Victoria: In Any Other Job, ALP MPs Would Be Prosecuted

TWO ALP MPs caught misusing an allowance for rural members to maintain second residences in Melbourne are lucky they don’t work in the private sector; a blatant collective rort of $140,000 would, in other circumstances, expose them to prosecution for theft, fraud, conspiracy, and God knows what else. The episode is further proof of a rotten Labor regime presided over by a pusillanimous Premier, operated solely to benefit militant union thugs.

Lest any smarty utter the words “Bronwyn Bishop” in a comment, I note at the outset that not only was this column scathing about her flagrant waste of some $5,500 on a helicopter trip at the time — an amount repaid in full, however grudgingly — but that the episode (rightly) cost Mrs Bishop her position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, her Liberal Party endorsement for her electorate on Sydney’s North Shore, and her political career.

And I say this because once again, members from the ALP — this time, specimens from the contemptible, union-controlled junta that infests the Treasury benches in Spring Street — have shown that when it comes to the blatant rip-off of public monies for personal benefit, any outrage perpetrated by a Liberal MP invariably pales in comparison to the kind of rorting the self-entitled minions of the Labor Party seem to engage in until or unless they are caught.

Most readers will have by now heard that Andrews government Speaker Telmo Languiller has been forced to resign, and make restitution, over $40,000 he improperly claimed for maintaining a second residence outside his electorate, which wasn’t in Melbourne at all; this development yesterday was swiftly followed by the deputy Speaker, Don Nardella, also falling on his sword over a $100,000 claim against exactly the same allowance — when neither his primary residence, nor the secondary address he made the claims for, were anywhere near his electorate at all.

For those out of the loop, and particularly interstate readers, some coverage may be accessed here and here.

I’m not going to comment at great length today — I will be back later this afternoon to belatedly discuss some of what has happened this past week in the federal political arena — but whichever way you cut it, these developments are (or at least, should be) disastrous for Daniel Andrews and the government we also said, at the time it was elected, was likely to turn out to be a fiasco.

How right we were: and how lucky for Andrews, for now at least, that the state Liberals seem unable to land a telling blow against his government.

Perhaps — after the terrible loss of life on Bourke Street last month, and now this — that might finally start to change.

To fully appreciate the scope of this latest outrage (and again, for the benefit of readers interstate), a little geographical orientation is indicated.

Languiller — the member for Tarneit, about 25km west of the Melbourne CBD — has been claiming for a second residence so he could live in Queenscliff, on the surf coast about 80km from Melbourne on the Bellarine Peninsula, despite maintaining a “primary residence” in Footscray about 6km from the CBD: it goes without saying that any second residence Mr Languiller wished to maintain at Queenscliff should have been of the “holiday house” variety funded solely from his own pocket.

Nardella, by contrast, represents the electorate of Melton, a dreadful and thoroughly awful speck of Melbourne’s outer western suburbs about a third of the way to Ballarat; even so, Nardella doesn’t even pretend to deign to dwell among those whose votes he takes for granted every four years — his primary residence is in the Bayside suburb of Mordialloc, about 25km south of the CBD (and about 10-15 minutes further out from the city than where I live), and the “secondary residence” he has saddled taxpayers with a six-figure bill for is in Ocean Grove, almost literally a stone’s throw from Languiller’s joint at Queenscliff.

In other words, the “secondary residences” these gentlemen have pocketed money from the taxpayer to fund — under an allowance always intended to help rural and regional MPs maintain accommodation in Melbourne for use during parliamentary sitting weeks — were a total violation of the intention of the allowance. Apparently, the defence was initially offered that as guidelines did not stipulate a “second residence” had to be in Melbourne, no wrongdoing had occurred.

Closing that loophole should be the first item on the notice paper when Parliament next sits.

In Nardella’s case, it is hard to see how any sane or rational individual could have conjured up even the most remotely plausible justification for his actions — even if solely for the benefit of the voices in his head — for his case is arguably the worse of the two misdemeanours, and impossible to validate on any realistic basis.

But to suggest the amounts of $40,000 and $100,000 respectively were at best fraudulently procured, and worst a blatant case of theft from the public purse, is no overstatement at all.

Had Languiller and Nardella been employed in the private sector and stolen those amounts from their bosses, they could and probably would be facing a string of charges including theft, fraud, conspiracy, embezzlement, and hefty jail terms to boot.

As it is, they will likely face no consequences at all, save for the loss of the ministerial component of their salaries; nobody should feel sympathy or compunction over the fact both will repay the monies illicitly taken, and nobody should think they have been unfairly dealt with or that their feeble justifications are in any way adequate. If repaying the money they should never have taken causes either or both hardship, nobody should care less; if they find the ridicule and embarrassment they now deservedly suffer to be too hard to handle, they should thank their lucky stars nobody is likely to institute criminal proceedings against them.

