Shock Newspoll: The Danger Of Clive Palmer’s Queensland

A DISTURBING NEWSPOLL from Queensland has been released today, showing the ALP within striking distance of winning the state election due in the next nine months, and Newspoll’s findings — published in The Australian today — bear an ominous degree of similarity to the votes cast in Queensland in 1998. Labor, on merit, is a dubious alternative indeed to the prospect of the Palmer United Party tearing governance in Queensland to shreds.

I have been around politics and elections for long enough — after almost 30 years — to know the ultimate cardinal sin is to tell voters “you got it wrong;” even so, once in a while, the electorate registers what can only be described, to put it very nicely, as a balls-up.

The politics of protest are an enterprise that has found fertile ground in which to germinate in recent years, and for all the headaches this causes Labor by having the overall Left-of-centre vote permanently rent asunder by the insidious presence of the Communist Party Greens, when that protest materialises on the Right its capacity to cause incalculable damage on its own side of the spectrum tends to dwarf anything the Greens have inflicted on the ALP.

With this in mind, we’ll go through the Newspoll figures; then I want to talk about the infamous state election in Queensland of 13 June 1998, at which Pauline Hanson’s One Nation scored 23% of the primary vote and opened the door to 14 years of Labor government under Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh.

The parallels are stark. But first things first.

Newspoll paints a horror picture for the first-term government of Campbell Newman, with just 32% of respondents nominating a first preference vote for the LNP; this is a decline of 8% since March, and a whopping 17% since the state election in March 2012.

It finds Labor recording primary vote support of 34% (-2% since March, but +7.3% since the last election); the Greens on 8% (unchanged from March, and only slightly up on the 2012 figures); Bob Katter’s crowd with 2% (+1% from March, but down 9.5% on the last election) and “Others” with 24%: an increase of 9% in three months, and up a massive 19.4% since 2012.

There are few prizes for guessing what “Others” is mostly a euphemism for.

I’m not really concerned with whose approval numbers are up or down, or who’s preferred over whom as Premier, because to some extent this poll paints an overall picture that makes such silly questions redundant.

Suffice to say Premier Campbell Newman is now recording the kind of numbers Tony Abbott has for years, whilst opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to be regarded as the latest uninspiring mediocrity Labor is attempting to foist on voters as it languishes on opposition benches across most of the country. Readers can access the Newspoll table here if these numbers are of particular interest.

I don’t deny that the LNP is unpopular in Queensland: in part because it has taken the tough decisions required of most Liberal governments following long-term ALP administrations into office, in part because some of the “shit” thrown relentlessly by a Labor Party utterly devoid of principles other than its lust for power has stuck, and partly because some of the Newman government’s legislative adventures (like its anti-bike gang laws) have touched a nerve in the electorate that has helped to siphon away support.

And whilst I stand by my usual position that this Newspoll is just a poll, the general polling trends coming out of Queensland of late dictate that it must be taken seriously.

Which is why I want to cut through what every analysis of opinion polling — whether here or in a newspaper — tends to do, projecting how many seats each party might win and how shocking/surprising/pleasing this is, and talk in terms of a straight comparison with the 1998 state election.

Newspoll’s numbers provide a chilling contrast with that event, the consequences of which were to tear conservative politics at the state level in Queensland to pieces, opening the door to almost a generation of insipid Labor government and an ill-advised merger of the Liberal and National parties. A 1998-style outcome, after a single term in office, would surely doom the relationship to end in divorce.

At the 1998 state election, the Coalition recorded a primary vote of 31.2% (-0.8% on this Newspoll), with the ALP scoring 39% (+5%), the Greens 2.4% (-5.6%), the Australian Democrats 1.6% (who? 🙂  ) and “Others” 3.2%.

The argument can be made, with some credibility, that variance in the ALP/Greens numbers cancel each other out, given the division in the vote of the Left has become more entrenched in the years since; the point is that the then-Coalition result is very similar to the LNP figure in Newspoll today, whilst the combined ALP/Greens numbers are almost identical.

So, too, is the level of support recorded by One Nation at the 1998 election (22.9%) and what appears to be the level of support identified by Newspoll for Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party, which is tucked away in a vote for “Others” that Newspoll puts at 24%, and which — with the Katter numbers already split from it — can only, mostly, be Palmer’s.

The 1998 state election returned 44 ALP, 32 Coalition, 11 One Nation and two Independent MPs; provided they renominate it’s quite conceivable those Independents (Liz Cunningham in Gladstone and Peter Wellington in Nicklin) could, yet again, be re-elected.

And whilst it is premature to claim this Newspoll would see 11 PUP MPs elected — the spread of the vote, its concentration, the precise level of support (which is unknown) and the conduct of an actual election campaign are all variables — the risk is readily and soberingly apparent.

It has to be remembered that the Palmer United Party is, at its root, a protest vehicle born from Palmer’s dissatisfaction with the Frankenstein LNP creature he funded, helped to create, and found refused to do what he wanted it to do when elected to government.

Unlike One Nation — which was fuelled by redneck prejudices, irrespective of whatever basis in reason its founder insisted the party rested upon — PUP is promoted as a showy and populist avenue through which to “kick the bastards” by voting for someone “different.”

And the spectre of Palmer flexing his muscles in Canberra has already shown that despite the trashy rhetoric and silly stunts he’s prepared to engage in to win attention and votes, the wish list of his business interests remains very much foremost on the Palmer United Party’s agenda.

Unlike One Nation — which contested the 1998 election with no MPs — Palmer has two MPs that defected from the LNP, and a “parliamentary leader” in Alex Douglas who, in reality, isn’t a leader’s bootlace. Yet in the turgid world of Palmer politics, this is no obstacle; the only apparent prerequisite to be a “leader” in the Palmer United Party is a capacity to execute instructions from Palmer himself, a task even Douglas should find few problems in discharging.

Yet just like One Nation, the PUP is big on the rhetoric of unity, with its slogan of “Unifying All Australians.” The reality, of course, is that like Hanson’s outfit in the 1990s the objective is destruction: for One Nation, the task was to bring gun-toting bigotry into the mainstream; for Palmer, it is exacting revenge on the conservative parties for not delivering the outcomes he sought.

Clive Palmer likes to claim the Abbott government was only elected on PUP preferences, a dubious contention at best (and one we might examine at another time). But the arithmetic of Newspoll’s numbers suggests that whatever the claim, PUP support in Queensland is leaking fairly strongly toward the ALP — hardly an outcome a genuine conservative would seek to perpetrate if his motives were based in anything other than extracting vengeance.

The variable now — as it was for One Nation in 1998 — is Queensland’s Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) system, and whilst I remain a staunch supporter of OPV (or, even better, First Past The Post) it throws up a quandary for the LNP to which there is no easy answer.

Does it deal with Palmer? The turncoat billionaire has already demonstrated in Canberra that his support invariably comes with endless strings, conditions and qualifications, and to entertain it runs the risk that like any exercise in appeasement, doing deals with Palmer will eventually run up against a demand the LNP cannot or will not agree to. At that point, the destruction of order on the Queensland Right will be atomic in scale and effect.

Or does it put Palmer last, and attempt to cut him out? This was the strategy pursued to disastrous electoral effect by the Coalition in Queensland in 1998, and which played a substantial role in delivering 11 mostly Coalition seats to One Nation on a plate. Yet negotiating preference deals with Palmer would merely perpetuate the sense of obligation that he clearly wishes to foster — and to fester — and the price of accommodating the obsequious Douglas is one LNP hardheads should rightly baulk at paying.

