Quotas For Gays, Blacks: Shorten Loses The Plot Completely

BILL SHORTEN — if a report in Fairfax papers is to be believed — appears to have totally lost the plot in his quest to become ALP leader; now advocating quotas for gays, lesbians, aborigines and God knows who else, Shorten’s vision of the Labor Party seems to be one rooted permanently in opposition.

The Fairfax press is reporting this morning that Labor leadership aspirant Bill Shorten is proposing to “broaden the party’s quota system” to include gay and lesbian candidates, aborigines — and God alone knows who else — in an endeavour to “improve their underrepresentation (sic) in Parliament.”

The article — by Fairfax Immigration correspondent Bianca Hall — offers useful insights into the otherwise turbid and turgid thought processes currently occupying the minds of some within the ALP bunker. We’ll return to the remainder of her article shortly.

But I would make the rather obvious observation that if this is Bill Shorten’s brilliant plan to restore Labor to government at any time — not soon, but ever — then for now at least, the political prospects of Anthony Albanese are shining more brightly by the day.

Most readers will recall the look we took at Shorten, in this column on Friday (and for those who didn’t see my piece, it can be accessed here); the story Fairfax is running on Shorten today simply adds to the case against his suitability for leadership.

It seems in the ALP that if you’re gay, lesbian, female, aboriginal (or a unionist) there will be a place at the table for you: a parallel universe in which chosen minorities and blocs are elevated above all others, disproportionately feted, and showered with favour not on merit or experience or capability, but on your status as a member of an anointed cabal.

If you’re anyone else, you can go to hell.

As I wrote on Friday, people are fed up with the modern ALP obsession with minorities, quotas, and reverse discrimination: and if this is perceived to be the way forward for the Labor Party, then those who perpetrate such sentiments in Labor ranks have clearly failed to heed one of the most glaringly apparent messages from their election defeat.

Shorten’s advocacy of expanding quotas, however, simply aims to entrench the problem.

There is a majority in the community: over 18, eligible to vote, and fitting few (if any) of the stereotypes or labels deemed worthy of a “quota place” by the kind of approach Shorten advocates.

Menzies called them the “forgotten people;” Richard Nixon called them “the silent majority,” and I have to admit I prefer the latter descriptive because it is precisely how this group behaves.

They don’t march down La Trobe Street or Pitt Street or across King George Square carrying placards, chanting slogans, disrupting law-abiding people and engaging in malicious mischief, violence, and/or criminal damage.

Once pushed beyond the limits of their tolerance, they simply show up at the ballot box, and quietly but lethally make their displeasure known.

One of the great similarities between the Labor defeats of 1996 and 2013 is that both the beaten governments engaged in this obsessive pandering to minorities, legislating political correctness to ridiculous extremes, and simultaneously eroding personal freedoms whilst disenfranchising the very majority in the community that is pushed aside in the process.

Still, if the Fairfax piece is indicative, then it seems Shorten and his prescriptions for the ALP are predicated on telling the voters they are fools — always a dangerous pastime — and this brings us to the rest of Hall’s splendid article.

I have always said that I don’t give a…er, damn… 🙂 whether you are male, female, black, white, straight, gay, from Mars or whatever: if you’re the best candidate for the job, you should get the job.

This is as true of politics as it is of any other situation or circumstance.

I recall, in the early-mid 1990s, the Liberal Party had 10 of the 26 councillors on the Brisbane City Council; of those 10, eight were women, and whilst two of those eight (in my view) shouldn’t have been there, nobody could argue that the other six — at the minimum — weren’t the best candidates who presented for preselection.

Even if those two possible exceptions had been beaten at preselection by men, a majority of the spots would still have been filled by women.

I raise the point because it goes to something I have consistently argued in this column, and especially where Labor’s nonsense about quotas and tokens is concerned: it is more important (and a far worthier and more valid enterprise) to focus on improving the calibre of people who stand for preselection than any system of quotas will ever be.

And handing out a seat here to a woman because she is female, or a sinecure there to an Aborigine because he/she is black, or any other such conduct is demeaning, offensive, tokenistic and — ultimately — counterproductive.

Regular readers will know such tokenistic rubbish enrages me to my core, so I will resist the urge to say more.

But returning to the Fairfax piece, the wider vision for Labor attributed to Shorten hardly inspires confidence or excitement.

Most beaten political parties experience an immediate spike in membership; defeat brings people who are “enraged” or who “should have joined sooner” out of the woodwork. If Labor is excited about 1,100 new members, this reality should temper that excitement.

