BREAKING: Mal Brough To Quit Federal Parliament

FORMER Special Minister of State Mal Brough has announced he will not contest the coming federal election, and is set to quit the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher; the announcement comes as a Federal Police investigation into any role Brough played in bringing down his predecessor — disgraced ex-Speaker Peter Slipper — continues. Brough’s fall from grace is a tragedy, but his departure is a likely further pointer to an election sooner rather than later.

A quick post from me this afternoon, on the hop as I am; some readers may have already seen the news, but embattled former Special Minister of State (and hand-picked Turnbull appointee) Mal Brough has called time this afternoon on his political career, just three years after securing Liberal Party endorsement to return to Canberra via the seat previously held by disgraced former Speaker and general all-round grub Peter Slipper.

This is a subject we have followed quite closely, in part on account of an old personal connection I had with Brough 20 years ago; despite his position on the moderate wing of the Liberal Party, I thought at that time he was a credible future candidate for the Prime Ministership — so impressive is he in person — and the end his career has now reached, especially under a cloud of suspicion of unlawful conduct, gives me no satisfaction at all. Quite the contrary.

His return to the ministry late last year, as a key lieutenant in Malcolm Turnbull’s successful leadership coup against Tony Abbott, quickly proved an early pointer to the fact Turnbull’s famed lack of judgement remains all too real and present; rapidly outed as the subject of continuing Federal Police investigations into the ghastly business surrounding Slipper — inquiries that were announced to the country in the form of a raid on Brough’s home — his Cabinet position immediately became untenable.

Typically, Turnbull dithered, eventually parting with Brough at the same time another grub in the government’s ranks, Jamie Briggs, was forced out over allegations of inappropriate conduct; even though those ministerial departures signalled the first and second of five involuntary changes to the ministry, their timing was poignant.

And so too, it is, on this occasion.

I do feel quite some sympathy for Mal and his wife, Sue, but in noting that I also point out that if the allegations against him are substantiated, then prosecution must follow: there is only one law in this country, and it must apply to everyone equally and without fear or favour. Sometimes, people we know and like will do the wrong thing, and must be punished, but such is the price of being only human: people make mistakes.

It is to Brough’s enduring credit that he elected to step aside from his Cabinet post voluntarily, and also to subsequently relinquish it, when others before him (and particularly of the Gillard government variety) stubbornly chose instead to dig in when confronted with suggestions of misbehaviour, and in this sense Brough should at least receive acknowledgement that he spared the country the trauma and farce of delaying the inevitable.

Even so, his significant potential — despite his tenure as a senior minister in the Howard government — will remain unfulfilled.

Brough’s resignation will now spark a feeding frenzy over the usually safe Liberal Sunshine Coast electorate of Fisher; already there are suggestions that former Newman government minister Jarrod Bleijie will join the exodus of LNP state politicians seeking federal seats rather than an additional term in opposition in Queensland, and whilst I am yet to form a firm position on this, my general view is that Bleijie — along with Messrs McVeigh and Seeney — ought to remain exactly where they are, or quit politics altogether.

And the timing of this latest announcement involving Brough may again be significant in terms of its relationship to other events.

At this time, there is no suggestion his resignation relates to developments in the investigations of allegations against him; after all, the resignation of his seat takes effect from the next election: and even if it’s early, that event is probably four months away.

But with the eleventh-hour departures from the ministry of Brough and Briggs last year, Turnbull’s ready penchant for a little deck-clearing when nobody seems likely to notice appears alive and well too: and I would say that on balance, Brough’s timing now is likely directly related to buying as much clear air as possible between now and the election date, which I understand is already known to members of the government’s inner circle.

As ever, we will watch this to see if anything further comes of it: and in the meantime, I aim to be back with readers — and to catch up on the backlog of the week’s events — either tonight or tomorrow.

 

Queensland: LNP Dodges A Bullet, But Leadership Must Change

THE failed move by over-enthusiastic MPs to oust Queensland opposition leader Lawrence Springborg has allowed the LNP to dodge a bullet, for success would have exposed it to potential disaster; even so, that Springborg must be removed is impossible to deny. The LNP must coalesce around ready-made options if it is to reinvigorate itself and be ready for an impromptu state election that could occur with inadequate notice to act once announced.

For reasons we have discussed many times since its not-so-surprising defeat at a state election a little more than a year ago — most recently on Christmas Eve last year — the leadership arrangements of Queensland’s LNP can hardly be taken seriously by a majority of voters in the state’s burgeoning south-east (let alone elsewhere) and the insipid, almost moribund performance of a three-time election loser who has never found his way into the Premier’s office is most unlikely to lead him to that destination now.

It is true that since I published that article eight weeks ago the LNP’s polling fortunes have reversed, now leading the ALP 52-48 on the two-party measure instead of trailing by the same margin, but with this movement barely outside margin of error territory and hardly decisive in a state whose boundaries have consistently favoured the ALP since 1992, Queensland conservatives sit in a world of trouble against a dysfunctional, do-nothing Labor government and perennially now faced with the threat of a state election with no notice should the state’s knife-edge minority Parliament implode.

And with two of its MPs apparently readying to desert state Parliament in search of greener pastures in Canberra, life for the LNP could quite plausibly grow an awful lot worse very quickly.

I have been watching media reports over the past half-week about a spectacularly botched — and spectacularly inept — move to dump Springborg as leader and replace him with Everton MP Tim Mander; to say this is the wrong call on so many levels is to understate the matter, but it is difficult to recall a less professional and/or more amateurish attempt to despatch a party leader in recent years.

Unless, that is, the record of Queensland’s conservatives over the past 15 years is more closely inspected.

Readers can pick up sequential articles from the Courier Mail here and here.

But first things first. You’d think the LNP would have learned one lesson at least from the past four years, but apparently not, it seems.

I have opined many times in this column that Mander — sitting as he is on a margin of just 1.8% (or 1,020 votes from an enrolment of 32,600 voters) in a seat that has for 40 years been usually reliable and often safe for the ALP — is too insecurely seated to risk installing him as leader, even if all other considerations mark him out as a suitable candidate (which they don’t): all it would take is for a few thousand ALP voters to be transferred into Everton at the coming redistribution from any or all of the crescent of Labor-held seats that surround his own to make it notionally Labor, and Mander could be bounced out of Parliament even with a swing to him on new boundaries. Even with a statewide swing to the LNP.

It’s as if the debacle of Campbell Newman in the neighbouring seat of Ashgrove and the embarrassment of a party leader and Premier losing his seat at an election never happened.

Yet be that as it may, the hamfisted move by Steve Minnikin and Steve Dickson to tout for leadership votes on Mander’s behalf — irrespective of whether fulsome denials by the latter of any knowledge of the plot are honest or not — is a distasteful and almost obscene development.

