made to the Senate, or risk a hefty backlash at the polls if it obstructs them; whatever else might be said of the Abbott government, I believe it has shone a light on the Senate from such an angle as to enrage ordinary people about the way it’s elected.

In any case, people are shrewd enough to recognise the Senate quagmire is the greatest obstacle to the government’s ability to govern; and given Shorten has directed his troops — in lockstep with the very crossbenchers and Greens he now seeks to shield — to cause existential political trouble for the government, scuttling these changes could backfire on the ALP very, very badly indeed.

 

Gay Marriage: Shorten’s Glib Stunt Warrants Disgust, Not Votes

ANYONE who thinks Bill Shorten’s decision to “pull the trigger” on gay marriage is based on principle should take a very cold shower and think again; news Shorten will exploit this issue when his leadership (and Labor’s polling) is disintegrating — with two gay marriage bills already set to be tabled — speaks of a shameless oaf obsessed by self-interest. Decent folk are entitled to be disgusted, but gay people should be affronted by Shorten’s stunt.

With everything that has been going on in federal politics of late (with the undercurrent, of course, of a general recovery in the political stocks of the Abbott government), I have been expecting some sort of stunt to be pulled by Bill Shorten at some point, and I guess that time is now.

The “news” that Labor’s so-called “leader” will move a motion to “establish marriage equality” is as predictable as it is contemptible, but given so much of the bullshit Shorten passes off as “leadership” is predicated on an assumption that stupid people will be impressed by (and vote for) meaningless drivel, it hardly comes as any surprise.

First things first: for a little extra coverage, readers can — depending on preference — access news articles on this latest gem from the Labor Party from both the Fairfax and Murdoch press.

I had intended to talk about other aspects of the antics of the Left, but that article will have to wait: we’ll see what Wednesday brings, and I might return to the planned theme in the evening.

But I will admit that I have spent several hours pondering exactly how to respond to the Earth-shattering revelation that Bill Shorten — man of the people, orator of our time, and Prime Minister-in-waiting — would right a heinous and grievous wrong in Australian society by single-handedly resolving the gay marriage issue in a noble, principled, and decent stand.

Regrettably, noble, decent, and principled are not words that spring to mind when discussing Bill Shorten. My sarcasm is well indicated.

It’s difficult to be impressed by this “initiative,” coming as it does when no fewer than two bills aimed at legalising gay marriage are already set to be considered by Parliament; libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm signalled his intention months ago to try to restart the process to legislate gay marriage, and of course, the Communist Party Greens (with their deep attention to just about everything except the environment these days) are also set to have a gay marriage bill introduced to Parliament shortly.

In other words, news of the new Shorten initiative satisfies an apparent Shorten Labor prerequisite: it’s completely pointless.

And it’s difficult to ignore the fact that this move on Shorten’s part just happens to coincide with the point at which both his colleagues and a large chunk of the voting public have started to wake up to the utter liability his “leadership” has saddled the ALP with; just this morning, we looked at a very senior Labor figure whose withdrawal of support for Shorten was drawn with a fitting parallel with the Labour leader trounced in a general election in Britain earlier this month, whose own policies (coincidentally) had been likened by one of his own senior advisers to a “steaming pile of fudge.”

Quite.

Yes, the voters are growing sick of Shorten, with his empty rhetoric, his silly slogans, his irresponsible political posturing and his gambling with the national finances in the Senate for supposed political advantage, and his “zingers;” the trend across reputable opinion polls for the past couple of months has seen the Coalition gaining ground to the point a lead — and a possible election-winning position — can’t be too far away, and against all odds Joe Hockey’s second budget, whilst not perhaps doing him any favours personally, has done nothing to hinder this movement away from the ALP.

Now his own party is fed up with him as well, and in addition to the article earlier today, another piece I published recently focused on the clear positioning of Tanya Plibersek to replace him. The fact that Plibersek would shape as a bigger political disaster for the ALP than Shorten is beside the point; the early signs Labor wants a new leader are now writ large for all to see. (And, frankly, who could blame them, if Shorten is the best they can manage?)

So, with his back to the wall and his cosy trot toward office threatening to be derailed by forces he might have controlled, but didn’t — preferring instead to take the lazy option of opposing everything and calling people names — what does Shorten do?

He pulls a pointless stunt.

It is only possible to really appreciate the motivation for this latest piece of Shorten cretinism by revisiting his campaign for Labor’s leadership 18 months ago; here is an article I published at the time detailing the slavering rhetoric he deployed to pander to Labor members who were part of minority communities, and here is another from that time that noted, among other things, a promise by Shorten (in a sop to the gay community) to create a shadow ministry for “equality” if he became leader.

In the time that has since elapsed, the eloquent and explicit concern Shorten expressed for minority communities has evaporated, and has subsequently formed no part of his fatuous and meaningless diatribes. The promised “equality” portfolio, unsurprisingly, never materialised.

