A No-Confidence Motion? It Won’t Succeed…This Week…

The open rumour today is that the Opposition will move a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives next week, potentially terminating the current Labor government. It either won’t happen, or it will fail.

This time.

As the fallout and retribution from Thursday’s disgraceful Australia Day riot continues, consideration is apparently being given, in opposition ranks, to the movement of a no-confidence vote in the government in an attempt to force a fresh election.

It’s true that what occurred on Thursday was completely unacceptable, and it is no exaggeration that the episode at The Lobby restaurant shamed Australia internationally.

As the questions are progressively asked in terms of who knew what and when, it is equally true that despite the sacking of a ministerial advisor that questions in terms of the wider picture of what happened remain unanswered.

Tonight, I don’t want to debate the issue afresh, but rather to look at the option of a no-confidence vote and analyse the likely course of events should one be presented.

Indeed, Andrew Wilkie — the Independent who incurred severely burnt fingers as a result of dealing with Julia Gillard — has indicated he would support such a motion.

Technically, what he has agreed to support is the movement to suspend parliamentary standing orders to allow a no-confidence motion to be debated, but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing.

I don’t believe a no-confidence vote against the Gillard government will succeed — this time — and it’s not a question of the merits of the motion; rather, it’s a question of the numbers.

With ex-Liberal traitor and general shitbag Peter Slipper occupying the Speaker’s chair, there are 149 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives; 75 of them add up to a win on any piece of legislation or on a motion such as this one.

There are 71 Liberal and National MHRs.

Add Andrew Wilkie to that, and presumably WA National Tony Crook — if he values his re-election prospects — and that makes 73.

Add Bob Katter, too; he wanted to put the Liberal Party into government with his vote as a crossbencher after last year’s election.

Nothing has changed in terms of the issues Katter stipulated as the terms for receipt of his vote, so we’ll add him in — and that makes it 74 Coalition-aligned votes.

The 72 ALP MHRs will obviously vote for themselves, as will the Communist Green MP Adam Bandt; so there is 73 guaranteed pro-Labor votes.

Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are a different story.

Oakeshott’s papers are firmly and clearly marked; having thrown his lot in with Gillard — as the holder of an overwhelmingly conservative electorate, but with very few tangible political smarts — it’s fairly obvious that he would line up on the government side in any no-confidence vote.

Which makes Tony Windsor the key, on the current make-up of the House.

Windsor is very different to Oakeshott, despite holding a similarly conservative electorate, in that he a) has some political nous of his own, and b) has unfettered access to the political brain of his relative Bruce Hawker, the ALP strategist.

His own polling numbers in New England are holding up better than those of Oakeshott in Lyne, to the point that Windsor — whilst still likely to lose his seat on paper — may yet find a way to survive.

Perhaps bringing down the Gillard government in a no-confidence vote might be just the circuit-breaker he needs.

But I still think — not just yet.

For those readers unfamiliar with the whole idea of no-confidence motions in Parliament, the reality is fairly simple: if one is moved and succeeds (meaning the government loses the vote on raw numbers) then by convention, the government must either resign or call an election.

My instincts are that this issue, whilst absolutely deplorable and reprehensible, isn’t the hook Tony Abbott and the opposition need to ensure Windsor’s vote and get the fresh election they seek.

Craig Thomson might be a very different story, in a month or two…

The sheer depravity of the allegations against Thomson are one thing; for him to be charged, as seems increasingly likely, are another.

And if he is, the brief of evidence will be available, and that will form the basis of a no-confidence motion that may very well succeed.

I’d make the point that — paradoxically — it is now in the best interests of the Coalition to defer an election for a while; with half the parliamentary term now gone, a window opens in a bit over twelve months to take half the Senate to an election as well as the House, which would avoid either two elections in two years and/or a separate half-Senate election, the last of which occurred in 1973.

So if there is to be a no-confidence vote next week (and there may), I’d be surprised if it were successful.

But whether there is or not, or whether it is or not, a solidly legitimate pretext for another go is not too far away.

And if this analysis is correct, then Craig Thomson — holder of a classic marginal seat with an alleged penchant for hookers — might find the price of a screw to be very high indeed.

And so might the Prime Minister and her government.



The Sick Truth About Australia Day, And What It Means

So…48 hours after Australia Day, a few things have become very clear; this despicable episode has ultimately taken a disgraceful turn, and far from being the hero of the day on account of her conduct, Julia Gillard is ultimately responsible for what occurred.

And the Prime Minister is responsible: the staffer who thought it a good idea to tip a union official off, with the suggestion proceedings be given a “little liven up,” was an employee in her own ministerial office and as such, the responsibility of the Minister (in this case, the Prime Minister).

I’ve refrained from posting on this subject for a couple of days; partly to see what the factual fallout would be before commenting, but also because I am so outraged by what the reality of the situation has proven to be that there has been a need to cool off a bit before publishing anything.