News the pair (or others close to them) have been threatening shadow ministers with removal to the backbench (on the stubborn assertion Mander had the numbers when he didn’t) became less belligerent than laughable when it was also revealed overnight that a series of proposed shadow ministry lists were circulated (presumably, and unbelievably amateurishly, in electronic format) and that those “targeted” for retribution if they didn’t toe the line quickly ascertained that multiple lists comprising different names were being hawked around.

Far from engendering any credibility, these and other activities of equivalent stupidity destroyed what chance the plotters might have had to achieve their objectives.

God alone knows — and I say that not in jest, given his past incarnation as a Scripture Union chaplain — how Mander might have fared as LNP leader notwithstanding his precarious hold on his electorate, but if the events of the past few days are anything to go by (and not least on account of those it seems he would have surrounded himself with in key positions had the attempted coup succeeded) then it is safe to say the LNP finds itself having dodged a bullet today.

I would add — being from the mainstream conservative Right, with little time for the lunar fringe further along the spectrum — that it does seem that one of the sales strategies was to portray a Mander leadership as a sop to the wackos on the far Right and especially those bush MPs where…well, where their agendas play better than they do in and around Brisbane. If that is indeed the case, then the escape the LNP has achieved is doubly a cause for relief.

In a highly decentralised state where the urban south-east now commands a majority of the population relative to the rural areas upon which gerrymandered Coalition support was once predicated, the failure of the Mander putsch is a win for reasonable LNP moderates and conservatives alike: again, God only knows what sort of damage a Mander leadership, buttressed by support from those responsible for such appalling tactics and questionable policy objectives, might have inflicted on the party.

That said, the events of the past few days do not alter the fact that Springborg cannot be permitted to lead the LNP to another election unless the party wants to lose it.

“Nice guy, but the voters won’t wear him,” is how one LNP operative put it to me some time ago — and that’s the point.

Since last year’s state election, the minority Labor government’s hold on Parliament has grown increasingly tenuous, with Cook MP Billy Gordon* expelled from the ALP in disgrace, Cairns MP Rob Pyne at war with the world and at best openly disgruntled with deputy Premier Jackie Trad in particular, former Police minister Jo-Ann Miller and Pumicestone MP Rick Williams doing little to curry favour with either the Queensland public or the Katter independents sitting with Gordon on the crossbench, and very little to show for a year in office aside from the resumption of inexplicable spending, the accompanying resumption of a budget haemorrhaging red ink, and a spiteful wont to try to erase the fingerprints of Newman’s government from the state altogether.

With the announcement that former deputy Premier Jeff Seeney — arguably the most reviled political figure in Queensland, and certainly so in the state’s south-east — and Toowoomba MP John McVeigh will seek endorsement in vacant federal seats in Wide Bay and Groom respectively, the prospect of even more instability in state Parliament (and a possible election this year) grows more likely, not less.

In Seeney’s case, his electorate of Callide sits squarely in a region that has exhibited a penchant for electing Independent and/or wacko right-wing MPs in recent years, and even without the dead weight of Seeney standing, any by-election could see the seat lost — and with it, the LNP’s ability to reliably side with crossbenchers to vote down government initiatives would be diminished.

Yet whilst this might appear at first blush to work in Labor’s favour, there is no guarantee that Pyne will pull his head in, and the possibility he will eventually depart the ALP cannot be discounted; I am also reliably told there is at least another Labor MP whose presence in the Queensland caucus is tantamount to a time bomb, and in view of the debilitating effect Labor’s woes have already had on the Palaszczuk government in the past year, another scandal could be just enough to effect its collapse.

In other words, the imperative for the LNP to sort its leadership arrangements out — and to replace Springborg as soon as possible — is stronger than it has ever been.

What the LNP needs is a) a leader from the densely populated south-east, who is b) to the Right of the insidious cabal of western Brisbane moderates whose machinations have caused so much political grief over the past 30 years, but to the Left of the lunatic fringe on the party’s far Right, and who c) is able to project a sober conservative message that delivers constructive outcomes for the cities whilst catering to the bush without capitulating to some of the extreme elements who represent it.

Many times, Clayfield MP Tim Nicholls has been nominated in this column as the perfect choice; former leader John-Paul Langbroek, as a second choice, would be a solid if unspectacular option whose likely time in the sun was ripped away by the ultimately stupid installation of Newman prior to the 2012 election.

Neither of these gentlemen is particularly palatable to the Brisbane moderates, and each comes with drawbacks.

But neither of them carry the drawbacks and baggage that Springborg does, and to say Springborg has yet again failed to set the world on fire is an understatement.

Yes, the LNP requires a new leader and yes, it has to happen sooner rather than later. Yes, the Mander madness of the past few days has been an unfortunate sideshow and yes, it will probably rebound on the LNP when next voter sentiment is measured. But that is not an adequate reason to leave Springborg where he is.

At some stage, the Brisbane moderates are going to have to not just bite their tongues and accept a leader they despise (and believe me, the raw hatred of anything to the right of reactive me too-ism in those circles knows no bounds) but to give him the clear air and support to lead them back into office.

Mander is now fatally damaged and Springborg is finished. In a party with so few options, Nicholls and Langbroek come ready-made and offer a path out of the mire.

A Labor win at a snap election would almost certainly consign the LNP under Springborg to consecutive terms in opposition and restart the clock on a truly woeful record of electoral misfortune for Queensland’s conservatives at the state level.

Already, Labor has governed for 21 of the past 26 years. That dubious reality could easily become 25 of 30** in a heartbeat if the LNP doesn’t get its shit together, and do so quickly.

The more things change in Queensland, the more they stay the same.

 

*This column is aware Gordon suffered a mild heart attack on Friday. We minute our good wishes for a full recovery.

**Remembering the Goss government was elected in December 1989, and any state election in Queensland this year would inevitably close out a portion of the time between now and December, when the anniversary of that event falls due.

 

 

Newspoll: Policy Dithering + Compounding Scandals = Trouble

TODAY’S Newspoll in The Australian should make for sobering reading for Malcolm Turnbull and his cohorts, with the process of political cause and effect borne out by distinctly unimpressive poll numbers; a 50-50 result against a vapid ALP led by the most unsuitable candidate for high office in at least five decades is an indictment, and at a time all reputable polls show falling Coalition support is a clear message to the government to extractis digitalis.

It is ironic, viewed one way, that a busy week last week prohibited me from completing an article I told viewers I had half-written, suggesting a perfect storm is brewing around the Turnbull government; and whilst I will — another busy week this week permitting — finish the piece and publish it, it seems a Newspoll result has starkly confirmed what I have been mulling over, and has beaten me to the punch in confirming what the rest of the polls have hinted a little less explicitly in recent weeks.

