Fred Nile, Charlotte Dawson, Abortion And Suicide

IT’S NOT OFTEN that I find myself making any attempt to defend the Rev Fred Nile; there is conservatism, and then there is the brand of mindless, fundamentalist religious fervour he regularly advocates. But his comments — highlighting the fact virtually every obituary written in the wake of the sad death of model Charlotte Dawson has ignored the effects of an abortion she had in 1999 — have been maliciously and dishonestly pilloried.

First things first: I was devastated to learn that model and TV personality Charlotte Dawson committed suicide last weekend; it is difficult to comprehend, without a first-hand appreciation of the effects of depression (although I have a number of people in my “circle” who are sufferers), why a beautiful, vivacious woman seemingly filled with life and with everything in the world going for her would be driven to such a tragic end, although I do know enough to know that the condition and its consequences are often inexplicable in any logical or reasoned sense by what might ordinarily be described as normal standards.

And on the issue of abortion, readers already know I’m not exactly on the cheer squad for its advocacy, save for instances of rape or where a foetus is at risk of birth with severe deformity and/or disability. Even so, those decisions are for others to make — as in this case — just as any adverse consequences must be borne by those make them.

It is in this vein that I feel compelled to comment today; the point Rev Nile has sought to make is no doubt informed by his religious views but is nonetheless pertinent in light of any attempt to understand what might have motivated Dawson to take her own life.

For those readers not familiar with Nile’s comments — or who have heard or read about them only through second or third-hand sources — I suggest a reading of the actual comments he posted on Facebook on 23 February is a good place to start.

It might surprise many to see that Nile isn’t running off on a morality crusade, or a rant against abortion drenched in fundamentalist religious fervour; in fact, he simply makes the point that Dawson herself identifies the abortion she had 15 years ago as being the root cause of her depression, and notes that this fact has been largely omitted from the dozens of obituaries and tributes that have been written in an outpouring of grief in the wake of her death.

Conservative Daily Telegraph columnist (and known committed Catholic) Miranda Devine makes the point in one of her articles today — in also seeking to bat away the unreasoning and unreasonable rantings of what I call the “wimmin’s lobby” (that is, those whose view of issues such as abortion is so one-eyed that even the slightest deviation from their mantra demands immediate crucifixion at almost any cost) — that it would have taken real courage for an otherwise strong, liberated and pro-choice woman such as Dawson to articulate the impact her abortion had on her.

Perversely, Devine no doubt has in mind the christian fundamentalists rather than the wimmin’s crowd as the likely antagonists such admissions might attract. Indeed — as she notes — Nile’s post had been “gentle and respectful.”

There are a few points to make here.

First, nobody — not me, not Nile, not Devine, nor anyone else — has suggested or even sought to suggest Dawson took her own life as a consequence of having had an abortion. Clearly, a lot of factors over a very long period of time fed into her untimely demise last week. But to listen to the outraged howls emanating from some sections of the hard social Left, one could be forgiven for thinking Nile had made exactly such a direct causal link.

Second — irrespective of your views on abortion, the right to choose, or any aspect of the minefield that constitutes the debate on the subject — it is safe to say that there is no universal law when it comes to abortion, or in this case its after-effects: personal anecdote it may be, but I know a lady who’s had six abortions in pursuit of her career, has neither the interest nor intention to ever have children, and is upfront about her view that in terms of any emotional consequences she has faced none. Dawson, by contrasts, pinpoints it as the beginning of her fight with depression and an enduring source of sadness and regret. Others will have different positions and different experiences. These can’t be shut down or bulldozed away by a rigidly militant and ideological standpoint the Left insists must be unquestioningly accepted. Accusations of knuckle-dragging and “misogyny” await anyone who dares to deviate from it.

And third, if we are to embrace Dawson fully in death, we must also accept and embrace the highs and lows that defined her in life. This is not some sister of ideology we’re talking about; it’s a normal woman for whom the tribulations of life grew to be too much for her to cope with. In addition to her abortion, we have a failed marriage, an enduring love for her ex-husband, the loss of her job as a presenter at Foxtel and what is believed to have been an extremely punitive personal financial position all known to be factors that have fed the depression she has so openly battled.

The issue of the so-called trolls Dawson was confronted with on Twitter — who dared her to kill herself, very nearly succeeding on at least one occasion prior to her doing precisely that — has also been well documented, as have all of the other factors I have mentioned. And then some.