Today’s Newspoll in Queensland is a stark warning to the LNP that unless it does something dramatic — and quickly — there is a real risk Labor could slip through the middle and back into office, as it did in 1998 when 39% of the vote was enough to give it 44 of 89 seats as support for the Right splintered between the Coalition and One Nation.

Should a repeat ensue, there is no guarantee Labor couldn’t inflict the same damage on the LNP at a subsequent election as Beattie did in the wipeout election of 2001. Palaszczuk may not be popular, but she isn’t stupid, and Beattie — initially no more popular than Palaszczuk is now — had the resources and smarts around him to entrench Labor in office once it had its fingernails on the precipice in 1998.

Interestingly, the combined Coalition/One Nation vote in 1998 of 54% is virtually identical to the combined LNP/PUP vote today’s Newspoll records and again, the parallels are too stark to ignore.

Despite OPV, the flow of Greens preferences to Labor will be stronger at a state election than the 50% exhaustion rate in 2012 might otherwise suggest.

To compound matters, the LNP has an additional (and urgent) problem in what it does about Newman in Ashgrove; to run a line that is tantamount to Newman claiming that if he loses his seat, he loses his seat is simply not good enough, and will only fuel any spillover to Palmer by disaffected LNP voters who can’t even be certain of who they’re voting for.

Should former member for Ashgrove Kate Jones nominate against Newman, I think any slim prospect he would retain the seat would instantly disappear.

This column has, historically, been scathing of the member for Moggill — former Liberal leader Bruce Flegg — and his continued presence in the safest conservative seat in Brisbane when, on purely political criteria, his career should have ended after the debacle he presided over in 2006, a judgement reinforced by his ill-fated stint as minister for Public Works and Housing in 2012.

One way or another, the LNP has to get rid of Flegg, and if not to make way for Newman then to preselect a better candidate who, in time, might play a prominent role in the next generation of conservative leadership in Queensland.

And if it declines to find Newman a more solid electorate to contest, it needs to work out — quickly — who its replacement leader will be after a state election, and build his profile as a credible Premier in short order.

To me, the only plausible candidate is the member for Clayfield and Treasurer, Tim Nicholls; if the LNP experiment has taught Queensland’s conservatives anything, it must be that despite the government’s problems, they will only win with a “Brisbane Liberal” (or a similar identity from the urban south-east) leading them: the days of cow cockies winning elections in Queensland ended almost 30 years ago.

The alternative is current deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, so unpopular that making him leader would render any re-election campaign next year pointless.

I think Queenslanders need to ponder whether they want the ALP restored to office; to do so would give the green light to a resumption of everything they hurled it from office for last time. Putting Labor into government in Queensland would be to renege on the defeat inflicted upon it in 2012. It would be much harder to make the case for its removal a second time over the same list of alleged misdeeds.

Central to this consideration is support for Palmer, which is dangerously misguided at best and potentially cataclysmic to the interests of sound government in the Sunshine State at worst.

As I said at the outset, it is a politically dangerous pastime to tell voters they got their decision wrong.

But in spite of the faults of both the LNP and of Queensland Labor, there is absolutely nothing to merit support for Palmer on any objective criteria apart from a desire to stir up trouble and watch the fallout.

The example of the 1998 election provides a timely reminder of exactly how that fallout is likely to look.

And if today’s Newspoll is in any way representative of how Queenslanders will vote come polling day, then their judgement will amount to nothing more than one big mistake: just like the election of 11 One Nation MPs 16 years ago has indisputably proven to be.



For The Good Of The Labor Party, Bill Shorten Must Resign

THERE IS LITTLE to like about Bill Shorten, and nothing to suggest he would be any better as Prime Minister than the great Labor failures of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard; his moribund party is languishing, and the template to date for a “Shorten government” suggests it deserves to do so. Too many questions hang over Shorten’s head to allow him to present as a viable alternative to Tony Abbott. The best interests of his party demand that he resign.

Somewhere in his heart of hearts Bill Shorten must realise, however unwillingly, that the dream is dead.

Right from the start — when Shorten momentarily became the acceptable public face of the union movement during the Beaconsfield mine disaster — the portents for his limitless ambitions were not good; even then, as Shorten was impressing ordinarily Australians riveted to their television sets, the people who knew him best (most notably his successor as AWU National Secretary, Paul Howes) were muttering ominously that all Shorten was good for was finding media opportunities to enhance his profile, leaving the donkey work and the heavy lifting to those around him.

Nothing has changed, and today The Red And The Blue calls on the so-called “leader” of the ALP to relinquish his position, and to stand down: for the good of his party, to protect the reputation of politics and government, and in the bests interests of Australia.

I will set out the political background that underpins my case — which, stripped of the cloak of iffy opinion poll numbers, reveals Shorten as a mediocrity at best — before we get to the real substance of the issue, from which he has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Bill Shorten has become the unbridled political liability this column forecast when he first announced his attention to contest the ALP leadership.

Had it not been for a union stitch-up of the votes of ALP MPs in Labor’s ridiculous leadership election last year, Shorten wouldn’t even be leading it; more than 60% of the rank and file Labor membership — under rules implemented by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd — voted for “the other guy,” Anthony Albanese. Had Albanese prevailed, the ALP might not now be sitting on a primed nuclear device that is ready to explode.

On almost every performance indicator that can be applied to a political leader, Bill Shorten can objectively be judged a failure.

In government, he was a mediocre minister who proved more adept at exercising disloyalty to a procession of leaders and wielding the knife than he did at contributing anything of real value to the political process, electoral bribes and stunts notwithstanding; it was hardly a credible grounding for the thankless but crucial role of leading Labor in opposition, but with the might and power of union numbers and clout at his disposal, such niceties were never going to bother him.

His pitch for the Labor leadership constituted little more than a nauseatingly brazen attempt to pander to minorities; once victorious, however, any such concerns were quickly dispensed with, as Shorten’s sole focus became negativity at any cost. Neither approach — irrespective of any finger-wagging about what Tony Abbott did in opposition — is indicative of a particularly gifted leader.

After eight months as opposition leader, there is nothing Shorten has done that marks him out as valuable to his party; Shorten is an unexceptional individual at best who has played a very poor hand with the aces and trumps he was dealt.

At every juncture, the “opposition” of Labor has been built on overreach and flagrant lies; the early decision by Treasurer Joe Hockey to seek an increase in the debt ceiling from $300bn to $500bn — to accommodate spending commitments Labor itself had legislated — was deliberately misrepresented as the Abbott government “putting debt up to $500bn.” The present campaign of deceit, suggesting $80bn in cuts to health and education, is another lie based on nothing more than the fact Labor’s unlegislated promises were killed off by its election defeat last year. These are but two examples. There are plenty of others.

And this overreach has continued in the wake of a tough budget that was always going to be required to fix the damage Labor did in office: Abbott was a liar, Labor said; he’d broken all kinds of election promises, Labor said, despite the fact Abbott had been clear on election eve that whilst he famously ruled out “changes” to a number of areas of government expenditure, he was also explicit that once the true state of the budget was discovered after the election, the Coalition “might have to do some things that aren’t popular” — and that that involved breaking promises.