Shorten’s “vision” for a “younger, more dynamic organisation” sits at odds with the fact that mainstream parties across the democratic world are disproportionately reliant on membership blocs in senior citizenship to even operate effectively in their communities.

How Shorten envisages Labor attracting “small-business people, tradespeople and farmers” when Labor is not only irrelevant to these groups but has wilfully antagonised them for many years will be fascinating.

I promise to give Shorten a fair hearing in this column in the unlikely event he ever enunciates anything substantial on that point, but I suspect it is — like much of his pitch — just a slogan, and a glib one at that.

And to attract and retain more members, the redoubtable Shorten advocates offering “discount memberships for union members, students, pensioners and people out of work.”

As campaign pledges go, it must seem clever to offer Labor members exactly what it already offers to those groups and present it as a new initiative. It could work, too: if Labor members are as gullible and stupid as the proposition inherently assumes they are.

Offering union members discounts, however — given the disproportionate influence they already wield within the ALP — is absurd, and simply cuts the admission price for those wielding the snouts and desperate to shove them into the trough.

Anthony Albanese mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and he has his faults.

But he does (as far as a left wing Labor MP can) seem to have a world view that is at least grounded in reality, if not at least in realism.

And whilst I think he’d be easy meat for Tony Abbott and the Liberals (and I confess, I would love to see “Albo” become Labor leader), it’s fast becoming apparent that Bill Shorten is an electoral and political disaster looking for a position from which to strike.

If this nonsense is the best Shorten can do, Labor should make Albanese its leader; if that leadership is commissioned for the short term only, it must find someone more credible to lead it out of the wilderness — however distant, of course, its return to government might be.

Bill Shorten is a red herring. No more, no less.

Labor, if it endorses him, will learn this — to its cost.

ALP Leadership: Labor Can Ill Afford Bill Shorten

THE SHAM being prostituted across Australia as a show of direct democracy by the ALP is a cruel enough hoax — seeking to con voters into thinking Labor has miraculously changed in a few short weeks — without indulging the ambitions of the unelectable Shorten in an unmitigated leadership debacle.

We have already discussed at length the ALP leadership and the so-called reforms to the manner in which the role is filled: here, here and here, for example. I begin my remarks this morning thus, because I seem to have made an error of judgement.

I honestly believed that once the election was done, dusted and duly lost, the ALP would come to its senses and abandon the ridiculous strictures “implemented” by Kevin Rudd to keep himself in the job forever.

Apparently, I was wrong; it seems the ALP has so badly lost sight of political reality it sees in Rudd’s “reforms” something of merit, and worthy of pursuit. Never mind the fact there are ample reports of MPs and grass roots members alike being forced and bullied into voting in tightly controlled factional blocs.

Labor will rue its decision, because Rudd’s rules have the potential to saddle the ALP with an unelectable leader who will be virtually impossible to get rid of until an election is lost — the ultimate overreach in seeking to redress the revolving door approach Labor has of recent times taken to its leadership.

In any case, there’s enough material — in this column, in articles I’ve linked to, and in other places — for readers to reacquaint themselves with those arguments should they wish.

Today I want to talk about Bill Shorten, and why Labor simply can’t afford to indulge him.

It’s difficult to know where to start.

For reasons best known to himself, Shorten has allowed himself of late to be seen campaigning for the leadership with the odious Nicola Roxon in tow; the abrasive Roxon isn’t even in Parliament any more, yet even if she was, it’s difficult to ascertain what message Shorten is seeking to send by campaigning visibly with her.

Roxon — with whom Shorten once had an affair — is a symbol of the vicious Rudd-Gillard leadership rivalry that the recent election debacle was supposed to signal the end of; a steadfastly loyal Gillard adherent, the symbolism of deploying Roxon on his leadership platform probably isn’t the smartest move Shorten has ever made.

It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that Shorten’s political judgement is defective generally — to say the least.

The enthusiasm surrounding Labor’s experiment with participatory democracy is oddly timed, to say the least; hot on the heels of a savage belting at the hands of voters, the conventional wisdom that whoever wins the Labor leadership is unlikely to ever be Prime Minister is probably correct.

The smart thing for Shorten to do, if he is serious about becoming Prime Minister, would be to stand aside and allow Anthony Albanese an unchallenged run in the role;  after three years in opposition and with a second election loss out of the way, the time for Shorten to make his run would be at hand.