Frankly, they ought to be thrown out of Parliament for their trouble: and for a Premier who made so much of the Liberals’ predicament prior to the 2014 election, when the vote of miscreant Liberal-turned-Independent Geoff Shaw was the difference between a functional Victorian Parliament and a gridlocked quagmire, Daniel Andrews owes it to the people of Victoria — based on his own purported standards and “principles” — to lead the charge against two of his own, and move the expulsion motions himself.

He won’t, for one thing Andrews truly lacks is a spine. Another is a sense of decency, wherever actions rather than words are called for.

Coming so soon after another disgraced Andrews government minister “resigned” after it emerged he had been using a taxpayer-funded chauffeured car to transport his dogs between his two houses, this is a terrible look for Victorian Labor, and one compounded by the fact that Police minister Lisa Neville was allowed to survive in her post by Andrews after the grotesque tragedy on Bourke Street just weeks ago when she should have been sacked on the spot.

When you add in the bullying of another minister out of her post for refusing to kowtow to the line dictated to Andrews by the militant, hard-Left United Firefighters Union, as it sought to take over the Country Fire Authority, this government is looking very grubby indeed; and when it is further recognised that the common thread through all of the arrivals, departures, lack of action and vacillating over getting rid of people is a constant of union webs and links, it makes Andrews look weak, pusillanimous, and pathetic.

The loss of two more ministers (if you count the Speaker and his deputy as such) for what boils down to common theft in anyone else’s language means the Andrews government has, in a little over two years, lost three Cabinet ministers, the Speaker and his deputy, for the total loss of five ministers from a starting line-up of 25: 20% of the Andrews government wiped out in less than two-thirds of its four-year term.

As I predicted it would the day after it was elected, this state Labor government has proven to be rotten to the core, and sometimes in ways nobody could have expected.

With more than 18 months to go, and with “interesting stories” circulating about the activities of some of Andrews’ other closest cohorts, it remains to be seen just how far the rot can spread — and how long before opposition leader Matthew Guy can turn what should be a political slam-dunk into any kind of lead in reputable opinion polling, let alone one that might win him the next state election.

 

Keystone Copout: Labor Abuses High Court To Evade Rorts Probe

VICTORIAN LABOR’S ethically bankrupt 2014 campaign will drag on into yet another year, with the Andrews government to seek a High Court injunction to kibosh an Ombudsman’s inquiry into whether Labor rorted public resources by sending electorate staff to marginal seats to campaign for ALP candidates. The move is an abuse of process, further underlining the hypocrisy of a rotten regime elected on a premise that is tantamount to fraud.

There are those readers who object to my characterisation of the ALP — and the union thugs and henchmen who bankroll it — as “filth,” but when it comes to Labor’s Victorian division and the government it formed after the 2014 state election on a platform that has proven tantamount to a fraud, that loathsome party’s depravity appears to know few boundaries these days.

I am talking — this time — about the risible scheme cooked up and carried out by Labor from opposition, at the 2014 state election, to redeploy electorate staff in safely Labor-held seats to campaign for ALP candidates in marginal Coalition electorates, which on any reasonable interpretation cannot be said to pass the so-called “pub test” even if (as idiot savant and Premier Daniel Andrews claims) the grimy plot complied with Parliamentary guidelines.

First things first: for those unfamiliar with the background to this issue or with this latest development yesterday, some background reading may be accessed here and here; the obvious observation to make is that having been referred to the Ombudsman by Victoria’s Upper House for an investigation of the scheme to take place — an action upheld in the Supreme Court last year, and subsequently by Victoria’s Court of Appeal — the Andrews government’s mooted application to the High Court for an injunction has the distinct reek of corruption emanating from it.

(Having grown up in Queensland and watched the excesses of the Bjelke-Petersen regime play out in real time, it’s not an overreach to say so).

But the news that Victorian Labor is desperate to evade scrutiny over what any fair-minded individual could only describe as a rort ought to surprise nobody; after all, the present state government won power after waging one of the dirtiest and most ethically bankrupt campaigns in Australian political history, and having made it nearly two-thirds the way through a four-year term by governing with a similarly brazen outlook, any expectation it might conduct itself with a bit of decency now would be a forlorn hope indeed.

After all, this is a party that co-opted CFMEU brutes to masquerade as emergency services workers to harass and bully people into voting for it; had “nurses” telemarket the old, the frail and the sick to scare them shitless with jumped-up lies about the Liberal Party’s record and plans in the Health portfolio; and has to date saddled Victorian taxpayers with a compensation bill of more than a billion dollars for cancelling the contract to build Melbourne’s much-needed East-West Link, despite solemn promises the contract “wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on” and that “not one cent” of compensation would be payable for abandoning the road project.

And that’s just for starters.