My point is that to date, the ALP’s performance has been based on the lowest possible mechanism in politics: abject dishonesty. This is nothing new when it comes to the Labor Party, of course; it believes that lying to what it thinks are stupid voters is the easy ticket to winning elections. The difference is that for the time being, whatever is done in Labor’s name is Bill Shorten’s responsibility.

So far, the indications are that “dumb voters” are not buying it.

Labor sycophants (and those, admittedly, whose interest in politics doesn’t extend any deeper than the surface) will argue that Labor is poised to make a stunning electoral comeback. The polls have it ahead by a mile. Abbott is “toast,” and Shorten will terminate a first-term government for the first time since 1931.

Certainly, Labor enjoys election-winning leads in most opinion polls right now. But against a backdrop of unpopular government cuts and some savagely punitive revenue measures, its primary vote in most of those polls is only a percentage point or two, on average, above the 35% it recorded at last year’s election. The electorate is pensive, restless, and angry. But this does not mean the government will be defeated. In fact, with most of the Coalition’s lost support literally parked with anyone but Labor, it could be soundly argued that Shorten and his leadership strategy have already sown the seeds of another election defeat.

And if Labor activists want to own the two-party versions of those polls as what Malcolm Turnbull would call “the unvarnished truth,” they must also own the twin realities that a) Labor’s two-party position, averaged across the reputable polls, is already deteriorating, and b) that irrespective of how survey respondents say they will allocate their preferences, they rate Shorten personally only a shade more highly than they do Abbott — a leader Labor has spent almost five years unsuccessfully trying to destroy with defamatory smears and filthy tactics.

To date, the only new policy Shorten has suggested a Labor government would pursue is the abolition of the private health insurance rebate — something which, if implemented, would throw healthcare in Australia into chaos, as some $12 billion per annum in non-government health expenditure is yanked out of the health system overnight.

If this type of kneejerk approach to populist politics is indicative of what Shorten believes to be an appropriate preparation for government, then Labor will find no electoral succour where its policies are concerned. It is little wonder this is Labor’s only offering to date, and Labor is just lucky the government hasn’t ripped this half-baked idea to shreds in public just yet.

But it will. Nothing is surer.

As Coalition support continues to recover in the aftermath of the budget, the spotlight on Shorten’s leadership will intensify. The picture I have painted thus far is of a poor leader achieving moderate short-term success by highly dubious means. When Shorten becomes the issue, the bomb Labor is sitting on will explode. And with so few genuine credit points to show for his time in the leadership to date, this in turn will destroy both Shorten and the party he professes to love — unless he does the honourable thing and resigns.

Already, the Heydon Royal Commission is bearing fruit; a procession of Labor and union figures compelled under oath to dump on each other and air their rancid laundry is yielding up revelations that would almost certainly see prominent identities in both arms of the labour movement jailed were they to withstand being tested in Court during any consequent prosecution of criminal charges.

Already, Shorten is being adversely named in testimony.

The Labor response to allegations around inducements allegedly offered by Shorten during his tenure at the head of the AWU, or buckets of cash allegedly proffered in exchange for silence or favours, has been to go on the attack: attack the witness making the allegations, and buckle up to ride out the ensuing storm.

But these are matters being raised under oath, and in line with the legal standing of a Royal Commission, will be rigorously tested. If there is any case to answer, criminal charges will be laid — including against Shorten, who might be as innocent as his apparatchiks viciously protest, or he might not. Time — as it always does — will tell.

This is the point: the purpose of the inquiry is to establish once and for all who did what, to whom, when, and to proceed accordingly.

And whether or not Shorten is ever found guilty of anything, his background as a prominent official within the union movement means that if a plethora of his old comrades end up going down over institutionalised union corruption and criminal misconduct, Shorten is nonetheless likely to cop a direct political hit: collateral damage suffered by association. That, aside from anything else, is beyond his (or Labor’s) control.

It is the same story when it comes to the criminal investigation that is currently underway into rape allegations made against Shorten that stem from a Labor Youth camp in the 1980s.

Based on his contribution to date in the political sense Bill Shorten is worthless to Labor anyway; any “value” he offers could be substituted instantly by any of his potential replacements as ALP leader.

Yet the same exacting standards of propriety the ALP relentlessly demands of its opponents dictate that its leader — under criminal investigation and facing God-knows-what from the Heydon Commission —  must take the honourable course of resignation.

When he was opposition leader, Tony Abbott faced relentless calls from ALP figures — including Shorten — to quit over unproven allegations that he punched a wall. Punched a wall. If it were Abbott facing down allegations of rape and union misconduct rather than Shorten, how would Labor respond?

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sindodinis voluntarily stood aside earlier this year after being adversely named at ICAC, and whilst no finding of corruption against him was made, it seems unlikely Sinodinis will be able to return to federal Cabinet any time soon. Again, the braying Labor hordes saw to it that Sinodinis’ position was untenable unless he stepped aside during ICAC’s investigations into allegations into him.

Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell quit over an undeclared bottle of wine he was gifted. Yes, he did the wrong thing. But failing to declare a bottle of wine pales in comparison to allegations of rape and official misconduct.

In the final analysis, the events and circumstances of the nine months since last year’s election have conspired to thwart Shorten; and these have converged to place him in a position that by the standards he and his associates repeatedly demand of their opponents, he has no alternative than to relinquish.

Shorten may be guilty of everything he is accused of. He may be as innocent and as pure as the driven snow.

But if he is genuine in his commitment to the best interests of his party, and serious about upholding the rigorous standards he claims should be met by its elected representatives, Shorten is cornered. He has nowhere to go. He must resign.


PLEASE NOTE: in the wake of Police declining to take further action against Shorten in relation to the allegations referred to in this article, a further post regarding his leadership was published on 21 August 2014.




Did Baillieu Tape Leak Over Abortion? Sackings Should Follow

THE NOTION this week’s sensationally leaked conversation between a journalist and a former Premier may have been motivated by abortion as an issue is, as things stand, as plausible an explanation as any; should it prove to be so, the culprits must immediately be rounded up, dismissed from their jobs and sinecures, and expelled from the Liberal Party. Abortion is an explosive social issue. It is not suitable ammunition for public factional brawling.

I acknowledge I have remained silent for a few days this week (busy, busy) but readers will know that as ever, I have been keeping an eye on events; I received the now-infamous email on Tuesday morning from a non-existent member of the Liberal Party seeking to distribute the conversation between former Premier Ted Baillieu and The Age‘s reporter Farrah Tomazin — and I do not intend to oxygenate the recording, its transcript or the email within which they were disseminated by republishing them here.

In fact, it had been my intention not to comment on the issue at all; whilst I am personally outraged at what appears to have been a stunning act of bastardry committed against the Victorian Liberal Party ahead of a difficult state election, I was initially disinclined to draw any further attention to it by discussing it, and I indicated as much to the party’s State Director, Damien Mantach, when he contacted me earlier in the week as part of an audit to establish which party members had received the offending email and which hadn’t.

But in light of a conspiracy theory that emerges in the Editorial of today’s edition of the Herald Sun in Melbourne, I wanted to make some remarks in reply.

Broadly, it has been speculated in the mainstream press this week that the potential culprit (or culprits) at the top of the “suspect list” were senior advisers working out of a federal Liberal MP’s electorate office in Melbourne; whether that eventually proves to be so or not, the Herald Sun has today made the case that the entire episode may have been driven by anti-abortionist elements within the party rather than a more orthodox factional ambush aimed at crippling the obvious target, Premier Denis Napthine.