Instead, the ALP faces a US-style race to the party leadership; with the ultimate prize in this contest likely to be carrying the can for electoral defeat in 2016, it also runs the risk of a fresh schism across the ALP and a Shorten-Albanese rivalry to replace the destructive battle between Rudd and Gillard.

And Shorten can take the credit for it.

It matters not that Shorten was the first to declare his hand, announcing very early in the contest that he would seek the leadership, whilst Albanese (genuinely, it is said) took his time to think through a prospective candidacy.

Rather, Shorten’s announcement merely continued a pattern of destructive and self-serving behaviour that has marked the majority of his tenure in Parliament to date.

It is accepted that he was instrumental in the coup that saw Kevin Rudd overthrown as Prime Minister in 2010, and it is believed in some quarters that he aspired to replace Julia Gillard in the wake of Labor’s abysmal re-election campaign two months later.

It is accepted, too, that Shorten knifed Gillard earlier this year to engineer Rudd’s return to the ALP leadership, despite solemn and public proclamations of loyalty to Gillard as late as the very day she was dumped.

And Shorten gives every impression of a man in too much of a hurry: obsessed with his ambitions, and determined to place them above all else.

Yesterday, he declared publicly that he believed he would secure a majority of the votes of MPs in the Labor caucus, and whilst it’s generally thought he will do so, this type of posturing is an absolute no-no: it emits powerful messages of hubris and arrogance.

Whether the statement was meant to impress or bully the rank and file Labor membership remains to be seen. Even so, Albanese is thought to enjoy majority support in the branches, so Shorten’s motives aren’t difficult to see through.

But the real indications of the damage he might inflict on the ALP are just as transparent.

Like a wolf masquerading as a sheep, Shorten’s message oozes positivity, promises of all things to all people, and airily defined ideas about inclusion that only a fool would take to heart.

He has announced he would consider creating a shadow ministry for “equality” if elected leader — a gesture apparently aimed at shoring up support from the gay community.

This alone ignores the very clear message from the election result that people generally are fed up with the modern ALP obsession with minorities, quotas, and reverse discrimination: just one of Labor’s hot buttons in alienating huge swathes of the electorate.

Another is Shorten’s refusal to acknowledge the electorate has voted against so-called economic reforms such as “pricing carbon pollution;” the noises emanating from his bunker suggests he is just as committed as the Communist Party Greens are to endeavouring to ignore the election result and frustrate the Abbott government’s clear mandate to rescind the measure.

And whatever I (or others outside the ALP ecosystem) might think of Labor’s new system for picking a leader, it seems Shorten tried to rig that too, as he acknowledged yesterday that he arranged to be asked a particular question by a plant at a campaign function.

What kind of Prime Minister do you want to be remembered as?” What a question, considering Shorten isn’t Prime Minister, and perhaps never will be; again, the unbridled arrogance and vaulting ego in even raising it is stunning for its lack of judgement.

Shorten answered that he wanted to be a Prime Minister for “the powerless, the disempowered, the people who don’t have a voice in our society.”

Such an ambition sounds very noble, until it is remembered that Shorten had a well-publicised confrontation with the Chinese owner of a bakery on the campaign trail earlier this year.

There are also reports he had some kind of argument with the taxi driver taking him to the ALP function at which the hand-picked stooge (known, publicly, as “Big Boy”) asked the sham question.

And Shorten’s record as a minister is as lacklustre as many of his other activities as an MP, especially where leadership matters are concerned, are questionable: look no further than the meal Labor made of superannuation reform, with Shorten slap-bang in the middle of it.

It hardly engenders confidence.

For those readers interested in such things, a link to an article penned by Shorten that appeared in The Guardian Australia yesterday can be accessed here: hundreds and hundreds of words consisting of platitudes, clichĂ©s, truisms, motherhood statements and all the usual empty, saccharine claptrap one might expect from a politician of the Left promoting “inclusion” in the name of chasing votes.

“We cannot ignore that only 34 in every 100 Australians gave us their first vote. That’s sobering news,” writes Shorten.


With insights like that, he’ll go far.

But the point remains that all the ingredients are present for Shorten to be the harbinger of disaster for the ALP.

The hero’s glow that surrounded him in the aftermath of the Beaconsfield mine disaster — and first brought him to public prominence a decade ago — has long since dissipated.

Instead, the putative Labor leader presents to the contest as untrustworthy, dishonest, glib, hypocritical, and anti-democratic.