I actually defended the Prime Minister on Thursday — I should have known better.

What a sham.

We now know that a junior advisor tipped off a union official, who in turn conveyed to willing protesters a) a doctored version of Tony Abbott’s remarks on the tent embassy which was almost guaranteed to incite a riot, and b) an urging to “give things a little liven up” or, to be frank, a direct incitement to riot, lest the doctored report of Abbott’s comments failed to achieve just that.

Presumably, these messages were delivered if not with the promise of Prime Ministerial imprimatur, then at the very least with identification they came from the PM’s office.

And that amounts to the same thing.

Aboriginal elders who were already distancing themselves from the Canberra riot on Thursday are now very angry, if the tone of comment from the incessant stream of Aboriginal leaders on talkback radio in the past 48 hours is anything to go by.

The message is uniform, and the upshot clear: they don’t want their people tarnished by what occurred on Thursday and they don’t have any truck with it.

The misrepresentation of Abbott’s remarks, incidentally, is now accepted by the leaders of Australia’s Aboriginal community to the point some of its elders have today called for the perpetrators to be handed over to them to be tried under “blackfella” law after their punishments under “whitefella” law have been observed.

(This is where I have to smile: real, true Aborigines have humour in their ways, even when it’s something serious; I don’t think anyone would have expected Thursday’s thugs to have exhibited such grace, what with their rocks and sticks and empty bottles).

Given traditional “blackfella” punishments feature spears through the shoulder and cutting tongues out and the like, I’m fairly sure they were joking, yet deadly serious in getting the expression of their displeasure across.

Anyway — back to what all of this means.

Tony Hodge — the media advisor to Julia Gillard who put the word around about Abbott’s location and the doctored version of his comments — has now resigned or been pushed; good riddance to him.

It seems from news reports that the go-to person was ACT union official Kim Sattler, but in advance of better information or more developments, I’m sceptical.

Why would Hodge need an intermediary, when the end recipients of the “information” would know whence it originated anyway?

And given precisely that consideration, if he had decided to leak the information, why would Hodge risk adding another layer of traceability?

I have no proof of course, but an immediate suspicion is that Sattler may (or may not, we’ll see), involuntarily or otherwise, be filling the role of patsy to cushion the impact of these revelations on the office of Julia Gillard.

Gillard says she has absolutely no knowledge of the fabricated version of Abbott’s remarks that Hodge leaked to someone that resulted in the riot in Canberra two days ago.

Maybe she’s telling the truth — maybe she really didn’t know.

But the problem the dear She has is that her track record in terms of honesty and integrity is not, in the past 18 months, exactly glittering.

In reality, Julia Gillard’s record in these areas more closely resembles a strip of used toilet paper.

And she has a further problem in that this sort of stunt is exactly the type of thing the ALP in the 21st century views as a rolled-gold opportunity to score “hard” political mileage.

Whilst it would be nice to believe she is telling the truth, her denials ring hollow.

And the simple fact is that this imbecile — Hodge — not only endangered the life of his boss, he also endangered the lives of Tony Abbott and the Police officers who got them away from the fracas.

Had someone been murdered on Thursday — purely as a result of a juvenile stunt — the consequences would have been unthinkable.

And let’s not mince words here: lives were endangered on Thursday.

And we are talking about murder. Pure and simple.

The angry crowd — largely disowned after the event by the Aboriginal community proper, and rightly so — wanted blood and acted accordingly.

Some maggot hiding in the PM’s office very nearly got someone, or some people, killed.

And that’s not the sort of thing that marks out a smart political operative; in fact, it simply marks out an absolute and utter fuckwit who ought to be permanently unemployable, on any level, in any vocation, at any time, and in any place.

Julia Gillard’s five-second denial of any knowledge of the background to this incident is, regrettably, simply insufficient.

And as Hodge’s employer, it is — at the very least — incumbent on her to make a full, comprehensive and complete disclosure to the Australian public of every detail of the issue from an employment relations perspective.

Bugger Hodge’s privacy in this matter, and bugger Gillard’s past as a partner at professional ambulance-chasing law firm Slater and Gordon.

I reiterate: her staff member almost got people murdered, and she was the boss.

It would appear that a prima facie case of criminally conspiratorial conduct involving a direct employee of Gillard’s office and a representative of an ALP-affiliated union body, with the objective of inflicting terminal political damage on Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, was perpetrated on Thursday.

Abbott and the Aboriginal community are blameless.

For Gillard, though, the explanation required mandates more than a giggle and a flick of the hair on the Thursday night news.

And again — this was her employee, and this is the governance of Australia we are talking about, not some inconsequentially small enterprise in the boondocks; she is responsible for the actions of her staff and she must make the disclosure.

In closing, and ironically enough, this incident also reflects very poorly on Kevin Rudd.

Hodge was actually hired by Kevin Rudd when he was himself Prime Minister; for much of Rudd’s term as PM, disquiet abounded about his poor selection of advisory staff — their inexperience and immaturity, their insiderish and bovver-boy approach to their jobs, their general unsuitability for the roles he hired them for, and so on.

