Hell No, He Won’t Go: Rudd Plays Politics

HAVING MADE such grand and pompous noises about quitting politics last week, Kevin Rudd appears to be playing politics with his actual resignation; the former Prime Minister should go now to allow his electorate of Griffith some closure, and stop treating his constituents like political playthings.

First things first: today I’ve got a YouTube clip for readers to listen to as we sometimes do, and this one’s a beauty; given it pretty much sums up the Rudd attitude to remaining in Parliament, it’s to be hoped the idiot hurries up and gets on with it.

I noticed late last night the reports that Rudd — despite the great fanfare he generated last week in announcing his resignation to Parliament — had failed to follow through and actually resign to Speaker Bronwyn Bishop as he is required to do.

This has become topical owing to the timing of the resultant by-election in his seat of Griffith: the Liberals would like to get the matter resolved this side of Christmas, which requires Rudd to formally pull the pin today.

The ALP is said to prefer a by-election early next year in the belief the delayed timetable will favour its chances of retaining Griffith under a new candidate.

And it’s pretty obvious that by dragging his feet, Rudd is playing the game.

Some will argue that what Rudd is doing is his right: that when it comes to leaving Parliament voluntarily, during a parliamentary term, it is entirely up to him when he officially resigns.

Yet I would counter that very strongly with the observation that Rudd intimated almost a week ago that he would go; in spite of the cretin’s penchant for grandiose but empty gestures and posturing, his announcement to Parliament — timed to catch deadlines for the following day’s editions of every newspaper in the country — obliges him to go now.

According to articles appearing in News Limited publications today, the excuse being offered up for the delay in finalising things is that the imbecile Rudd is finishing dealing with “constituency issues.”

At the risk of sounding cavalier about it, the very fact of his departure renders the authenticity of such an excuse hollow at best.

Perhaps it’s indelicate to point this out, but at the time of the Rudd announcement in the House of Representatives, he made it clear that his resignation would be formalised “by the end of the week,” meaning by last Friday.

All the excuses in the world will convince nobody that he isn’t party to a stitch-up.

Now that Rudd is using his electorate as a political football it is to be hoped — should he fail to get out today in time for a 21 December by-election to be declared — that through the festive season and through the alcoholic Christmas haze Labor clearly believes will adequately stupefy Griffith voters into voting for its next union-endorsed hack, locals in the inner-Brisbane seat send the message that enough is enough.

It will be interesting to see if Rudd tenders a formal resignation at a “creative” time today — such as 4.59pm, or similar — to really thumb his nose at the Liberal Party, giving the game away in the process.

And it is interesting that not a single ALP figure has tried to use the need to preselect a replacement candidate as a justification for Rudd’s delay in quitting, and this tends to underline the point that the whole thing is a co-ordinated exercise.

The sooner Rudd leaves Parliament, the better, and he should get on with it.

Take the job and shove it, indeed.


A “Ruddwatch” Reprise: Kevin O’Nepotism Rides Again

FIVE WEEKS AGO — canvassing the need in this column for Kevin Rudd to quit Parliament and leave his beleaguered party in peace — we discussed the prospect of him being replaced as the ALP candidate in Griffith by his daughter, Jessica. Rudd said he wanted to find a seat for her. Now he has.

I am reposting on this subject because I have found, during the day, that a lot of traffic has been coming into this site from searches around whether Kevin Rudd’s daughter, Jessica, might replace him as Labor’s candidate in his marginal Brisbane seat.

Readers can access one of our “Ruddwatch” pieces — “Kevin O’Nepotism Rides Again” — which deals with exactly this question here.

And certainly, whilst reports are mixed, there is nonetheless ample suggestion emanating from some sections of the ALP today that Rudd may well have done the deal to attempt to send Jessica to Canberra via his own seat.

I stand by the comments I made in the original article, and encourage those who didn’t see the article when it was first posted to click through the link and read it.

But now the spectre of another Rudd in Parliament is a very real possibility, I have a few additional points to make.

The 30-year-old Jessica Rudd — unlike her nihilistic father — articulates a politics based well to Labor’s left, which, indeed, would sit comfortably with the Greens; I don’t think this is the kind of outlook that needs to be cultivated in Australian Parliaments, and I don’t care whose daughter she is.