How he would perform as opposition leader is an open question, but the portents certainly aren’t encouraging. Shorten’s political capital, such as it is, has already been spent.

In fact, as a candidate for the Labor leadership, Shorten is making the likes of Gillard and Rudd — and even Mark Latham — resemble folk heroes by comparison.

And that’s quite an achievement, measured any way you choose.




Faraway View: What The Brits Think Of Tony Abbott

PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott’s thumping election win has drawn attention from across the world; blessed as we are to share many similarities with the UK, it is interesting to note the reaction his triumph has elicited in those splendid Isles. In truth, British opinion on the matter may surprise.

I’ve been sent a link to an article from the Daily Mail; I have decided to share it with readers today and make a few brief comments on it, but I do urge everyone to check it out in its entirety for themselves.

The thing I most wish to point out here is the contrast the Mail‘s article draws between Abbott’s leadership style and that of the British Prime Minister (and leader of the Conservative Party), David Cameron.

As everyone in Australia knows, Abbott has resolutely — some would contend, obstinately — stuck to his guns for years with a low tax/small government message, with its emphasis on national security and welfare targeted only to the neediest, and characterised by Abbott’s own brand of populist nationalism fused with a promise of individual opportunity.

In turn, of course — and stripped of all rhetoric — this is, almost to the textbook, a classic New Right prescription of modern conservative government: exactly the frame on which the successful administrations of heavyweight conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl were built.

And make no mistake: the platform on which Abbott has been elected represents a stiff dose of orthodox Tory politics.

The point of the piece — simply stated — is that you don’t win elections by promising to be all things to all people: credibility tends to be a casualty of that kind of political conduct.

And its target, British PM Cameron, is rightly left looking less than credible.

I was, in its early stages, a staunch supporter of both Cameron’s leadership and of the “modernisation” project he initiated to restore the Conservative Party to electability.

For too long — under 13 years of Labour government — the Tories in Britain had comprehensively lost the political debate to their opponents, and this extended right down to the way the respective parties were packaged.

“New Labour” under Tony Blair was cool; so cool, in fact, that a crass piece of John McTernan-inspired spin even branded the UK itself with a “Cool Britannia” moniker.

The question of administrative competence was an afterthought, so long as Labour was perceived to be chic and hip: a parallel that will not be lost on Australian readers who have endured six years of Labor governance and the cretinous phenomenon that is Kevin Rudd.

The Conservatives, by contrast, were simply “the nasty party” — a positioning the Tories were thoroughly inept in their attempts to destroy, and which became etched in the British political psyche as a consequence.

Such perceptions, by their nature, are difficult to dislodge at the best of times.

But Cameron didn’t simply seek to update Conservative policy to reflect contemporary circumstances; he went further, effectively removing the key differences between the Conservative Party and those who opposed it.

As a result, the British government presents confused positions on such issues as ongoing membership of the EU and the question of Scottish independence; its mooted crackdown on crime and anti-social behaviour was watered down; an opportunity to institute sweeping and rigorous prudential and regulatory reforms of the British financial sector was squandered; and the half-baked position that austerity to curb public spending (whilst external borrowings continued to rocket) has trapped Cameron in a political limbo from which only the ineptitude of his Labour opponent might save him.

Most tellingly, cross-border immigration — consistently identified during Britain’s election campaign in 2010 as being of the most concern to British voters — received little more than lip service to avoid offending minority communities in the UK, and that in turn, arguably, was the miscalculation that cost the Tories a majority and forced them into coalition with the Liberal Democrats — a millstone if ever there was one.

These are criticisms that can never be validly made of Abbott; like him or not, there is no doubt what he and his government intend to do with their new-found political mandate.

Rather than disown the Liberal Party’s political heritage, Abbott has made it a virtue — something the Conservatives have been too timid for too long in embracing the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and deploying it to their ongoing advantage.

And the thing about pretending to be all things to all people is, of course, that you end up pleasing no-one: the very situation in which Cameron finds himself 18 months or so out from the next scheduled election in Britain.

It’s flattering, of course, that elements in the UK would like to adopt Abbott; I think we’re lucky to have him here, and so regrettably enough the British will have to find their own answer to the Cameron problem.

For mine, the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, seems an obvious candidate, although there are questions over how he might perform as Prime Minister and over his past (to say nothing of the small matter of not currently being an MP at Westminster).