This in no way exonerates the demand on Gillard to provide a much more detailed account of what went on in her office and how much she knew, but it should also serve as a salutory warning to those ALP MPs flirting with returning Rudd to the Prime Ministership.


Just as Gillard is a completely unsuitable candidate for the Prime Ministership, Rudd is fundamentally unfit for the office, and this episode — germinating from one of the noxious little weeds he bestowed critical roles on that were and are clearly beyond their capacity — should serve as both a warning and an indictment on Rudd, just as they should, frankly, on Gillard.

If Gillard was “Cinderella” on Thursday night, surely she is the ugliest of sisters now.

Something tells me that the ugliest details of this scandalous episode are still to come.

Australia Day Outrage: Shut The So-Called “Tent Embassy”

One of the most despicable episodes of so-called public protest in recent times occurred in Canberra today; images of the Prime Minister being manhandled into her car by bodyguards and Federal Police to get away from a throng of violent protesters is a red line crossed.

It’s no secret that I am no fan of Julia Gillard or her government; indeed, the sooner she and they are thrown out of office, the better.

But what occurred in Canberra today goes beyond the pale.

Innocuous-enough remarks from Tony Abbott early in the day that the “tent embassy” that has existed on the lawns near Old Parliament House for nearly 40 years should be shut down apparently provided a pretext for Aboriginal activists to turn in an Australia Day shocker.

This ended up with hundreds of protesters baling both Gillard and Abbott up in a restaurant where they had been attending a function; activists belting on glass windows and cat-calling, with an angry mob at their back.

Scenes of Gillard being wrestled to safely, frankly, were sickening, and it’s one of those occasions where partisan politics gets set aside for a bit.

(Abbott had to be escorted through the throng, too).

Footage on evening news bulletins showing the same demonstrators being repelled by Police two, three, four times — and trying to force their way back into the fight — was far more suggestive of thugs looking for a place to strike than it was of any meaningful pursuit of a legitimate cause.

And the story of one of the demonstrators, interviewed for prime time news coverage, that Abbott was the real target — and that it was unfortunate Gillard got caught in the middle of it — doesn’t cut the mustard either.

The simple fact is that this was a wilfully violent protest, geared more to TV coverage and shock value than it was to the meaningful pursuit of Aboriginal rights.

Having said that, here are two observations.

One: the “tent embassy” is technically illegal anyway; it has been tolerated for decades. Abbott’s call to move it on were not based in any malice; indeed, he simply opined that maybe, after 40 years, its original purpose might no longer be relevant.

Indeed, if any of those so-called Aboriginal activists scratched the surface, they would find that Tony Abbott has spent enormous amounts of (mostly) his own time working with Aborigines and their communities directly, quietly, and shunning media coverage  of it wherever possible.

Abbott is no enemy of Aboriginal Australians.

But two: part of the problem the Aboriginal lobby faces these days (and yes, I am going to call it a “lobby”) is that they don’t have too many people left to whom others are prepared to listen.

I remember when the late Neville Bonner died, and making the same observation; this was a gentle yet driven man, who worked to advance the cause of his people by advocating their direct engagement with society and challenging white Australia to accept the endeavours of his people.

By contrast, today’s approach was to act like a depraved mob with a lynch mentality.

I think that at the very minimum, the disgusting episode played out in Canberra this afternoon is vindication of Tony Abbott’s call to get rid of the “tent embassy;” if for no other reason than to eliminate a tolerated, illegal base from which activists can mount riotous attacks against government figures of the sort we have seen today.

An overwhelming part of the problem with this issue is that there are people in this country who are one-sixteenth, one-thirtysecond, one-sixtyfourth (or less) of Aboriginal extraction running around, demanding this and that, trying to bring the entire country around to giving them whatever they want.

One of the girls featured on tonight’s news coverage — made up in traditional Aboriginal war paint — had blonde hair. I mean, come on

Indeed, there is a group of these so-called Aborigines trying to force a treaty on the federal government as we speak which, to keep it short, seeks to have them recognised as the actual owners of all Australian lands, and with the open objective of reaping vast “compensation” from the government on an ongoing basis for the “invasion” of Australia they claim occurred in 1788.

I don’t propose to get into a fight over Australia Day versus so-called “Invasion Day,” other than to say that 225 years later, perhaps these people should be suing the corpses of long-dead British soldiers and government figures.

The bird, on that score, has long since flown.

But more to the point, I’ve been to places like Broome and Kalgoorlie and Dubbo, where you drive past young Aboriginal kids (I mean, full-blooded Aborigines) who have passed out next to the highway with a petrol tin or a spirit bottle beside them.

You want to stop and help them, but the anecdotal evidence — overwhelmingly — is that it’s too dangerous to do so; they, or others in their group nearby, can become dangerous, aggressive, and violent on account of the substances they have been abusing.