In any case, Jessica lives in Beijing: this is not some high calibre “star” being recalled to sit in Parliament based on a lengthy career of success in business or some other service; this is someone who is based elsewhere for personal reasons, and who has severed her active connection to the electorate some in the ALP now apparently seek to inflict her on.

So much for the notion of a “local” member.

And to be entirely blunt about it, what — apart from being the daughter of Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein — has Jessica Rudd done to merit a seat in Parliament at all?

No, I didn’t think so.

We’ll see how this plays out, but if Jessica Rudd is the ALP candidate facing the LNP’s Bill Glasson come by-election time, her presence on the ballot will aid Glasson — not the ALP.


BREAKING: Kevin Rudd Quits Parliament

IN NEWS that will surprise most political observers — myself included — former Prime Minister and serial leadership troublemaker Kevin Rudd has resigned from his seat of Griffith, and thus Parliament, bringing down the curtain on a public career spanning decades. The decision is the right call.

This column, as readers know, has less time for Kevin Rudd than perhaps any other figure currently associated with the ALP, although at times Heavy Kevvie has been given a run for his money by his colleagues on that count.

The news this evening that he is set to quit Parliament, however, is the right call on every conceivable measure, and we congratulate him for making it — even if that sentiment is grudgingly expressed.

Rudd’s announcement that he is quitting — essentially for family reasons — ends a parliamentary career that began in 1998, and of course extends back at least another ten years prior to that on account of various roles he held in and around the Labor Party in Queensland and that state’s Goss government in particular.

The decision necessitates a by-election in Rudd’s marginal Brisbane seat of Griffith, likely to be held early in the new year, and the early call would have to be that the LNP’s Bill Glasson — who ran Rudd close in September — must be regarded a near-certainty to wrest the seat from the ALP.

This column will in no way miss Rudd, and the country will be the better to be deprived of his continuing “attention” to its needs.

I will be back later tonight with more comprehensive analysis of the Rudd resignation, but I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say it…

Good riddance.

Heavy Metal Babe: Rising Tory MP Quits UK Politics

At first glance, the resignation of a British MP may seem irrelevant to Australian politics; yet the announcement that up and coming Conservative MP (and favourite of The Red And The Blue) Louise Mensch has quit politics to be with her family has implications here, and in the UK.

The news overnight that first-term Conservative MP and rising star in David Cameron’s government, Louise Mensch, has quit the House of Commons and politics in general comes as a surprise, and as a curved ball to Britain’s coalition government at a delicate phase in its existence.

Having wrested the key marginal seat of Corby from Labour in 2010, Mensch has been something of a surprise packet since her entry to Parliament, making a name for herself from the impassioned expression of her convictions, from her impressive performances as a debater, and from her sheer hard work and her refusal to compromise her beliefs in the name of expediency.

The twice-married Mensch — a mother of three, and a well-known author of “chick lit” prior to her election — has been a breath of fresh air, and this column will miss the authenticity and vigour with which she operated as an MP.

(Yes, this column really does watch British politics as closely as our own in Australia…)

In many ways, Mensch was the archetypal modern recruit conservative parties across the world would kill to bring to their ranks: intelligent, telegenic and personable, Mensch represented the best traditions of the mainstream Right packaged in a highly contemporary yet genuine approach.

Her gift for social media such as Twitter and her ability to relate orthodox conservative policy positions in a way that resonated across age groups had the potential to revolutionise the future appeal of the Conservative Party in a way in which the likes of Tony Blair — with his silly “Cool Brittania” slogans — could only dream of.

Indeed — and whilst we will probably never now know — it probably isn’t too much of a stretch to say Louise Mensch could have represented the future of the Conservative Party in Britain, such has been the promise of this charismatic yet forthright rookie MP.

It is true that Mensch is a flawed individual, and that those flaws bear scars; for instance, she has openly admitted to the use of illicit drugs in her past, and candidly admits that that conduct has had the residual consequent effect of making her anxious.