I don’t support gay marriage, as regular readers know; partly because I think gay people are smart enough to come up with their own institution — not least because a significant (but unquantifiable) number of them don’t want anything to do with a “hetero” institution like marriage — partly because marriage, historically, has never been between two men or two women; and partly because I would like to think that sufficient progress has been made in such areas as granting next-of-kin rights and other legal recognitions of their status without recourse to dumb slogans like “marriage equality” and “equal love” which, whether you support the measure or not, trivialise a difficult social issue and needlessly tokenise the people at the centre of it.

But whether you are in favour of the notion of gay marriage or oppose it, today’s developments over at Shorten’s Labor Party follow a disturbing yet familiar storyline.

Under Shorten, the ALP has spent 18 months advocating few policies of its own, and those it has advocated have either been rejected already by voters, are presented as undetailed thought bubbles designed to provoke favourable responses, or would cause massive chaos and disruption to service delivery, right up to the likely cost of countless lives (as the abolition of the private health insurance rebate would surely cause when it triggers the collapse of the healthcare system if ever implemented).

Under Shorten, a concurrent strategy has been pursued of opposing anything and everything put to Parliament by the Abbott government (except spending increases); an utterly fraudulent stance of denial over the state Labor left the place in when it was kicked out of office in 2013 has been rigorously maintained, and a primary focus on name-calling and sloganeering followed in the absence of detailed policy work or other substantial contributions to the national debate.

For some time, this reaped great rewards in reputable opinion polls but of course, the problem with any ruse is that with time, it becomes harder to maintain, unless the opponent is so dysfunctional as to unwittingly fulfil the false prophesies of their own doom that are being bandied about.

And so it has proven.

Now, with the sky about to fall on him, Shorten has rediscovered the mojo and passion for minorities that once seemed so sincere to the gullible, but which have been neither seen nor heard of ever since.

Nobody should take Shorten seriously on this, and nobody should accord him any credit or acclaim for “introducing” something that was already in the process of being introduced by other interests not once, but twice.

Unable to make any headway on economic matters (for the simple reason he and his party have absolutely no credibility on these subjects), Shorten — with an eye to big public approval numbers where the question of gay marriage is concerned — now seeks to use his latest ruse to detract from the incompetent fist he has made of his “leadership,” and to claim what he obviously thinks is the ascendancy over a government led by an intelligent, rational conservative who just happens to oppose the same wildly popular measure Shorten now seeks to milk.

If Shorten’s behaviour as a “leader” to date hasn’t been bad enough to convince some, this tacky, transparently cynical manoeuvre to hitch a ride on the back of gay marriage must surely convince people that Shorten will say and do anything he thinks will win votes, but that questions of how sincere or principled such activities are do not resolve themselves in his favour.

I think good, decent folk (and I include, of course, the gay community in this) are entitled to be absolutely disgusted by the grubby and almost amoral approach Shorten has taken on this for no better reason than an obsession with his own fortunes, and obvious near-panic about the prospect of being dumped as “leader” by a party with enough accrued IQ points to at least recognise the millstone he constitutes around Labor’s collective neck.

But those in the gay community are entitled to be especially aggrieved and affronted by Shorten’s new-found fervour in their interest; the last time he offered smooth talk about their rights it was to secure the Labor leadership, and even then he didn’t deliver what he promised; now, sinking into the deepening political quicksand his own stupidity and incompetence have led him to, he wants to be “a friend” to the gay community once again.

In the final analysis, this transcends the issue of gay marriage altogether, for Shorten’s behaviour on the issue is merely representative of his approach to just about every other issue he is forced to consider and address: expediency is everything, where Shorten is concerned, and the old adage about Labor caring about power, not people, finds no better embodiment than in the words and deeds of the party’s present “leader.”

As much as I’d love Shorten to be “leading” Labor come election time, it runs counter to the national interest for an imbecile like this to remain even as opposition leader. After all — and the continued haemorrhage in government finances Shorten’s Senate antics have exacerbated prove it — the role of opposition leader is not a powerless one despite sitting outside the government, and Shorten’s leadership has been used to cause great damage to the welfare of this country for no better reason than the advancement of his quest to be Prime Minister.

Politically, tactically and strategically, the time for Bill Shorten’s opponents to (figuratively) belt him from arsehole to breakfast — and kill off his worthless pretension as the “leader” of a major mainstream political party once and for all — is well and truly at hand.

When the Great Man Himself so brazenly walks all over one section of the community he professes to care about, on what he misguidedly thinks is his path to the Prime Ministership, that obligation becomes easier by the day to discharge.

 

Shorten As Bad As “A Steaming Pile Of Fudge:” Costa

THE FALLOUT from Labor “leader” Bill Shorten’s vapid budget reply last week goes on, with ALP identity and former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa declaring Shorten’s “leadership” finished and unflatteringly comparing him to beaten British Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose policies were likened by a Blair-era Labour strategist to “a steaming pile of fudge.” No more than an evasive union puppet, Shorten has become the Liberal Party’s star asset.

In the aftermath of the Abbott government’s second budget — light on economic virtue, perhaps, but far better received politically than its disastrous first effort, and calibrated at least to stimulate economic activity without the incursion of tens of billions of extra debt, a la Wayne Swan — the best critique to date of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten’s contribution to the budget debate has come from perhaps an unlikely (if prescient) quarter, and remarks by former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa bring that missive to the attention of this column this morning.