The Australian is publishing findings today (that you can view here) that suggest the Turnbull government has given up three percentage points of the two-party vote in the past fortnight, falling to draw just even with Labor on 50% of the two-party preferred measure; not only is this result credible and entirely predictable, but nobody — least of all the coterie surrounding Turnbull — should be remotely surprised.

It a further irony that the crisis facing the Coalition six months ago was not one of policy, but leadership; certainly, the need for reform — on welfare, taxation, industrial relations, to name a few — was real, and had been neglected in any meaningful sense by the Abbott government.

Tax hikes here and there to target the Coalition’s own base are not “reform,” and neither are a thousand sabre spending cuts that most heavily impact the key Coalition constituency of families. Yet this was former Treasurer Joe Hockey’s apparent understanding of the concept.

In the five months since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dislodged Tony Abbott from the Liberal leadership, the former has proven able to restore the Coalition to the commanding leads it enjoyed between 2010 and 2013, after he had himself been overthrown, with no significant changes to existing policy settings whatsoever; this is the proof the political problem emanated from leadership, not policy.

But just as the shark must constantly move forward to survive, so too must the process of policy reform: and whilst existing, operational Abbott-era policies were entirely compatible with big opinion poll leads under a different leader, they were the policies fashioned for the concluding term of Parliament — not the one set to commence later this year.

To be sure, Turnbull committed what may yet prove a fatal mistake, having failed late last year to set out broad but reasonably explicit policy objectives with just enough detail to work with in the context of public discourse, and to follow that with a snap December election for both Houses of Parliament: had he done so the Liberal Party would almost certainly have been catapulted back into government in a landslide in the lower house, and a probable return of 35-36 Senators would have at least improved the government’s upper house position even if it did fall short of the 39 spots required for a majority.

But opportunity is a perishable commodity, and many of the pitfalls this column suggested might befall the Turnbull government for its trouble in shying away from a December election are now materialising on cue, and with potentially devastating effect.

To lose five ministers in as many months is simply not on; the resignations of Warren Truss and Andrew Robb, with some space until an election for successors to establish themselves in their portfolios and without the impost of by-elections, are one thing.

But to lose three more — one in a straight sacking and a further two in “resignations” that to all intents and purposes are the same thing — is not merely untidy or careless, but a reflection on the judgement of the Prime Minister: not least given two of them (Mal Brough and Stuart Robert) were hand-picked Turnbull lieutenants, about both of whom enough was known to suggest (at best) unacceptable risk was taken in appointing them in the first place.

And whilst Turnbull’s poll leads held up over the silly season period, the latest round of ministerial scandals and the now pronounced decline in the Coalition’s (and to a lesser extent thus far, Turnbull’s) stocks is an unmistakable message to his government to get its shit together.

It’s a similar story on the Coalition’s reform agenda, and despite a lot of machismo from Turnbull last year about respecting voters’ intelligence and making the case for tough but necessary reforms, the debacle over “tax reform” (and I use the term loosely) is a salutary reminder that not practising what you preach is liable to come back to bite you.

It must have felt really, really good to hang a known leadership aspirant and potential medium-term rival — Treasurer Scott Morrison — out in the wind to dangle and twist over the GST; to expect voters to believe Morrison’s enthusiastic canvassing of options to overhaul the GST were embarked upon with anything less than Prime Ministerial imprimatur is to insult their intelligence, not respect it; and in a move oh-so reminiscent of the Abbott government, at the first sign of noisy obstruction from the ALP, Turnbull ruled out GST changes even as Morrison was actually starting to get a decent debate moving on the subject, cutting the ground from beneath his Treasurer’s feet just a little too soon after opposition “leader” Bill Shorten’s shameful “wet lettuce leaf” supermarket tour to suggest it was a coincidence.

Of course, Turnbull’s excuse that modifying the GST would not stimulate the economy was complete rubbish; the point of amending the GST is to make the tax base more sustainable, not to promote economic growth. But never mind that.

And not coincidentally, the shouty Left is ramping up its belligerence on the predictable issue of asylum seekers and mandatory offshore detention — arguably a very close second, behind WorkChoices, in any list of what it used to bring down the Howard government nine years ago — and this has been met by the government with either capitulation to various demands to avoid a fight, or silence: there has been no attempt to restate the case for Australia’s suite of immigration and border control policies.

The Left would have them dismantled again, with the result that thousands of boats would soon resume their evil traffic in human lives, at a cost to this country in the tens of billions of dollars, and at the near-certain expense of further countless hundreds or thousands of preventable drowning deaths at sea.

And in the aftermath of the GST “debate,” Shorten is advancing ideas (that aren’t particularly good, or well-formed — yet) on housing affordability and negative gearing that are nonetheless beginning to resonate, whilst Morrison is wandering dangerously onto Labor’s preferred class-hating, vacuously populist ground, starting to talk about superannuation and company tax in terms that ominously echo the diatribes from the Left to “hit the rich” and to force “multinationals to pay their fair share” when even the ALP knows the premises on which its posturing is predicated are mostly fictitious.

I could continue, but really, there seems little point. All political observers have seen what has been going on during Turnbull’s watch, and I would comment that if dithering and farting around whilst thinking all he has to do to win is to be the “messiah” too many inflated poll numbers during Abbott’s leadership might have induced him to believe he was, then Turnbull could be headed for a catastrophic fall.

The unbridled savagery that has gone on in full view of the public over Liberal preselection contests in NSW hardly helps.

And with a federal budget to deliver and perhaps six more months to navigate before an election is announced — if Turnbull really does mean to go full term as he says, which I think is a recipe for self-immolation if he does, based on current form — the capacity for more of the same to really damage the Coalition need not be elaborated.

The 50-50 Newspoll result sees the Coalition on 43% (-3%) of the primary vote; Labor 35% (+1%), Communists Greens 12% (+1%) and “Others” on 10% (+1%).

I actually think the result from those numbers is more like 51-49, factoring that 25% of Green preferences and 50% of “Others” would be expected to flow to the Coalition at an election, but it really doesn’t make much difference.

What does make a difference is that with Essential finding the Coalition at 52% (unch)*, Ipsos at 52% (-4%), ReachTel 54% (-1%), and even the wildly variable Morgan Poll 52.5% (-2.5%) all in less than two weeks, this Newspoll comes as every major opinion poll finds the Coalition losing ground, and sees the average Coalition two-party position across all of them fall from just over 54% a month ago to a shade less than 52% today.

Meanwhile, the gentle — but constant — decline in Turnbull’s personal numbers that began with the eruption of scandals around Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs in December is accelerating in this Newspoll, with 48% of respondents (-5%) say they approve of his performance as Prime Minister, with 38% (+7%) disapproving; and on the “preferred PM” measure Turnbull (55%, -4%) now leads Shorten (21%, +1%).