Yet a flawed character, with its brilliance and its faults, seems representative of today’s Britain: tentative, uneasy with its place in Europe and the wider world, and uncomfortable with itself in point.

And now she leaves David Cameron to fight a difficult by-election in her constituency of Corby on 15 November, at a time of difficulty for the governing coalition in the face of poor opinion polls, legislative difficulties, and facing the very real prospect of either minority government for the Conservative Party and/or an early general election which Labour would have to be favoured to win.

Mrs Mensch has opted to live in New York with her children and her husband, Peter, the manager of  heavy metal rock group Metallica.

The Red And The Blue wishes her well.

But there is a wider issue here: the difficulty modern parties face in recruiting good candidates, the issues such candidates face in making the requisite sacrifices to serve, and the problems political parties have in holding onto them.

In an era where political recruits tend overwhelmingly to come from the ranks of staffers, hacks, party and union officials, and up the time-honoured ladder of nepotistic opportunity, new blood and the fresher perspectives of those from outside the established political class have become a rarer commodity.

I have no doubt that as the mother of a young family, the pressures on Mensch were greater than they would be for other MPs; pressures exacerbated by the abolition of certain travel privileges for the families of MPs in the UK in the wake of the expenses scandal a few years ago. As is often the case, the misdemeanours of the relative few have conspired to compromise the lot of the innocent in this case.

Yet the thing that doesn’t add up is that an energetic, passionate and seemingly committed young MP — well on her way in politics in a very short period of time — should simply walk away from a bright future, even if the comfort and company of her family lie at the heart of the decision.

Tellingly, there are reports that Mensch had worked with 10 Downing Street behind the scenes for almost a year to try to find a way to make her parliamentary commitments balance with her family, but to no avail.

And it raises the question: here in Australia, what would we do?

As a nation, we knock everyone who stands upon a pedestal, and our politicians more than most; rightly or wrongly — often, and regrettably, rightly — we judge those we elect to be not quite up to the job, or not quite straight enough with the truth, or not quite representative of the people who put them into office in the first place.

In reality, it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario: how do you get good and incrementally better people into Parliament if it isn’t worth their while to go there (and I don’t necessarily mean money)? Yet why improve conditions for politicians when they are perceived, generally, to be a pretty mediocre lot in the first place?

And in an Australian context, if a rough yet lustrous diamond a la Louise Mensch roared onto the national scene — and determined to roar right back off it again — would anybody even care, let alone batt an eyelid?

I just think it’s all too easy, when we talk about politics, to forget that under the ideas and the ideologies, beyond the rivalries and the allegiances and the hatreds, and far removed from the tribal loyalties and party bonds that underpin our polity, it is people who lie at the heart of politics.

Real people. Real lives. The electors and those we elect.

Even the mediocre ones.

And that’s why I really am disappointed and sad to see Louise Mensch resign from Parliament; a good person and a bloody good bet for the future governance of her country that will never now pay off, and anyone in Australia who either cares or complains about politics should be disappointed, too, for the day will come that the same thing happens here.

That’s the point.

In the final analysis, it’s difficult to take umbrage with an MP from a family-orientated conservative party throwing her career to spend time with her family, but the wider perspective suggests her party and her country will be the poorer for her official absence.

On the one hand, it is refreshing to see an MP resign for family reasons — and to actually mean it! Usually, and contemptibly, such “reasons” are no more than a euphemism for politicians running away from the consequences of their own personal misconduct.

But on the other, it’s a shame to see an individual exuding such ability and promise simply walk away from parliamentary life, and likely be lost to it forever.

For mine, I’d take one Louise Mensch in Australia over 20 of the boneheads currently inhabiting our own Federal Parliament; and just in case those on the Left think I am having a jab at them — I’m not — there are those on both sides of the House of Representatives to whom that desultory description could well apply.

Comments to the point please. We don’t need to know who you think the “bonehead” MPs in Australia are, either…

Finally Gone, Yet Finally Listening: Anna Bligh Quits Parliament

Queensland’s Labor government, led by Anna Bligh, was spectacularly  obliterated at yesterday’s state election; today, in breach of a promise, Bligh — whilst I was at 40,000 feet, returning to Melbourne — resigned the ALP leadership and with it, her seat in the Queensland Parliament.