Nile’s point is that from her own mouth and in her own words, the emotional consequences of her abortion were as much a contributor among many to her depression, if not her death, as anything else, and should be noted as such.

Too much time, energy and vitriol is expended by the warriors of the wimminhood seeking to silence so much as a nanosyllable that might be uttered in contradiction to its world view on abortion, and too many good men — Prime Minister Tony Abbott a notable example — are unfairly and disproportionately slammed in its divisive and provocative crusade to neutralise anything or anyone whose opinions are out of step with that view.

In this regard — for once — far from being reviled for the stand he has taken, Nile should be commended.

And for someone whose autobiography was subtitled the “Memoirs Of A Blow-Up Doll,” it’s a fair bet Dawson herself would find the fracas that has erupted around Nile’s relatively benign remarks bemusing at best.

Rogue Newspoll Foretells Landslide Labor Win

NEWSPOLL’S FORTNIGHTLY RESULTS will be published in The Australian today, and they simply don’t reflect either the tenor of the fortnight’s politics nor the prevailing views in public discourse; the finding that Labor is set for a landslide election victory simply doesn’t withstand scrutiny, and invites the inevitable conclusion that the figures constitute a rogue poll: something we’ve seen a bit of since 7 September last year.

In the washout from Saturday’s state by-election in the Queensland seat of Redcliffe — and amid a brewing controversy over the bona fides of “firemen” who abused and accosted Premier Campbell Newman at a polling booth in front of TV cameras over fire station closures that did not exist — I was accused of bias in interpreting the 16% swing against the LNP as a “false dawn” result; it was a poor excuse for political analysis, one Twitter troll informed me.

Yet when I pointed out the massive ALP win in the federal by-election in the seat of Ryan in 2001 — and that Labor types assured themselves they were on a roll into government under Kim “Fat Boy” Beazley in its wake — the revelation was greeted, unsurprisingly, with silence.

I point this out because as I said to the twit (no pun intended) on Twitter, if you want to look at the meaning of these things you have to call them for what they are — not look at the obvious response. I regret to admit I accused him of being a f’n particular variety of idiot for taking the Redcliffe result purely on face value.

I tell this story because today Labor Party types across Australia are going to be cock-a-hoop, crowing that Newspoll is showing them on track for a swing of close to 8% if an election were held this weekend, and recording the second-best result for Labor at the polls in its entire history (At 54-46, John Curtin’s landslide in 1943 is its only betterment in that regard).

Opinion polls are useful to identify trends: readers have heard me hammer this point relentlessly by now. Today’s Newspoll is against trend, in line with none of the other polls, and is a rogue.

It finds, on primary votes, ALP support up four points to 39%; Coalition support is down two points, also to 39%, whilst the Greens sit at 10% — also down two points. Support for “others” remains unchanged at 12%.

After preferences, this equates to a 54-46 lead to the ALP: a swing of 7.6% since September, and enough to win it 35 Coalition-held seats if repeated at an election. It beggars belief.

Perversely, the leader ratings don’t really reflect these findings; Abbott’s disapproval number is up seven points to 52%, certainly, but Shorten’s is up too — by four points to a record high (so far) of 39%.

Yet on the “preferred PM” measure, Shorten (37%, +4%) now trails Abbott (38%, -3%) by a solitary point.

Even the Morgan poll released today — whilst still finding Labor ahead of the Coalition, but by a diminishing 50.5-49.5 margin — can’t be held up as any kind of corroboration of these numbers; the trend in the past couple of weeks has seen the Coalition regaining ground and either pulling ahead or (at worst) trailing narrowly in the other major polls.

The most recent instance of this was the Nielsen poll last week, and Nielsen — like Morgan — generally produces findings that tend to overstate the Labor position.

But if we were to take today’s Newspoll numbers seriously, it would require a look back at historical precedent.

This survey finds Labor support at as good as 40% and, whilst I’m not going to trawl back through several years’ polling numbers, at actual elections Labor has managed to achieve 39% or better just twice in the past 20 years: in 2007, when it won office (with 42% of the vote) and in 1998, when Beazley went close to unseating the first-term John Howard (with 40% of the vote).