To say Turnbull’s numbers are no longer stratospheric, or that the Coalition is no longer assured of a thumping win under his leadership, is something of an understatement.

Shorten, incidentally, sees his own personal satisfaction rating rise three points to a still-dismal 28%, with his dissatisfaction number falling by the same amount to 57%. He remains just as unpopular as Tony Abbott, but it might not actually matter.

I have been saying for a couple of months now that the Turnbull government is dangerously exposed to a change in the ALP leadership; the move was on last year — and we broke that news here — but the eruption of the Brough brouhaha, combined with the unbelievable rookie mistake of once-likely replacement Tanya Plibersek declaring her wish to bind all Labor MPs to support legislating gay marriage and to remove their right to a conscience vote on the matter, saw Shorten allowed to continue, albeit on borrowed time only.

In the past week or so the mutterers over at the ALP have been at it again, and it seems — barring an election in 33 days’ time on Easter Saturday that locks him into his job — that sooner or later, Shorten is going to be involuntarily dispatched from his post.

a 50-50 result in this Newspoll — along with the aggregate 51.8%-ish the government is now averaging across all polls — is a clear signal to Labor that the only thing keeping it out of a truly serious contest is its so-called “leader:” and were the ALP to find someone credible, without too many penalty points on his or her licence (to borrow a phrase), then Turnbull could be in real trouble.

And after all, Turnbull has form for being unbelievably unattractive to Australian voters, with the Coalition averaging just 44% of the two-party vote in polls during his ill-fated 14 month stint as opposition leader, and attracting in the end less than one in five votes as preferred PM: even fewer than Shorten is registering now.

You would have to think the Coalition remains the favourite for the next election but as I have been warning for some time, the longer Turnbull leaves the announcement of an election date, the more difficult such an undertaking will grow, and today’s Newspoll shows that.

The message to Turnbull emanating from all of the latest polls, and which today’s Newspoll merely underlines, is a simple one: get your house in order, decide on some policies, explain them to voters, and submit your government to the judgement of the public.

Five months of promise was four last month and may soon be six: and the longer this circus drags on, the likelier it will become that Australia could elect a disastrous Labor government at exactly the time sound, firm governance is needed — not slogans, stunts, vicious tax rises to fund uncontrollable spending, and a vindictive all-out assault on those whose enterprise and wealth and productivity make jobs and a decent standard of living for the rest of us possible in the first place.

An election defeat isn’t as unrealistic or as implausible as some in Coalition ranks might think.

It’s time for the government to get its finger out.

 

*Last week’s Essential Poll appeared to contain a reporting error which, if corrected, I did not see the revised version of: it may have yielded at best an additional percentage point of the two-party result to the Coalition but in the context of this discussion, such an error is essentially irrelevant — with no pun intended.

Tantrum Of The Entitled: Support-Free Senators Lash Out

AS SIGNS the Turnbull government will call a double dissolution election grow clearer, a co-ordinated revolt by self-interested crossbench Senators is looming; masquerading as “principle,” the argument of the crossbenchers has less to do with “small parties” than it does with the termination of their ability to be “elected” with next to no electoral support. Left or Right, there is a difference between “small parties” and an undemocratic rort.

The question is a rhetorical one, but it nonetheless goes to the heart of Senate reforms being developed by the Coalition: on what planet can any candidate with 3.8% of the primary vote be expected to win an election, let alone justify their position on the strength of such minuscule support?

Family First Senator Bob Day obviously believes Australia should be such a place, for not only was he elected with exactly that share of the Senate vote in South Australia in 2013, but he appears to be using it as a pretext to join an unedifying tantrum being thrown by the crossbench scourge that has infected the proportionally elected upper house, and which I believe merely underlines the case for its removal by abolishing the rort that makes its existence possible in the first place.

The Fairfax press yesterday published a piece that outlined a co-ordinated threat by virtually support-free crossbench Senators to run candidates in key marginal Coalition seats in the lower house to direct preferences to Labor if reforms to abolish Group Ticket Voting (GTV) and introduce Optional Preferential Voting (OPV) to the Senate are legislated, and aside from initially thinking people ought to grow up — for the tantrum being thrown by the disgruntled Senators is exactly that: a tantrum — the obvious response is that if these people weren’t drawing salaries at taxpayer expense of close to $200,000 per annum, they probably wouldn’t even care.

We spoke about this on Wednesday, noting that had the Hawke government not rigged the Senate in 1984 in the first place — partly for legitimate constitutional reasons connected to the need to increase the size of the lower house, but also expressly to try to fix it so a 1975-style situation could never again befall a Labor government — then Day and others sitting with him would probably never have been able to be “elected” at all.

It doesn’t matter to me that Day is mostly friendly to the government — ex-member of the Liberal Party as he is — or that Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm mostly makes a reasonable contribution: in the case of the latter, the 9.5% of the vote he scored was almost certainly the combined result of a) drawing the donkey vote position at the far left-hand side of the NSW Senate ballot paper, and b) getting away with registering a party name so similar to the Liberal Party (which was ascendant in NSW at the last election); the Liberal Democrats’ NSW vote was almost three times its best result in any other state, and that party polled just 363 votes (0.1%) in Victoria, 0.7% in Queensland, and didn’t even bother with the ACT or the NT.

It’s impossible to look on Leyonhjelm’s 9.5% in NSW, having regard to the lack of votes or even candidates in some states, and claim his election heralded the arrival of libertarianism as a mass movement in its own right. His tally was boosted, to say the least, by factors that had nothing to do with any appeal of his party.

In Day’s case, friendly to the Coalition or not, the idea 3.8% of the vote in a state boasting just 7.6% of Australia’s total electoral enrolment gives him the right to advocate for the retention of what can only be described as an abuse of democracy at the expense of any proper application of democratic principles — even proportional election systems, which I vehemently object to — is unfathomable.

At least Labor is honest enough to say it’s opposing Senate reform because it thinks it would cost it any chance of garnering a Senate majority without relying on Greens support, although as I pointed out on Wednesday Labor’s loss of 20% of its bedrock in recent years to the Greens is nobody’s fault but its own; in any case, Labor is wrong — and unless it finds a way to bolt most of the support that now underpins the Greens as a third force in Parliament back onto its own pile, it will never control the Senate outright: irrespective of whether the Coalition’s proposed changes are passed or not.

According to Fairfax, a ragtag assortment that includes Day, Leyonhjelm, and an alliance of (otherwise unspecified) minor parties has drawn up a hit list comprising 16 marginal Liberal seats across Australia in which even the “right-leaning micro parties” among them will direct preferences to the ALP “in retaliation” if the Coalition’s changes are passed by the Senate.