These are the people that the likes of Neville Bonner desperately wanted to help.

You don’t hear a word of concern for them from the likes of today’s rent-a-crowd.

I mightn’t like Julia Gillard, but as Prime Minister she deserves to be treated with a bit more respect than she was shown today.

And Tony Abbott’s comments might have been seized on as a pretext to cause trouble, but they were hardly remarkable in the context of the illegality and longevity of a protest community that has so clearly outlived its useful life.

But finally, today’s protesters weren’t motivated by any concern for Aboriginal welfare; they were motivated by raw politics, the ability to cause trouble, and the prospect — however ridiculous, unlikely or ambit — of getting money and/or land from the Australian government and its mostly responsible citizens.

What has been achieved by today’s protesters is to ruin the spirit of Australia Day and — through international media coverage — shame and humiliate Australia in the world on the one day of the year we are entitled to bask in the good things our great country has to offer.

And at the end of the day, nothing has been achieved in the area of Aboriginal issues.

Indeed, today’s protest will merely harden stereotypical attitudes against the Aboriginal lobby.

Neville Bonner would rightly be turning in his grave, given what has been done in the name of his people today.

I can only say that I hope the perpetrators think it was worth it.

Flipping The Bird: Angry Wilkie Dumps Gillard

“That Sir which serves and seeks to gain/ And follows but for form/ Will pack when it begins to rain/ And leave Thee in the storm.” — from King Lear, by William Shakespeare

At the risk of mixing metaphors — or at the very least, classical authors — the events of the past couple of days could almost be described as Machiavellian.

Yet the little speech of sage advice from the Fool in King Lear sums it up for me.

Developments over the weekend that Julia Gillard has abandoned her agreement with key Independent Andrew Wilkie to introduce mandatory pre-commitment legislation to govern poker machines, and that Wilkie in turn has withdrawn his support for the Gillard government, smack of political expediency in the most hypocritical and noxious of fashions.

18 months ago, Australia ground to a halt for 17 days whilst it waited for Gillard — supposedly Bob Hawke’s heir when it came to building consensus — to cobble together a hotchpotch of alliances to bridge the gap between the pitiful 72 (of 150) seats Labor garnered at its first attempt at re-election and the 76 in total required for the barest of functional majorities.

75 votes on the floor of the House is good enough: the body in the Speaker’s chair makes the total number of voting MPs 149, so 75 wins.

It’s an important point.

But back to the deals that kept Gillard and the ALP in office.

Everyone was bought off with something: for the Communist Party Greens, it was effective control of the government’s operational agenda, along with a number of specific undertakings to indulge their lunatic Stalinist platform; for conservative Judases Oakeshott and Windsor, it was barrels of cash for their electorates; and for Andrew Wilkie, it was the implementation of mandatory pre-commitment at poker machines around the country in an attempt to tackle problem gambling.

Thus far, Gillard has kept the faith with Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor, but they must be wondering uneasily when their turn will come. Certainly, they are all too aware that this government and this Prime Minister do not act in good faith when it comes to their supposed allies.

Having realised how electorally lethal the Greens and their God-forsaken agenda are to the mainstream majority in this country, yet beholden to its alliance with them out of sheer numerical necessity, the ALP has gone out of its way in recent months to distance itself from, belittle, frustrate and betray the Greens in an attempt to differentiate itself from its Coalition partner.

Completely innocent of any principles rooted in decency or propriety, Labor exercised the miniscule degree of persuasion required to convince Liberal Party turncoat, serial non-performer and generally contemptible excuse for an MP, Peter Slipper, to abandon his Party (which he abandoned the National Party for some 25 years ago) and accept a hefty pay rise — tarnishing the august role of Speaker in so doing — to buy another vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

And to enable the right and royal shafting of Wilkie and his poker machine reforms.

I’ll be honest — I have always thought Wilkie’s approach to this issue was characterised with more than a little of the “light in the eyes” syndrome; even so, I fully concur that the issue itself is one that requires something to be done, and urgently.

More to the point, I’m old-fashioned: a deal is a deal, and I take a dim view of people who do not operate on the same basis.

Gillard’s excuses, and her “reasoning,” are not only wrong, they are inexcusable.

“There is inadequate support in the House of Representatives to pass the reforms Andrew Wilkie was seeking,” she droned.

Really? Then why do the deal in the first place?

Methinks it has more to do with the fact nervous Labor MPs, facing outrage from the services clubs and sporting clubs that often constitute the hubs of the communities they represent, are more concerned with their seats.

And let’s look at the numbers: there are 72 Labor MPs, all with a vote given Slipper now sits in the Speaker’s chair; the Greens’ Adam Bandt and Wilkie are an additional, guaranteed two more.

For Gillard’s assertion of “insufficient support” to be true, what she is really saying is that she couldn’t round up a single extra vote from Oakeshott, Windsor, Coalition-inclined but independently minded Bob Katter, or WA National Tony Crook.