But the running saga of another of the Victorian ALP’s power-crazed stunts — sending taxpayer-funded staff into marginal Coalition electorates as campaign workers — can only be viewed through the prism of the rest of its sordid, dishonest election campaign; Andrews has never explained how this was compliant with parliamentary guidelines despite his claims to that effect, and neither has a single member of his government.

Not even under parliamentary privilege, where they can evade prosecution for lying about it: the inescapable conclusion is therefore that no such compliance exists, and Andrews and his goons know it.

I’m not partisan enough or naive enough to insult readers’ intelligence by suggesting the Upper House’s decision to refer the government to the Ombudsman isn’t, viewed one way, a stunt of its own; after all, this is how opposition politicians play, and both the Coalition and the Communist Party Greens who between them control the Legislative Council stand to gain from any opprobrium that can be attached to Labor over this issue.

And it goes without saying that this entire episode — irrespective of who committed the offence, or who it is baying for blood over it — is merely the latest tawdry example in a seemingly endless recent sequence as to why politics, and politicians, are held in such contempt by the voting public.

But in a breathtaking hypocrisy, it was Labor — then in opposition under first the hapless John Brumby, and later the amiable boofhead Steve Bracks — which, in 1999, made the Kennett government’s emasculation of the Ombudsman an issue that rightly generated community outrage; yet today, Labor’s Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, is quoted in the Herald Sun article I’ve linked as saying that the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow the Ombudsman’s inquiry into allegations against the ALP to stand accords Parliament “too much power to require the Ombudsman to probe any matter.”

So let’s dispense with the mock outrage, and nudge the discussion back into the real world.

The simple truth seems to be that Victorian Labor — in its mad lust for power at any price imaginable, backed by the utter thuggery and bastardry of its Trades Hall chums — appears to have taken it upon itself to fortify its filthy campaign of lies and deceit by misusing the resources allocated to it for electorate purposes to provide an additional bulwark against Denis Napthine’s government in the seats it needed to win to secure office.

That’s the charge: and given Andrews and his mates have not only admitted the practice occurred, but insisted (without substantiation) that the practice was legal, those allegations must be tested.

To this end, Labor’s intended recourse to the High Court, in a desperate last stand to try to shut the Ombudsman’s investigation down, not only smacks of panic but can only be characterised as an abuse of process.

Like everything about the Andrews government, this episode serves to highlight the decaying and rotten foundations upon which it is built: and Victorians, and Australians in other states watching the goings-on in Spring Street, are justified in feeling disgusted by yet another elected government caught out playing fast and loose with resources paid for by an over-taxed public that has yet again been taken for granted.

As for the opposition Liberal Party, two points must be made.

One, if — as the Andrews government defence seems to imply — “they’re all at it too,” then miscreant Liberal MPs must also be subjected to rigorous scrutiny; if Labor has evidence of similar practices being employed by the Liberals or the Greens, as it claims, it must produce it. The fact it has failed to do so, however, is strongly indicative that “they’re all at it too” is just an attempt to deflect blame by smearing others, and Andrews has exhibited a contemptible lack of leadership by permitting such baseless accusations to be made.

But two, if — after everything Andrews Labor has gifted them to work with, the staff rorts probe we’re talking about today notwithstanding — they remain unable to puncture the ALP’s election-winning lead in reputable opinion polling, then the Liberals have a problem.

This column enthusiastically endorsed Matthew Guy as leader in the aftermath of the 2014 election, and we remain hopeful he can turn the Coalition’s fortunes. But if it continues to trail badly in another 12 months’ time, some hard decisions will need to be made.

After all, an honest assessment of the Andrews government already shows it unfit to hold office. To allow its re-election late next year through poor leadership and a misfiring political apparatus would be nothing short of unforgivable.

Labor has already reaped the fruits of the intellectual fraud it foisted on Victoria in 2014. It is the Liberals’ responsibility to ensure it doesn’t happen a second time.

 

Dog Act: Scandal A Metaphor For Daniel Andrews’ Government

THE UPROAR over a piddling minister in Victoria’s loathsome state government using taxpayer-funded transport for two dogs is not only justified, but speaks to everything wrong with “modern” Labor and its charade in office: Steve Herbert refuses to resign; Premier Daniel Andrews refuses to sack him. This fiasco is the latest in a long list that marks the ALP as unfit to govern. An election loss, two years hence, is beginning to look distinctly possible.

Before we get started, I should just like to reference the gnome who accosted me on Twitter on Wednesday night when this story broke, effectively accusing me of double standards — something about the Liberals (under Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine) and Geoff Shaw — and to observe that such a blatantly partisan (and patently brainless) barb could only have originated from the foul brigade that leapt into action at the ALP to defend their maaate by going on the attack; regular readers know I am hellbent on finding ways to improve the pitiful standards of parliamentary behaviour, on all sides of politics.