Leyonhjelm — blissfully oblivious to the fact that running dummy candidates all over the place is also tantamount to an attempt to rig an election — is quoted as saying the group will run “as many candidates as possible” in its quest to deliver the 16 seats to Labor and, presumably based on the numbers, the government’s majority with them.

And this comes against the hard socialists of the Greens and the left-wing (but sane) Independent Nick Xenophon apparently ready to support those changes in the interests of sound governance. It isn’t often that I agree with the Greens (if ever), but on  this issue they are absolutely correct.

For good measure, whoever runs the Family First Twitter feed has been interacting with me today after I retweeted the following table of figures showing how often the Senate crossbench has voted with the government between July 2014 and March last year…

FRIENDS OF THE LIBERALS…apparently, this shows why Family First deserves a seat in the Senate with 3.8% support among 7.6% of the Australian voting public. (Source: Family First)

…and when I retweeted that table with the caption that “these figures would be more meaningful if they included all of 2015…” Family First sent me a response that said “We agree Yale, and will post the updated stats on our website as soon as they are collated. Don’t expect any surprises.”

That “update” appears below: and despite my request for a source or some kind of reference, none was forthcoming.

WRONG CALL…How could the Coalition deal with the Greens, when “friends” like Family First and the Liberal Democrats may cop it in the neck? Principle and sycophancy are not the same thing. (Source: Family First)

On the assumption the second table is meant to be reflective of Senate voting between Senators elected in 2013 taking their places in July 2014 and the present, it delivers no surprises whatsoever (as Family First had promised, perhaps seeking to build my expectations as it was busy “collating” them).

But whilst it’s really gratifying that Day and Leyonhjelm can point to a friendly record toward the government — and whilst I actually think both of them have been reasonable performers as effectively independent voices in the Senate — this is beside the point.

Whichever way you cut it, the duo — and other, unnamed minor party forces — have seen fit to embark on a vindictive lower house preference strategy that whether they like it or not is explicitly contrived to seek the election of a Labor government, and of Bill Shorten as Prime Minister; and should that scenario — a nightmare proposition on current configurations that far transcends any partisan allegiance — then Day, Leyonhjelm and their mates would forever be held directly responsible for inflicting such a disastrous outcome on Australia.

A Shorten Labor government would make Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan seem veritable pillars of competence by comparison: it would be that bad.

Now let’s cut through the bullshit for a moment.

The Coalition’s Senate changes are not about who has shown loyalty to whom.

They are not about who, depending on your political ideas, is “good” or “bad.”

They are not about who is a good bloke, or who (in the case of Jacqui Lambie) is a fruit cake unfit to sit in any Parliament in Australia.

And they are not about the merits or otherwise of the respective platforms of any of the minor parties on the crossbench.

Very simply, the Coalition’s proposed reforms are about the preservation of democracy, not the trashing of it; and they are aimed at resuscitating the principle where the Senate is concerned that even at a proportional election, some reasonable stipend of direct (primary vote) support must first be achieved.

I have said many times in this column that I don’t think a candidate or Senate ticket with less than 5% of the primary vote should be eligible to be elected; the Coalition’s reforms don’t even go as far as to impose such a threshold. Yet if they did, they would be no different to proportional electoral systems in New Zealand, or Germany, or other major democracies who utilise proportional voting in their systems of governance. There would be nothing unreasonable and/or undemocratic about a qualifying threshold of 5% of the vote to enter the Senate. And only the most desperately self-obsessed (or in Labor’s case, desperate to wreck its way into government) would suggest otherwise.

To be honest, I would have no problem — all things being equal — were Day to be readmitted to the Liberal Party and given the winnable third spot on the party’s 2019 South Australian Senate ticket, or fifth or sixth this year if a double dissolution is called; I do in fact like Bob Day and have a lot of time for him, and with considerable overlap between our party’s platform and his own, I think he would make an excellent contribution as a conservative Liberal. This, of course, is scarcely the point.

But as a candidate for Family First?

If he can put together enough of the primary vote under the reformed Senate voting process — if the changes are passed — then I wish him good luck.

And to be sure, there are worse atrocities committed against the electoral system than Bob Day’s election with 3.8% of the vote in South Australia: Ricky Muir, with his 0.51% of the vote in Victoria, merely proves beyond contest the point I am making.

Day and Leyonhjelm might point to reasonably supportive voting records where the government is concerned, and say, “what have we done to deserve this?” whereas Lambie, fellow former Palmer stooge Glenn Lazarus, and even Nick Xenophon (who supports the reforms) might inspect their mostly ALP-inclined voting histories and conclude, incorrectly, that “this is aimed at us.” When considered in this manner, the Coalition is both damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

The Greens, who predictably vote with the Coalition in the Senate less than anyone, are almost co-sponsors of the changes.

It all comes back to what I have always said: there is no entitlement to a seat in Parliament just because you think you should have one; and rather than persisting with a dumbed-down Senate election system that lowers the bar to scoop up candidates with less and less (and in some cases, virtually no) public support, candidates from minor parties should get out and earn more votes, not simply demand what they think they should have.

The system that allows the current Senate crossbench to survive, thrive and — unless changed — allow others to sully that august chamber in future with negligible support is an undemocratic outrage and an obscenity.

For its occupants to embark on the petulant plan for reprisals Day and Leyonhjelm seem committed to embark upon is not principled, is unlikely to produce constructive outcomes, and invites — with complete justification — the criticism that all they care about is their continued ability to draw a cheque each month from the taxpayer, when (the peculiarities of Leyonhjelm’s own election aside) they have done nothing, including garnering sufficient votes, to merit or warrant the expense.

 

Senate Reform, Compulsory Voting, And Sorely Needed Common Sense

TO suggest proposed Senate reforms (which seem set to pass with Greens’ support) are tantamount to an attempt to “rig” the Senate is risible, given they merely go halfway to reversing an unapologetic attempt to rig it 30 years ago; not coincidentally, the old chestnut of the “merits” of compulsory voting has also reared its head. On these, and other causes useful to the Left as pretexts for outrage, common sense and perspective are sorely overdue.

One of the most insidious aspects of the system used to elect the Senate that is the subject of increasingly acrimonious debate is that it’s taken 30 years — 30 years — for its full potential as an implement with which to wreck Coalition governments to become fully apparent; yes, the Howard government won a Senate majority in 2004, but it’s only in the past few electoral cycles that a 76-member Senate, coupled with Group Ticket (or “above the line”) Voting, has been strategised by admittedly clever people to game out the election of irrelevant minor “party” Senators with next to no popular support.

Even many of the candidates who participate in complicated Senate preference deals have been quite open in recent years about the fact that none of them know who will be elected as a result of their machinations until the votes are tallied; and so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery has similarly made no bones about the fact his handiwork is contrived merely to facilitate the ascension of minor candidates whose prospects for victory would otherwise be non-existent.