Or, put another way, she’s so poor a leader she literally couldn’t convince one person to vote for the laws, given the ruthlessness with which the ALP caucus is bound to support parliamentary policy.

Of course, as a leader Gillard is abysmal, but we’re talking about a sales job here with the odds stacked in her favour: two of the four gentlemen I have mentioned are in alliances with her!

And a third — Crook — confirmed today that he had only ever been approached once on the issue of pre-commitment: once, once, after 18 months of the issue being canvassed.

Clearly, little or no serious attempt was ever made to honour the deal.

It was all about keeping Labor bums — I use the term advisedly — in ministerial jobs, holding onto ministerial salaries and perks, and bugger anyone who got in the way.

In other words, standard Labor Party operating procedure.

Gillard claims her “compromise solution” (read, two-tenths of nothing) is superior: it replaces a mandatory, legislated national reform with a trial confined to Canberra and not due to be further proceeded with until 2016 — thus effectively kicking the issue a term and a half down the electoral road, by which time Labor will likely be attempting to regain a handful of the dozens of seats it lost on its way into Opposition.

Or in short, a “solution” providing a clear road map to doing nothing.

I have very little time for Andrew Wilkie; others can make their judgements about his party-hopping and lack of integrity, but for once I feel for him.

He is angry, and rightfully so; and he has conducted himself with quite some dignity on having discovered, to quote Richard Nixon, the exact length, depth and breadth of the shaft.

Certainly, his attempt to be neutral (not supporting no-confidence motions unless misconduct is involved, maintaining good relations with the government and so forth) is noble, but unconvincing; and he has already warned the government of “consequences” should it attempt to shaft him a second time.

Any idiot can see Wilkie is livid, and justifiably so.

But it gets worse.

Labor MPs have been issued with what is known politically (and elsewhere) as a “shit sheet” offering direction on how to deal with the issue of Gillard’s latest act of betrayal.

“Say that politics isn’t perfect,” the shit sheet says. “Say that often compromises need to be found.”

Er…no, not in this case. It is a lie, and it is a flagrant breach of a written contract.

It suggests talking about John Howard needing to remove GST on food to deliver most of the GST package.

Dangerous ground here:

  • Howard was actually delivering on a promise (as opposed to running away from it);
  • Removing food was the only way politically possible to deliver the other 85% of the GST package;
  • Far from running away from something he promised, Howard did everything he could to honour that commitment; and
  • The example is completely flawed in any case — in any meaningful sense, Gillard is delivering, effectively, none of what she committed to deliver.

You have to shake your head and laugh…not from amusement, mind, but out of sheer cynicism.

And remembering Gillard is increasingly obsessed with threats to her leadership, it’s pretty obvious she’s more concerned about the stormy weather she has wilfully headed into over the past 18 months than she is with anything of any real consequence to anyone except herself.

Here in Australia, we have a worthless, useless, gormless and spineless government, led by a worthless, useless, gormless and spineless Prime Minister.

But we have more than that.

We have a government — not merely content with spin, glib slogans, smug stunts and empty rhetoric — that is fundamentally dishonest, wilfully deceitful, inherently untrustworthy, and downright dangerous.

Add into that the fact that whilst it can’t honour any good faith shown to it by others — be it the voters who trusted Gillard and Labor, the MPs who re-installed it in government on what should have been binding undertakings, or anyone else — Gillard and Labor are happy to loyally protect and entertain folk from other quarters.

Folk like Craig Thomson, accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from an employer to feed a penchant for hookers, and who is the subject of multiple criminal investigations.

(To say nothing of a Fair Work Australia investigation that has mysteriously taken years not to be finalised…join the dots…)

Folk like Peter Slipper…we all know the stories — if I go down that track again, I’m going to lose my temper.

It’s one thing for there to be “honour among thieves;” it’s another matter altogether to operate under the watchword of “dishonour among murderers.”

Perhaps the ALP slogan at the next election should be “Treachery Is Everything.”

It would neatly sum up Labor’s approach to government.

Wilkie, whichever way you cut it, has flipped the PM off — and rightly so, in my view.

This tawdry little episode is further proof (if any were required) of an intellectually and morally bankrupt government that must be shown the door at the earliest available opportunity for the good of the country.

What do you think?

Gingrich Easily Wins South Carolina Republican Primary

In a stunning two-week turnaround, final figures from the Republican primary election that took place overnight, AEDT, show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trouncing purported frontrunner, Mitt Romney, recording about 41% of votes cast to 28% for Romney.

Former Congressman — and ultimate winner in Iowa — Rick Santorum was next, with 17%, and libertarian Ron Paul bringing up the rear on 13%.

Having finished a distant third in both New Hampshire and Iowa, this contest was something of a make-or-break for Gingrich; he was expected to poll more strongly — or top the field — in South Carolina, but the strength of his win in that state’s primary is a bolt from the blue.