We spoke last week about Shorten’s reply to that budget, which left him exposed as nothing more than an economic Neanderthal, wrecker, and political thug who — just like his party — cares solely for power, not people, and it seems that just like his trendy Lefty deputy Tanya Plibersek, others in Labor’s ranks are realising and/or declaring publicly that not only can Shorten not lead the ALP back to office, but that the party’s offering to the public under his vacuous stewardship heralds little appeal to the cynical voters Shorten nevertheless expects to propel him into The Lodge.

This morning’s article is intended only as a discussion point, for I will — other commitments permitting — be back tonight to talk about other aspects of Australia’s political Left, and the Labor approach as it stands to attempting to reclaim government whenever the next federal election is held.

But the intervention of former NSW Treasurer and ALP strongman Michael Costa is a telling one, for Costa is not known for any penchant for gifting the Liberals a free kick; Costa’s message — that Shorten has presided over the hijacking and control of the Labor Party by unions that have pushed the party dangerously to the Left, and that the ALP’s message to the public is now an uninviting one indeed — is not only accurate, but reflects intensifying scrutiny within Labor ranks of a “leadership” that seems increasingly likely to guide the party to a second consecutive shattering defeat.

His declaration that Shorten’s “failure” to respond appropriately to Australia’s debt and deficits problem (a direct creation of the last Labor government) has shattered the party’s economic credibility is highly damaging to Shorten, and his description of his “leader” as an advocate of “kindergarten Keynesianism” — whilst amusing if you sit on the same side of the political fence as I do — is a viciously correct assessment of precisely what Labor stands for under the redoubtable Shorten.

Yet it is his comparison of Shorten to Ed Miliband — the leader of British Labour who this month led that party to its worst election result since 1987, when it suffered the second of two near-wipeout losses against former PM Margaret Thatcher — that is most telling.

About a year ago, an adviser to former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown rounded on Miliband (known colloquially in England as “Red Ed”), declaring the now-former leader’s policies to be tantamount to “a steaming pile of fudge;” his argument, which will seem all too familiar to those who keep a weather eye on Shorten, was that Miliband’s leadership of Labour was “dysfunctional” and had given the British public no reason to vote for it.

I’d encourage readers to take the time to read that last article I’ve linked, detailing as it does former Labour adviser Damien McBride’s critique of Miliband; it was a warning summarily dismissed by the British Labour leader’s cabal of insiders, but as the general election result three weeks ago proved, it was unerringly astute.

It might as well have been written to describe Shorten. The parallels between both the two leaders and the situations they face/d against relatively unpopular first-term conservative governments elected in part to fix the damage caused by their own parties are striking.

None of this will trouble Shorten, of course, who it seems has responded to Costa by noting the latter provided support for Shorten’s tilt at the Labor leadership after the 2013 election loss.

Support and loyalty in Shorten’s view, it seems, is a one-way street, for whilst it is clear he apparently expects an initial declaration of loyalty to remain beyond review where his own tenure is concerned — and the response to Costa clearly shows it — his own record of disloyalty to and sabotage of his colleagues (including the serial knifing of two Labor Prime Ministers) shows he labours under no perceived obligation to return the favour in like kind.

It is the gradual realisation that Shorten is unelectable and the withdrawal of support for his leadership that will eventually salvage the ALP’s prospects, if it is backed by reasoned, realistic policy positions that appeal to the majority of voters, and to that end Shorten Labor can and should be viewed as the provision of a one-way ticket to nowhere for his beleaguered party.

In the meantime, chalk Costa’s intervention up as simply the latest senior ALP figure to (rightly) withdraw their support for Shorten. Many more will follow.

The comparison to Miliband is both accurate and devastating, but it won’t register one jot with Shorten, who remains committed to peddling his very own “steaming pile of fudge.”

In Miliband’s case, that particular endeavour ended in tears, humiliating defeat, and bitter recriminations.

Shorten’s own date with a similar destiny draws closer by the day.

 

Queensland: The LNP And Its Springborg Problem

A MEDIOCRE Labor government led by a mediocrity in Annastacia Palaszczuk is getting a free ride in Queensland when it should be gasping for air; poor political tactics from an Opposition led by a serial loser with no prospect of winning urban votes will, without change, bring crushing defeat as soon as an election suits the Premier. If the LNP wants to reclaim office, it should put hard reality ahead of internal mischief and petty personal crusades.

I don’t like talking about Lawrence Springborg where leadership of Queensland’s political conservatives is concerned; I like him too much. But it would take a blinkered reading indeed of the situation north of the Tweed to suggest other than whichever way you cut it, Springborg is on track to notch up the dubious honour of a fourth election defeat in the space of six state elections.

Assuming he makes it as far as an election, that is.

I’m usually the last one to seize on opinion poll results three months after an election as a solid indicator of the result of the next, but Queensland’s political circumstances at present are anything but orthodox: and in this vein, Springborg is not a new leader but a recycled one, a three-time loser, and whilst calling him “tarnished” in the eyes of Queensland voters might be a little strongly put, it’s patently obvious they know him far too well to get excited at all about ever electing him as their Premier.