I have written in the past of the travesty of the Hawke government’s 1984 Senate “reforms” — introduced with a poker face by Labor and legislated, ridiculously, with National Party support — which were callously motivated by consuming hatred and a determination to ensure the events of November 1975 could never again befall a Labor government; wrapped in the fig leaf of the need to increase the size of the House of Representatives (a measure, in isolation, that I agree was necessary, and is again as we speak) a better course of action would have been to hold a referendum, with bipartisan support, to expunge the nexus spelt out in S24 of the Constitution that stipulates the House of Representatives must “as nearly as practicable” be composed of double the number of members as sit in the Senate.

Yes, referendums are notoriously difficult to pass, but this one would have been a slam-dunk: campaigning on a promise to limit the Senate to 64 Senators, bipartisan support would have secured its assent from voters as a measure to permanently cap at least some of the future increases in the number of politicians being sent to Canberra.

With each lower house MP now responsible to almost 120,000 voters — double the number in 1984 — there is a case to enlarge the House once more to, say, 180 seats; increasing the Senate to 88 spots is clearly neither desirable nor warranted, so even now, a move to cut the Senate back to 64 seats to offset some of the increase in the lower house could still secure the change I’m talking about at a referendum if the major parties all backed it.

Yet whether they do or not, for as long as the Senate retains its current composition of 76 members, one primary objective of the 1984 changes will remain: the reduced quotas required to elect a Senator, as six Senators are elected from each state at a half-Senate election rather than five, as had previously been the case; this in itself makes it easier for minor parties and Independents to win election to the upper house.

Adding Group Ticket Voting — with its antediluvian and incandescent preference flows forged behind closed doors and away from public attention — merely sets that bar far lower again than anyone could defend as “democratic,” although some of the beneficiaries with their snouts in the trough thanks to GTV would beg to differ.

I’ve had a read of an article appearing in the Fairfax press this morning that proclaims that should measures proposed by the Turnbull government to abolish GTV be passed, the Coalition would be able to obtain an outright Senate majority at a double dissolution this year, and my response, frankly, is “so what?”

For one thing, there is no existential mandate on the Senate’s part to ensure it is permanently and implacably controlled by parties other than the elected government in the lower House; for another, there is similarly no overriding stipulation that the parties of the Left should be able to jointly muster a majority when Labor holds office, whilst the Coalition is held hostage to an anti-conservative rabble elected on a rigged proportional system whenever Labor is in opposition. But that is the end destination of the 1984 “reforms,” and the 2010 and 2013 elections — with Senate voting gamed out to stock the crossbench with mostly irrelevant occupants — have created exactly such a system.

It isn’t the Coalition’s fault that Labor has lost perhaps 20% of its bedrock support to the Greens over the past 15 years, as its hard Left flank jumped ship to the regimented socialist party and stayed there; similarly, it isn’t the Coalition’s fault that Labor on its own never controlled the Senate between 1951 and 1984 (on a proportional system introduced, no less, by a Labor government in 1948).

By introducing Optional Preferential Voting “below the line” — meaning voters number six boxes to elect six Senators at a half-Senate election, or 12 boxes for 12 Senators at a double dissolution — and abolishing GTV altogether, the filthy situation of people being elected with just a couple of percentage points of the overall vote (or less) will be made virtually impossible.

And that is precisely how it should be.

When I talk to those known to me who are active on the Left of politics and ask them to justify how Ricky Muir could have been elected with 0.51% of the 3.72 million votes cast in Victoria, or how Bob Day (Family First) could win with 3.8% of the vote in South Australia or John Madigan (DLP) in 2010 with 2.3% in Victoria, they can’t: they simply rattle on about how “diversity of voices” is a “good thing,” and accuse me of being “undemocratic” for advocating the removal of the fix that makes these people’s tenure in Canberra possible at all with virtually no popular support.

(As an aside, I think any Senate candidate or ticket polling less than 5% of the primary vote should be disqualified from election, for even at a double dissolution, 5% of 12 Senators in any given state does not equal one Senator. But opposed as I am to proportional elections anyway, that’s a discussion for another time).

Yet under the reforms the Coalition is looking to secure, the Greens are seemingly ready to help pass them in the Senate, much to Labor’s petty, vapid chagrin; the Greens would still retain a healthy presence in the Senate (regrettably) even after these changes are made, as would South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, which is perhaps why both are lining up in support of the changes.

But Labor (which would stand to gain in future, if not perhaps this year) remains flatly opposed, for no better or more discernible reason than the ingrained desire to render Coalition governments dysfunctional, and such a silly stance reflects more on the ALP’s unfitness for office than it does on the proposed changes.

The Fairfax article notes the Greens would see their representation cut from 10 to 8 at a double dissolution under these changes, but in all likelihood that would happen anyway; those Greens’ Senators elected in 2010 — when their party took a record 6 Senate berths at a half-Senate election — won at the very zenith of their party’s all-time support, and even with lower quotas at a full Senate election, a reasonable judgement is that the overall Greens vote is going to go backwards anyway.

And as for the Coalition seizing control of the Senate at a double dissolution now, it should be noted that Palmer United Party Senators elected in Queensland, WA and Tasmania — along with NSW Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, who scored a lucky double strike by both getting away with the registered name of his party and drawing the “donkey vote” column at the far left-hand side of the NSW Senate ballot paper in 2013 — are all sitting in what ordinarily could have been expected to be additional Coalition Senators elected three years ago. That the Palmer rabble has, jointly and severally, voted to stymie the Coalition at almost every turn has largely enabled the Senate obstruction and chaos Labor has been able to marshal and inflict since that time.

The predictable outrage from minor parties — like HEMP, as quoted in The Age — should, frankly, be ignored: and if the ALP doesn’t like these changes, perhaps it would be better served diverting its energy to winning (in tandem with the Greens if necessary) a majority of the upper house vote after preferences, which in 65 years it has achieved only in 1983, 2007 and 2010.

Just as the strong Coalition wins of 2001 and 2004 delivered a Coalition Senate majority, so too did the strong “Left” wins of 2007 and 2010 deliver Labor and the Greens the Senate. It’s not rocket science. But permanently tilting the playing field in the Senate against either side of politics by rigging the system is not the way to go about getting it.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the perennial issue of compulsory voting reared its ugly head on the ABC’s disgraceful #QandA programme last night, and whilst I don’t propose to get into everything that was discussed on that oxymoronic “Adventures in Democracy” show, it’s worth reiterating that I think compulsory voting is a disgrace.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest compulsory voting benefits the Left, forcing as it does those who couldn’t care less or who don’t bother themselves with politics to vote, and the handout mentality of the Left is often the path of least resistance for these people; whether it does or it doesn’t, however, the simple facts are that a) every Australian citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to a vote at elections in this country; and b) they are denied the freedom not to vote if they don’t want to.

