BREAKING: Labor MP Craig Thomson Arrested

This is a very quick lunchtime post, and primarily with a link to the news report carried in the Fairfax press; but after years of investigation, Dobell MP Craig Thomson has been arrested on fraud charges emanating from his days at the helm of the Health Services Union.

Readers will know we have followed this issue as it has intermittently surfaced; indeed, in the next day or so — when I have some time — I will post again at greater length.

I will simply say that this development comes as a surprise to nobody, although what happens from here is to some extent fluid.

And it raises additional questions over yesterday’s election “announcement” — something else I will be returning to in the next day or so, and probably this evening.

 

For now (as I literally have 10 minutes at present), I simply share a link to the article carried in The Age to break the story.

And I will return to both the election date and this latest turn of events in the Thomson matter very soon.

 

Making A Big Mistake Bigger: Nova Peris Endorsed By ALP

Following last week’s announcement by Julia Gillard that former Olympian Nova Peris would run for the Senate for Labor in the Northern Territory, the deal has been sealed in the ALP backroom; the Prime Minister might be smiling today, but this ridiculous stunt will cost her party dearly.

As readers will recall, this time last week as the barely believable news broke that Gillard was acting as both executioner of one of her MPs and unilateral commissioner of the replacement, I described the move as autocratic, self-obsessed and completely undemocratic.

And as events in the subsequent week have shown, those observations are correct.

The outrage with which the Prime Minister’s announcement has been met — from the Opposition, sections of the media, the aboriginal community and even from within her own party — has been almost universal in its condemnation of the move, and utterly contemptuous of Gillard and the sledgehammer tactics she has employed.

It hasn’t helped that the axed Senator Crossin is a supporter of deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; although there is no suggestion of a further vote on the ALP leadership, Gillard has been seen to enact further retribution upon her bitter enemy by proxy.

Indeed, many ALP MPs, and especially those supportive of Rudd, are said to be worried about the prospect of Gillard exercising further so-called “Captain’s Picks” to depose and replace them with pliant and complicit alternative candidates.

(At time of writing, one of them — Sydney-based MP Robert McClelland — has announced he won’t recontest his seat; it would surprise nobody if many more were to follow).

I think their fears are reasonable; Gillard has now shown there are no depths too low for her to stoop to in her pursuit of control over her party, and of power.

As has been widely touted over the past few days, a number of additional candidates contested the “preselection ballot” staged by Labor’s national executive today; these were shafted incumbent Trish Crossin, indigenous former deputy chief minister Marion Scrymgour, indigenous former NT minister Karl Hampton, and an unsuccessful indigenous candidate at the last NT election, Des Rogers.

This “ballot” was, of course, a sham, engineered merely to rubber-stamp an anti-democratic act, although it should be noted — as an article in The Australian reports — that  at least two of those on the executive did not vote for Nova Peris.

Yet to rub salt into raw wounds and to spit into the eyes of those who dared attempt to stand up to Gillard, Natalie Hutchins — a Victorian state Labor MP of no significance to the general public, but a member of the ALP’s all-powerful (and notoriously faceless) national executive — chose an insultingly patronising tone, telling the media that “I’m sure the others will play their part in Labor politics one day no doubt, but Nova was by far the most outstanding candidate that we had on the ballot today.”

Really?

The most outstanding candidate?

Measured against what objectives?

Compared to whom, and based on what?

Is this assessment based on Peris’ political experience, which is precisely zero?

Is it based on her support in the rank-and-file membership of the NT ALP, which anecdotal and circumstantial evidence suggests is close to non-existent?

Is it based on her aboriginality? If it is, surely all of the three Aborigines who stood against her — Scrymgour, Hampton and Rogers — are, on any objective analysis, better qualified.

Perhaps the assessment is based on a half-baked punt on Peris’ public profile as a successful athlete and her name recognition; if so, the entire God-awful episode of knifing a sitting Senator and refusing members a vote on a replacement virtually guarantees that recognition will work against her personally, and against the ALP on a wider basis.

The problem Gillard has created in the past week is like a Hydra; cut one head off and there are plenty of others.