Whether Ms Tomazin’s tape recorder was stolen, as it has been claimed, or that a more sinister explanation lies behind an incendiary background conversation between herself and Baillieu becoming public, there are two facts that seem set in stone: one, that an attempt to derail the Coalition’s campaign for re-election in what was already a tough political environment has been made; and two, that the private contact details of grassroots Liberal Party members have been accessed and obtained for the purposes of making that attempt.

It is my view that once the person (or persons) responsible have been identified, the Party can and should humiliate them publicly, dismiss them from any paid employment they hold at the discretion of either the party or an elected representative, expel them from the Liberal Party, and — if it can be established that offences may have been committed — to take any and all available steps to have them prosecuted.

I conveyed this view, in similar terms, to Mr Mantach in my email to him on Wednesday night.

The abortion angle raised by the Herald Sun simply adds another piece to the puzzle; it, too, may be a correct assessment or it may prove to be a red herring. Either way, with that explosive issue now squarely on the table in the context of the investigation, there are a few points that have to be made.

I think readers know that my personal position on abortion is a reasonably conservative one; with the exception of cases of rape or incest, or where carrying a foetus to term would either endanger the life of the mother or result in a severely disabled (or still) birth, I am not in favour of abortion and would never utter a syllable to advocate abortion on demand.

Having said that, my opinion is exactly that: my opinion. Others will make their own judgements according to their values, and their own decisions; and I phrase it thus because those who wish to procure an abortion will do so irrespective of whether it is safe or not, legal or not, and regardless of the proliferation or otherwise of facilities at which to do so. I’m not having a bob each way in making that observation; it is a recognition of the reality that whether you like it or not, the continued occurrence of abortion is a hard, cold fact.

If a situation is to exist in any mainstream political party whereby hatchet jobs, factional ambushes and the attempted termination (sorry for using the word) of the political careers of opponents are pursued on the basis of such an inflammatory issue, then as a society we’ve got a very, very big problem.

The Herald Sun is right; if advisers to federal MPs (or to cabinet ministers) are pursuing an internal agenda with engineering a savage lurch to the Right over abortion as its objective, they must be dismissed from their positions; if an actual federal MP is directly involved, then disciplinary action including disendorsement and expulsion from the Liberal Party must also be pursued.

Aside from anything else, there is a clear delineation of jurisdictional responsibilities in relation to abortion: it is the preserve of the states, and as much as people involved in federal politics might protest that they remain members of a state-based division of the party, the fact is that from the perspective of operational executive government a line would have been crossed if their involvement were to be confirmed.

And it goes without saying that any other members, employees or associates of the Party found to have engaged in this stunt should be thrown overboard without delay or compunction — irrespective of whoever they are.

Much has been made in recent months of the intention of disgraced renegade MP Geoff Shaw’s intentions to introduce a Private Member’s Bill into state Parliament, seeking to alter Victoria’s abortion laws and tighten them to reflect his deeply held, fundamentalist Christian views — a charade, if and when it eventuates, that the Napthine government will need like the proverbial hole in the head.

Stirring up the passions and hatreds that invariably accompany debate of this issue is irresponsible and counter-productive at the best of times; making it an explicitly targeted political football aimed at sabotaging a government led by moderate Liberals is reprehensible.

And the Coalition government in Victoria faces a fight to be re-elected: invigorated by the ascension of Napthine to the Premiership last year, blessed with what barely passes for “an opposition” and a ridiculous, puerile incompetent as opposition leader — and armed with the best budget position of any state — Napthine should be an unbackable favourite to win.

Despite the problem of Geoff Shaw and the political trickle-down effects of the Abbott government’s budget, I believed until recently that Napthine was a certainty. Now, I’m not so sure — and if the Coalition loses office, this episode over the leaked conversation with Baillieu will probably be seen as the final nail in its coffin.

To be fair, there are a couple of the items on Shaw’s list of demands that could be readily agreed and implemented to try to shut the matter down without causing an almighty detonation in the immediate runup to the state election in November; for example, the requirement that a doctor opposed to abortion be legally compelled to refer a patient requesting it to another doctor who will provide access to one can and should be rescinded.

Doing so would remove a moral and ethical imposition on the doctor opposed to abortion, whilst making no practical difference whatsoever: the reality is that doctors prepared to provide access to abortion services are publicly known, and will continue to be so.

But for the most part, abortion is a matter last dealt with extensively in Victoria just a few years ago. Little meaningful purpose is to be served by reopening the can of worms now.

Aside from what I have said in this article I will make no further comment on the Baillieu tapes scandal until the investigations to identify those responsible have been concluded.

But if the Herald Sun is right — and the whole thing was orchestrated as part of a push for hardline abortion reform by elements inside the Liberal Party with too much of an idea of their own importance — then that’s pretty sick, the outrage of the injury the matter seems certain to inflict on the Napthine government notwithstanding.


Higher Taxes, Death Duties If We Win: Labor

HIGHER TAXES ON capital gains, an increase in the company tax rate, the reintroduction of death duties and a new 60% income tax rate on personal income above $150,000 per annum will form the basis of the ALP’s pitch to return to office, under policy directions outlined by Labor today; Labor has committed to ending “disadvantage” by linking it directly to wealth, and the measures it has announced are tantamount to nothing more than socialism.

Labor and its “hit the rich” mentality took a leap back into the 1960s today; its leader, Bull Shittin, provided some long-awaited detail around his party’s policy objectives for the next Labor government, and a cynical mind would say the ALP has learned nothing from its past mistakes.

Shittin — delivering the keynote speech at the annual Commonwealth Media Forum luncheon — outlined Labor’s plans for what the next ALP administration would do; the centrepiece of his announcements was a new, 60% income tax bracket for taxpayers earning $150,000 per annum and higher.

“Too many millionaires in this country are getting a free ride on the backs of the poor,” Shittin thundered, to the applause of the assembled journalists and press gallery stalwarts. “It’s only fair that they pay their share. The richest 1% of Australians own 30% of this country’s wealth, and we intend to make it impossible for them to continue to fatten their share portfolios while others are living in poverty.”

Other measures announced by Shittin include the creation of a two-tiered corporate taxation regime, with the present company tax rate of 29% remaining unchanged for businesses posting annual profits of $1.5 million or less, and a new, 60% windfall tax rate on all commercial profits above that threshold.

And in a controversial move seemingly designed to help Labor to crash through its election hurdle (or, at the very least, to crash, if an obvious high-stakes gamble fails to pay off), Shittin announced the reintroduction of estate taxes as a new Commonwealth revenue stream, with a duty of 17.5% payable on all deceased estates with a total assessable value of $1.5 million or more — including the market value of the primary family home.

Partly to discourage the ante mortem transfer of assets to relatives and partly to complement the new revenue stream created by the reintroduction of inheritance taxes, a Labor government would abolish all existing exemptions and discounts in relation to the tax treatment of capital gains, and legislate for tax on capital gains on commercial and residential property transfers to become payable at the point of transfer of titles and at a flat rate of 50%.

The monies raised by these new revenue streams would be used to fully fund the Gillard government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, which Shittin acknowledged had never been adequately or properly funded: “The sick and the disabled have always been the first priority of a Labor government,” he told the Media Forum audience. “We have made mistakes in the past, and one we must never again make is to allow our opponents to accuse us of looking after people by promising what we can never afford.”