There are a couple of articles from the Courier Mail today that I want to share with readers — you can access them here and here — and whilst they detail polling results, the poll numbers really only set the backdrop to the situation into which the LNP has foolishly wandered.

Any new government — even a mediocre one, even one elected in minority only, and led by a mediocrity like Annastacia Palaszczuk — can reasonably expect a post-election honeymoon of sorts; almost four months after one of the unlikeliest state election outcomes in Queensland political history, the fact Labor isn’t a mile in front of the LNP is something of an indictment.

Yes, Labor fractionally heads the LNP on primary voting intent; yes, Labor has consolidated its two-party support at 52%, a sliver better than it achieved in January; and yes, Palaszczuk appears to be registering some considerable personal popularity despite her obvious personal limitations and notwithstanding the fact her own party planned to dump her if — as it expected — the LNP was re-elected at the start of the year.

But it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of a government that — aside from setting about repealing some of the measures legislated by the Newman government — has not only done very little indeed, being remarkably slow to get itself together, but which handled the Billy Gordon fracas appallingly, and whose only “achievement” to date seems to have been to generously resource its union buddies at significant public cost in a brazen and unforgivable act of payback for services rendered in helping Labor get across the line.

The simple truth is that the Palaszczuk government is everything the LNP warned about: a prisoner to militant and violent unions; bent on restoring Queensland to the state of disrepair in which Labor left it three years ago; beholden to a narrow agenda contrived to benefit the very few at the cost of the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders; and — taking into account its disinclination to get on with the job, at least where measures to improve living standards for ordinary people are concerned — it will, left unchecked, make Queensland a much less desirable place in which to live, invest, or to do business.

It might only be four months old, but the LNP should be riding roughshod all over Queensland Labor.

I think that had the LNP replaced beaten Premier Campbell Newman with someone suitable to lead a contemporary conservative party in modern Queensland (and we’ll come to that in a bit) Labor would be losing ground quickly, and the Palaszczuk government would look and sound like an embattled outfit scrapping just to stay in the game.

Instead, the LNP is slowly but unmistakably leaching support to a government that has mishandled everything it has touched so far — hospital waiting times, the Gordon affair — by itself so badly mishandling its role as an opposition as to make Labor, unbelievably, look competent.

For example, Springborg should have had no truck at all with Billy Gordon; unlike the “disputed” result in the Brisbane seat of Ferny Grove at the January election, Gordon’s regional electorate of Cook would have made a searing by-election test of Labor support, made tougher on Palaszczuk by the fact questions and allegations of domestic violence and financial impropriety were swirling around Gordon before and after his departure from the parliamentary ALP.

The LNP should have moved an expulsion motion against Gordon the first day state Parliament sat this year; instead, it found itself “accepting” Gordon’s vote to defeat two relatively minor moves by the ALP, and whilst I have little time for strategies predicated on “not accepting” the votes of disgraced MPs, the end result of the episode is that having unexpectedly found the means by which to land an early knockout blow against Labor, Springborg — whether on his own decision or on the advice of so-called “strategists” — squibbed it.

You have to take opportunities as they arise in politics, for they never come again; Springborg didn’t, and it’s hard to see where another opportunity to rattle the Labor cage (and perhaps force an early election) will come from.

Certainly, to listen to the LNP, you’d be hard-pressed to know just how cosily ensconced Labor’s thuggish union cronies are becoming in their taxpayer-funded largesse; were it not for the sterling efforts of the Courier Mail, it’s doubtful anyone would have the bottle to ensure Queenslanders are even aware of it.

These are telling pointers to the Springborg style: that method of leadership that over three previous terms of Parliament never transcended mediocrity itself, with its uncertain, unclear, ambiguous messages. Yes, the LNP expressed its outrage over Gordon; no, when the time to nail its colours to the mast arrived, it wouldn’t act decisively.

Is it any wonder the early pointers to the LNP’s fortunes show a gradual but definite slide toward the seemingly permanent acceptance of opposition that saw it lose five consecutive elections before 2012 — three of them under Springborg’s stewardship — and eight of the past ten state elections to boot.

And those polls from the Courier pass a damning indictment on Springborg’s feasibility as a leader, with the proportion of respondents approving or disapproving of his performance to date being almost identical, and with the “undecideds” (at about 20%) being low for anyone trying to pass himself off as a “new” leader. He’s nothing of the kind.

Part of the problem (and this is an old story) is that when it comes to voters in Queensland’s metropolitan and urban coastal corridors — which, in the absence of the notorious gerrymander, now decide who wins and loses elections in the Sunshine State — Springborg is utterly, utterly irrelevant, and not even a standout performance as Health minister under Newman was ever going to change this, nor transform Springborg (after losing three elections) into a viable, electable, alternative Premier of Queensland.