Prior to 1996, of course, Labor regularly won better than 40% of the vote, with 1990 and 1977 the glaring exceptions. Prior to 1996, however, the degree of fragmentation in the major parties’ votes was a phenomenon that was yet to arrive: cumulatively the Coalition and Labor almost invariably collected 90% or better of the first preference votes.

We have spoken of the merits or (usually) otherwise of Labor’s present “leader,” Bill Shorten; rusted on his fan base in the union movement may well be, but there is no tangible evidence of him achieving cut-through with virtually any other section of the community.

His messages are turgid, their meanings unclear, but aside from a game of pass-the-buck he stands — based on a summary assessment of his utterances as leader to date — for nothing.

He opposes union corruption, but won’t support an inquiry into them. He supports an “Australian-owned” Qantas, but won’t support legislative moves to allow it to compete fairly. He gives speeches claiming his focus in opposition “is not Tony Abbott,” and subsequently proceeds to talk about nothing else, often with a “let’s get nasty” slant attached to it that is so tangible as to be almost visible.

On and on it goes.

The Griffith result a couple of weeks ago is the only electoral test Shorten has faced to date, and even more than the result in Redcliffe I alluded to, can hardly be presented as a Labor triumph: Labor very nearly lost its best seat in Queensland against expectations of a thumping win.

The buck has to stop somewhere.

And for now, I’m going to stop here.

This particular poll is very interesting, but as things stand it’s an interesting distraction — and no more.

If we were to now see a run of these kinds of findings in Labor’s favour — across several of the main polls — and in similarly convincing terms, then we’ll look at the idea a sustained movement to the ALP is occurring.

For now, however, I still think that at a real election the Abbott government would win, perhaps with a reduced margin, but nonetheless convincingly; nine months out of office under a dismal “leader” and with no policy except to block everything — including its own initiatives — is not enough to restore the ALP’s fortunes so soon after being thrown out of office so convincingly.

I have already noted this year that there still seems to be a degree of flutter in poll findings — that is, they’re jumping around quite a bit more than normal — and I expect that will settle down over the next few months, and especially once the budget is out of the way.

In the meantime, I don’t see this as any disturbance of a slow nett drift in support back to the Liberal Party after its initial “new government” stumbles cost it a hit in the polls in November.

To a fool, this poll sees Labor rocketing back to power. The truth is rather different, which is why next fortnight’s Newspoll could see the order of the headline number — 54-46 — reversed, or perhaps move even further from Labor’s grasp.

 

Redcliffe By-Election: Could Have Been Better, Could Have Been Worse

WHICHEVER WAY you cut it, the by-election in the Queensland state seat of Redcliffe today could have been better and could have been worse; even so, a 16% swing to the ALP has seen former federal MP Yvette D’Ath elected in what now becomes Queensland Labor’s eighth seat. A setback for the state LNP is not necessarily a disaster, and where the ALP is concerned, it would be unwise for that party to read too much into this result.

First things first: congratulations to the Queensland ALP and its candidate Yvette D’Ath on their win in Redcliffe today. They have been entrusted with the stewardship of representing that highly appealing sliver of the bayside region north of Brisbane for the next 12 months, and having achieved their win it is to be hoped D’Ath now knuckles under and gets on with the job she has been given.

To have a snowball’s chance in hell of re-election at the state election now due in 12 months’ time, she’ll have to.

I will concede that the swing is a little larger than I expected; readers will recall my suggestion that the LNP might just — just — hold onto the seat.

This really was a 50/50 call, made (as I noted) without enthusiasm, and largely with the undeniable groundswell of support behind the Prime Minister for his royal commission into the unions being the only thing it was predicated on as the anti-union message was rolled out late in the by-election campaign, and ultimately too late to have swung the result.

But let’s call a spade a spade: barring a campaign that was catastrophic even by Labor’s recent standards, the LNP was always going to lose this seat.

The ALP will probably trumpet their win as a sign of state Labor’s rebirth, or and indictment on Campbell Newman’s LNP government, or some bizarre endorsement of the merits of D’Ath as a candidate. Yet it was none of those things: overwhelmingly, it was a vote of disgust in the grub who until very recently was the member for Redcliffe.

Needing a swing of 10.2% to win, after preferences, it appears D’Ath has managed some 16.3% based on final figures for the night, although the eventual result might move a couple of points either way once absentee and postal votes are added to the count over the next few days.

