THE “SURPRISE” LABOR GOVERNMENT in Queensland may prove short-lived, with violent criminal MP Billy Gordon just the start of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s woes; amid reports the state’s two Katter MPs remain ready to back a return to LNP government and at least two more Labor MPs under a cloud on the basis of alleged unlawful conduct prior to entering Parliament, it seems only a matter of time before the minority Labor regime falls.
It seems — despite plenty going on elsewhere at present — that all roads lead back to the two recently minted state governments in Victoria and Queensland and, especially, the “miracle” regime Labor formed after a record swing against a first-term LNP outfit in the Sunshine State; readers should be assured I am well across what is going on in Queensland despite the fact we have been talking about other matters, although for those who didn’t see it we did have a look at the growing debacle engulfing the Queensland ALP on Sunday.
It seems the issue of neophyte MP Billy Gordon — with his catalogue of tax debts, unpaid child support, and allegations and criminal convictions from a violent past that includes allegedly belting a former partner around — could be the least of Labor’s worries.
I share two pieces of coverage this morning from the daily press — here and here — and note two key developments: one, that the two MPs from the Katter Party remain as willing as ever to back the LNP into a return to office under restored leader Lawrence Springborg; and two, besieged Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appears to have now gone to ground, having failed to satisfactorily explain what she knew of the Gordon fiasco at all times over the past week and, critically, when she knew it.
According to Palaszcuk, she was made aware of the child support arrears when Gordon was confronted last week, but maintains that other aspects of her MP’s past — in a criminal history stretching back 25 years — were all news to her when they found their way into public view at the start of the week.
This beggars belief: either the Premier, the ALP organisation and the people who run it are naive and derelict beyond all comprehension (which is always a possibility with Labor these days) or, as a cynic might suspect, some or all of these people knew their “maaaate” was a deeply unsavoury individual all along, and have played a game of damage containment as more lurid details of his past have become unknown.
Certainly, Labor — in moves reminiscent of the support it gave disgraced former federal MP Craig Thomson — has seen to it that the child support arrears owed by Gordon have been cleared; likewise his debts to the Australian Taxation Office.
Yet despite banishing him from the parliamentary Labor caucus, there is no evidence to date to suggest Gordon has been expelled from the ALP as a member — a more telling marker of how serious the party is about removing undesirables from its midst — and the stonewalling and obfuscation from the Palaszczuk government, despite the insistence it acted immediately it became aware of Gordon’s past, is undermined by the financial assistance being given to him by the party machine and by virtue of the fact that sidelining Gordon (who doesn’t need a trial; he has already had several of those) is not the same thing as throwing this deeply defective grub out of Parliament altogether.
Rather, Labor seems understandably reluctant to initiate a by-election in Gordon’s seat of Cook, despite the conservative parties having only ever won it twice, and even then at elections in 1974 and 2012 at which they more or less wiped the Labor Party off Queensland’s electoral map.
But clearly cognisant of the dangers Gordon has exposed it to — with 44 of the 89 seats in the state’s unicameral Parliament, ranged against 42 from the LNP — the Palaszczuk government has been negotiating with the two nominally conservative Katter MPs in what appears to be an attempt to take out some insurance: an enterprise which has so far elicited the indications that the pair remain as ready as ever to restore the LNP to office if the balance in the Queensland Parliament is in any way altered.
We will pay close attention to what transpires north of the Tweed, and one of the reasons I have been prepared to talk about other matters this week is because I don’t think this issue is going to go away for Labor in any hurry and — even if it does — there is plenty more in store for the party to confront in any case.
But broadly, there are two pieces of ground I wish to cover.
The first derives from the increasingly obvious reality that Gordon is set to dig in: despite (reasonable) entreaties for his resignation from Parliament altogether, it seems he and/or Queensland Labor will decline to put themselves at risk of a by-election loss that would hand the numbers to an amalgam of the LNP and the Katter Party.
I don’t think there’s much of an argument to be made against the proposition that Gordon is an unfit and improper person to hold a seat in Parliament, and whatever bluster Labor can summon about the LNP’s “gutter” tactics in pursuing him, the fact remains that not for the first time in recent years, Labor is actively defending a very questionable individual, and in this case one with a string of convictions and other legal black marks against his name — his removal from the parliamentary party room notwithstanding.