It comes at the end of a horror fortnight for Romney; the former Massachusetts governor had fanned the flames of expectation that his campaign would clinch a win in this third of three Republican primaries thus far to make it “three in a row.”

But he didn’t win in Iowa at all; a recount there showed religious conservative Santorum clinching that state’s vote by 34 votes; he won in New Hampshire, of course, which is where he lives anyway, and now has been thumped in South Carolina.

Compounding the woes of the Romney campaign is the fact that serious questions are now being widely asked about his record in business, and about eye-raising and highly disturbing stories beginning to emerge from his record as a senior leadership figure in his Mormon church.

The latter of these considerations is already a latent source of disquiet to many in the Republican Party, and to independents and Democrats that whoever ultimately secures the Republican nomination must win over if Barack Obama is to be defeated in presidential elections in November.

Far from “clinching the nomination” or being “unstoppable” after three state primaries, the South Carolina result stamps a serious question mark on the viability of Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate, and provides Gingrich with much-needed momentum as the Republican nominating contest moves to another southern state — Florida — in a little over a week.

Florida, like South Carolina, is another state where Gingrich can be expected to poll well in Republican primary votes, and quite feasibly win; should he do so, it will be Gingrich with a head of steam moving towards “Super Tuesday” a few weeks later, and Romney scrambling to stay afloat.

From a Romney perspective, it didn’t have to be like this so soon: rolling in money, resources and endorsements from the Republican establishment, he has ruthlessly attacked Gingrich with negative political advertising, which initially drove Gingrich from the top of the pack to third place.

Now — as Gingrich responds with advertising material of his own, focused on the questions surrounding Romney’s past in religion and in business — coupled with stellar performances in the most recent candidates’ debates — Romney has received a dose of his own medicine, and his numbers have sagged accordingly.

One win in one primary, under the system used to nominate presidential candidates in the US, does not win the battle.

Indeed, all three of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are sitting on one win apiece after three outings.

But what might have been viewed as a lay-down misere for Romney as recently as a week ago is now an open, serious contest.

We will of course continue to monitor the happenings in the Republican primary race; after all, events in the USA have a direct influence on so many issues that affect us here in Australia.

This column has previously made it very clear that it endorses Newt Gingrich to secure the nomination of the Republican Party to stand against Barack Obama in November’s US presidential election, and to win the Presidency at that election.

That endorsement stands, and it is to be hoped that the Gingrich campaign takes heart and courage from the excellent performance it recorded in South Carolina overnight.

Florida comes next, and as America’s fourth-largest state, is a much bigger prize. A win there — especially on the scale of the one achieved in South Carolina — and Gingrich will be well on his way.

2012 Queensland State Election: Some Early Thoughts

With the starter’s gun certain to be fired in the next week or so to begin a campaign almost guaranteed to terminate the ALP’s generational hold on the Sunshine State, I want to look at some aspects of the lead-up to Anna Bligh’s imminent visit to the Governor to formally call the election.

Hell, LNP leader Campbell Newman has already declared the campaign “in progress.”

But before we get into it, a quick apology: I promised on Monday this article would appear on Tuesday; two nights with no internet (a line fault), a power outage on Tuesday night and a recurring bout of gastritis have all conspired to thwart me, and for this I am sorry.

Now then…Campbell Newman is a good place to start; this week he has done something smart and something silly although, paradoxically, the former will likely deliver no benefit, and the latter do him no harm.

The image of a GOA digital billboard in Newstead — counting down days and hours until the precise expiry of a three-year term, adjusted to a Saturday “election” date — is a smart play, despite the understandable mutterings from the ALP and some sections of the media about stunts and spin.

It’s a little disingenuous on account of the vagaries of the electoral laws in Queensland: a three-year term runs for three years from the date of the return of writs following an election; on consideration of a campaign at the expiry of such a period, an election need not take place until mid-June.

Yet as I have written previously, the broader public do not understand this; they see only that three years will have elapsed, and Newman is playing to that.

And after 23 almost-unbroken years of Labor government, Queenslanders are finally fed up with the ALP to the point a change of government — barring some colossal campaign trail cock-up — seems inevitable.

To the point where even just such a mishap mightn’t stop the LNP winning comfortably.

And the LNP’s digital countdown clock on that billboard panel plays to the “It’s Time” mood that is rampant in Queensland at this time.

Even so, the LNP won’t get much of a fillip from it. After all, it’s political advertising at the end of the day, pure and simple.

Newman’s promise of the creation of 420,000 jobs within two terms, on the other hand, is politically stupid, completely unnecessary, and quite frankly, ridiculous.

Notwithstanding the inane debate in the Brisbane press this week over what constitutes “a job” (and yes, something for an hour a week seems to be included in that equation), no leader of an opposition political party confronted with a decaying government, vituperative public anger at that government, an imminent election, and the likely prospect of a landslide victory should be making such explicit, unquantifiable, and dangerous statements.