I campaigned volubly for the expulsion of Geoff Shaw from Parliament; so, too, did the current Premier, when he was a “principled” leader of the opposition. Shaw left the parliamentary Liberal Party of his own volition and was subsequently expelled as a member once the proper constitutional processes of the party had rightly been followed. Yet Corrections minister Steve Herbert will suffer neither humiliation. He won’t even be sacked from Daniel Andrews’ ministry.

And this — for reasons of Andrews’ petulant, puerile and hypocritical insistence that Liberals had no “principles” and were a “circus” in office, as much as anything else — merely shows that the Victorian ALP is unfit to hold office.

It’s hardly as if more evidence was needed to show that, however.

But the scandal that erupted this week over Herbert using his taxpayer-funded chauffeur to transport his two pet dogs from his home in Melbourne’s Bayside to his “primary place of residence” in rural Trentham — 120km away — on multiple occasions eclipses the dubious record set by Bronwyn Bishop a little over a year ago as the most outrageous abuse of parliamentary allowances by any Australian politician in recent times; at least Bishop’s notorious charter helicopter was used to transport a real person (even if some in the ALP trench dispute the fact Bronwyn is actually human), and a person who has in fact been elected to Parliament.

(Regular readers also know I called for Bishop to be stripped of both the Speakership and her Liberal Party endorsement over that, too).

But two dogs?

Those who want to read up a bit on what’s been going on can do so here and here — I don’t intend to bog down on the specifics of this matter, although I do note Herbert appears to have been something of a recidivist miscreant, based on what Melbourne’s Herald Sun turned up yesterday — but to say Herbert should be permitted any option other than an immediate and involuntary departure from the ministry is an understatement.

But bleating about an “inadvertent” error cuts no ice; even a complete imbecile would comprehend that taxpayers do not fund the routine regular transportation of politician’s pets. Herbert clearly fails that test. In refusing to sack him yesterday, now-Premier Andrews — previously (and appropriately) lambasted in this column as “a complete imbecile,” among other fitting epithets — obviously possesses a level of understanding that doesn’t even extend that far.

Offers to make full repayment for “the cost of the petrol” simply rub salt in the eyes of betrayed Victorians who have, excuse the pun, been taken for a ride; Herbert simply doesn’t get it. This isn’t about the price of petrol. It is an abuse of privilege. It is a sacking offence. And Herbert, simply, must be sacked.

Given Herbert traded his ultra-marginal, Melbourne metropolitan lower house seat of Eltham at the 2014 state election for a guaranteed spot at the top of Labor’s upper house ticket in rural Northern Victoria — and with regard to the fact the ALP does not control the upper house, even with lemming-like Greens to prop it up — it remains to be seen whether the Legislative Council, which is already a seething viper pit of cross-party hostility, might see fit to take some form of censure action into its own hands. I would strongly support such action being taken. But regrettably, even if Herbert were to be suspended for a while, in the longer run nothing would change.

Andrews is content to allow filth like Herbert sully and besmirch his government. Unlike Baillieu and Napthine, he doesn’t have the wafer-thin margin in the lower house to imperil his government if Herbert were to go rogue. Quite simply, Andrews is a spineless, irresponsible moral vacuum. Voters are watching closely.

It could well be that either Herbert grows a brain and quits, or Andrews belatedly behaves like a responsible Premier instead of an adolescent oaf and simply sacks him; either outcome would be warranted, although in either case, the horse has bolted: the damage is already done.

But worryingly, this latest obscenity is not the first to be committed by the Andrews government, and nor is it likely to be the last.

This is a government that swore to voters that it could tear up the contract to build a sorely overdue piece of road infrastructure without paying a cent in compensation. The contract wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, Andrews said. Almost $1bn in compensation and make good payments later, Victorian taxpayers are ten figures in the red — with nothing to show for it.

This is the government that decided, with an eye to the $57bn white elephant desalination plant the previous Labor outfit saw fit to saddle Victorians with, to order water from the plant for the first time since construction was completed almost a decade ago. Yet Victoria has had one of its wettest winters in decades, and Victorian households will pay $14 each next year for a relatively insignificant quantity of unnecessary water. But the Andrews mob won’t learn; last week, it flew a kite around the Melbourne press about the “need” for a second desalination plant.

This is a government that effectively ceded control of the Country Fire Authority to the ultra-left wing United Firefighters Union in repayment of an election debt, risking the loss of decades of firefighting experience from thousands of volunteer firefighters just to mollify a few undesirable union thugs.

It’s the same government that allowed the apparently principled minister responsible — genuinely principled, not all blather and hot air and bullshit — to be bullied out of her job for failing to force the takeover the unions wanted through.