The situation now exists in which respected aboriginal politicians on both the Left and Right have attacked Gillard, Peris, and the exercise in general; one has scathingly likened Peris to a “maid in waiting” who will simply make the tea in Parliament; another has referred to her as “the pet Aborigine around Parliament House.”

By her actions, Gillard has galvanised fury among the ordinary members of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory; the consequences of that one remain to be seen, but any modern political party has enough trouble attracting and retaining members without embarking on the kind of misadventure Gillard has.

The aboriginal community in the NT has already shown — by its wholesale defection to the CLP at the Territory election six months ago — that it is quite prepared to desert Labor if the circumstances suit its doing so; one wonders how much direct damage they will cause the ALP at the looming election.

It may not be enough to prevent Peris’ election to the Senate (although if Labor runs a second candidate on the ticket with her, anything could happen), but it will almost certainly cost the government Warren Snowdon’s marginal seat of Lingiari — and lower house seats are a commodity Labor can ill afford to lose.

Gillard has sent a message to her MPs that nobody is safe if they cross her, and the national executive has signalled its willingness to override local members to enforce whatever Gillard demands and decrees; it’s enough to guarantee a raft of retirements before the election (which is never a good look), and it’s yet another reason for the electorate at large to throw her government from office.

And, finally, Gillard has once again shown the rest of the Australian public exactly what her true colours are: an underhanded, dictatorial autocrat who will say, do and sacrifice anything or anyone in the naked pursuit of raw power, and in her own interests — and certainly not in theirs.

I reiterate my point from last week’s article: if Gillard wanted to bring an aboriginal woman into the parliamentary ALP via a Senate seat in the Northern Territory, Marion Scrymgour was — and is — the obvious candidate.

Not least given it has emerged in the past week that Crossin was prepared to retire voluntarily in favour of such a candidate.

Instead, we have witnessed an unedifying and pig-headed brawl, which is far from finished, and which ultimately will not resolve in Gillard’s interests — one way or the other.

This column has made it very clear that there is no issue whatsoever with Nova Peris personally; on the contrary, I feel very sorry for her.

The personal harassment, vilification and muck-throwing she has endured in the last week at the hands of her own people and members of her own party is the thin edge of the wedge.

But Peris has been made the meat in the sandwich; I agree that her preselection should be an honour and something to be savoured, but Gillard and the faceless hacks of the ALP have seen to it that the week’s events are anything but.

Yet again, Gillard has shown a ruthless and duplicitous capacity for wielding the knife in her scramble to deceive and hoodwink voters into re-electing her useless government, and Peris — whether she realises it or not — is being used as a pawn in that pursuit.

Readers should be under no misapprehension that beneath the feel-good babble and weasel words based on affirmative action, positive discrimination, and all the other empty rhetoric that pours forth from her forked tongue, the only interests of any value or consequence to Gillard are her own.

Australia Day Rant: Aptly-Named Gibbons Strikes Again On “Invasion Day”

With a federal election looming — and a change of government likely — it is obvious that many members of the present Parliament will leave Canberra forever; today we look at a retiring, time-serving MP whose “services” are unlikely to be missed.

I’m not going to, er, labour the point — pardon the pun — but it’s obvious the member for Bendigo seeks attention, and today I am prepared to give him some.

Steve Gibbons is the sort of career backbencher that all political parties have; the winner of a marginal seat that traditionally changes hands regularly, and whose length of tenure defies to an extent the ebbs and flows of voting intentions on a national basis.

Gibbons was elected in 1998 at an election narrowly won by John Howard, and at which anger in regional Victoria toward the Kennett government compounded the impact of a national scare campaign waged by federal Labor over the purported impact of a GST if Howard was returned to office.

In the time since, Gibbons is one of a number of Labor MPs who has benefited from the fact Victoria has consistently been the ALP’s strongest mainland state ever since; at the 2004 election — at which the Howard government was thumpingly re-elected — it was the only mainland state in which Labor won a majority of seats (Labor also won three of the five seats in Tasmania at that election, but that was after losing two others, Bass and Braddon, to the Liberals).

In 2007 and again in 2010, his seat of Bendigo became safer for Labor as he benefited firstly from a change-of-government swing to the ALP, and later as Victoria recorded a near-record two-party vote for the ALP in the mad and misguided clamour to vote Labor in support of alleged “local girl” Julia Gillard (who is from Wales, via Adelaide, but never mind the truth getting in the way of spin winning out over the facts).