But the man Cameron beat to the Tory leadership in 2005, David Davis, could and would have represented a better bet (especially with the benefits of hindsight) for both the Conservative Party and as a leader of the UK itself.

Cameron, in the end, failed to win a parliamentary majority at the end of 13 years of ultimately incompetent Labour rule and at an “unloseable” election. Enough said.

It is no wonder, therefore, that this article is representative of the sentiment showing up in the press across the UK at present.

Fairfax Farce: Clive Palmer Threatens To Kick Own Goal

CLIVE PALMER — seemingly about to enter Parliament via the blue-ribbon conservative electorate of Fairfax — looks set to kick a spectacular own goal, with his crusade against the Australian Electoral Commission likely to end in the Court of Disputed Returns in a stunning political miscalculation.

I’ve deliberately held off posting on closely contested electorates until the results begin to filter through (and yes, the Liberals appear to have been defeated in Indi, McEwen and Parramatta as well as Fairfax) but the case of Clive Palmer in Fairfax warrants comment.

Since polling day a little over a fortnight ago, the eccentric businessman has engaged in a highly visible public rant against the Australian Electoral Commission.

According to Palmer, the Commission has shown gross incompetence and a complete lack of transparency; he has accused it of “vote tampering” and alleged other irregularities in the vote counting process in Fairfax.

Last week, he called for a recount in the Sunshine Coast seat due to “suspected major voting discrepancies” and went as far as to (unsuccessfully) seek a Federal Court injunction to bring the count in Fairfax to a halt and have a fresh election in that seat ordered.

Some of his missives have been typically preposterous; a case in point was his assertion that retired military personnel are disproportionately represented in the ranks of AEC polling officials, and that the military “should not be allowed anywhere near democracy.”

If nothing else, that particular argument should neatly alienate the returned services community in Fairfax, which could be problematic in more ways than one — and sooner than Palmer might think.

Indeed, if good to his word, Clive Palmer may soon get more than he bargained for.

The prospect of a recount notwithstanding, one might have thought that being declared the victor in Fairfax on the weekend over his opponent, the LNP’s Ted O’Brien — albeit by the slender margin of 36 votes — may have mollified Palmer and soothed his grievances.

As recently as yesterday, however, Palmer was maintaining his rage; in a statement he said that on the basis of evidence, a fraud has been committed” and accused the AEC of “a cover up.”

“I will continue to fight to hold the AEC accountable as they’ve shown themselves to be greatly incompetent with no transparency,” the statement said.

Intriguingly, it continued: “we will be highlighting the many discrepancies we’ve uncovered in the Court of Disputed Returns. The ballots have no security and the AEC is a national disgrace that needs to be heavily scrutinised.”

Come again?

Is Palmer proposing to challenge his own victory in the Court of Disputed Returns?

It seems inconceivable — based on the sheer belligerence of Palmer’s attacks on the AEC — that if the recount overturns the provisional result, and O’Brien is declared the winner, that Palmer would do anything other than challenge the result in Court.

But if he wins, will he hold good to his threat?

If I were advising him (assuming the recount confirms him as the new member for Fairfax) my advice — to put it bluntly — would be to shut up and take his seat in Parliament.

But nothing is so cut and dry where Palmer is concerned.

If he decided to pursue his campaign against the Commission and indeed take it to the Court of Disputed Returns, one of two things happens.

The first, of course, is that the Court dismisses the complaint.

The second is that it upholds the complaint, sets aside the result in Fairfax, and orders a supplementary election; if that occurs, Palmer will have signed his political death warrant.

For starters, he will have handed O’Brien and the LNP a potent campaign theme: that just to prove he’s right, Palmer will have engineered the waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in the form of a by-election whose purpose is to confirm the very result his Court proceedings had overturned.

On a two-party preferred basis, the election day contest in Fairfax was close enough; even if the vast majority of electors voted the same way at a supplementary election, the net movement of just 19 votes into the LNP column (in an electorate with more than 95,000 enrolled voters) would be sufficient to elect Palmer’s LNP rival.

And perhaps the most poignant aspect of any “second round” at the ballot box between Palmer and O’Brien lies in the fact that on 7 September, Palmer barely managed a quarter of the valid first preference primary votes cast.

With 74% of electors in Fairfax casting their first preferences for someone other than Clive Palmer, it’s obvious that the mining boss does not enjoy unqualified, widespread support in his electorate.

Indeed, leading up to the election, there were plenty of Fairfax voters whose anti-Palmer sentiments found their way into ready newspaper stories, with his Palmer Coolum Resort at the epicentre of their hostility.