This is the government that has all but ceded control of the building and construction industry in Victoria to the militant, lawless CFMEU (another election debt), whose minions are so cock-sure they run Melbourne that they now spill out into city streets in front of heavy traffic, without so much as looking, in the arrogant certainty everyone will get out of their way.

It’s the government that — despite well-founded community outrage over the so-called “safe schools” program leading to the federal government cancelling its funding — took it upon itself to not only restore the funding at cost to Victorian taxpayers, but which has thumbed its nose at the legitimate objections from parents who don’t want their kids taught left-wing social engineering bullshit in state-run primary schools (and if I sound pissed off about it, it’s because one of my kids goes to a state-run primary school too).

Now, ministers apparently escape scot-free for flagrant and outrageous abuses of parliamentary entitlements, and even the reprinting of sanctimonious rants Andrews directed at Shaw from opposition by the Herald Sun — which could be applied, verbatim, to Herbert — are still insufficient to motivate an appropriate response.

It says something about the loathsome junta running Victoria at present that this list, extensive as it is, barely scratches the surface of the anti-democratic, inappropriate and/or downright illegal machinations that are tolerated on its watch, and any of Labor’s filthy slugs who want to point fingers and engage in name calling are no better than the tsunami of scum they seek to defend.

One will say something nice about John Cain for a change; once the scale of his government’s economic incompetence was laid bare in 1990 — and once the carnage revealed he had presided over a regime that had all but bankrupted Victoria, to say nothing of the mums and dads who lost everything they owned in the calamitous collapse of the state’s financial institutions — he at least had the grace to resign, and to do it quickly, although it goes without saying that it didn’t absolve him of an iota of responsibility.

There seems to be no such weight of principle burdening Andrews, who appears content to literally allow Victoria to slide into lawlessness at the whim and behest of union thugs, ministerial miscreants, and anyone else whose antics attract the protection racket that is Victorian Labor simply because they’re a maaate.

To say Herbert’s pet transport rort — and Andrews’ response to it — is a dog act is a masterful understatement.

But this latest brouhaha simply underlines a reality that Victorians, in rapidly increasing numbers, are quickly becoming awake to: Labor is unfit to hold office, and unfit to govern.

This time last year, albeit three years from another election, the conventional wisdom (which I shared) was that barring too many indiscretions, the Andrews government was set to be easily re-elected in 2018, probably with a sharply increased majority, even if for no better reasons than the inertia of the electorate and the cheer squad Labor unfathomably attracts in swathes of the media (Fairfax, Crikey!, the ABC) that have more influence here than anywhere else in the country, and certainly more than is justified.

Now I’m not so sure, and I think the early signs that Victoria may yet have consecutive single-term governments are becoming clearly visible.

Just as I was adamant Shaw should have been expelled from Parliament (even if it triggered an election, given the razor-thin numbers the Coalition governed with between 2010 and 2014), I gave ample warning to readers before the 2014 election that the shenanigans we have witnessed during the first half of the Andrews government’s term were precisely what Victorians could expect if they were silly enough to elect him to office.

Today — if we’re talking about a scandal involving two dogs — their names might as well be Steve and Daniel. And if calling the dastardly duo “dogs” offends anyone — especially over at the ALP — I would simply observe that if the shoe fits, they must wear it.

Video Comment: The State Of Play Heading Into Polling Day

HEADING TOWARD polling day tomorrow, this evening we are doing things a little differently; following the endorsement provided for the Coalition in this column this morning, tonight’s “article” is in video format: talking about the likely movement from state to state, and providing an estimate of the likely overall result. This is the first time we have used a video format in this column, and reader feedback is welcome.

Despite the fact I’m still not 100% recovered, I made good on my threat this afternoon to record a video comment to discuss the state-by-state movements I expect to see tomorrow; do excuse the fact I’m still coughing, and please excuse the excessive “ums” and “ahs:” as often as not, these are merely to try to ward off the coughing fits that the latest “import” from my son’s day care centre has been inflicting.

This is an experimental post for this column; it is hard to believe that five years since I started publishing content here, this is a format that hasn’t been used to date.

As such, the amateur nature of the production is evident: whilst I have access to media production partners for a fee, the rest of the time I’m just another private publisher of comment, and in this case, it probably shows.

I’ve tried to keep this fairly light — eschewing too much fine detail, such as digging into the minutiae of dozens of individual seats — but of course those readers who want to go down that track should feel quite free to do so.

I will be posting further opinion (of the written variety) either overnight or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, any comments on this sally into video commentary would be most welcome.

One day to go — and the attached video also includes my tip for the outcome.

 

Election 2016: Be Honest About The Alternative, And Vote For The Coalition

WITH A DAY before polls open, The Red And The Blue today endorses the Coalition and states its reasons (and reservations) in doing so; the government of Malcolm Turnbull is not perfect, and his leadership is not a change we supported. Yet punishing the Liberal Party for elevating Turnbull would elect Shorten; the disaster Labor offers — and the unfit candidate for high office Mr Shorten is — puts the choice at this election beyond question.