As things stand, the LNP primary vote fell 14.1 percentage points to 35.1%; correspondingly, the ALP vote rose by 12.9% to 43.6%. For reference, the LNP and ALP primary votes at the 2009 state election were 34.3% and 43% respectively.

I think the issue of Scott Driscoll — who quit Parliament a day before his scheduled expulsion from it by the Privileges Committee for failing to disclose significant and questionable financial affairs — was probably worth 10% of the primary vote swing against the LNP on its own; provided Labor did nothing to “bugger it up,” the Driscoll issue was always going to gift it the seat of Redcliffe at this by-election.

In other words, two-thirds of the new support Driscoll converted into primary votes for the LNP at the 2012 state election was lost in disgust; that’s also one in five of the electors who gave Driscoll their first preference vote overall, and — given by-elections are the traditional forum to register a protest — it’s perhaps surprising we’re not talking about far greater numbers.

As the ABC’s respected election analyst Antony Green opined in his excellent overview of the Redcliffe campaign, based on the 15 state by-elections held in Queensland between 1992 and today, the average swing against a Queensland government at a by-election is 5.3%. Considering the rather unique circumstances of the by-election, I contend this really has to be added to whatever quantum of lost support is directly attributable to the Driscoll factor.

Adding the two together, we get to almost the exact shares of the primary vote recorded by the respective parties at the 2009 state election. I’m not in any way downplaying the ALP’s result in Redcliffe but viewed that way, it’s difficult to dispute such a breakdown in the primary vote movement. This result virtually reverses the effect of the 2012 vote.

The swing after preferences of 16.3%, therefore, outperforms what might have been expected — if, indeed, the LNP government and Campbell Newman in particular really were the primary targets, as Labor has repeatedly sought to claim — by just 1% of the vote. It doesn’t sustain either ALP accusations against Newman and the LNP, or herald the start of some great Labor revival, in any way, shape, or form.

Granted, this was a solid enough win for the ALP. To really have some bankable capital from it, though, the swing should have been in the order of 20%. It wasn’t.

And for the LNP, the result could of course been worse; that same 20% swing Labor needed and failed to harness would have placed a question mark over its re-election prospects next year, caveats about Scott Driscoll and by-election protests notwithstanding: no-one (least of all Newman himself) denies the LNP still has work to do before it faces the people.

Obviously, the Queensland government has issues in play that have reflected poorly against it in opinion polling to varying degrees. It should scarcely need pointing out that the bulk of the most unpopular and/or controversial decisions the LNP has taken were more or less completed in the active sense by the end of the first half of its term. It is hardly suggestive of the kind of shambolic approach to governing most recently witnessed under the stewardship of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

But Newman’s entire approach has been built around a wholistic embrace of the three-year cycle governments in Queensland still follow; to this end, his plan — culminating in re-election — still has a third of its allocated time to run, and even with the odd mid-term poll shocker being recorded of late, there is no suggestion at all that the LNP is at risk of defeat at the next election.

A decent — and credible — LNP candidate, endorsed for next year’s election, will stand an excellent chance of regaining Redcliffe for the LNP. And by credible, I’m not talking about endorsing beaten candidates from rival political parties, no matter how friendly they might be with preference allocations. It is difficult to think of a candidate who could have won for the Liberals today, but endorsing the Family First candidate from last time (whatever her merits) certainly didn’t help their cause.

And one final thought: with the possible exception of the very first member for Redcliffe, Jim Houghton, who served between 1960 and 1979 as a Liberal, a National and an Independent at various times, this electorate has been represented by an assortment of hacks, spivs, time-servers, red herrings and grubs, and without pulling any punches, its latest state member will continue that dubious tradition.

An unpopular and beaten federal member whose period in federal politics was unspectacular — and who, I’m told, was nothing exceptional as a local member either — would hardly seem the ideal choice of candidate to parachute into what, potentially, could be a long-term gain for the ALP. Then again, D’Ath is as enmeshed in Labor’s union threads as anyone going around, and that seems the greater prerequisite than actual suitability for office in the ALP these days.

Proverbially, a rabid chook with a red ribbon around its neck could have won for the ALP in Redcliffe today. On that basis, its long-suffering residents have at least small mercies to be grateful for in settling for a recycled union hack.