It’s also the case that whether he likes it or not, Palmer — should the recount find in his favour — will have been elected mainly on ALP and Communist Party Greens preferences; at any supplementary election, the LNP’s ability to split even a few additional percentage points off those preference flows by appealing to Green and Labor voters not to reward blatant political grandstanding at the expense of the taxpayer would be enhanced greatly.

And there’s another issue here; Palmer has picked a fight with the very people charged with running, administering, counting and declaring votes at Australian elections, even after their efforts found him to have been elected; it would seem an odd call to make, but to perpetuate it in the face of victory beggars belief.

Would Palmer really challenge his own electoral win in the Court of Disputed Returns?

Who knows, in the end.

But if he does, it will almost certainly cost him his seat, and probably signal the end of his Palmer United Party — just as the “party” was seemingly getting started.

Despite its apparent defeat — for now — in Fairfax, the LNP in Queensland must scarcely be able to believe its luck.


In Bongo Bongo Land: How Not To Win Friends (And Votes)

JULIA GILLARD and her anti-misogyny handbag hit squad would choke on their breakfast if confronted with this: a British politician has been thrown out of his party after the latest in a long sequence of questionable comments about women and foreigners. Is this larrikinism, or a bridge too far?

The news overnight that a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has been ejected from UKIP comes as little surprise.

I am posting on this matter this evening because of the real contrast it throws up between the crusade Gillard went on during the last Parliament — railing against “misogyny”, as they believed it personified by Tony Abbott — and the reality of what has been bubbling away at UKIP for years, and which has lately come to an ugly head.

And these issues really are for the perusal and interest of readers, and I would love to know what Gillard would make of them. Her attack dog Nicola Roxon, too, for that matter.

There are some elements — both in the political community and in the wider community generally — who lament the disappearance of the “larrikin” from Australian politics, but I doubt this is the sort of thing to elicit such nostalgia.

Godfrey Bloom — a UKIP MEP from Yorkshire — has apparently exhausted the patience of both his party and UKIP leader Nigel Farage in his latest outburst, decrying the fact Britain spends ÂŁ1 billion per month on aid to “Bongo Bongo land” and after saying in an address to an event to promote women that “this place is full of sluts.”

The outburst comes as the latest instalment in a colourful career that has featured Bloom having to be carried out of the European Parliament by an aide, too drunk to complete a speech, and using the using the Nazi slogan “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein FĂĽhrer” to insult a German Social Democrat politician during a separate debate in Brussels.

Readers can access two articles on Bloom’s latest exploits here and here. A YouTube clip of his doorstop press conference yesterday — ostensibly to clarify his remarks, but which (predictably) ended in further controversy — can be found here.

The point is that anything Tony Abbott has ever been accused of by the likes of Gillard, the odious Roxon, and their fellow finger-shaking comrades pales in comparison to this.

But the question, very simply, is whether Bloom has gone too far.

Some will find his remarks — and antics — distasteful in the extreme, labelling him a sexist, racist, xenophobic pig with a bigoted view of the world and a jaundiced perspective on the role of women (and anyone beyond Britain) in it.

Others will take the view that political correctness has all gone too far; that people take themselves far too seriously, and that the likes of Bloom add a little colour to what is otherwise the dour, dull grind of democratic politics.

In any case, it has been many years since this sort of thing was a feature of Australian politics.

What do readers think? Is Bloom out of line, and right to be punted from his party in disgrace? Or is it the case that UKIP being just a bit too prim for its own good, and should take a load off and calm down.

I’ll be interested in people’s thoughts. Keep it clean.



Questions: Geoff Shaw, Tim Mathieson, Craig Thomson

WITH CERTAIN MATTERS now before the Courts, it’s inadvisable to comment on specific details of individual cases; even so, two sets of facts concerning two different gentlemen bear a striking similarity, and beg a rather obvious question. And then, of course, there is Craig Thomson.

Geoff Shaw was a knockabout kind of fellow, with no obvious driving ideological inclination toward politics or a career in public life; prior to his election in November 2010 to the state seat of Frankston, on Melbourne’s southern outskirts, he was a small businessman operating a hardware store.

Tim Mathieson was a knockabout kind of fellow, and was never an MP; he began dating opposition frontbencher Julia Gillard in early 2006, becoming the country’s so-called “First Bloke” when the latter became Prime Minister in 2010: and throughout, whether practising or not, Mathieson was a hairdresser.