It was a beautiful irony, a grinning Shittin added, that “the rich” would be compelled to spend a chunk of their money on poor people in death that they would mostly never have voluntarily done in life. “Death is a leveller,” he said solemnly. “Everyone has an obligation to help those less fortunate themselves. These changes mean, quite literally, that everyone will do so.”

He also told the assembled group of journalists that some of the money raised would be used to increase welfare payments, which he claimed were “an indictment” on all Australians as they condemned “generations” to abject poverty through the inadequate provision of humane government assistance for those in genuine need.

(There was no reference to any tightened means tests or other thresholds that might stop this heightened pot of largesse being defrauded, but I digress).

Other measures announced by Shittin this afternoon included the abolition of the Private Health Insurance Rebate, which he claimed would lead to Medicare becoming the truly universal national health service Labor had always envisaged; Shittin was dismissive of a suggestion from a questioner that by engineering the virtual collapse of private healthcare in Australia, Medicare would be overrun and swamped to the point it became completely dysfunctional.

“We’re not abandoning private healthcare,” Shittin said. “We propose simply to remove government from any involvement in a private enterprise in health designed to be of the most benefit to the richest Australians. Those members of our community remain free to support private healthcare if they choose to do so, or to buy health insurance cover over and above the service Medicare will provide. We won’t fund these activities any further.”

And a Labor government would create a permanent exemption under anti-discrimination and trade practice legislation for those businesses wishing to hire unionised labour exclusively. “The union way is the strong way, the right way, the safe way,” he intoned to his audience. “Our historic partners in the union movement have achieved workplace improvements that have benefited, and continue to benefit, all Australians. We think it is right to give a little back to them in the form of recognition of their special place in the labour history of this country.”

Shittin’s remarks received an enthusiastic endorsement from prominent figures within the audience.

Trade Union Council president Edgar Scunthorpe described the event as “an historic day” on which the unions took the first step to resuming their rightful place of leadership of workplace relations in Australia after being forced to suffer “decades of Tory assault.” “The lies and misinformation of those Tory bastards have almost driven us off the battlefield over the past 20 years,” he told Shittin after the address. “Now — we’re back!”

Welfare Advocacy and Care Commission (WACCO) Executive Chairwoman Fiona Vulture was too overcome with jubilant emotions to comment when approached for her reaction by reporters.

But a dissenting voice was raised by a spokesman for Health minister Peter Dutton, who said the Medicare levy would have to be increased to 5% of incomes to fund the vast additional strain Medicare would come under if the private health rebate were to be abolished.

And Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a doorstop press conference at Parliament House that he had watched the Shittin speech on the simulcast televised by Sky News. “Bull Shittin’s speech was a soliloquy of political suicide,” Abbott remarked. “Government and socialism are not the same thing; government has no place to act as a kind of Robin Hood that enforces equal outcomes in life on its citizens. I have every faith in the good sense of my fellow Australians that they will reject Mr Shittin and his socialist prescriptions for Australia. Mr Shittin would destroy our free Australian way of life based on opportunities for everyone to achieve the very best they can.”


Now, let’s take a step back.

This is very clearly a parody. And yet it has exactly the same basis in fact as this despicable piece of propaganda.

That flyer — circulating freely and widely on the internet and in social media — is a flagrant misrepresentation of the program being pursued by the government, and the Labor Party knows it.

There is no $80bn funding cut. There was never $80bn to cut: just an unfunded ALP promise that was never even legislated under the cover of more borrowing to pay for it. The Coalition is under no obligation to honour the (beaten) Labor Party’s election promises.

The federal government doesn’t run a single school or employ a single teacher, and whilst it administers one small hospital in Hobart, it doesn’t employ a single nurse or doctor, or run a single hospital anywhere else in the country, either.

If the Liberal Party began making representations of Labor policy in the terms I have here, the ALP would be absolutely incensed, and rightly so.

It brings me to my point: the ALP (and its fellow travellers in the union movement, the ABC, Fairfax and elsewhere — and in cahoots with the Greens) would be so outraged if the Liberal Party actually started using blatant lies about the Labor agenda of the kind I have fictitiously created here that the resulting stink would probably render the Coalition unelectable.

Why should Labor be allowed to get away with it, as it has been and seems likely to continue to?

I think we’re at the point regulations governing political advertising are required, that subject political parties to standards in truth and fact in their collateral that — clearly — are obviated by their absence, and efforts of this kind by the ALP simply prove the point.



For those readers awaiting the special Bill Shorten article, this isn’t it: keep watching toward the end of the week.



Greste Travesty A Pointer To Muslim Clash With West

THE JAILING IN EGYPT of Australian journalist (and Al-Jazeera reporter) Peter Greste is an outrage; this indecent act by a Muslim regime against the free press is to be deplored, yet it stands as the latest pointer to fundamentalist Islam flexing its muscles against dissidents, factions within its ranks, and toward the West. Condemnation is mandatory, but it is incumbent on the free world to recognise the growing danger of the Middle East.

I intend to keep my remarks circumspect on this issue; not because of any particular sensitivity or reticence about discussing issues with the brutal face of Islam at their core, but simply because I don’t think the jailing of Peter Greste is the end of the issue by any stretch, and I think we’ll be discussing it again soon enough.

I will however admit to an aversion to covering issues involving Islam that has seen such matters avoided here; ever since a piece almost three years ago advocating the deportation of fundamentalist Muslims in Sydney who rioted — and I’m not even going to repost the link — that article stands as the most-read, by a country mile, of anything I have posted on this site since it started.

I understand there is a great deal of angst and anger in Australia (and elsewhere) over the apparent rise of Islam and I am very reluctant to stoke that; yet even discussion of such fraught matters in the calmest and most even fashion is enough to set passions and tempers alight, and the objective of this column is to provide a conversation forum over political matters, not to act as a lightning rod for religiously based (and/or bigoted) abuse.

Today, however, we will just have to run the gauntlet.

We take a lot for granted in Australia, and it frustrates me enormously that at times, those who take the greatest liberties with the freedom this country confers on its people are those whose words and deeds stand the greatest prospect of irretrievably compromising it.

I am singling out the hardcore Left, with its advocacy of open borders, its calls for “tolerance” of customs and creeds utterly alien to and at odds with the Western democratic society Australia is, and its penchant for running around the world lecturing others on the “moral” shortcomings of their ways — even going so far, as Communist Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon did, as to deploy this dubious practice in the face of the military junta running Sri Lanka. And for good measure — just to really tempt fate, as if her stupidity in doing so weren’t enough to compromise her safety — the Senator didn’t even bother to get her visa arrangements sorted out properly before she arrived in Colombo to do it.

I begin my remarks thus for the simple reason that in stark contrast to such idiocy, the single most important cornerstone on which democracy rests is the freedom of the press, and its ability to report without fear or favour; it’s freedom that has been censored and regulated out of existence in scores of countries, and it’s a freedom the Left has recently had its go at emasculating in Australia as well.

Fortunately, the Gillard government’s media “reforms” were abandoned by Parliament, but for a country as free as Australia to have come as close as a vote of 76 Senators to fatally compromising this basic tenet of a democratic society is a stark illustration of just how delicately poised freedom really is, even in a great and robust democracy such as ours.