And a quick glance at the “achievements” page on Gibbons’ own website — a very short list indeed for someone who has spent 15 years in Parliament — suggests that beyond his electorate being a beneficiary of the type of pork-barrelling thrown at marginal seats by all sides, there is very little to it: certainly, virtually everything on his list of “achievements” is attributable to measures implemented on a wider basis than simply within the electorate of Bendigo.

As it reads, it would appear nothing has been added to the list in quite some time, either.

Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of ministerial office either in opposition or government, or even a stint as a parliamentary secretary; there are committee memberships, of course, but virtually everyone in Parliament gets those at some stage, and certainly during a tenure spanning five terms.

The point is that much of Gibbons’ margin of 9.5% over his Liberal opponent in 2010 is an obvious result of the higher Labor tide in Victoria relative to other states.

I wanted to run through these points in order to give readers a fair perspective on the member for Bendigo in light of his activities on Twitter and, specifically, some of the more inflammatory items he feels this stellar parliamentary career qualifies him to proffer.

Readers will recall that we first encountered the aptly named Gibbons before Christmas as part of a look at sleaze and smear as presented by the ALP; at the time he had seen fit to describe opposition leader Tony Abbott on Twitter as a “gutless douchebag” and his deputy, Julie Bishop, as a “narcissistic bimbo.”

Of course, the tweet was viewable just long enough for everyone to see it before it was removed and apologised for; in my book, it might as well have been left there permanently, for the damage had been well and truly done by the time Gibbons deleted it.

He has been at it again this weekend, describing Australia Day as “Invasion Day” and suggesting that those of us who celebrate the day do so “by throwing bits of dead animals on a cooking fire just like the people we dispossessed.”

I am well aware of the revisionist view of history the ALP and figures on the broader Left seek to perpetuate in relation to Australia Day but the simple fact is that these views — not exclusively held by Gibbons, to be sure — are tasteless and offensive in the extreme to millions of Australians who love this country and are proud of its heritage.

Even so, the comment is indicative of a distinct lack of respect for Australia Day, and shows a lack of sensitivity to Aborigines even as it seems to be attempting to make a point on their behalf.

“I hope everyone had a meaningful ‘Invasion Day’!” he wrote.

As the predictable backlash began, Gibbons followed this up with an insiderish jab from the Labor operative’s copybook. “It seems I’ve upset a few Lib Rednecks (sic). I’m shattered!”

It continued, with a sarcastic comment designed to add nothing meaningful. With no irony whatsoever, he tweeted “I promise to be much more aggressive towards the Tories on Twitter this year! – No more Mr Nice Guy.”

I’d ask what was nice about him in the first place.

Even Labor types weren’t immune from his ramblings; “Steve, you may be retiring, but we want to retain Bendigo. This stuff is unhelpful” one clearly concerned Labor local tweeted. “I doubt you would have any idea about being helpful,” Gibbons shot back acidly.

I think Liberal MP and shadow minister for citizenship, Scott Morrison, got it about right in describing Gibbons’ tweets as “childish.”

“They are the rantings of someone who is increasingly losing touch,” he said.

Losing? Losing?

Here at The Red And The Blue, we have talked about candidate selection from time to time, and it’s clear that most readers agree that candidate selection by the major parties in winnable electorates is one of the problems with politics in this country.

I have opined many times that union thugs and party hacks working in Labor MPs’ offices are groupings that are not conducive to providing adequate or effective representation to communities at large on account of their narrow and insular focuses on an increasingly irrelevant union movement and the conduct of political activities in a fashion reminiscent of student politics as practised on university campuses across Australia.

So it comes as little surprise that Gibbons’ pre-parliamentary work history consists substantially of employment by a trade union and working for former Labor Premier Joan Kirner in Victoria.

I’m happy to give the member for Bendigo a moment’s attention today, but a moment is all I can spare.

And it is to be hoped that particular attention has been paid by local ALP members in Bendigo to the very, very careful consideration of their replacement candidate; after all, in a marginal seat it’s important to put up decent candidates, and after all, local communities seek to be effectively represented in Parliament, and not made to become a national embarrassment.