I have already dealt with the obvious objection to the second of those statements once this morning: that people simply have to show up and get their names crossed off, and on one level, that’s true.

But it is also an offence under the Electoral Act to encourage people to do that, and fail to vote; and forcing people to stuff spoiled ballot papers in ballot boxes with often obscene messages scrawled across them to avoid a fine is hardly a sophisticated ingredient of a modern democracy.

Left-wing loudmouth Van Badham will, I’m sure, be counting a renewed traffic flow today through an offensive article she authored a few years ago for The Guardian on this issue, for I saw it retweeted multiple times last night on Twitter; I strongly urge all readers to peruse Ms Badham’s rantings — replete with assertions that those concerned with liberty and expanding freedom also occupy themselves with “titty-porn,” pig shooting and “MILF mags (sic)” — for despite the colourful if malodorous language, her arguments are in fact representative of the pro-compulsory voting clique.

I’m not going to bog down exhaustively on this issue, but suffice to say Ms Badham, as usual (and as most recently illustrated only a few weeks ago) completely misses the point.

In the context of any renewed debate over compulsory voting, nobody is suggesting the right to vote should be taken away from anyone: especially the “poor, isolated, minimally educated, sick, low-paid, casualised or vulnerable” groups she nominates as likely to “vanish” if compulsory voting were abolished. They will only vanish if they choose to. Their right to vote will remain intact.

But to listen to the dictatorial, illiberal finger shakers and pedlars of moral outrage from the Left like Badham, you’d think the sky would fall in; I counter that to force people to vote is hardly democratic, and that if they don’t want to vote they should be entirely free to make that choice.

Irrespective of what the obnoxious Badham and her mates think.

One way forward would be to formalise the obligation to simply get your name marked off the electoral roll, and thereafter leave the choice to the voter: compulsory attendance at an election, yes, but the freedom not to vote if you don’t want to take a ballot paper. The state would discharge its obligation to actively provide every Australian citizen with an opportunity to vote. What the citizen does with it is up to them.

Yes, some who waive their right to vote at a particular election might have second thoughts later that day: too bad. After all, once you’ve voted you don’t get a second crack at it, and nor should you if you decline a ballot paper and change your mind an hour later. There goes that objection.

It needn’t be complicated: a presiding officer would mark the names as per current practice, and dispense ballot papers to intending voters; as for those waiving their right to vote, providing the information is depersonalised within rigorous guidelines, the numerical statistics on non-voters would be very useful for socio-demographic research.

It might also serve as a boot in the arse to political parties with nothing of substance or value with which to earn support (and right now, I’m looking in your direction, Bill Shorten).

But at the end of the day — on Senate voting, compulsory voting, or on any number of pet issues advanced by the Left that are defended with illiberal, anti-democratic motives and voluble abuse to render dissent silent — it’s about time some old-fashioned common sense prevailed in dealing with these relatively straightforward questions, rather than endless bickering and petty political posturing, particularly where the iron fist of the Left clad in an iron glove is concerned.

And if common sense is too much to ask for, then perhaps certain sections of the media ought to examine their editorial priorities, and reassess just how much airtime and column space is gifted to “Adventures in Democracy,” or red herrings like Vanessa Badham, and instead concern themselves with outcomes that are in the best interests of this country — not some obsessive, narrow and militantly socialist cabal whose idea of reality consists of the rest of us doing just as they choose.

 

Resignation Of Hon Andrew Robb And Goldstein Liberal Preselection

AUSTRALIA WILL LOSE perhaps the best Trade minister it has ever had at the coming federal election, with Andrew Robb announcing on Wednesday that he will retire from Parliament when the government faces the people; it brings to an end an extraordinary 28-month stint in the Trade portfolio, and lifts the curtain on a spirited race for Liberal Party preselection in his blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Goldstein.

Over the next few days, readers are likely to see a number of short posts from me, in addition to a longer feature I partially wrote on Tuesday (which remains relevant) and a look at things that have happened since I disappeared at the start of the week; I have been rather distracted, busy with other matters these past few days — hence my silence — but at the risk of covering old ground in a bid to make up ground, we will get to the key events of the week over the weekend.

I want to begin by briefly acknowledging the fine efforts of Andrew Robb as Trade minister, as he announces his imminent exit from Parliament; first elected at the 2004 election after the retirement of David Kemp, Robb briefly served as a parliamentary secretary in the Howard government before rising to senior shadow portfolios in opposition, and finally to the Trade and Tourism portfolios when the Coalition returned to office under Tony Abbott in 2013.

It is fair to say that Robb’s tenure in the Tourism portfolio was solid — if unspectacular — but in a very short period, he has carved out a stellar reputation in Trade, sealing free trade agreements with Japan, China and South Korea, negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and (I understand) he is still looking to conclude a free trade agreement with India before he leaves office later this year.

These agreements will go a long way to bolstering Australia’s economic performance in coming years, securing greater access to the key markets to our north — with vastly reduced (or in most cases, no) tariffs — that are collectively home to some 1.5bn people, or well over 2.5bn if the India deal is done before his departure takes effect.

The benefits they will bring to exporters in the agriculture, mining, manufacturing and service sectors of the economy will also help to diversify it, and to lessen our reliance on exports of mineral and energy-based commodities, and whilst some harbour concerns about this country being flooded with cheap Chinese labour — a proposition I emphatically reject — it is very difficult, with the exception of fatuous scare campaigns cooked up at Trades Hall, to see Robb’s handiwork as anything other than having rendered an incalculable service to Australia that will endure for decades to come.

Indeed, it is not a stretch to suggest he is not only the best Trade minister Australia has had, but that his performance as a minister in a second successive Coalition government deserves to rank him among the best ministers of state Australia has produced (and I don’t say that lightly).

Robb’s resignation, of course, opens a predictable free-for-all for the seat of Goldstein, in Melbourne’s inner south; currently held with a margin over Labor of 11%, it is one of the safest Liberal-held seats in Victoria, and has never been held (either as Goldstein or, between Federation and 1984, in its earlier incarnation as Balaclava) by the ALP. As rusted-on conservative seats go, this is one of the safest.

It is also — as some readers will have seen me note previously — my local electorate.

As a member of the Liberal Party with voting rights at the forthcoming preselection (which has been scheduled today for 19 March) I am bound by the rules of the party which explicitly prohibit commentary on preselection contests in which I have an interest; as this concerns the branches of the party in my own local area, those restrictions certainly apply.

Thus, I’m not going to run through who’s definitely standing, who might, who isn’t, who I intend to back and/or what gossip is doing the rounds locally; some of these questions have been raised in both Fairfax and Murdoch publications this week, and beyond the coverage provided in those tomes I won’t be adding to it in this column.