 

Win Or Lose, Labor Stunts Are Not “Protest”

QUEENSLAND PREMIER Campbell Newman — campaigning in today’s Redcliffe by-election — has exposed “protests” by ALP-organised troublemakers as no more than hollow stunts; confronted by “voters” Newman exploded several of the myths Labor seeks to peddle right across the country, and it raises the point that as noisily as the ALP behaves, its slogans and legitimate voter concerns are not the same thing. Far from it.

This will be a reasonably short post this afternoon, ahead of a look at the results from the state by-election in Redcliffe later tonight, but I have been watching coverage of polling day on Sky and wanted to make a few points.

Toilet tactics are nothing new when it comes to the kind of campaigning Labor likes to engage in; that is, most of its accusations and blather — repeated endlessly, loudly and unswervingly — are simply a pile of excrement.

Nothing shocks me in politics, of course, but to see footage on Sky News of Newman being accosted by “local voters” claiming to be channelling community anger at the Premier never ceases to disgust me: all it amounts to is another way for the ALP to get free airtime for its silly slogans. And to look like a band of thugs in front of a TV audience just for good measure, which says a lot about the level of decorum with which it finds it appropriate to conduct its version of politics.

The Fairfax press has reported that Newman has been heckled and abused on the hustings today — noting that at least in part, ALP volunteers were the culprit — and it should surprise nobody that as the Premier answered some of the allegations and accusations levelled at him, his assailants had no comeback.

When heckled about his government’s controversial anti-gang laws — supported by the ALP in the Queensland Parliament — Newman returned fire, pointing out that Labor had supported them — and making the point that if ever restored to government, it probably wouldn’t repeal them.

Silence.

Men claiming to be firefighters, and claiming fire stations were closing, confronted Newman, who simply challenged them to name a station slated for closure: perhaps unsurprisingly, no answer was forthcoming. So much for the endless attempts to get scare campaigns going about cuts to emergency services the ALP is so fond of.

“The first casualty is truth in an election campaign,” Newman observed drily.

And as Fairfax reports, for almost his entire visit to one school in the electorate, a woman yelling abuse shadowed the Premier and accused him of, among many things, allowing paedophiles walk free. Newman’s response — that whilst people had a right to protest, such conduct was “over the top and quite inappropriate” — is absolutely correct.

It continues a the tendency we’ve seen the ALP develop in recent years in which the filthier, nastier and more baseless the tactics, the better it likes them. It doesn’t bother with such concepts as decency or honesty, or (God forbid) respect. In today’s case — and in the absence of genuinely aggrieved Redcliffe residents with their own legitimate protest — Labor has devised one of its own to deploy the moment Newman appeared, and in the process of activating it has made itself look absolutely ridiculous, to say nothing of decidedly foolish to boot.

It brings me to share an article that appeared in The Australian today; written by Dennis Shanahan, it talks about federal Labor’s penchant for mindlessly attacking anything and everything the Abbott government says, does or foreshadows; the fact community perspectives are simultaneously becoming less and less aligned with anything the party says is oblivious to it: the ALP’s “solution” is simply to ramp up its indulgence in exponentially more of the same brainless conduct.

As a Liberal, it satisfies me to see the ALP committing hari-kari in such a juvenile fashion, but it hardly adds anything of value to the national debate. Readers should find the Shanahan article pertinent in this regard.

Win or lose, the point is that Labor’s antics are not “protest:” they are political stunts and should be seen as such. Most voters have more brains than to believe this kind of thing when they see it on TV, and it is high time Labor learned to make that distinction for itself.

Anyway — that’s it for now. As I said at the outset, I will be back later this evening to pick apart the results from the Redcliffe by-election once a fair portion of the count has been completed and winners and trends can be analysed.

 

 

 

 

Senate: Bragging Rights Aside, Fresh WA Election Will Change Little

1,375 “LOST” VOTES triggered their inevitable consequence today, with the Court of Disputed Returns declaring WA’s Senate election void and ordering a rerun of the poll; there will be a lot of posturing and grandstanding in the lead-up, but the likely national impact of a fresh election will be minimal. Despite appearances and suggestions to the contrary, the Liberal Party has the least to lose, but for the ALP, a poor result could be cataclysmic.

Ever since the case of the missing votes came to light — during a routine recount of Western Australia’s Senate votes, following an extremely tight vote, that nominally produced a different result — it has been inevitable, I think, that voters in the Sandgroper state would find them back at the polls to do it all again.

Today, the High Court made it formal, and my tip is a polling date in May to enable the requisite counts and legal processes to be completed in time for new Senators to take their seats on 1 July as constitutionally required.