It might be cruel, unfair, discriminatory (where urban voters are concerned) or just plain wrong from the perspective of rural Queenslanders, but a cow cocky from the southern Darling Downs was never going to be embraced by the “city slickers” who outnumber his bush buddies; this assertion requires no testing, for Springborg suffered heavy defeats as leader of the then-Coalition in 2004 and 2006, and failed in 2009 to win what should, objectively, have been a lay-down misere for the new LNP against Anna Bligh.

Lawrence is an excellent fellow and as readers know, I once had a fair bit to do with him when I lived in Brisbane: I doubt he would remember me now, so numerous are the faces that pass through politicians’ lives, and we are talking the better part of 20 years ago, no less. But sometimes, to make the calls in this column that are in the best interests of my party, it is necessary to criticise it, and I just wonder whether Lawrence could save himself no end of future grief by cutting his losses now and leaving Parliament altogether.

He might become Premier on the floor of Parliament, but it’s not the same as winning an election, and I suspect he knows it.

Yet for all of this, in some respects Springborg is the least of the LNP’s worries.

Through machinations and intrigues, and thanks to past enterprises in plotting, scheming, and doing hatchet jobs on each other, the LNP has put itself in the position where it has virtually sabotaged the viability of every other potential LNP leader, of which I believe there are only two plausible prospects.

Former Treasurer Tim Nicholls has been persistently and ruthlessly nobbled because of his ties to disgraced former Senator, powerbroker, and Queensland state MP Santo Santoro; in Queensland conservative circles it’s a hanging offence to even speak to the “wrong” people, much less associate with them, and it seems Nicholls stands at risk of being permanently excluded from leading his party for the grand old sin of being a mate of Santoro’s.

It’s true Santoro failed to disclose various interests he held on the parliamentary pecuniary register whilst a Senator, which directly brought his career to an end; but he isn’t a criminal, and the Santoro group are far less driven by the wild, vicious hatreds and lifelong pursuit of ridiculous vendettas that motivate many of their factional opponents.

(I have known some on the non-Santoro side of the Queensland Liberals to set forth on explicitly stated crusades to “destroy” those who cross them, and by “destroy” I mean to seriously attempt to ruin their lives permanently, within politics and outside it, and this kind of mentality makes the frenzied pursuit of anyone so much as suspected of having spoken to Santoro rightly seem the more bizarre and ridiculous. It is also totally unforgivable).

I think Nicholls is the best man to lead the LNP; those who don’t like the fact he speaks to Santo should get over themselves. There are plenty of others in LNP, especially in the west of Brisbane, who make Santoro look like an innocent babe by comparison. Yet these people would prefer to lose elections than to permit the “enemies” within to enjoy a shred of political success. They should grow up. God knows, some of those standing in Nicholls’ way have been lurking around the Liberals in Brisbane for decades, and should know better than this.

But if we move on from Nicholls, the other obvious candidate is the man pushed out of the leadership to make way for Campbell Newman four years ago, Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek, in an act of treachery, bastardry and political stupidity for which the responsible parties have escaped consequence.

Langbroek, as the story goes, was shown to be politically brittle by the unexpected poll bounce experienced by Labor in the aftermath of the 2011 floods in Brisbane; an astute reading of the situation would have revealed this to have been a reflex response that would correct itself as the floods receded into the distance, and there was a ready precedent for this in Victoria in 2009 when deeply unpopular Labor Premier John Brumby experienced soaring “popularity” in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires, only to be turfed out of office on the receiving end of a big swing to the Liberal Party a little over 18 months later.

Most of the people I’ve spoken to agree Langbroek would have made a very solid — if unspectacular, or particularly showy — fist of the job of Premier; and that had it fallen his way, the LNP would have been elected by less than the landslide it won in 2012, but re-elected easily earlier this year.

The bottom line here is that Langbroek is untested as Premier whilst simultaneously representing damaged goods — and that damage, as it largely has been in Nicholls’ case, is entirely self-inflicted insofar as the LNP itself is concerned.

Thanks to the not-inconsiderable efforts of those who set out to crucify both of them — people who no doubt remain highly pleased with their handiwork — turning to either of these well suited leadership candidates is fraught with the political risks that come from elements within their own party having tried to destroy their careers.

And if we put Nicholls and Langbroek to one side, the only other remotely viable leadership candidates all come with severe — potentially fatal — drawbacks.

Everton MP Tim Mander and Mansfield MP Ian Walker are both extremely insecurely seated; in any case, both have just three years’ experience in Parliament, and the recent practice of elevating neophytes to frontline leadership roles has too often proven a disaster to be seriously considered by the LNP now.

Caloundra MP Mark McArdle comes with substance, but has a media profile that is about as inspirational to watch as bathroom mildew growing spores; he has also been around for a long time, and could no more be passed off as “new” by the LNP as it is trying fruitlessly to do now with Springborg.

Indooroopilly MP Scott Emerson is amiable enough, but — aside from reports that some of his more prominent branch members think he’s just great — I don’t know anyone who thinks he’s a serious candidate to lead the LNP, and much less to become Premier.

Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie, by virtue of his performance in government, is probably no longer a starter to ever lead the LNP.