Campbell Newman and his LNP team have recorded what looms as the single biggest election victory, federally or in any individual state, in Australian political history.

Whilst a tiny number of electorates remain in doubt, my best estimate is that the final breakdown of seats in Queensland’s 89-seat Parliament will be LNP 77, ALP 8, Katter’s crew 2, and 2 Independents.

It is a stunning electoral triumph that now dwarfs Dean Brown’s win in South Australia in 1993 (39 of 47 seats) and Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s 1974 victory in Queensland (69 of 82 seats), and which makes anything Neville Wran ever achieved in NSW in the 1970s and 1980s look pedestrian by comparison.

Tonight’s post is one that comes with a YouTube clip; a little more obscure than some I have shared, but bang on the money.   🙂

The song says it all; in point of fact, it is precisely how I feel about quite a serious long-term girlfriend I broke up with about 12 years ago. But that’s just the thing: when voters break the relationship off with their governments — especially long-term governments, which this one in Queensland was — it really is tantamount to a divorce.

And whilst you listen to that in another browser, back to the serious stuff.

The estimated seat count I’ve just given you may change, as beaten Labor leader Anna Bligh has opted today to resign her seat in Parliament, effective immediately.

This has to be viewed as an extraordinarily selfish act on one level; having solemnly pledged to serve out a term in Parliament irrespective of the overall election result, Bligh has quit Parliament less than 24 hours after the polls closed yesterday.

In terms of how far anyone could trust anything she says, this development speaks volumes.

And the hundreds of thousands of dollars the by-election will cost the Queensland taxpayer is something the citizens of that electorate and that state should rightly be enraged over.

Yet on another level, I find it difficult to criticise Anna Bligh’s decision too heavily.

It seems that finally, she has listened to a message of sorts from Queenslanders; they don’t want her, they no longer wish to see her, they don’t care any more what she has to say, and they couldn’t care less if they ever hear from her again.

On that level, her course of action is sound, and what she said in her press conference this afternoon was correct: it will be impossible for her party to ever rebuild for as long as she remains as part of its public face, or part of its parliamentary team.

And in a roundabout way, this validates every last criticism that has been levelled against her in the course of the past three years.

Premier-elect Campbell Newman will be sworn into office tomorrow, along with Jeff Seeney as Deputy Premier and Tim Nicholls as Treasurer (good on you mate, Tim!); the full ministry will be sworn in later this week, and then it will be down to business.

And as we have discussed in this column many times now over the past six months or so, there is much to be done in Queensland.

With an eye on the result, I stand by my assessment that the dishonest and virtually fraudulent campaign conducted by Anna Bligh and the ALP worsened what was always going to be a bad result.

And now, I think we can quantify that.

All reputable polling and opinion sampling for the past 18 months has pointed to, on average, a swing of 10% against the ALP in Queensland.

It must be noted that due to the polls conducted around the federal ALP’s leadership contest, there were no statewide opinion polls conducted in Queensland until the end of the campaign; the final Newspoll showed a swing of just over 11%.

Whilst the actual swing won’t be finalised until the count is completed in a couple of weeks, it is clear that it will be in the order of some 15% to 16%; and on that basis, I would directly attribute five percentage points of the swing against Labor to the disgusting campaign it waged and the despicably baseless slurs it aimed at Campbell Newman and his wife.

In other words, Labor directly cost itself at least ten seats by virtue of its own actions.

Seats never lost to the ALP and/or never won by conservative candidates have been claimed by the LNP at this election, including several that stood firm for Labor in the 1974 massacre, including Cairns, Lytton, and Nudgee.

Labor was even taken to preferences in seats like Inala and Woodridge, which simply illustrates the sheer scale of the rout that party has suffered.

I will be posting again on the Queensland election result during the week, and there is much more to discuss than I had even thought; and so given this is not my last word of analysis but merely an introductory overview, I thought I would round out tonight’s post with a look at the predictions I made at the beginning of the campaign and to see how we fared on those (and yes, I’m copying and pasting those predictions from the earlier post so they are here verbatim; the original predictions are in bold, with my comments in separate paragraphs below).