I am just going to talk through some initial thoughts here; I think regular readers may have already guessed I’ve been a bit busy in other enterprises these past few days, and will continue to be so in the short term. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of time to discuss the fresh Senate election in WA, and I guarantee everyone will be sick of it by the time it has come to pass. I suspect I will be, too.

To condense this all into simple terms for those who find it confusing, the half-Senate election in WA held on 7 September easily elected one Labor and three Liberal Senators; after fourth place, the vote was exceedingly close, and on the initial count the final two spots were taken by an additional ALP candidate and one from Clive Palmer’s eponymous outfit.

Owing to the closeness of the vote, an automatic recount took place, which saw those final two places go to current Senator Scott Ludlam from the Communist Party Greens and the Australian Sports Party’s Scott Dropulich; where the problem arises is that the 1,375 votes which were apparently misplaced between the two counts (and not, obviously, included in the recount) were greater in number than the margin on preferences between the final four candidates at that stage of the preference distribution.

As a result, the missing votes may well have been responsible for the differential outcomes, and their absence means it is not possible to determine which six candidates were elected to the Senate — as Justice Hayne observed in handing down his decision yesterday — and consequently, the entire election for the Senate, in Western Australia, must be held anew.

The first observation I would make is that the botched Senate election in WA — which is what it is — is not, as the likes of Clive Palmer have been wont to proclaim in other jurisdictions, the result of any criminal conspiracy, fraud or corruption of process.

It is, however, representative of incompetence of the highest order, and in the washout from all of this it is to be hoped the federal government institutes a rigorous overhaul of the Australian Electoral Commission, dismissing Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn — after all, the buck has to stop somewhere, and the fresh election will involve a cost to the taxpayer in the millions of bucks — and implementing procedural improvements to ensure such fundamental ineptitude can never again manifest itself in such a disruptive, intrusive and expensive fashion.

That said, there has already been a lot of analysis and comment in other media to suggest this poll could be a travesty for the Prime Minister and his government. Can I simply say that of all the stakeholders affected by the return to the ballot box in Western Australia, it is Tony Abbott who actually has the least to lose; for Bill Shorten, however, it could by then be the compounding of the disaster 2014 is becoming for the ALP, and a poor result will be the last thing he or his party need.

From a numerical perspective (and irrespective of which of the two counts that emerged last year are considered) WA’s six Senate spots split 4-2 in favour of the Right, with the national Right-Left split sitting at 41-35. Of those 41 Senate spots for the Right, however, only 33 are held by Liberals or Nationals; if either of the two counts to date in WA had been allowed to stand, the government would still have been dependent on carrying at least six of the eight non-Greens crossbench votes to get a majority in the Senate.

Given the present woes (as measured in reputable opinion polling) of the Liberal state government of Colin Barnett, it is inconceivable that any deterioration in the Right’s position at the coming rerun of WA’s Senate election could be worse than a 3-3 split; indeed, the Liberals may or may not lose a seat — but if they do, it could be to another minor party candidate on the Right (remembering that candidates from Palmer’s Palmer United Party and the Australian Sports Party were elected on the differing counts that have led to this result).

But even if we assume the Liberals lose a spot in a worst-possible case scenario, and that spot goes to Labor, in terms of control of the Senate the Liberals will simply move from needing 6 of 8 Right-inclined minor party votes to needing 7 of 8. Certainly, this would destroy some “wriggle room,” but as things stand there is no actual control to be lost because right now, the Coalition doesn’t have any to lose. Not directly. 33 of 76 Senators (or 32 if it drops a seat in WA) is a country mile from having any real control over the Senate.

Will WA voters swing against the federal Coalition to the point it drastically alters the Senate balance? I highly doubt it. Australian voters have shown themselves adept at distinguishing between state and federal issues, and this distinction has become more pronounced in recent years, not less. Barnett’s government may be in a world of poll pain because it’s getting some unpalatable decisions out of the way early in a term that still has three years to run, but the issues that have tended to resonate in WA where federal elections are concerned — the carbon tax, the mining tax, the GST and others — are still very much alive, with the added bonus for Abbott that Shorten has refused to respect the Coalition mandate on such matters. This will work for Abbott and against Shorten.