WA: Echoes Of Kennett In 1999 As Barnett Begins Election Campaign

WESTERN Australians go to the polls on 9 March to elect a state government; Liberal Premier Colin Barnett appears an almost unbackable favourite to win re-election in a landslide. But the Premier’s greatest enemy may well be hubris, and on that score, an ominous breeze blew across the West today.

I read a report in the Perth press this morning, and couldn’t help but think of the predicament of Jeff Kennett in Victoria back in 1999; miles ahead of Labor, and with some baggage to account for after seven years in office to be sure, but whose shock loss — and it was a shock, even to the ALP — owed more to an arrogant and complacent campaign than it did to any merit or overt endorsement of the alternative.

There is a great difference between discipline and hubris, and between arrogance and confidence; the danger lies in knowing where the red line that separates them is.

I put it in these terms because the Premier is absolutely spot-on in his warning to Liberal MPs that they are “one serious mistake” away from losing government.

Any holder of political office faces that brutal reality, and never more so than now.

And the potential problem, in turn, lies both in the fact Liberal MPs appear to have been willing to brief the media — on a background basis, of course — on the material covered at a special party room meeting last week, and in the nature of some of that material itself.

The thing that raises my eyebrows is the fact that all the anonymously quoted Liberal MPs told the Murdoch press about “Colin’s Rules for the campaign,” a phrase also attributed to the party’s state director, Ben Morton, who co-chaired the meeting of Liberal parliamentarians with Mr Barnett.

It just seems to have a whiff of “Jeff” about it; I don’t mean Kennett personally, of course, but rather the ridiculous “Jeff”-centric campaign the Victorian Premier was instructed by his own secretariat to fight, complete with a website (http://www.jeff.com) which featured a computer game based on the Premier driving around the F1 racetrack at Albert Park running key Labor Party figures over in order to “win.”

And with one MP who was present at that meeting revealing that “we were told of Colin’s rules. But before that we were warned: ‘If anybody can’t keep the confidence of this meeting they should leave the room,'” it begs the question what that MP and his/her colleagues think they’re doing divulging most of what was covered to the press.

Especially when one MP noted they were explicitly told not to speak to the media during the campaign “if they could avoid it.”

The MP also revealed that the Liberals were told that if they did speak to members of the press, they were to refer journalists to the Premier’s department.

Readers in Victoria will know that all of this sounds very, very similar to the edicts coming from Kennett’s office in Treasury Place during the ill-fated 1999 election campaign.

It is true that much of what Barnett’s MPs were told is simple common sense; we know that discipline and campaign focus were absolutely central to his message, and we know it because his MPs just had to talk about it — without attribution, the normal course for cowardly media sources to take.

But in a breathtaking show of political naivety, one of the MPs backgrounding journalists said of Barnett that “he said: ‘If things go right, we can get a third term of government'” which even the most amateur of political operatives would recognise as an absolute no-no, given the government hasn’t even won its second term yet, let alone a third.

I think Barnett’s government has been good for Western Australia; in the four and a half years since it took office — as a minority, in Coalition with the National Party — that state has gone from a mere powerhouse to the economic engine room of this country, single-handedly holding Australia out of recession whatever Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard might say, and despite the best efforts of the duo to smother it.

And I disagree with Labor leader Mark McGowan’s assessment that “Mr Barnett thinks they are going to win…I don’t think West Australians like that sort of arrogance.”

If you’re in Mark McGowan’s shoes, all you’ve got to work with is accusations of arrogance and hubris; and whilst I am sounding a note of caution over precisely those issues, it’s not as cut and dried as McGowan might like.

It is true that at various times during his time in office, Barnett has been accused of autocracy and complacency; nothing like the self-inflicted wound carried by Kennett, mind, who once described Melbourne as Victoria’s “beating heart” and the regions as its “toenails,” but certainly enough for him to rightly be conscious of avoiding any charge of hubris.

And on that score, the Premier was dead right to warn his MPs in those terms — even if they were ill-disciplined enough to leak it in defiance of the instructions they were given.

Certainly, the trap is there for Barnett to fall into; whether he does or not will become clear in the next month or so.