Newman is likely to get away with this a) as a new Premier in a new government who will find Queensland to be in far worse fiscal and administrative shape than at first thought (it always happens after a change of government nowadays), and b) by virtue of the fact that by the time the promise catches up with him, he will have change of circumstances to point to and a track record in government that may be better, or fall short of, the benchmark nominated.

Either way — barring further silly promises like this — he’ll have a legitimate reason for the outcome.

But this promise — and the back-pedalling that seems to have ensued — is a stark reminder that despite his laudable political skills, undeniable qualifications to take the Premier’s office over and his impressive CV, Newman is just as human, and gaffe-prone in an unguarded moment, as his vastly inferior and less-than-impressive opponents.

Which leads neatly in turn to the ALP, and to the stomach-turning display of vulgar political opportunism enacted by Anna Bligh and other Labor figures — of whom all should have known better — at functions commemorating last year’s floods.

Images of Anna Bligh, PM Julia Gillard and Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale cavorting and dancing around in front of media cameras were downright revolting in human terms and smacked of what they were: a shameless attempt to engineer electoral benefit from the misery and hardship the floods last year inflicted.

More to the point, judging by the opinion pieces of other commentators, comments on media coverage pieces and anecdotal measures, that is precisely how it was received by a large slice of the voting public.

Anna Bligh, her ministers and the other members of her government are desperate: and the Labor Party, cornered, is the ultimate specimen of a desperate political beast.

It will say, do, utilise (and often fabricate) ANYTHING or ANYONE to win an election, a given electorate, or even some minor position of officialdom in a community organisation if it serves the purposes of  the ALP and/or forces within the party.

And so we were treated to the unedifying (and disgusting) spectacle of Bligh, Gillard and Pisasale basking in the “glory” of reconstruction after the 2011 floods.

To the unedifying spectacle of Bligh — who, to be fair, was marginally impressive at the height of the crisis — revisit the floods in a crass populist display, the purpose of which can only be interpreted as an attempt to milk votes from the very issue she claimed to be a leader over.

To the unedifying spectacle of Julia Gillard even being present; Queenslanders, more than anyone else in the country, are after Gillard and her government; she simply isn’t welcome there. Queenslanders have put away their baseball bats, and are instead waiting for her on their verandahs with nuclear warheads.

And to the unedifying reality that some 12 months on from the floods, there remain many homes that have not been repaired; families who have lost everything and still have nowhere permanent to go; and many, many people who may have been thrown a tidbit — even those who did the right thing and were fully insured — who have ended up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Yes, go and milk votes out of that lot, Bligh and Co; be sure to tell yourselves just how wonderful you are, because there aren’t many other people who will.

Moving on…the “resignation” (read: disendorsement) of LNP Broadwater candidate Richard Towson is unlikely to have any effect on the campaign or the LNP’s prospects whatsoever.

Whether he quit or was pushed, Towson’s removal neutralises at a stroke his failed breath test as an issue for the LNP.

And the LNP is unlikely to suffer in Broadwater on the basis of a new candidate entering the field: sitting MP Peta Kaye-Croft, like many Labor MPs who either lost seats in 2009 or will do so this time, owes her career to the disarray on the conservative side ten years ago and the resultant landslide recorded by Peter Beattie in 2001.

Her electorate is natural conservative heartland; held by Nationals and Liberals (under different constituency names) for decades prior to 2001, by wide margins, it will revert to type in a few weeks, and Croft will be gone.

With the retirement of Mount Ommaney MP Julie Attwood, the total number of Labor MPs jumping ship now stands at 9 out or 51, or approaching 20% of the parliamentary party.

I must emphasise that Attwood’s eleventh-hour withdrawal is entirely for legitimate reasons emanating from her husband’s health, and should be applauded. But there is still time for others to pull the pin, and the mass exodus Labor experienced in NSW prior to its decimation there last year is now approaching replication in Queensland.

Still, I saw (in one of the Brisbane metropolitan journals this week) the electorate of Mount Ommaney described as “the usually safe Labor electorate” — which it isn’t.

Based on the old seat of Sherwood — a traditional blue-ribbon Liberal stronghold, once held by the likes of John Herbert and Angus Innes — Mount Ommaney is largely the same electorate.

Yes, it no longer contains more Liberal-inclined areas in Sherwood and Graceville, and now includes more of Labor-inclined Oxley and part of Darra.

But this is not enough to undo its historical average as a 60/40 Liberal electorate.

And it still contains the Centenary suburbs, which historically are Liberal strongholds.

Digging further, without serial pest and self-styled “Honest” Peter Pyke — a Police whistleblower in the Fitzgerald era — Labor mightn’t have ever gotten close to the seat.

Innes beat Pyke narrowly in Sherwood in 1989; replacement Liberal David Dunworth did so again seven months later in a by-election by a wider margin; Pyke won narrowly in what was by then Mount Ommaney in 1992, only to be beaten by Liberal Bob Harper three years later; and Harper, in turn, lost narrowly to Attwood in the One Nation-infused 1998 election, at which his numbers held up better than virtually every other Liberal candidate in Brisbane in relative terms, despite the loss of the seat.