There are those who will look briefly at this column — at my membership of the Liberal Party (which I love), at my openly-declared conservatism, and at the fact I provided not just a ringing endorsement of Tony Abbott three years ago, but of the various state Liberal Parties who have contested elections in that time — and conclude that an endorsement of Malcolm Turnbull today would, as a matter of course, be issued.

In fact, I have spent a considerable amount of time during 2016 contemplating not issuing an endorsement today at all; unsupportive of Malcolm Turnbull at the time of the leadership change last September and still to be convinced of its value now, I have been intermittently dismayed and appalled (as regular readers know) by what has passed for governance this year against a backdrop of scandal, indecision, poor political tactics, and reticence to take a risk.

This election, to use a cliché, actually matters; to carry the platitude a step further, it is no exaggeration to say that in 2016, Australian voters confront the most important choice at the ballot box since 1975, when the Whitlam government had taken the country to the brink of ruin and was prepared to defy the Constitution to avoid the matter being resolved by the people, or even 1949, when a Labor government’s aim to entrench the slither of socialism through a program of bank nationalisation was decisively and properly rebuffed by the voting public.

To decide who should govern Australia for the next three years, it is necessary to look back to 2013, and to the six years of ALP government that preceded it.

In Labor folklore, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan are revered, deified, and touted as men who saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis that so ravaged the economies of many of our partners across the world, from which some may never recover; the reality is that the mining boom — then still in full flush, despite Swan’s best efforts to kill it with a tax — was responsible for doing that, and whilst any injection of monies into the economy clearly stimulates economic activity, it is doubtful whether Australia would have entered recession at that time had Swan and Rudd not acted with a stimulus package.

Whether it would or not, the fact is that the “need” for stimulus and the lure of the pork barrel soon provided cover for the single greatest program of economic vandalism in this country’s history; over the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, taxation receipts increased by an average of 7% per year.

Yet over the same period, government debt — which sat at zero when Labor was elected in 2007 — rocketed to $300bn by the time the ALP was ejected from office, as spending on social programs, electoral bribes to key constituencies and goodies for Labor’s union buddies were doled out with reckless abandon; these borrowings were in addition to some $40bn in surpluses that had been banked into two sovereign wealth funds by former Treasurer Peter Costello, monies that were gone a matter of months into the ALP’s term as it flung money at everything and anything it believed might vote for it whenever it next faced the polls.

Of course, by the time Labor left office in 2013, the GFC — or at least, the worst effects of it — had passed Australia by.

But in an unprecedented exercise in self-interest and through the indulgent gambling with the national interest to invest in future political profit, the ALP had, quite openly, booby-trapped the federal budget before it was defeated: legislating tens of billions of dollars in additional annual social spending that was designed to render the nation’s finances unmanageable by a Liberal government, with the objective of contributing to the first-term defeat of such a government on the pretext of its economic “incompetence” and the inability to balance the books.

This spending — on disability services, on funding to minority communities, on handouts to low income earners, and on other sensitive targets — was contrived to make any Liberal government seeking to rescind it appear cruel, nasty, or even evil.

And to compound the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd investment in the ALP’s own future, Labor during the current term of Parliament has resolutely blocked every measure presented to the Senate that sought to reduce spending, but has voted to pass every measure that sought to increase it, in an unbelievable agenda of sabotage firmly aimed at putting its own interests squarely ahead of Australia’s, and of the Australian people.

It surprises nobody, of course, that Labor has also spent three years making shrill declarations of the “incompetence” of the Coalition in failing to balance the budget — asseverations that simply do not withstand scrutiny, in light of the behaviour of the Labor Party — for its misuse of a Senate majority, held jointly with the Greens, was always a critical element of the strategy to short-circuit a Liberal government within three years.

There are those within and beyond the parliamentary Left, whose defence of these tactics has been to suggest the Coalition was “unable” to negotiate effectively with the Senate; the fact is that Labor, the Greens, and the hate-filled Palmer United Party that controlled it determined that there would be no negotiation at all, and to the extent there was, any outcomes that were delivered would worsen the state of the budget and fuel Labor’s 2016 election case.

Well, here we are: with government debt now sitting at half a trillion dollars and still spiralling, the responsibility for this outrage rests not with the Coalition parties that have been prevented from cleaning up the mess, but with the same party that created it in the first place — and which was happy to see the gushing red ink continue to flow in the happy knowledge that if the strategy paid off, and Bill Shorten were to be elected tomorrow, it would be taxpayers rather than those who created the mess who would be left to carry the can.