In some respects, the best thing that could happen for either side (but more so for the ALP) is for the fresh Senate election to become an absolutely farcical minor party circus in which hundreds of candidates nominate, shattering the vote, and seeing a couple of their number elected. It doesn’t help Tony Abbott and I certainly have no wish to see any candidates elected on, say, 1700 votes — as occurred in Victoria last year. But if Labor is to fail to make any inroads, this would be the least embarrassing way for such an eventuality to transpire.

And it must be remembered, above all things, that the “nuclear” option remains open to Abbott if his government loses too many votes in the Senate: a double dissolution, strategically timed and properly engineered, would almost certainly improve the Coalition’s position in the Senate irrespective of what happens in WA. Shorten, and his opposition to anything without a union ticket attached to it, would be well advised to at least give some semblance of contemplation to this point.

Tomorrow, voters in the Queensland state seat of Redcliffe vote in a by-election to replace disgraced LNP MP Scott Driscoll, who quit before he could be expelled from Parliament and who, to my mind, deserves to face criminal proceedings. Whilst held by a 10% margin, that buffer is inflated by the tidal wave of statewide support the LNP rode into government two years ago. Logic would suggest the ALP should win the by-election, although I have a sense the result will be far closer than some polling showing 20% swings have suggested, and a late push to insinuate ALP candidate (and former federal MP) Yvette D’Ath into the growing cesspool of union misconduct seems to be gaining traction. The outcome — prior to the ballots being tallied — is anyone’s guess (I think the LNP might hold on by its fingernails, but I have no real confidence in that view either).

The reason I bring this up is because 2014 — barring some miracle — is fast shaping as an annus horribilis for the ALP. Already it has retained, in the most unimaginatively unspectacular fashion possible, Kevin Rudd’s old seat of Griffith at a by-election despite a swing against it. In three weeks time, it is almost certain to be belted out of office in avalanches at state elections in South Australia and Tasmania, with suggestions across the board that Labor could be butchered in its worst result in 100 years in Tasmania, winning less than a quarter of the vote. If it fails to win the Redcliffe by-election, it will have skipped past fruit hanging low on the branch, making a half-hearted endeavour at best to pluck it from the tree.

Labor could arrive at the rerun of the WA Senate election in very, very poor shape. By its own propaganda and on its own expectations, nothing less than winning a second Senate spot in WA will be acceptable. The national outrage over the excesses of Labor’s union buddies is already rising in temperature and volume, and there is evidence Tony Abbott and his government are not wearing the blame for the Toyota and Holden debacles in the court of public opinion.

It is a chilling reality for Labor — which must be praying for the excessively unionised Qantas to experience a rapid surge of profitability — to confront in the context of this new election in WA.

Yet Shorten has already made a lot of noise to suggest Labor’s campaign will be about “jobs:” in other words, what he and his union mates say, decree and set in concrete goes, and bugger the consequences. There is plenty of evidence that the general public, far from being swayed by this position, is actively switching off from it.

On a totally different note, I would like to point out — for the benefit of those who feel so disgusted with, or disenfranchised by, the political process as to think their votes don’t matter — that despite the circumstances in which the rerun of the Senate election in WA has come to pass, it does prove in an extremely perverse way that every vote really does count at elections: less than 1,400 of a total well in excess of a million ballot papers were misplaced, probably by accident. Even that number was enough a) to radically alter the outcome of the election, and b) to mandate a fresh election when it became clear just how critical such a small parcel of votes was to the outcome. It’s food for thought for those who think politics is pointless.

But to return to the point: in terms of national outcomes, very little will change on the back of the new election in WA.

I tend to think at most a seat might change hands between the Left and the Right; and along the way, one of the posturing figures WA voters will soon see much more of will have something to crow about.

But in terms of the main game — Coalition vs Labor — this exercise involves very little risk to Abbott for the reasons I have outlined.

For the ALP, however, the stakes are infinitely higher, and a failure to deliver — something, anything — will simply underline what an idiot the party has saddled itself with as its “leader.”

It can’t get rid of him unless how many of his colleagues decide he’s brought the ALP into “serious dispute?”

Whichever way you cut it, there’s not much trouble in this for the government; just an awful lot of potential upside — if it can capitalise on it.