The LNP will win government in Queensland (which will in no way mitigate the legitimacy of my own reservations about the Liberal/National merger; it’s simply time in Queensland).

It did (obviously!) and it doesn’t. And it was time.

Campbell Newman will win Ashgrove and become Premier — I’d expect a 55-45 result in Ashgrove, which is tantamount to a 12.5% swing.

Newman won in Ashgrove and did better than I thought — the eventual result will be near the 60-40 range.

The ALP will win more than 10 seats, despite opinion polls; I’d guess around the 20 to 25-seat mark, give or take.

Labor won’t even make it to 10 seats, but even with my cynical and jaundiced view of the Australian Labor Party, even I didn’t expect the disgusting campaign it chose to pursue — and as I said earlier, that reprehensible strategy has cost it at least ten additional seats.

Bob Katter’s Australian Party won’t win a seat.

It won two, actually; but my guess of zero was closer than virtually every other commentator who had the Katter crowd on track for five to ten seats.

Brisbane will swing heavily to the LNP, yielding at least 10 additional LNP electorates.

Absolutely correct. Brisbane yielded closer to 30 seats than 10, however.

Cairns and the neighbouring electorate of Barron River will fall to the LNP (I know, I know…Labor has held Cairns forever…not this time, methinks).

Bang on the money…

Townsville will mostly return to the Liberal fold — expect to see some big swings there to build on those recorded in 2009.

The Liberals appear to have scored a clean sweep in Townsville for the first time since 1980. However, the seat of Thuringowa remains undecided with Katter claiming his lot can win it, but the overwhelmingly likely outcome is that he won’t.

The ALP and Independents will fail to win any seats on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or in Toowoomba.

Correct, with the exception of the seat of Nicklin, where Independent Peter Wellington seems to have held on despite a massive swing to the LNP. Labor has been banished from all three regions, however, with a cumulative loss of six seats across the three.

The LNP will win at least one Labor-held electorate currently on a margin greater than 16% (I have an electorate in mind; think I’ll keep that to myself for now).

The electorate I had in mind — as some of my readers already know — was the seat of Ipswich (16.6% margin), which has indeed fallen to the LNP’s Ian Berry on a swing of some 20%. Waterford (16.1%) has also been won by the LNP, with (unbelievably) Mackay (16.7%) a chance to follow, with ALP incumbent Tim Mulherin some 200 votes ahead with a quarter of the roll still to count.

That’s it for tonight, although as I said, we’ll be discussing more of this during the week…

…as well as (hopefully) returning to other political news in other areas of the country and beyond.

But as we all know, events happen where they happen; and for now, Queensland is the hot political story in Australia — and this column will follow developments there through until the election results are finalised.



Deck Chair Dancing: Gillard Government’s Dud Reshuffle

The innocuous resignation — and pending departure from Parliament — of veteran ALP frontbencher Nick Sherry necessitated a reshuffle of Julia Gillard’s ministry. The result is a showcase of incompetence, indulged egos, political weakness, and a fatally flawed Prime Minister.

I’d like to say some nice things about Senator Sherry; he’s a good bloke who has faced a lot of personal adversity to have the career he has had.

He hasn’t revolutionised Australia; but he has been the quintessential quiet achiever, with the emphasis on “achiever,” who came back from that dreadful suicide attempt many years ago to be an honest, ardent and diligent Minister who added a bit of lustre to the government in which he ultimately served.

Unfortunately, his resignation has led directly to one of the grubbiest little exercises in partisan politics witnessed in this country for quite some time.

The ministerial reshuffle announced by Julia Gillard yesterday stinks; it reeks of payback, patronage, revenge and self-interest.

It will also cost the taxpayer a bit more money; more on that later.

It should alarm anyone concerned about politics in this country that Peter Garrett —  he of the “Pink Batts” fiasco, latterly charged with responsibility for schools forced to build useless structures under the so-called “Building the Education Revolution” scheme — was informed he was to be sacked, threatened to resign from Parliament, and thus was allowed to stay in the ministry.

It’s a pretty clear signal as to just how unstable Julia Gillard’s government is, and of just how unstable her leadership of it is.