It is a reprehensible legacy from a party that gained, in the 1980s, the economic credibility it had never enjoyed; ever since the election of the Howard government in 1996 and with increasing speed, Labor has sought to disown its mostly fine record of achievement under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, to the point the ALP today more closely resembles the economic train wreck the Whitlam government developed into, and whose legacy it sought determinedly to recreate under the stewardship of Swan as Treasurer.

It says something for the capacity of Labor to manage the economy that for the only time in living memory, the last Labor government introduced a tax that not only raised no revenue, but nonetheless contributed heavily to driving investment in the minerals and energy offshore whilst compounding the effects of the end of the mining boom. It was an abjectly pathetic achievement.

A disturbing warning sign now exists at the Labor Party of today, which promises to introduce a slate of new taxes totalling a horrific $102bn over the next decade, but to spend the lot — and then some — to the extent that the already-haemorrhaging budget deficit will continue to balloon, and despite the extra revenue from Bill Shorten’s mad tax grab, will still add a further $16bn to the national debt ledger during the same decade over which it is collected.

This is no way to run a country; it is no way to provide for Australia’s people. At some point — long after the careers of today’s power-obsessed Labor MPs and their Trades Hall masters are over, and after those individuals have departed this world — today’s young people will inherit the responsibility those reckless specimens eschewed, and even if Bill Shorten loses tomorrow, there remains the very real risk that the next generation of Australians will endure sharply lower living standards as a direct consequence of the behaviour of the ALP over the course of the past decade.

The fact is that in the Australia of today, risks and challenges are everywhere we look.

Military threats in distant parts of the world that could spark global conflagrations: Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Islamic fascism in the Middle East. Nuclear lunacy on our doorstep in North Korea. Regional expansionism in Asia through China. Labor, with a fine record under Hawke on the international stage, sought to equip Australia for the security challenges of the 21st century under Rudd and Gillard by emasculating the defence forces. Rudd, in particular, retains the delusion today that he should speak for Australia on matters pertaining to world security at the United Nations. As with its obsession with electoral power at any price, Labor still acts from self-interest in this field rather than the national interest.

Economic threats in a world that has grown complacent, and stagnant, after decades of post-war success: across the Western world, overblown state sectors suck increasing amounts of money from liberal democratic economies, the effect of which is compounded by constantly increasing wage growth even as productivity falls and economic output stagnates; Europe, the USA, Japan, and other key partners Australia stands with are all afflicted by the condition, which is simply summarised as sitting on their laurels rather than continuing to struggle and fight for improvements.

The cultures of dependency and welfarism have exploded across the West — including Australia — as “compassionate” democratic societies invent new and grandiose pretexts upon which to shovel more and more largesse upon their citizens; the end destination is the basket case zone comprising the bankrupt and moribund economies of Europe, which “modern” Labor has done so much, so deleteriously, to attempt to emulate in this country since the Howard government’s defeat.

And an obsession with “rights” and a prioritisation of minorities over the majority of the population has become a mainstay of political life throughout the Western world, as the illiberal and socialist agenda of the “modern” political Left has sought to restrict freedoms, curtail dissent, and dared majorities to rise against it under the threat of being labelled, vilified and destroyed as bigots, racists, homophobes, and troglodytes.

On every one of these counts, Australian Labor has taken the anti-Australian position: this is not to say its causes are entirely without merit, or that the interests it advances should summarily be stifled.

But just as this agenda has hijacked any ability to mount cogent arguments in favour of sound governance — after all, no “losers” can ever be created by government under the narrative of the Left — it is reprehensible to accept that it should be tolerated for the base reason that other priorities are simply rendered too difficult to pursue.

Labor deserves to pay a price for its complicity in the creeping advance of this culture, and it deserves to pay it heavily tomorrow at the ballot box.

That is not to say, of course, that the Coalition is without fault: quite the contrary.

Conservative voters are entitled to be angry, and to remain angry, at the manner in which former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was removed from his post; this column remains convinced, however, that had he remained in office, the Coalition would lose the election tomorrow — or whenever it might have been held — on account of the irreconcilable deficiencies in strategy, tactics, communication and policies the government was welded to pursuing under his leadership.

It is true that the Coalition does not boast a record of tight economic management: the reasons for this have been clearly set out earlier in this article, and blame can and must be apportioned to the ALP and its insidious “leader,” Bill Shorten, for the failure to correct the damage it should have never inflicted whilst in office.

And it is certainly true that in changing leaders a year ago, the Liberal Party lowered itself to the level it has spent years berating and goading Labor for; political parties are free to change their leaders whenever and however often they like, and there is no such position as an elected Prime Minister. But the Coalition has made merry with this point for too long in the past, and it cannot expect the ALP not to follow suit.

As far as a program for reform — actual, genuine reform — neither party is in a position to proclaim it offers comprehensive solutions, despite whatever outbursts to the contrary either may offer.

To distill the choice to its essence, this election — and who people should elect — comes down to which party is most likely to prudently steward Australia through the next three years and, ironically, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders.