However, there are two exceptions, the first being the obvious one: and that is, that I will not be standing — contrary to some of the stories that have dogged me over the years and in spite of the occasional declaration to the contrary (usually when angry or frustrated) I have no interest in a seat in Parliament, and on this occasion this observation should be interpreted as an explicit ruling out of any interest in standing now too.

And two (and the exception to even that) is to note that the hare-brained plot to parachute former Chief of Staff to Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, into the seat whenever it fell vacant appears to be extinct, and nobody I know is suggesting any attempt to do so now is in the offing, let alone likely.

But be that as it may, and despite little interest around local branches in Credlin being their MP, should the nightmare scenario of her being parachuted into Goldstein materialise, and were she to secure Liberal endorsement for the seat, the threat made in this column some time ago to resign from the party to be able to run against her remains very much in force.

It won’t come to that, of course. Thank goodness… 🙂

And beyond that, I will provide no further comment in relation to Goldstein until the preselection is resolved.

I will be back — probably tomorrow at some point — to talk about the imminent reshuffle Malcolm Turnbull faces, and the (justified) sacking today of Human Services minister Stuart Robert over a clear breach of ministerial guidelines; as I alluded at the outset, I am also working on a piece that looks forward to the election, and how current machinations over reform and other matters might pose a potential threat to the government’s legitimacy if it is re-elected without a platform as such to stand on.

Enjoy your evening.

 

Credlin As Sex Discrimination Chief? Better A Shark Running A Wading Pool

THE PROPOSAL of Peta Credlin for a five-year term as Sex Discrimination Commissioner — and paid millions of dollars — is obscene; coming after attempts to make husband Brian Loughnane Ambassador to the Vatican, hiring Credlin would reek of cronyism, rewarding an approach that masked incompetence by lashing “sexism” among critics. This insidious hack deserves no cushy sinecure. A better hire would see a shark running a children’s pool.

As we have opined many times in this column, former Chief of Staff to ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, was given the most powerful unelected position in Australian politics, and fucked it up completely: the irrefutable evidence of this lies in the two tumultuous years in which the Abbott government comprehensively lost the support of the Australian public, culminating in the termination of Abbott’s tenure, as Liberal MPs prepared to support Abbott deserted him on the basis that if he wouldn’t remove Credlin from the government then Abbott himself would have to go to ensure she did as well.

Credlin had oversight and control, with Prime Ministerial imprimatur, of virtually every aspect of government operations: political strategy, parliamentary tactics, policy decisions, media relations, personnel hires (as far out as junior shitkicker roles in electorate offices) — the lot. Had Credlin’s way worked, nobody would criticise her; the fact, however, is that it was a disaster, and she stands forever condemned by the hard realities of the consequences of her methods.

Perhaps most offensively, Abbott spent a lot of time arguing that if she was P-E-T-E-R Credlin rather than P-E-T-A, there would never have been a problem: this moronic formulation ignores the reality that had Credlin been male, it simply would have meant that a bloke presided over the ruinous mess that was made of the post instead of woman.

Anyone who thinks the Abbott government was a model of efficiency and a monument to good government is delusional. Putting a bloke, who did exactly as Credlin did, at its epicentre would have changed nothing.

Today, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is carrying a story that notes Credlin is being touted as a candidate for the vacant post as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and aside from the fact she went on something of a media offensive in the wake of Abbott’s dumping to argue she, herself, had been unfairly discriminated against, there is no logical basis on which to connect her to the position at all.

This revelation comes soon after Abbott’s attempt to have Credlin’s husband — former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane — appointed as Ambassador to the Vatican, and when it is also considered that Loughnane’s right hand man and 2IC at the Liberals’ federal secretariat, Julian Sheezel, recently pursued an abortive attempt to snatch the top position on the party’s Senate ticket (disappearing on minister Kelly O’Dwyer just weeks after she made him her Chief of Staff in an appalling show of poor faith) it becomes patently clear that whatever else the people in the Abbott cabal are, one thing all can be accused of is a healthy entitlement mentality, with them or Abbott (or both) apparently believing they deserve cushy sinecures at great public expense when they don’t.

Sheezel, who enjoys negligible support for his ambitions across the Liberal rank and file, quickly climbed down from his plot to sail straight into guaranteed election to the Senate when the story broke last month; I have neither any particular animus nor enthusiasm toward Sheezel, whom I’ve known since university days in the early 1990s. But simply installing faceless machine operatives into unloseable parliamentary positions is no better than the behaviour of the ALP opponents we so regularly (and vigorously) pillory for doing the same thing.

Loughnane, for his part — an executive at oil company Shell prior to arriving at the Liberal Party — likes to claim his record as federal director at elections was “two wins (2004, 2013), one loss (2007) and a draw (2010);” this purported record is hardly exceptional, including as it does the loss of government at the end of the Howard era. But it ignores the one result Loughnane doesn’t want discussed: the near-apocalyptic disaster of the 2002 state election in Victoria, at which he was the Liberals’ state director, and at which the Liberals’ return of 17 seats out of 88 was the worst result in the party’s history in this state.

In any case, why he would seem a suitable choice as an Ambassador — to anyone, that is, except Tony Abbott — is anyone’s guess.

But this now-unmistakable pattern of looking for comfy jobs for mates — and undeserving mates, at that — takes on a whole new complexion with the suggestion Credlin should be installed in a five-year term as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, an appointment that attracts total remuneration over the tenure of between two and three million dollars.

It reeks of cronyism, of preferment, and of an insidious insider culture that says that irrespective of the degree of abject failure they achieve, those in the loop should simply be shuffled on to trinkets of even greater prestige, at enormous public expense, with any notion of consequences for their real failures that adversely affected people (in Credlin’s case, the millions of Australians depending on a Liberal government to better their lot in life) simply dismissed out of hand.

When it is also remembered that Credlin was hardly a harmonious or unifying figure — running vendettas against individual staff and others in the wider Liberal organisation, or bullying those she wanted removed from the seat of power in Canberra, or having the bare-faced effrontery to dictate to elected representatives of the Australian public from her unelected and unaccountable bunker next to Abbott’s office — it’s difficult to argue she is a suitable candidate for anything.

And nobody who Credlin enraged by suggesting, directly or through the proxy of remarks by Abbott, that she was a glittering example of a highly successful employee whose efforts were little short of brilliant, but who had been hobbled by accusations of “sexism” — the taunt of both first and last resort when it comes to women gifted senior roles and who then make a complete botch of them — could ever sanction her appointment to such a powerful and influential post.

Not now, not ever.

Frankly, this proposed appointment is so utterly devoid of merit that a better hire would be to put a great white shark in charge of the local kiddies’ swimming pool. At least with a great white, there are no pretensions about the intended eventual outcome. It’s as bad as that. At least a great white can get it right. Credlin didn’t.