And despite whatever delusions to the contrary they might harbour, the less said about Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey and Maroochydore MP Fiona Simpson in the same breath as “leadership,” the better, and my only remark is that as an asset to Queensland’s conservative parties, the dowdy Miss Simpson isn’t a patch on her father, Gordon, an excellent fellow rightly remembered decades after his departure as a giant of conservative government in that state.

All of this leads to Springborg being the only man standing by default. In turn, it highlights just how badly the LNP has boxed itself into a corner as it attempts to regroup and take the fight up to a defective, reprehensible Labor government which might as well just hang the CFMEU flag over the parliamentary quadrangle, and abandon any pretence at governing for all Queenslanders.

The LNP has a Springborg problem: it can’t live with him and, thanks to the efforts of some of its own henchmen, it seems living without him simply isn’t an option.

If common sense and sanity are not permitted to trump the vicious, petty, nasty personal blood feuds that have seen them spend 21 of the past 26 years in opposition, Queensland’s conservatives are destined to spend a very long time in the political wilderness now.

Nobody can say they weren’t warned, but where the conservative parties in Queensland are concerned, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Labor is enjoying an easy ride through the early stages of its first term in office in Queensland and, unless something changes very drastically, that first term will by no means prove to be its last — minority government and living on a knife-edge notwithstanding.

 

Fair Cop: Morrison’s Welfare Fraud Crackdown Must Go Further

SOCIAL SERVICES minister Scott Morrison’s welfare fraud taskforce is a promising start on the onerous problem of weeding out welfare rorters and throwing them off the public purse, but it doesn’t go far enough; every dollar parasitic bludgers are paid from government coffers must first be taken from income generated by the hard work of others. It is to be hoped that once fully operational, the focus of Morrison’s laudable initiative can be widened.

First things first: my silence over much of the past week has derived not so much from workload this time (or so I initially thought), but illness; first instincts were to blame my two-year-old son (who has taken over the role of germ disseminator-in-chief in our house from his big sister) for bringing something home from his chums at daycare, but a vicious bacterial ear infection rules a kiddivirus out as the source — and points the finger back toward a logical consequence of maintaining ridiculous hours and paying the price for a run-down immune system. Or toward cigarettes. Or, probably, toward both.

The couple of thousand milligrams of penicillin I’m taking daily should see me right soon enough — and a little more frequent in terms of output in this column, the ongoing heavy load I’m still juggling at present notwithstanding.

Yet I find a perverse irony in the fact that in trying to get ahead and to bring carefully considered, structured, long-term professional plans to fruition, I (or anyone else who works hard) should get sick, only to keep pushing myself/themselves to maintain and/or prematurely resume optimum levels of output, when there are far too many people floating around in this country content to sit on their arses, with their hands outstretched, and to take from the labours of others everything they can get with no sense of either obligation or responsibility in kind.

And I am not talking about the genuinely needy, so anyone who wants to use that statement as the pretext for some wild anti-Tory rant would be best served going somewhere else before embarking upon such a silly diatribe.

I have been reading a report from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph this morning that details the “zero tolerance” approach being adopted by Social Services minister Scott Morrison in seeking to recoup more than a billion dollars in improperly and/or fraudulently claimed welfare monies, and whilst the initiative is a welcome one that should be both applauded and encouraged, I don’t think it goes anywhere near far enough.

My only caution is that in cracking down on welfare debts incurred through the over- or underestimation of income, the current system of repayments (whether through reduced subsequent benefits, or arrangements struck with relevant government agencies to repay monies, and the like) — if adhered to and honoured by the claimant — should continue, rather than using the proverbial sledgehammer to smash a nut.

Where Morrison’s initiative targets recidivists who cannot and will not pay, however, is clearly another matter altogether.

I have never understood how people can find the miserable ducats doled out by Centrelink to be in any way preferable to the higher income and better life that a job provides; unemployment benefits, for example, don’t even add up to $300 per week, and combined with the fact Centrelink is just about the most pathetic, depressing, uninspiring place in Australia, why anyone would want to build a life around it (and its paltry stipends) is beyond me.

But they do; a common argument is that in taking a job, some people might not be all that much better off than remaining on the dole, to which I say a) the minimum wage in this country now sits at above $30,000 per annum, as opposed to less than half that for the dole; b) the default culture in this country must be to work, rather than to sponge off others; and c) arrogating to oneself the “right” to arbitrarily live off the tax payments of others as an alternative to work is not a right at all, and those who seek to do so should simply be thrown off welfare altogether.

Digest that, Bill Shorten, with your pathetic and meaningless blather about “fairness:” Shorten, of course, wouldn’t know “fairness” if it bit him in the face.

If Morrison’s taskforce is to perform its role in any meaningful sense, I think it has to also cover those areas the Tele reports it will ignore: people underestimating income to claim “middle class welfare,” family tax benefits, government-funded parental leave payments and the like are ripping off decent taxpayers every bit as much as those whose ambitions in life extend no further beyond the next instalment of their ill-gotten booty from Centrelink.