Beattie’s landslide in 2001 consolidated Attwood, whose margin has been whittled away ever since, and the seat will return to the conservatives this year.

And will, in all likelihood, stay there for many years.

I tell this story partly because it involves the area in Brisbane in which I was involved when I lived there, and I know many of these people; but also because it’s a good example of the mythological claptrap on which much of the Labor edifice is built in Brisbane, and which will shortly come crashing down.

There will be many wounds for the ALP’s survivors to lick, and an abundant supply of salt for the LNP victors to rub into those wounds.

And so…this brings me to a little crystal ball gazing, before the battle proper begins.

Let’s see how many of these come to pass (and I’m not going pick exact numbers of seats)!

Even so…

  • The LNP will win government in Queensland (which will in no way mitigate the legitimacy of my own reservations about the Liberal/National merger; it’s simply time in Queensland);
  • Campbell Newman will win Ashgrove and become Premier — I’d expect a 55-45 result in Ashgrove, which is tantamount to a 12.5% swing;
  • The ALP will win more than 10 seats, despite opinion polls; I’d guess around the 20 to 25-seat mark, give or take;
  • Bob Katter’s Australian Party won’t win a seat;
  • Brisbane will swing heavily to the LNP, yielding at least 10 additional LNP electorates;
  • Cairns and the neighbouring electorate of Barron River will fall to the LNP (I know, I know…Labor has held Cairns forever…not this time, methinks);
  • Townsville will mostly return to the Liberal fold — expect to see some big swings there to build on those recorded in 2009;
  • The ALP and Independents will fail to win any seats on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or in Toowoomba; and
  • The LNP will win at least one Labor-held electorate currently on a margin greater than 16% (I have an electorate in mind; think I’ll keep that to myself for now).
Nothing too involved in terms of details; more trends than anything, but I would be interested to hear what readers think.
And so…the contest is about to begin; we will of course follow it closely as it unfolds.
These are my thoughts. What do you think?

Back In The Saddle! First Poll for 2012 — Essential, 54-46 Coalition

Happy New Year! Before we get back into it, I would like to wish all of my readers and Twitter followers a safe and prosperous 2012…and so here we are: The Red And The Blue, barring illness or impediments like ISP issues, returns for 4-6 articles per week.

The first federal opinion poll for the year has appeared this afternoon; Essential Research shows an unchanged two-party lead of 54-46 to the Coalition.

Interestingly, the poll records a 1% increase in the Coalition primary vote since the previous survey in December, to 48%; this could reflect a trendline increase in Coalition support, or it could simply account for the fact that all other parties/independents see their primary support unchanged according to this particular survey, in which primary votes add up to 100% for a change.

Perhaps unsurprisingly — given the silly season tends to treat politicians fairly nicely — both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott see their personal approval ratings increase slightly, and their disapproval ratings slightly abate.

And on the question of “preferred PM” Gillard holds her ground at 39%, with Abbott gaining one point to 36%.

I wouldn’t read too much into these numbers.

Clearly, the overall trend of the past 18 months — the Coalition being on course to record a crushing election win — is undisturbed by Essential’s findings.

And in that context, the rest of the figures don’t mean very much. Yes, Gillard is unpopular, but it’d doubtful whether any of her colleagues would do better; Abbott’s ratings aren’t flash either, but it’s his job to tear this government down, and he is doing it by opposing rather than glib slogans and smarmy stunts, which is the ALP’s traditional approach to opposition.

And just remember, when Abbott took the Liberal leadership on two years ago, it was the Coalition staring down the barrel of 60/40 electoral Armageddon — and that should be remembered in any wholistic assessment of his tactics and strategy.

I don’t in any way seek to mitigate this poll — but it is the first one for the year; clearly in the next few weeks, we will hear from Newspoll, Galaxy and Nielsen. We may, in fact, hear from them very soon; my point is that it will take a little time to re-establish the trend line to make the findings of all of these polls meaningful in a qualitative sense.

Having said all of that, I’d be happier with these numbers if I was Tony Abbott than if I was Julia Gillard. The voting figures favour the Liberals, movement on the preferred PM count favours Abbott despite his continued (albeit narrowed) deficit here, and the personal approval figures are a zero net sum game.

We will see…

And now that we’re all back for 2012, as I said at the outset, The Red And The Blue is also back for a big year; I will be having a preliminary look at the imminent Queensland state election tomorrow, and we will keep an eye on the Republican primaries in the US.

Assuming, that is, that there aren’t interruptions like scandals, other polls, or breaking news stories. But those of us who are interested in, or involved with, or addicted to, political life know that anything can simply happen at any time…

A big welcome back to all. Thanks for the growing support in 2011. I think we’ll have a great year in 2012 chewing the fat.