Whether McGowan likes it or not, one of the many assets Barnett has to hand in this campaign is a Labor opposition that has been ineffective, remote from the issues facing Western Australia, and guilty by association of being a state division of the reviled Gillard government.

And whilst Western Australia has been governed by Labor for just over half of the time since Federation (with Bob Hawke’s uncle Bert its one-time Premier), it does have a reputation as a “traditional” conservative state, and held good (and even strengthened) for the federal Liberals even as Richard Court lost in 2001 in a result partially attributable to the activities of Pauline Hanson, and even as John Howard was losing government in 2007.

The Coalition starts this campaign with 29 of the 59 lower house seats (24 Liberals, 5 Nationals) and, despite winning nearly 52% of the two-party vote at the last election in September 2008, needs a small uniform swing of 0.2% in its favour to win an outright majority.

Current opinion polling suggests the swing to the Coalition will be more in the order of 7%, which if replicated on 9 March would see the conservatives win at least 40 seats and the Liberals a majority in their own right, meaning Barnett could govern without the National Party if desired or if Coalition talks between the parties break down.

The change in the ALP leadership last year from Eric Ripper to Mark McGowan seems to have been unproductive; the initial spike in voting intention for Labor proved short-lived, and whilst McGowan generally rates more highly as leader and as preferred Premier than did his predecessor, the simple fact is that his numbers are dreadful when compared to those of the Premier.

At the commencement of the campaign proper — and at time of writing — it is virtually unthinkable that the Liberals will fail to be re-elected; indeed, the most likely outcome is that Barnett’s government not only wins, but achieves a thumping majority, leaving a decimated and demoralised Labor Party to lick its wounds.

And, yes, to remain there for at least another two terms.

Yet the same thing was said of Kennett, as he called an election in August 1999 for the earliest date allowable the following month; and whilst a contrast with Barnett’s outfit in WA certainly exists, so do the parallels, which is salient reason for the memory of the Kennett experience to be kept in the back of Barnett’s mind for the next six weeks.

Nova Peris-Nobody: Gillard Stunt An Insult To Aborigines

In a characteristically cavalier gesture posing more problems than it solves, Julia Gillard today anointed former Olympic champion Nova Peris as an ALP senate candidate in the Northern Territory, riding roughshod over women, aboriginal Australia, her party and the national interest in one fell swoop.

In short, Gillard’s announcement that Peris is to replace long-term incumbent Trish Crossin — apparently without a ballot of local members — is emblematic of the autocratic, self-obsessed and completely undemocratic method in which this PM operates.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I have no issue with Peris personally; on the contrary, I have always liked her enormously, and (despite her iffy political preferences) am pleasantly surprised she has chosen to put her name forward to serve.

Even so, she has a total lack of political experience, and this point is one of several that are central to the reason Gillard’s actions today are deplorable.

Gillard does herself no favours with this kind of thing; this time it might come back to bite.

Firstly, she has effectively directed local NT Labor members — via the insultingly impersonal vehicle of national television — to dump the sitting Senator and replace her with a hand-picked Gillard candidate, and with a rubber stamp rather than a vote.

Secondly, she has effectively kneecapped the campaign of Marion Scrymgour — a highly respected aboriginal woman with many years’ distinguished political service in the Northern Territory (including a stint as acting Chief Minister) — who has been said in media reports to have been canvassing local support for a move against Crossin for her preselection.

Third, she has made an absolute mockery of any pretence within the ALP that it is a democratically structured party; that half-portion of it not falling within the purvey of union thugs is able, apparently, to be dictated to at whim.

Fourth — and not least with an eye on the fact Scrymgour was already eyeing a preselection bid — Gillard’s “initiative” stinks of tokenism towards aborigines, wrapped up as it is in sensationalist and histrionic pap about “redressing a wrong” in that the ALP has never been represented, federally, by an indigene.

This is perhaps the most offensive aspect of the whole thing; if that’s what Gillard really wanted, Scrymgour should have been her girl. But no, this isn’t about aboriginal representation and advocacy at all; it’s about the Labor way of recent times that a “star” is far preferable to a proven and loyal Labor foot soldier.

Even when the “star” and the foot soldier are both aboriginal women.