 

NSW: Liberal MPs Stood Aside, Appropriately, Pending ICAC Inquiry

NEWS FROM SYDNEY that three state Liberal MPs are to sit on the crossbench pending the outcome of investigations by ICAC is to be welcomed; conservatively aligned as this column is, we will not tolerate corruption in government, and any allegation of wrongdoing must be investigated frankly, fully and fearlessly. The development casts a poor light, were any further suggestion of it required, on the turbid way things are apparently done in NSW.

I am going to keep my remarks short and circumspect on this, for obvious reasons; the news that three Liberal MPs in NSW — former minister and Terrigal MP Chris Hartcher, Wyong MP Darren Webber, and the member for The Entrance, Chris Spence — are to be suspended from the parliamentary party pending a corruption inquiry by ICAC is to be welcomed.

If allegations against the trio are found to be baseless, they should resume their places in the Liberal Party; if shown to have engaged in criminal misconduct, they must be expelled from Parliament. This is as it should be.

To its credit, the NSW Liberals appear to be moving to suspend the three MPs quickly.

The development — which readers can see more about here — comes as ICAC announces further corruption investigations into disgraced Labor trio Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly.

I have opined in the past that NSW, under the long-term governance of the ALP, was rotten to the core, and I stand by that assessment: worse than anything that ever happened in Queensland under Joh Bjelke-Petersen is how I recall putting it, not that I seek to excuse anything that occurred on old Joh’s watch that shouldn’t have.

But if members of the Liberal Party — and its members of Parliament especially — are embroiled in the murky goings-on between government and business that have occurred in NSW in the past, it is fitting the culprits receive precisely the treatment currently being experienced by their alleged fellow miscreants from the ALP.

The one observation I would make at this early stage concerns the prospect flagged in the Tele article I’ve linked to of three by-elections Barry O’Farrell probably needs like a hole in the head if, at the end of the investigation process, any or all of the Liberals in question are forced to relinquish their seats.

Of the three, only Hartcher in Terrigal is securely seated, notwithstanding the tidal wave the Liberals surfed into government in 2011. Even then, with an eye on what happened to the Liberal Party in the Miranda by-election last year, even Terrigal (held at the state election by a comparable margin to Miranda) is a seat the Liberals really don’t need to be testing their fortunes over in the bubble atmosphere of a by-election.

In any case, I simply want to make clear that standing these MPs aside is the right, proper course of action to take. It contrasts with precedents in recent times set by the ALP, and somewhat ironically I note that former MP for Dobell, Craig Thomson — convicted yesterday of defrauding the Health Services Union out of thousands of dollars — only moved to the crossbench in federal Parliament when the political heat from allegations against him got that bit too hot for then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard to handle. It was hardly done out of any sense of duty or regard for propriety at that time.

This column has made no secret of its belief that a royal commission into the union movement is necessary, long overdue, and highly likely to uncover criminality (as I have put it previously) on a scale unprecedented in this country, and given accusations of bias I regularly cop from the Left it is important to make this point.

It cuts both ways, and if conservative MPs have been up to no good, they are just as deserving of having the proverbial book thrown at them as any of their union or ALP counterparts.

Even if the charges against these Liberals are found baseless, however — and in light of the thorn in the side of Prime Minister Tony Abbott the O’Farrell government seems determined to be — you have to wonder, putting yourself in Tony Abbott’s shoes, what crack in the footpath he walked on to deserve the grief that continues to emanate from NSW.

Forlorn as the hope might be, if any good is to come out of the procession of ICAC cases and potential prosecutions that may arise from them, it is the prospect that once and for all, the grubby nexus between business and government in NSW might be cleaned up once and for all.

 

BREAKING: Craig Thomson Guilty Of Fraud Charges

FORMER UNION OFFICIAL and Labor MP Craig Thomson has been found guilty this morning of some — but not all — of the scores of fraud charges brought against him in the wake of the scandal around the Health Services Union, of which he was head; the development legitimises criticisms of the previous government for doing everything in its power to shield him. It also bolsters the need for a royal commission into unions generally.

Just a very short post this morning, as the development is quite fresh and events fluid; Thomson has been convicted this morning of many of the charges he faced for ripping off the HSU to pay for sex with prostitutes, dirty movies in hotels, cigarettes, and other unauthorised items.

At this stage it is unclear how many convictions have been recorded against Thomson, when sentencing is likely to occur, and what penalty he will face — so clearly there is some room left to run in this story.

I will keep an eye on developments during the day and once the picture becomes clearer, will post again on these matters — perhaps this evening.