It is particularly sickening, therefore, to have learnt last night that Australian journalist Peter Greste — a correspondent working for the Qatar-based Arab news network Al-Jazeera — was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in Egypt on charges of producing false news to “defame Egypt.”

According to the charges, Greste — along with colleagues also sentenced to imprisonment — were alleged to have “aided terrorists” and “endangered national security.”

I will admit that I have followed the Greste matter only loosely since his arrest in December: not through lack of interest or sympathy, but simply because this year (as readers know) has been extremely busy for me away from this column, with matters of business obviously having to take precedence over what is, in the end, an extra-curricular activity.

But I have followed it closely enough to know there is a deep wrong that has been visited upon Greste and his colleagues, who have been spoken of across the (free) world as having been jailed for simply doing their job: reporting the news, investigating the facts of matters they were in Egypt to report on, and conveying those findings to their audience.

Instead, they have been accused of plotting with the Muslim Brotherhood — a radical organisation behind Egypt’s deposed former President Mohamed Morsi — and jailed.

The sentiments expressed on all sides in Australia in the ensuing hours has been singular in its unity, and correct in its message: that journalism is not a crime, and that every avenue possible must be explored and exhausted to undo what is not just an outrage against Greste and his colleagues, but a spiritual attack on a pillar of the freedom our way of life is predicated on.

I note that the ALP under Bill Shorten has pledged bipartisanship in this enterprise; it must observe this pledge in its deeds, and politicians, opinion leaders and other prominent figures across the spectrum in this country ought desist from internecine, petty political muck-slinging on this issue: the sobering truth is that what has happened to Greste would have occurred irrespective of who sat in government. It is best the politicians get on with doing something constructive about it, rather than bickering about who might be to blame or who could make a better fist of what.

For the Greens, it is an opportunity to display some maturity and some decency.

But as unpalatable as this may be — or as awkward a time as it is to raise it — I think one of the reflections that has to be shared on this event is that it’s a very big signpost to what is increasingly growing into a very big problem: namely, the radicalisation of fundamentalist Islam in its heartland, and the danger it poses to free societies around the world.

Whatever else may have motivated the obscenity of Greste’s jailing, the “charges” themselves all but concede the fact they are rooted in the struggle between competing, religiously based factions for control of Egypt — and, by extension, for the kind of fundamentalist Islamic society that emerges under the tutelage of whichever of these is ultimately triumphant.

This is a relevant — and increasingly unavoidable — consideration when viewed against what is happening elsewhere in the Islamic world.

In Afghanistan, the hardline, aggressive Taliban movement — which harboured and nourished Muslim terrorists in their jihad against the West — stands on the brink of reclaiming control of its country, barely a decade after being driven from power by US forces in retaliation for its part in the atrocities committed on American soil on 11 September 2001.

In Iraq and in Syria, the so-called ISIS movement has all but achieved the dissolution of those countries in its quest to create a radical, fundamentalist Islamic state, with the objective its borders will then expand, consuming — and converting — everything before them.

Any opposition, as the storyline goes, will simply be erased from existence.

The aspect of ISIS’ activities that made me sit up straight was the arrest of the Iraqi judge who condemned former dictator Saddam Hussein to death for crimes against humanity: the judge was tortured for two days and then executed, according to the best available reports. As a symbol, it is difficult to find anything more powerful, or more ominous as a signal of this murderous movement’s intent.

But the problem is bigger than even that.

Pakistan — a Muslim state supposedly allied to the US, despite mountains of anecdotal and hard evidence to suggest it is anything but — already has nuclear arms; there is ample evidence to show that at the very minimum Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia have all variously either sought to acquire these or remain actively committed to doing so, and some of these countries are no friends to the free world.

Iran — whose Islamic rulers are sworn to destroy the USA in a religious jihad — is troubled by the emergence of ISIS, and is said to now be ready to co-operate with the US after years of obfuscation over its own nuclear weapons aspirations. But the motivation is not to be a responsible world citizen: it’s simply to protect its own interests against the quagmire quickly developing in its own back yard; its feud with Uncle Sam might be deferred, but it isn’t being abandoned.

For years, there have been suggestions that Saudi Arabia would become a hotbed of radical Islamic terrorism if the House of Saud were to be overthrown. And elsewhere in the Middle East, smaller, pro-Western countries such as Jordan are being lined up by ISIS to be overrun and subsumed into the radical Muslim state it seeks to create and to perpetuate.

Already we have seen Australian citizens with dual nationality travel to some of these regions to fight; Foreign minister Julie Bishop is to be commended for announcing their Australian passports are to be cancelled, preventing them from returning to Australia.

Of course, such an action deals with the symptom, not the disease; that — to be sure — will continue to fester and spread. And it goes without saying that I haven’t included everything here that belongs on a long list of pretty frightening geopolitical items.

But all of this makes it very easy to see why incidents such as the Muslim riots in Sydney in 2012, or even the uproar in the Victorian city of Bendigo last week when the construction of a mosque was approved by the local city council, provoke such extreme passions among those who are not Islamic, are not necessarily what the Left likes to brand as bigots, but who see what is happening elsewhere in the world and do not wish to see it replicated here.

And these problems, to be sure, are common to the Western democracies of Europe, Britain, the US and Canada: all places in which even 20 years ago there were few or no Muslim communities to speak of, and which all now house Muslim communities that are exploding in size — with great uncertainty and anguish over whether the religion-based horrors unfolding in the Middle East could ever happen in their own countries.

To be emphatic, the problem isn’t with moderate Islam, and a great many decent people are unfairly tarnished with the brush their radicalised brethren — no pun intended — have thrust into the hands of those who “hate Muslims” for no better reason than they feel they can.

But what is happening in the Middle East is truly a cause for alarm.

And with Egypt squarely in the middle of this mess — literally — it is an inescapable consideration in making comment on what has happened to Peter Greste overnight, Melbourne time.

Yes, it is an indecency against free speech and an outrage that should be met with the fiercest of counterpunches, up to and including any and all diplomatic options open to our government, and if that includes measures such as trade embargoes and sanctions if they may assist in securing Greste’s release, then so be it.

But as I said, there is a bigger problem here: the rapidly growing problem of radical, fundamentalist Islam, and the threat it may ultimately pose to the very existence of our way of life.

If there’s one bit of good to come of these events, perhaps it’s that Australians might soberly, and rationally, start to properly discuss an issue over which any kind of dissent has almost been legislated (and “anti-discriminated”) out of existence.

At some point, the issue is going to have to be confronted. And with the Middle East a powderkeg at risk of exploding — with a high-profile Australian in the middle of it, and the imminent and unsavoury prospect of a united, radical Islamic state expanding well beyond the bounds of the Middle East — it might as well be confronted now.



Nielsen: Swing To Coalition, Preferred Leader Ratings

YET ANOTHER POLL showing the Coalition reclaiming lost support is out this morning, with the Fairfax-Nielsen Poll showing Labor’s predictable post-budget lead halved to now stand at 53-47 after preferences; the results are in line with other polling we have been tracking, with the trend back to the government now both unmistakable and gathering pace. Nielsen also asked the “preferred leader” questions — we’ll briefly analyse these as well.

Certainly, any election at which the ALP scored 53% of the vote after preferences is — funnily enough — likely to be won by the ALP.

But as I heard one commentator remark last week, opinion polls canvass people’s views about their voting intention “if an election for the House of Representatives were to be held this weekend” and that, clearly, there is no election on foot at present (the wildest dreams of the Communist Party Greens and the ALP notwithstanding).