And it’s pretty clear how far the threat of a by-election will get you at the moment; even with Liberal turncoat Peter Slipper in the Speaker’s chair, a by-election is the last thing Gillard wants, needs, or can afford.

Especially when there are other obvious time bombs like Kevin Rudd and Craig Thomson on the loose.

I have opined previously that the best thing Gillard could do would be to sack Rudd; a dangerous exercise to be sure, but the only way to remove a debilitating cancer eating away at her leadership and — as long as anybody other than Rudd leads it — at the survival prospects of the Labor government.

To use an Andrew Peacock phrase, as sure as night follows day Gillard faces a leadership challenge from Rudd early next year; she hasn’t sacked him, which will only embolden him, and allow him to continue to act as a magnet within Caucus to attract the leadership votes of the increasing number of disaffected Labor MPs.

But there you go; Gillard didn’t have the nerve or the verve to act against Rudd — even with an extra vote in the chamber as a short-term safeguard from an election, should a resultant by-election add a number to the Liberal Party tally.

There’s a clear risk the rumours that Thomson will face criminal charges early next year — leading to disqualification from Parliament and another by-election the Liberals are certain to win — will materialise into reality.

Yet Gillard has sought to use her reshuffle to spit in the eyes of her enemies, and to signal to the waverers that their doubts about her judgement are based in fact and not suspicion.

The demotion of former industry, innovation and science minister Kim Carr to a very junior portfolio as minister for manufacturing — supposedly as a result of Carr’s transfer of his leadership support to Rudd — is just too cute.

Carr — who is from the Left of the ALP, an entity I despise — has nonetheless been a relatively competent minister.

But competence, to Gillard, is no consideration.

She made the statement yesterday, in explaining her reshuffle, that it would give her government “the firepower” it needed for 2012 and, it was implied, in the lead-up to the election due in 2013.

That argument might be valid if not for the fact the overall composition of her ministry is virtually unchanged: aside from a couple of personnel changes mandated by resignation, the line-up is identical.

It’s only the seats on the proverbial deck that have changed.

Michelle Grattan, in today’s edition of The Age, made the observation (I believe, with tongue in cheek) that Gillard has now appointed a bunch of bright political salespeople who will get the message out.

Have they in the past four years?

Who are they? They’re the same group of people who were there last week.

It’s still basically the same team that couldn’t even communicate good news without damaging the Labor vote.

And I’d make the observation that they can’t be too bright if the Labor vote now languishes around the 30% mark.

Still, there are “positives.”

Ambitious egocentric Bill Shorten enters Cabinet; Greg Combet is promoted for his astute handling of the climate change issue (which not only is largely responsible for Labor’s freefall in the polls, but has been followed by Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol and all future similar treaties).

The size of the cabinet has been expanded from 20 to 22, meaning the Australian taxpayer is liable for two additional fat salaries in exchange for Gillard buying off people who would otherwise have caused trouble for her leadership had they been on the receiving end of a straight sacking.

And we have Gillard explaining that expansion of Cabinet by saying that the additional  numbers are the result of the “increased breadth of the Labor reform agenda.”

Er…no, they’re not the result of that.

And the so-called Labor “reform” agenda is a dubious entity at best.

You see, all Gillard has done is to buy people off, keep certain interests quiet, stave off multiple sources of insurrection, and purchase her useless tenure as Prime Minister a little more time within the closed citadel that is the ALP.

This reshuffle has been grubby; it has (as reported) rewarded and promoted allies and cronies, and punished and demoted enemies and dissidents — real, perceived and/or imagined.

Tony Abbott has been right to criticise the arrangement and he has been right to criticise Gillard’s failure to act against Kevin Rudd: in purely political terms, Rudd must be discarded from the government, and as Gillard hasn’t done it now, she never will.

Which in turn means Rudd will fatally wound Gillard, even if he isn’t the recipient of the prize when Gillard’s leadership collapses next year.

No no no, Tony Abbott — again — has correctly read this situation.

For Gillard, she’s reshuffled the deck chairs, and is smug about the look of the arrangement.

But at what cost…at what cost?