Soon after his election as the MP for Frankston it emerged publicly (and with thanks to the state ALP in Victoria) that Shaw and his staff had been using his taxpayer-funded car to run deliveries — some interstate — and other activities for his hardware business.

Unbeknown to the general public in any way, at some point prior to March 2007, Tim Mathieson had been using Gillard’s taxpayer-funded car for his activities as a sales representative for a company called PPS Hairwear, clocking up more than 6,000km in the car before the Department of Finance was alerted to it.

Ostracised in State Parliament following his decision to resign from the Liberal Party over what he claimed was a lack of leadership by then-Premier Ted Baillieu — precipitating Baillieu’s demise as Premier — Shaw has been the subject of multiple investigations into his conduct, and recently repaid $1,250 to the Victorian taxpayer over the use of the vehicle.

Hidden from public view, a staffer in Gillard’s office contacted the Department of Finance in March 2007 in relation to Mathieson’s use of her car; a personal cheque from Gillard, in the sum of $4,243.58, was tendered in a quiet endeavour to see the Commonwealth right.

Since the allegations surrounding Shaw became public in 2011, the Victorian ALP has tried to raise merry hell over the issue; its leader, Daniel Andrews, has repeatedly and consistently sought to tar the state Liberals (and Premier Denis Napthine specifically) by pointing to a supposed link to allegedly corrupt and potentially criminal misconduct.

Meanwhile, the Mathieson matter and details of the quiet repayment of monies to remedy a potential breach were hidden from public scrutiny; The Australian reported on all of these matters yesterday after fighting a 10-month battle to win access to documents relating to the Mathieson issue under Freedom of Information laws.

That fight to access those documents occurred because the former Prime Minister and her office sought to block the Department of Finance from complying with the decision of the Information Commissioner that the material should be released.

Something else happened yesterday, too: Shaw was hit with 24 criminal charges over the alleged misuse of his taxpayer-funded vehicle.

Today, the child leader of the Victorian ALP, Andrews, continued with his filthy little smear, demanding that Napthine explain “why Victorians (should) be confident in a Premier and a government propped up by a bloke facing 24 serious criminal charges.”

It is tawdry, grubby politics from an immature specimen of the most contemptible variety, and undertaken without a scintilla of evidence on which to base the smear against Napthine or, indeed, any other Victorian MP apart from Shaw.

It goes without saying, of course, that not one Labor voice across the length and breadth of Australia was today raised in questioning the revelations about Mathieson.

Would somebody like to explain, in simple English and without histrionics, exactly what the difference between the Shaw allegations and the Mathieson matter is?

AND ANOTHER THING: Former member for Dobell, HSU boss and all-round grub Craig Thomson seems to be inching closer to his day in Court to answer dozens of fraud charges.

Apparently the last hurdle before the case is heard is a spat between prosecutors and counsel for Thomson over whether Thomson is required to be party to a list of “undisputed facts” or whether he is to simply admit to using his notorious union credit card to pay for prostitutes, unauthorised airfares, adult movie rentals in hotels, and cigarettes.

The general public is fed up with Thomson and his antics, and we question whether the semantic games presently being played out in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court are simply a further waste of taxpayer money and Crown resources.

There are even said to be over 100 prostitutes willing and ready to testify as witnesses, which probably says much about the diligence of the investigation conducted by Victoria Police, if anything else.

If Thomson is contemplating owning up after the event — especially given his political career has now ended — perhaps he could simply hurry up and do so, face the music, and get on with being the discredited footnote to Australian politics he is destined to become.


Victoria: Surprise Lead Over Napthine For Andrews And Labor

DAYS AFTER federal Labor suffered one of its heaviest electoral defeats — including a savage swing away from it in Victoria — the state ALP has found itself with a small lead over the Napthine government in the latest Newspoll. The result suggests federal Labor will no longer constrain its state divisions.

It is difficult to know what to make of the first Newspoll, after a federal election, in a state where the Coalition has seemed increasingly ascendant, and where a first-term Labor opposition has snatched an election-winning lead in that Newspoll.

But it has happened; and despite boasting one of the most lacklustre public figures ever presented as a party leader in Daniel Andrews, Victorian Labor has managed just that.

The latest bi-monthly Newspoll of state voting intentions — to be published in today’s issue of The Australian — finds the ALP’s primary vote climbing three points since June to sit at 38%; the Greens are up a point, to 13%, while the Coalition has slipped three points to 37% and support for “Others” falls two points, to 8%.