It is important to remember that mid-term opinion polling is more likely to favour opposition parties generally, and that after an event of great controversy (such as the recent federal budget) that tendency will almost invariably be more emphatic.

Yet it is equally important to remember that the ALP was thrown from office in a landslide not so long ago, and whilst voters may be angry with some of the measures the Abbott government is attempting to legislate as part of its budget, Labor has offered nothing to indicate what it would do differently, and to date has paid only lipservice to any meaningful attempt to clean up its act as an organisation and as a political entity.

In other words, it should surprise nobody that the polls — from a trend perspective encompassing the major reputable surveys — are, at the very least, returning to a more neutral level.

Nielsen has recorded primary vote support for the Coalition at 39% (+4% since mid-May), with Labor on 37% (-3%), the Greens 13% (-1%), and “Others” — including the Palmer United Party — at 11% (unch). And this, as readers have already seen, translates into the 53-47 headline finding in Labor’s favour.

I have had a look through some historical data overnight (which is a good thing: my memory is formidable but it isn’t infallible, and I would have shortchanged Labor very slightly had I relied on it). The purpose of this was to check out something that has been bugging me about these post-budget polls, and ironically the primary point of the exercise was to quantify something on the Labor side rather than to defend the Liberal tally.

To look at the 26 federal elections in Australia since (and including) 1949, the Coalition has only recorded a primary vote of less than 40% once: in 1998, when the Howard government was re-elected off a primary vote of 39.6%. Even then, the 8.5% polled by One Nation at that election (largely siphoned off the Coalition’s 1996 tally) returned very strongly to Howard through preferences, which (statistically speaking) was the primary reason the government was re-elected despite trailing Labor on primaries.

By contrast, the ALP has, in the past 25 years, recorded a primary vote of more than 40% at just three of the nine elections held since the 1987 double dissolution: in 1993 (when Paul Keating was re-elected), in 1998,* and in 2007 when Kevin Rudd ended 12 years of Coalition rule.

Across the latest round of polling, Labor’s primary vote is averaging a shade better than 36%, and this latest Nielsen poll has the ALP slightly ahead of that marker. But the real reason I wanted to look at historical election numbers is to provide a counterweight to some of the wild (and perhaps understandably enthusiastic) claims of looming electoral Armageddon for the Coalition, and similarly of a smashing return to office pending for Labor.

It is very unlikely that the Coalition will record a vote of less than 40% at an election, and in the unlikely event that it were to do so, an inflated level of support for the Palmer United Party would be the logical explanation. In such an eventuality, most of those votes would flow back to the Coalition on preferences — just as the One Nation votes did in 1998, not that anyone in the conservative parties wants to acknowledge it.

Labor is a different kettle of fish altogether, and despite the residual source of guaranteed additional support in the form of Green preferences, Labor has only won an election once — in 1990 — with a vote of less than 40% (although Gillard achieved minority status in 2010 with 37.9%).

This is a critical point for the simple reason that most of the support the Coalition “lost” in the wake of the budget went to minor parties and the Greens, not directly to Labor; and whilst a poll here and a poll there has shown Labor on a vote with a “4” in front of it, the trend across surveys is a more reliable reading of this kind of research, and on that consideration begs the difference.

Hence the rationale for looking at Labor’s “average” at 36% which, incidentally, is virtually static over the five weeks since the budget, whilst the Coalition number (at about 38%) has already begun inching upwards again. It’s just another way to sift and interpreting the data in trying to get a firm read on the state of the parties, and whilst I certainly have no desire to ever see Labor hold office in Australia, I equally have no desire to present pro-Coalition arguments predicated on an erroneous interpretation of this material, which is why I’ve undertaken the historical snapshot presented here.

And having presented it — let’s get back to the rest of the Nielsen numbers.

Like every other poll since the high water marks achieved by Labor in the immediate aftermath of the budget, Nielsen finds a deterioration in the standing of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten and a corresponding improvement in the position of Prime Minister Tony Abbott; the only variation across the lot of them has been the rate and degree of the change, but the direction has been uniform — and this poll continues the trend.

Having said that, Nielsen does find Shorten to be on firmer ground than almost all of the other surveys, although this is consistent with Nielsen’s numbers for Labor generally being at the upper end of findings across the polls, which it has been more or less since that disgusting, hypocritical “misogyny” speech by Julia Gillard in late 2012.

This month, Nielsen’s results see approval for Shorten at 42% (-5%) with disapproval sitting at 41% (+2%); as Fairfax’s political analyst Mark Kenny rather triumphantly crowed in today’s papers, it sees him “enjoying” a net approval rating of +1%. It’s heroic spin to put on these findings, given any continuation of polling trends is certain to see Shorten slip back into net unpopularity where, arguably, he belongs.

(SPOILER ALERT: Special article on Bill Shorten later this week at The Red And The Blue).

Tony Abbott — as I seem to say a lot — continues to record “Tony Abbott-style” numbers in this survey, although they’re looking up slightly: 35% (+1%) of Nielsen respondents approve of his performance, and 60% (-2%) don’t. It’s nothing for Labor to crow about; the findings are typical of numbers about Abbott for years, and are not in themselves any bar to either his continued leadership of the Liberal Party or to his ability to win another election. But more on that in a moment.

The “preferred PM” measure sees Shorten (47%, -4%) continue to head Abbott (40%, unch): this is a better result for Shorten than he achieves in all of the other major opinion polls but again, the trend of a narrowing of his lead is common to all of them, and in most of the others that lead has been virtually erased.

I come back to the point I made at the outset: these numbers remain positive for Labor overall, but there’s no election this week; for those who sit in Labor shoes that’s possibly a very good thing, because by the time an election does roll around, Labor’s numbers might not be much chop at all.

This is the first poll taken in the washup from Abbott’s successful international trip; ahead lies the change in the composition of the Senate, the impact that event may or may not have on the implementation of the budget and its impact on the polls and, of course, more allegations and revelations from the Heydon Royal Commission into the union movement.

I tend to think the trend away from Labor will continue, but the rest of the year will be a volatile time in Australian politics; as ever, we will wait and see.

Very quickly, I also want to look at the results of questions Nielsen asked its respondents about who their “preferred leaders” of each of the major parties are; I think readers know I think these kinds of questions are absolute drivel, but the Nielsen numbers do warrant mention on a couple of points.

We had a look at a similar survey conducted at the beginning of the month by Morgan Research; I link that article to this because to a large degree my thoughts are the same. The findings of the two, broadly, are the same. But a few points.

Overall, Nielsen finds Malcolm Turnbull the preferred leader of the Liberal Party by a 62-30 margin; among Liberal Party supporters, however, the numbers favour Tony Abbott over Turnbull, 59-39. Just as Morgan found near-absolute unanimity of support for Turnbull over Abbott among those identifying as Labor or Greens voters, it’s a reasonable bet to assume Nielsen has uncovered precisely the same phenomenon.

The hatred of the Left for Abbott is unreasoning, unreasonable, and total. Its penchant for Malcolm Turnbull is similarly unified. Yet the Left can love Malcolm all they like, but they would mostly never vote for him, and this survey once again shows why any fool in the Liberal bunker who sought to draft Turnbull as a “messiah” would be engineering the party’s likely death warrant.