Welfare fraud is welfare fraud, whichever way you cut it; and excluding some payments from the enforcement net as “supplementary” undermines the integrity of the very crackdown — and cultural clean-up — Morrison is trying to implement in the first place.

I understand that where this kind of approach is used, there are limits, and I understand that when tackling a monolithic edifice such as Australia’s obscene welfare bill (accounting as it does for almost half of all government expenditure) the thin edge of the wedge is the only way such an undertaking can be commenced at all, for it is regrettably not possible to summarily terminate every bludger’s indulgence on the public teat with a click of the fingers.

Even so, and even beyond the items ruled out of Morrison’s net because they are “supplementary,” there are other areas I think a properly calibrated fraud taskforce should be targeting.

One example lies in the “dole households” that were briefly notorious in the 1980s and 1990s before a recession spared them the public spotlight, wherein four or five people pooling their resources (read: dole cheques) to collectively rent a modest house, run one modest car between them, and live a spartan but entirely unaccountable existence at the expense of the taxpayer, unencumbered and untroubled by notions of earning their money respectably or — quaintly enough — of hard work.

It can’t be too hard for government agencies to spot households comprised of individuals not in relationships with each other, all claiming the full rate of the dole, and living in a domestic environment based on the communal entrenchment of a culture of unemployment and welfarism. Properly dealt with, it shouldn’t be too hard to find ways to recoup welfare monies from them either.

An argument that gets trotted out whenever a conservative government makes some attempt to crack down on welfare abuse — unsurprisingly, by the forces of the Left that use welfare addiction as a political tool to cement votes for the ALP and the Communist Party Greens, who would never really do anything to upset the bludger community — is that the expense and resources required to properly address the problem of welfare fraud (and they make it clear they see the “problem” as miniscule: it’s just a nasty Tory plot against the poor) outweigh the monies likely to be saved, rendering the whole exercise pointless.

Well, I don’t think it’s pointless to stop people taking from the public purse what they were never entitled to take in the first place.

I have heard anecdotes over the years of people who have done so, and bragged about never getting caught, and who suggest that taxes are so high that ripping off the system is the only way to make ends meet.

As indelicate as it might be to point it out, taxes probably wouldn’t be as high as they are were it not for people like that having their hands in the till. Someone has to pay for it. And the only ways government can acquire the funds to meet its obligations are by taxing people and by borrowing. It’s food for thought from those who think they are above everyone else, and above the law.

But I would add that even if a comprehensive crackdown on welfare rorting did in fact cost as much (or more) than it saved, if it led to a permanent correction in the cultural disposition of some people to regard welfare as fair game — and something to be maximised in their own self-interest in defiance of once again, quite quaintly, the law — then the entire exercise would constitute an investment, rather than representing a cost.

People who are able to work hard and either do so or genuinely seek to do so will easily spot the distinction. Those who are apologists for indolence, laziness, greed, and unlawful and lawless behaviour won’t like it one bit. I’m not concerned about the faux outrage and wounded feelings of those who sit in the latter category.

And one area I’d like to see the harsh glare of a welfare crackdown turn to is an audit of orders made in the Family Court, wherein one parent — usually the mother — makes grandiose promises under oath to study, get a full-time job, and then very deliberately acts to either maintain sole reliance on the single parenting payment or in conjunction with child support payments from the defeated parent: if they get a job at all, the types I am referring to, it is wilfully engineered to cover a few days per fortnight at most and to minimise (or eliminate altogether) the loss of any of their “income.”

This sort of behaviour is not only a contempt of the Court, but makes a mockery of its proceedings; I think people who conduct themselves thus are just as guilty of welfare fraud as those who fit the criteria set out for Morrison’s taskforce. (They are also deliberately and spitefully overburdening their former partners through their laziness and malice, but that’s another story).

It is not an attack on women to criticise these people, even if it is mostly mothers who such an attack covers. It is an attack, from another angle, on the leech culture that sees some people believing society owes them something when in fact, it owes them nothing. Those mothers might not lose their kids, but they do deserve to lose their pension payments.

I wanted to talk about this issue before I head off to bed, it being 3am in Melbourne as I write: such is the need to get medication times stepped back to fit the working week before it recommences again tomorrow.

But as regular readers know, I find the amount of money spent on welfare in this country shameful, not a source of pride; and whilst I would never advocate people who really needed help to be cut off, the simple fact is that wherever you look, there are people gaming the system and pocketing, collectively, billions of dollars when they shouldn’t get a cent. And it has to stop.

I wish Scott Morrison the very best of luck as he sets about tackling a problem that has proven too hard for many conservatives who preceded him, and of little real interest to his ALP counterparts beyond a bit of rhetoric to curry favour with middle class swinging voters.

Yet I don’t think what has been announced goes anywhere near far enough, and in sharing a couple of ideas today in relation to other areas I think any crackdown ought to investigate, I’d be interested in the constructive thoughts of readers as to other ways unjustifiable welfare payments might be stopped.