Sitting an undesirable on the crossbench, where he can still act as an ALP MP in practice if not in name, is a token concession to propriety only.
And given Labor refuses to risk a fresh contest in Cook, when the Queensland Parliament reconvenes in a month’s time — by which point the festering mess will have generated untold bad press for Labor, and inflicted untold collateral damage on the government — LNP leader Lawrence Springborg should move in the House for Gordon’s expulsion.
Either way, Labor would be cornered: either Palaszczuk confronts her political mortality and backs the motion, with the attendant risk that the end result would be the end of her short-lived government; or she and her party attempt to tough it out, locking her in behind Gordon and ensuring the stench and rancour attached to him dogs Labor until it is forced to confront voters on a statewide basis.
This is the kind of “karma” I was alluding to on Sunday; and if it is good enough for Labor in Victoria to ruthlessly manipulate a similarly precarious Liberal government in that state to the point the Geoff Shaw issue arguably helped it return to office there, it is good enough for the LNP in Queensland to revisit the favour now.
So as you sow, so too shall you reap. Labor can complain about it all it likes.
But the second looks beyond Gordon altogether, for this filthy specimen may well be the least of Palaszczuk’s problems.
I am excellently informed from multiple sources that there are at least two (and possibly as many as four) newly elected Labor MPs in Queensland carrying the baggage of improper and/or illegal behaviour from their lives outside Parliament that is no less explosive than the revelations that have emerged over Billy Gordon.
I’m not going to specify — for now — which electorates and MPs are affected, but it is safe to say that even if the Gordon fracas is somehow neutralised and goes away, there is an army of rotten skeletons lined up in Labor’s closet just waiting to leap out and hit the Premier in the head.
The issues affecting these MPs range from relatively trivial misdemeanours to serious crimes such as perjurious conduct, violent offences, blackmail and extortion, and a slathering of involvement with organised crime to boot.
Even if Palaszczuk and Labor are able to move beyond the Gordon problem without a by-election, there are other problems that are almost certain to replace it: and Springborg and his colleagues should be relentless in forcing Labor’s nose to the wheel, using every legitimate means at their disposal to force the ALP from office in Queensland at the earliest opportunity.
It seems clear that once again, a rotten and violent Labor outfit has found its way into office by a ruthless and amoral campaign of lies, misrepresentation and outright fraud — the presence of fake emergency services workers having featured as prominently in Queensland as they did in Victoria — only to be exposed, itself, as unfit to govern, although even I am a bit surprised all this has come up so quickly.
Then again, we on the conservative side are a bit sick of Labor’s antics, mired in hypocrisy as they are, and the Gordon issue — even before and unless any of the others explode in the ALP’s face — proves it.
Sooner or later, and at some point — probably this year — if Springborg plays his cards right, one of the LNP’s assaults on Labor’s dodgy MPs is going to connect with its target, forcing a by-election that results in an LNP victory, and at that point, Labor is likely to be finished.
Should Springborg come to power through a change of government on the floor of state Parliament it will throw up new challenges that will require fresh strategies to consolidate: and whilst I have given quite some consideration to these, we will discuss them when and if the situation arises.
My final point this morning concerns Labor’s outrage that the LNP should dare pursue it over the criminal thuggery of its MPs and their unfitness to hold office: and I say, bluntly, that Labor should get a grip and get over it.
After all, the historic win by Wayne Goss that ushered in 25 years of barely broken Labor government in Queensland in 1989 would never have happened if Labor itself had not profited from scandals engulfing the then-National Party; 18 months out from that election — and before the Fitzgerald Inquiry laid bare the endemic corruption that occurred in Queensland in the 1970s and 1980s — the ALP was stuck at 37% in reputable opinion polls and on track to remain in opposition well into the 1990s.
The composition of the parliamentary ALP today, replete with a number of crooks either uncloaked or stuffed in a cupboard somewhere, is no less reprehensible than the issues Labor surfed to power on a quarter of a century ago.
And if it defends the likes of Gordon — openly or with assistance behind the scenes, as it has — or any of the other primed explosive devices sitting on its backbench, then Labor in Queensland is no better than the corrupt National Party regime of yesteryear that it continues, even now, to try to milk for political advantage at every conceivable turn.