And in turn, the real message from what Gillard did today, to aborigines, is this: we don’t really care two jots about you…until it suits us. Then, Labor is your friend.

Does anybody else find this brand of politics particularly nauseating?

It’s made worse by the fact that in claiming Labor has never been represented by an aborigine federally (which is true) it has, over the years, been served very well by aboriginal representatives in state and territory Parliaments — a disingenuous semantic argument indeed, replete with its implicit disregard for the service rendered by its indigenous representatives in other jurisdictions.

And Gillard isn’t doing much through this process to enhance her much-vaunted but largely meaningless claim to be a women’s advocate by making a cat’s paw of one, crucifying a second by proxy, and engineering a right and royal shafting at arms’ length of a third — Scrymgour — who is actually the obvious candidate for the spot this catfight is predicated upon.

And the proof of it is that Nova Peris is not being moved into the House of Representatives seat of Lingiari, held for Labor by Warren Snowden, or the seat of Solomon held by the CLP (a Liberal Party equivalent for those unfamiliar); the latter is unwinnable, and Snowden is likely to be blown away if he stands again.

No, to pull this stunt, Gillard is commandeering a virtually unloseable Senate spot, which speaks volumes about the real faith she has in this latest plan were it ever tested somewhere it actually needed to achieve majority support.

So let’s not entertain any of the nonsense Gillard is spouting about a “Captain’s Pick;” it is all, sadly, hypocritical nonsense. Such a pick, very simply, is not a feature of the ALP’s rule book.

Federally, of course — and I note this with no jab intended at the ALP — the Liberal Party has been represented by aborigines, starting with the late Neville Bonner in Queensland; a Senator from 1971,  four years after the referendum that allowed his people the right to vote.

But to note in the one breath that a great disservice has been rendered by the ALP in not endorsing aborigines federally, ever, and then to crap on in the next about “proud Labor history (in Aboriginal Affairs)” stinks of hypocrisy, tokenism, and — dare I say it — paternalism.

The other issue here is that of the “star” candidate, parachuted into Parliament; it’s something both sides have done, and with mixed degrees of success.

The LNP did it in Queensland last year, and sealed an election triumph in doing so.

The ALP did it in 2004 in the federal seat of Kingsford-Smith, and imported what has proven to be a dud in Peter Garrett who has endangered Labor’s decades-long hold on his electorate.

The SA Liberals did it in 1992, parachuting former senior state MPs Jennifer Cashmore, Dean Brown and John Olsen (Olsen had moved on to serve as a Senator) back into the state Parliament to elect a leader — Brown — who went on to annihilate the ALP at the following year’s election.

The ALP did it all the way back in 1980, shoehorning ACTU president Bob Hawke into the vacant Melbourne Labor seat of Wills, and the rest was history; two and a half years later, Hawke commenced his tenure as Labor’s longest-serving Prime Minister following his triumph on 5 March 1983 over Malcolm Fraser.

There have been other instances of the phenomenon, and more, doubtless, to come; I’m hoping Alexander Downer is the next Premier of South Australia, and if he is, it’ll be on entry to that Parliament for the first time on election day next March.

My point is that in all of these cases, the recruit has been someone with either vast political experience or, in the cases of Hawke and Garrett, from backgrounds very commensurate with political life and offering a reasonable expectation of solid performance.

Nova Peris (and I’m sorry to have to say it) is a political nobody, no background, nothing to justify expectations of solid performance, just a star because Gillard wants one.

To make her look good.

To associate with the “beautiful people” (of which Gillard, clearly, is not a member).

To curry favour with white voters impressed by Labor/Greens pandering to minorities (again, the tokenism I was talking about earlier).

And to try to win votes off Peris’ back in suburban Sydney and Melbourne (where it won’t make a shred of difference).

I sincerely hope that if Nova really wants a political career — yes, in spite of Labor leanings — that she can have some success, whether here and now, or in the future.

But she really is a piece of work, our Prime Minister.

In the end, Gillard today has offended just about every law of political decency; nobody really wins from the half-arsed stunts she cooks up in the backroom with her coterie, and this sort of thing does a massive disservice to the very constituencies Gillard has the bare-faced audacity to purport to be the champion of.