 

“Solidarity” Forever As Labor Cedes Preselections To Unions

AN UNEXPECTED political bonus seems likely to be gifted to the Coalition in the near future, with increasingly marginalised unions set to all but assume control of the ALP’s preselections of MPs and parliamentary candidates; the move — flagged ahead of Labor’s upcoming national conference — is supported by all five candidates for the party’s federal presidency, and would permanently entrench militant union dominance of the ALP at every level.

It’s just a short post from me this morning, but you have to wonder at times just how stupid some people can be: and when it comes to the renewed embrace between the Labor Party and its cousins on the militant wing of the union movement, that stupidity appears to know no bounds.

An article appearing briefly on The Australian‘s website last night details a plan to enfranchise up to a million card-carrying union members at ALP preselections as a way of increasing “member” participation in selecting parliamentary candidates.

As that article notes, Labor’s membership currently stands at a little over 50,000, so the measure — if formalised — would overrun rank-and-file ALP members by a 20 to 1 margin and effectively cede complete control over both the endorsement of parliamentary candidates and the parliamentary Labor caucus to the union movement.

And this plan — supported by all five of the candidates standing to become Labor’s federal president — is said to be aimed at “democratisation” of the ALP, along with “increasing accountability and transparency.”

The notion sounds about as opaquely transparent as a cesspool.

At some point, the revival of union prevalence (and dominance) within the ALP that began, more or less, with the union-funded campaign against the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws a decade ago is going to come full circle, and assert a permanently deleterious influence on Labor’s electoral prospects; I just wonder whether this move, if pursued to implementation, represents that point.

Already in the past year, we have seen Labor win government in Victoria — bankrolled by monies from the violent, militant, lawless CFMEU — through a union-infested campaign using emergency services workers and other unionists masquerading as nurses, ambulance drivers and firefighters that bordered on electoral fraud.

We have seen Labor reclaim government in Queensland (again substantially funded by fat wads of cash from the CFMEU) with the resulting minority Palaszczuk regime seemingly beholden to the demands of unions which now seek to flex their muscles, and to collect on the debt to which they believe themselves entitled.

And just a few short months ago, we saw federal Labor combine with the Communist Party Greens to scuttle a bill in the Senate that would have enforced the same standards of governance and corporate diligence on unions as entities as already applies to the corporate sector: as a response to evidence of widespread illegality and corruption uncovered at the Heydon Royal Commission into the trade union movement, it was a disappointing and counter-intuitive move indeed.

Depending on whose figures you accept (or how much interest you have in distorting the facts), membership of unions in this country has plummeted in recent decades, and now stands at somewhere between 13 and 17% of the Australian workforce.

It’s hardly the mark of a movement that is representative of the community in the broadest sense, and when it is remembered that a huge portion of that remaining membership is tied up in the same construction unions that were mostly the trigger for the Royal Commission in the first place, union membership beyond its confines is virtually negligible.

Still, the unions have spent a decade pouring vast sums of cash into the Labor Party; the fact most of its leaders now hail from the militant Left of the party and/or occupied senior leadership roles within the union movement prior to their ascension to elected office is a direct consequence of this trend toward the purchase of authority and power by irrelevant unions that have little or nothing meaningful to offer to the vast majority of ordinary Australians.

Now, these lawless, thuggish, intermittently violent union gangs are set to seize permanent and total control of the ALP through its preselection processes across the country.

The implications for the Coalition are obvious; there are good reasons for union membership to have collapsed so drastically over the past 30 years or so, and they go to the heart of the obsolete nature of the union movement’s offering to ordinary men and women who fail to identify with the union creed, and vote with their feet by declining to join it.

And tellingly — despite the best efforts of the Gillard government in particular to reverse this decline in union numbers — their membership levels stubbornly continue to fall.

Were the Coalition inclined to do so (or suitably equipped in the areas of strategy, tactics and communications), a big opportunity to tear the ALP apart politically over this latest manifestation of its surrender to its masters at Trades Hall beckons.

But at some point, perhaps the disinclination (or inability) to turn the blowtorch on Labor over its unhealthy sellout to the unions will become moot: only those already riding aboard the union cart perceive any enduring sense of responsibility or ethics about the unions nowadays, and most people sense “union” has become a byword for thuggery, lawlessness, and the pursuit of a narrow agenda of self-interest at the direct expense of the best interests of the community as a whole.

Now, the unions are set to be handed untrammelled power over who sits in Parliament for the Labor Party, and who does not.

It remains to be seen how the newish ALP state governments fare (although the early signs are not good), but this latest incarnation of union control over Labor might just be the thing to plunge the party back into the complete irrelevance in which it dwelt for decades only a generation or so ago.

The more things change, the more they stay the same; the difference is that today, unions represent around one in seven working Australians, as opposed to almost one in two just 30 or 40 years ago.

If this is Labor’s idea of “democracy,” I’d shudder to think what it might be capable of if it ever turned its mind to totalitarianism, state socialism, and open illiberal brutality.

Then again, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the “modern” ALP is an adept proponent of just those objectives. The complete surrender to the unions now set to be enacted will simply entrench those anti-democratic tendencies even further.

For Australia’s conservative parties, a very big opportunity is about to be handed to them on a platter. Whether they are able to exploit it remains to be seen.