On two-party preferred figures, this equates to a 51-49 lead to Labor after preferences; it also represents a 2.6% swing back to the ALP based on the numbers it recorded at the state election in late 2010.

Nothing in these movements is beyond the margin of sampling error, and it could well be a case of statistical flutter.

However, given the Coalition required 51.6% of the vote after preferences in 2010 to secure the narrowest of wins under former Premier Ted Baillieu, these numbers are ominous for the state government.

Its Premier (and Baillieu’s replacement) Denis Napthine continues to rate extremely well, now seven months into the role; his approval number is steady at 53% and his disapproval rises five points in this poll, to 31%, which is probably just a sign that Victorians are moving out of the undecided column as they form their opinions of the new-ish leader.

By contrast, Labor leader Daniel Andrews remains one of the best assets the Liberals have to work with.

His approval rating does rise in this poll, to 38%, with those respondents disapproving falling by two points, to 32%; even so, after almost three years in the role, Andrews remains confronted by the fact that two-thirds of Victorian voters either have no firm opinion of him or disapprove of him outright.

And that’s hardly a surprise, given he’s a show pony whose three tricks are a) to talk about a circus analogy, b) to tell reporters he’s asking questions that Napthine has to answer, as if this is the God-given word on any subject he deigns to discourse upon; and c) to play the man — Napthine — instead of the ball.

The one exception of late has been the frenzied attacks he makes on Melbourne’s East-West Link, an $8 billion piece of road infrastructure Napthine is determined to build, and which will begin a slow process of alleviating road infrastructure bottlenecks in inner Melbourne that were allowed to accrue and stagnate under the last Labor government.

And his motives for the attacks on East-West Link aren’t difficult to ascertain: its path directly or indirectly affects four usually safe ALP electorates in inner Melbourne that are now at perennial electoral risk from the Greens, whilst construction of the Link would win the Coalition votes in seats further east, including at least two currently held by the ALP.

In any case, all of these factors probably feed into Newspoll’s “preferred Premier” measure, which sees Andrews (on 25%, down 1%) continue to trail Napthine (47%, down 2%) by a wide margin.

Labor will take little solace in its lead in this poll, when it is remembered that as poor a leader as Andrews is, there are few (if any) MPs in the party’s ranks who might be considered more electable.

Which is just as well for Andrews, because he may be about to get his big chance.

Former Liberal MP for Frankston turned Independent, the controversial Geoff Shaw, was yesterday charged with 23 counts of alleged misuse of his taxpayer-funded vehicle in the latest instalment of a scandal that has been running for more than two years.

Shaw’s fate is important because if he is forced to leave Parliament (or chooses to do so ahead of next year’s election) the resultant by-election would be difficult for the Liberal Party to win, given Frankston sits on a slender 2.1% margin.

And in turn, any Liberal loss at such a by-election would render the Parliament unworkable, with Labor presently holding 43 seats to the Coalition’s 44, and Independent (but generally Liberal-aligned) Shaw the difference.

Such an outcome would likely set in train an early state election, despite Victoria’s fixed four-year parliamentary terms — and if the numbers Newspoll has published are any guide to the true inclinations of the electorate, Napthine would be in trouble.

(Readers can access the Victorian Newspoll tables here).

It is safe to say that beyond East-West Link and the Shaw matter, the only other major issue that may influence the findings of this Newspoll is the obvious one — this month’s federal election, at which Labor suffered a heavy swing of some 4% in Victoria after preferences that has delivered at least three, and possibly four, seats to the Liberals.

And given the surveys were mostly conducted prior to Shaw being charged (or, at least, prior to the news of it becoming public), these numbers raise an interesting prospect.

With the Coalition now back in office federally, are we set to see a resumption of what has (more or less) been a trend since the early years of the Howard government of state governments swinging toward the party in opposition in Canberra?

Elections early next year in South Australia and Tasmania will be telling.

But as I said at the outset, it’s a little difficult to know what to read into a poll like this, timed as it is alongside the peculiar conjunction of circumstances in which it sits.

Yet the conventional wisdom, increasingly, has been that since taking over as Premier, Napthine has led the Liberals back to a position of dominance over Labor, with re-election next year increasingly looking an odds-on bet.

If something has thrown a spoke in Napthine’s wheels, I suspect it won’t take long for the responsible issue to be revealed — assuming, that is, that Shaw doesn’t get in first.