Ultimately, however, the greatest disservice rendered by Gillard today may yet prove to be wrought upon Nova Peris herself.

It might have been better to have allowed Peris — with encouragement, if desired, from behind the scenes — to have worked the NT Labor branches to win over the local burghers, generating her own momentum and the press attention that would accompany it, than to have placed her on a national stage and at the epicentre of what looks likely to be an uproar inside the ALP over her tactics.

And of course, to make an undeserved fool of Peris if, somehow, the whole scheme amounts to nowt.

The Red And The Blue wishes to reiterate that this column has absolutely no issue with Nova Peris; that lovely, laudable and shining light has unsurprisingly given no offence and has conducted herself today with grace and style. It is very sad to see such a good person used in such a cynical fashion by such an objectionable specimen as Julia Gillard.

Liberal HQ Reads The Rubric To Baillieu Dissenters

Following a story we covered earlier in the month, it emerges today that a directive has been given to Victoria’s state Liberal MPs to back Premier Ted Baillieu, as rumours of an aborted coup against the Premier late last year are scotched.

It’s a quick comment this morning on an article that appears in today’s issue of The Australian providing an update on an issue we’ll keep an eye on.

The Red And The Blue does not believe a change in the Liberal leadership in Victoria will serve the best interests of either people of the state or of its government, and would simply provide a fillip to a Labor opposition whose lead in current opinion polls has nothing to do with its own merits.

Indeed, as this column has already argued and reiterates now, whilst responsibility for government decisions rests with individual ministers, the dreadful political mistakes that Baillieu’s government have made are the sin of its advisers, a group hired for their alleged political nous, who have instead pushed the government into serious trouble and into a series of terrible decisions at the most basic level.

And these mistakes have been compounded by a lacklustre media management strategy and an obvious dearth of the sales skills required to sell them — again, the primary preserve of the government’s advisers.

It is one thing for Baillieu to be forced, by virtue of his parliamentary numbers, to carry within his ranks an alleged miscreant in embattled Frankston MP Geoff Shaw, whose activities since taking his seat in Parliament a couple of years ago have become the subject of several inquiries into his conduct.

But it is another matter altogether for a team of reasonably competent ministers — Baillieu included — to be hamstrung by such a clear lack of operational polish, when even its solid, positive achievements can’t be properly communicated, let alone have any balancing influence on the poor numbers other issues and mistakes are generating in mainstream opinion polling.

This column may be politically conservative in both its inclination and outlook, but it is not so blinkered as to deny reality or to engage in spin of the type that would make even the present Labor administration in Canberra blush.

Of course, given clear air and an environment in which to operate, and freed of the lead of poor advice in his saddlebags, Baillieu might well fail to improve on his standing and, by extension, of his government.

Anything is possible.

But I reiterate my point from earlier in the month: issues such as the distractions generated by the MP for Frankston notwithstanding, it is so patently obvious that the bulk of Baillieu’s problem stems primarily from poor advice that the fist step in any attempted resolution should be a clearing of the decks internally, not a leadership change.

To this end, Baillieu and his long-time adviser and confidant, Paul Price, should be spending the remainder of the time before the unofficial end of the silly season in a week or so reviewing the personnel on the staff of each of their ministers.

Baillieu’s MPs, in turn, should recognise any such move as a well-directed attempt to fix the problem at its source, and give him the space and time to enact that fix.

The Coalition government Baillieu leads has much to offer in Victoria and, properly calibrated, much to deliver in terms of meaningful outcomes and positive change in the state.

Yet before it can advance, it must first rid itself of the yoke around its neck — a coterie of obviously incompetent advisers — and start again.

Gillard’s Early Re-election Message An Abject Joke

The Murdoch press is today carrying stories in which Julia Gillard declares her “readiness” to fight for re-election; aside from the probability she is more likely to be fighting a rearguard action that will end in catastrophic defeat, the early agenda she nominates for her campaign is a joke.

This post comes ahead of an overdue look later today at the debate over Optional Preferential Voting, but I simply had to comment on the ridiculous story being covered in News Ltd newspapers.

In a clear pointer to just how disconnected this Prime Minister and her government are from both reality and the sensibilities of the Australian public, Gillard proclaims she has “never felt more ready” to face the daunting challenge the looming federal election poses.