More useful conclusions might be gleaned from Nielsen’s questions over the preferred leadership of the ALP, however; at the headline, Shorten (25%) is found to be preferred over Anthony Albanese (19%) and Tanya Plibersek (17%).

The numbers for the trio in the Morgan survey were 32%, 13% and 16% respectively.

I made the point in my piece on the Morgan findings that the combined numbers for Albanese and Plibersek were almost on par with the support Morgan found for Shorten; in the case of this Nielsen poll, the aggregate of Albanese/Plibersek support is well ahead of that for Shorten.

It might sound like a marginal argument, but I actually think the deterioration in Shorten’s position as “leader” is accelerating more quickly on his own side of the divide than it is in a head-to-head with Abbott and the Liberal Party.

Despite my aversion to this kind of polling some additional research on the question would be useful in either supporting the deduction or to scotch it, but whether Labor wins an election any time soon is one thing; whether Bill Shorten ever becomes Prime Minister is an entirely different proposition altogether, and in my mind the two are mutually exclusive.

As indicated in the body text of this article, I will be writing on Bill Shorten later this week; I can’t commit a precise date on account of various other activities I know are on my slate this week, but I do encourage readers to keep an eye out for it.

It will address the question of Shorten and his “leadership,” and I trust it will prove most illuminating.


*In 1998, the ALP polled primary votes totalling 40.1% of votes cast: the “slight shortchanging” my reliance on memory would have rendered, if unchecked, would still have been to note Labor won the primary vote, but at a level of 39.9% (which for some reason sprang instantly to mind when I considered the respective support for the parties at that election).



In A Lather: It’s Time For Tim Mathieson To Just Shut Up

BACKING UP from his entry to the political fray — launching an unsolicited, unwarranted and malicious attack on Tony Abbott’s wife — former “First Bloke” Tim Mathieson has struck again, threatening a lawsuit against Victorian Premier Denis Napthine for likening his misuse of Julia Gillard’s car to notorious state MP Geoff Shaw. Mathieson, an irrelevance, wasn’t worth a can of beans when Gillard was Prime Minister. Now it is time for him to shut up.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve given readers something to listen to while they read, although right here is something that fits the bill perfectly; I first heard it, horrified, walking through the staff kitchen whilst running the dinner shift in a Brisbane restaurant in late 1994 and never imagined I’d be using it in an article about politics.

Yet here it is: it’s irritating, puerile, and downright tasteless — just like Tim Mathieson, partner of Julia Gillard, the sometime “First Bloke” thrust upon an unreceptive public — and as readers will see, there is a clear connection to shampoo, which has made Mathieson a figure of some infamy in his own right since his girlfriend was ejected from the Prime Ministership. Rather fittingly, its banal lyrics retell, in idiot-simple terms, a story that it’s a shame hasn’t as yet befallen Mathieson. Still, we live in hope…

“Idiot-simple” is an apt term to describe Mathieson, who has unwisely seen fit to leave a message on an answering machine (that also recorded his mobile number) in the Warrnambool electorate office of Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, threatening “legal action against Denis the Vet” if Napthine again mentions him in the Victorian Parliament in relation to the miscreant state MP for Frankston, Geoff Shaw.

And I say that because first and foremost, any idiot with half a clue about how Parliaments in this country work knows that whatever members say inside the chamber, during parliamentary sittings, is subject to parliamentary privilege — and is thus immune from legal proceedings for defamation.

It is clear that Mathieson doesn’t even know this much.

And before I go further (assuming readers have by now listened to the little gem I linked to the second paragraph), those unfamiliar to date with the story can read about it here — and listen to the imbecilic message Mathieson left for “Denis the Vet.”

The problem Mathieson faces at first blush is that there are valid and compelling comparisons to be drawn between Shaw, who was suspended and fined by the Victorian Parliament last week over the misuse of a taxpayer-funded vehicle that he used to drive all over the state and beyond in his private business, and himself — who did practically the same thing in Gillard’s taxpayer-funded vehicle all over Victoria selling shampoo in his job as a sales representative for a haircare products company.

We discussed this at the time, when Geoff Shaw was facing 24 criminal charges — subsequently dropped — over the misuse of his car despite making reimbursing taxpayers for his misdeeds, and when a 10-month fight by then-Prime Minister Gillard to stop the Department of Finance from complying with a decision by the Information Commissioner that certain material should be released under a Freedom of Information request granted in favour of the applicant was finally defeated.

What did this material reveal? That Mathieson had not only been up to the same thing Shaw had, but that Gillard — like Shaw — had repaid monies to the taxpayer in what can only be construed by anyone with a brain as tacit acknowledgement that the breach had been committed.

As I said at the time, for Shaw to face charges over a breach of regulations similar to that which Mathieson appeared to have gotten away scot-free with was eyebrow-raising, to say the least; and as much as Gillard’s standard tactic of attempting to bludgeon unpleasant revelations about herself and those around her into non-existence under the threat of legal proceedings, the public had a right to know what Mathieson had been doing: a contention the Information Commissioner clearly agreed with.

Now, Mathieson appears to be recycling the strategy, and despite the suggestion some of the Premier’s staff might have been shocked to hear him threaten to have Napthine hauled before the law, the fact remains that this is laughable — and it is Mathieson who is the joke.

This boofhead has, since Gillard was removed from office, shown a propensity for attracting headlines for all the wrong reasons; only last month he tried to damage the reputation of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s wife, Margie, in a vicious and disgusting personal attack that was as lacking in decency as it was in any basis in fact or reason.

At the time, I suggested that Mathieson might have been used as a cat’s paw for forces elsewhere in the ALP, and that he might have been put up to it; with this latest episode involving Denis Napthine, however, it’s difficult to give Mathieson the benefit of the doubt in such a way: after all, in this case, there is nobody else to handball the responsibility to.

This time, Mathieson is on his own.

We’re talking about an individual who is well-known for being “seen” at the “right” events, and getting himself invited to make a slew of public appearances at functions during Gillard’s Prime Ministership — often flying solo — that serve little more purpose than to pander to some weird cult of celebrity that, to be frank, is scraping the dregs of the barrel for “stars” where the likes of Tim Mathieson is concerned.

And whilst I acknowledge he spent a lot of his time on worthy causes whilst “First Bloke,” the merit of those activities really has to be weighed against both his propensity to turn up to the opening of an envelope and these past couple of appearances in the public eyeline, in which he has behaved as nothing more than a thug.

Julia Gillard was a dreadful Prime Minister, and one of the worst specimens to ever hold that office; we could talk about that particular subject for days (and probably will in the next week or so 🙂   ) but if nothing else, she was an elected member of Parliament made leader of her party by her colleagues, and thus Prime Minister — irrespective of the tastelessness of the circumstances in which those events occurred, or her fitness or otherwise to hold the office of Prime Minister at all.

Mathieson, by contrast, is nothing: a loud-mouthed boorish thug of absolutely no standing whatsoever, and his five minutes in the public spotlight as “First Bloke” did and does nothing to alter the fact that in the bigger scheme of things, he isn’t worth a can of beans in the context of public affairs in this country — and, perhaps despite delusions to the contrary, never will be.

He should crawl away and hide behind whatever rock Gillard is using for shelter; in so doing this obsequious, obnoxious toad will find himself in good company, and the rest of us can be thankful not to see or hear from him ever, ever again.

Simply stated, Tim Mathieson should get lost. The world will continue to turn without him. It is time, belatedly, for him to just shut up.