It is a challenge compounded by the track record of a mediocre and incompetent government that the Labor Party will stand on only to hide.

And it is a challenge magnified by the hard reality that as disappointing as this government has been to those who invested their faith in it and to those who never voted for it, it seems implausible that a re-elected government would offer anything more than a perpetuation of the shambolic mess it has presided over for the past five and a half years.

“Getting the big things done to create more opportunity for all is inevitably hard, messy, contested,” she writes in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph, “but I am determined to get them done.”

Like most Australians with an IQ higher than the pea-brained incoherence Gillard and her cohorts assume of the electorate, this column is heartily sick of the meaningless slogans that form the backbone of the ALP’s practical exercise of governance in this country.

“Getting things done” involves more than glib statements and posturing, and it certainly entails a more substantial level of enterprise than making vast promises of grand action that are manifestations of socialist acquiescence to the Communists over at The Greens and/or carry multi-billion dollar price tags that will never be met.

Unless, that is, they are met with further addition to the mountain of public debt that will be this government’s only lasting legacy.

I find it utterly laughable that Gillard intends “Education” to be a key battleground on which she intends to fight: surely, after the ALP has had years to act upon this red herring as the party of government, the mythical assumptions that underpin its status as the so-called “party of education” have now been debunked?

The “Education Revolution” has proven to be no more than a smear of ill-conceived and largely useless structures on the school landscape across the country.

Gillard’s NAPLAN reforms are expensive, of dubious merit, and provide little meaningful information to parents that can’t be obtained through some research and forethought.

The Gonski reforms in education manifest as colossally expensive promises for which there is no money, and short of borrowing even more from China, are unlikely to ever be delivered.

And in an under-reported “initiative,” Wayne Swan’s allegedly sound economic stewardship has cut educational funding by over $1 billion; you see, folks, cuts in education are responsible and prudent management when the self-important turd presently occupying Treasurer’s office makes them, but when the nasty-bastard Liberals do it, it’s proof the Liberal Party hates educators, educational establishments, and education itself.

Please!

Gillard deserves some commendation for surviving — as of today — for as long as Kevin Rudd did as Prime Minister; it’s no mean feat, especially given a bad government took a decided lurch further in the wrong direction on 21 June 2010, and hasn’t look backwards since.

Somehow, the Prime Minister has avoided a credible leadership challenge for over two and a half years — which in itself is some minor miracle.

And she has achieved the near-impossible by making Kevin Rudd’s tenure as Prime Minister resemble a model of competence by comparison.

But Gillard technically lost the 2010 election — the worst result for a first-term government returning to the polls since 1931 — and remains in office only by virtue of her submission to the Communist Party Greens and a few conservative discards who defecated on the trust invested in them by their respective electorates in supporting her.

To describe national security as a “foundation stone” is sheer hypocrisy, given the ALP is busily neutering and/or dismantling what’s left of Australia’s armed forces, and when an ally partner in the US is increasingly incensed, privately, at this government’s expectation that it do the heavy lifting in our defence whilst the government redirects defence spending to socially “useful” programs.

It amuses me greatly that “family” — something Gillard is hardly in a position to claim any worthy comprehension of — is, along with education, the other prime issue she says she will fight on.

No, I am not having a jab at her unmarried, childless lifestyle.

Rather, I am referring simply to the impact her policies have had on the cost of living in this country, and their impact on employment — slavering to her masters in the union movement, and the anti-business, anti-employment industrial relations regime it has fostered — which are suggestive of a government dedicated to the feathering of nests and the favouring of vested interests.

“To hell with families” might as well be Labor’s watchword under this Prime Minister.

And whilst I sympathise with Gillard over the loss of her father last year, I can only say that if he taught her the lesson of the importance of equal opportunity for all, it is one she clearly failed to absorb, if not listen to at all.

Australia, under this government, has become far more a place for preferment and  patronage than it ever has been, whilst the silent majority in the country’s middle classes — including, and especially, the families she professes to wish to fight her — have rarely had it tougher in decades.

If this is the agenda on which Gillard proposes to base her re-election campaign, I say “bring it on!”

After all, as former Labor leader Kim Beazley once asked, who will miss this government when it is gone?