A very hostile Senate seems certain to be elected, to replace the very hostile Senate that has been dissolved: this might provide Labor with the argument it can deliver what it promises, as it is likely to control the upper house with the Greens, but the problem is that what the ALP offers is a program that should not be legislated by any Senate — hostile, compliant or otherwise.

A hundred billion dollars in new taxes, shadowed by an even greater amount of spending, is not what Australia needs today; in placing such madness on the table at a time of budget weakness and facing uncertain economic times, some gratitude should be expressed that Shorten and his cronies have given advance notice of their intention to simply resume the same program of vandalism that their predecessors engaged in between 2008 and 2013.

The objectives of the Coalition might be more modest, but at the same time, they do not come with a $100bn price tag: and in any case, with the experience of the past three years to guide it, the government can be expected to approach the Senate more carefully during the next; no such restraint can be anticipated from the ALP, whose only instincts are to borrow, and to tax, and to spend, with a total disregard for the consequences provided its own election can be guaranteed.

This is certainly not what Australia needs today.

I say to those nursing their anger over the dumping of Abbott to look at Bill Shorten, and to vote for the Liberal Party; I understand and accept that Malcolm Turnbull is not to everyone’s liking (and remind them that I campaigned against his ascension for several years) but when compared to his opponent, Turnbull is a veritable saint.

In Shorten, we see a union thug, a liar, a self-obsessed narcissist, and a man whose “vision” extends no further than a delusion that the Prime Ministership is his destiny.

Shorten has been prepared to say and do, literally, anything to win this election; but like any liar, or bullshit artist, sooner or later the conflicting stories told to different people at different times collide with each other, and Shorten has been caught out: and so today, the only palpable reason he offers voters to elect the ALP is the blatant lie that the Coalition would privatise Medicare.

As I remarked recently to an upper house Liberal MP in Victoria, Shorten’s has been the most dishonest election pitch I can remember in the past 30 years.

It should not, and must not, be rewarded with the keys to The Lodge.

I should emphasise that this is an imperfect choice, and that neither party has truly enunciated a vision (for want of a better word) to electrify the public mood or to excite confidence from the electorate.

Yet the pitch that has belatedly emerged from Turnbull — despite wasted months and wasted opportunities — around lower taxes, greater incentive, sounder public finances and more secure public services is more credible than the snatch-and-grab agenda of the ALP, or the prejudices and resentments it seeks to fuel as it plays sections of the community off against each other for its own petty partisan profit.

And so — with reservations — this column recommends all Australians vote 1 for their local Liberal and National candidates in the House of Representatives; we beg readers to vote for the Coalition in the Senate, to mitigate against a (seemingly inevitable) rerun of the gridlock and obstruction that saw government grind to a halt in the last term of Parliament; and to those resolved to vote for a minor party or Independent, we respect your decision — but recommend, in all cases, that your Coalition candidate be placed above both the ALP and the Greens as you complete the full allocation of your preferences.

In fact, so insidious — and so blatantly at odds with the best interests of this country — is the Labor platform set out for voters to judge tomorrow, we also recommend (in defiance of the official Liberal Party position) that the Greens be placed ahead of the ALP in every lower house seat in Australia, to amplify the defeat Shorten deserves to suffer.

Tomorrow’s election is important, and an unprecedented amount of reflection has been required to arrive at the recommendation I offer readers today.

Don’t punish the Liberals over Tony Abbott. Don’t reward Bill Shorten for his duplicity and self-interest, and his disregard for anything more than the getting of power.

But above all, elect the party that best aligns with what Australia needs today: and however imperfect or flawed that party may be in the eyes of some, the Coalition is nevertheless the more deserving of a term in office at this election.

 

Daniel Andrews Has No Right To Change Asylum Seeker Policy

NEWS Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews “offered” to house, educate, medicate and throw welfare at 267 asylum seekers cleared by the High Court to return to Nauru is an outrage; Australia’s border regime has been repeatedly endorsed by voters, and the consequences of changing it can be seen with a quick glance at Europe. Andrews should concentrate on running Victoria, a task at which he is proving spectacularly, but unsurprisingly, inept.

No doubt the Chardonnay drunks and the finger shakers and the bleeding heart bullshit artists of the Australian Left are quietly congratulating themselves tonight, but the other 95% of the population should be alarmed — and outraged.

And if ever an ostensibly innocuous gesture represented the thin edge of the wedge, this is it.

The news that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with an “offer” to house, educate, medicate and throw welfare money at 267 asylum seekers facing return to Nauru — in the wake of this week’s High Court ruling that mandatory detention of asylum seekers on that island is constitutional — must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and not just for the obvious reasons upon which those compassion babblers from the Left will seek to justify it.

You’d think the ALP and the Communist Party Greens would have learned their lesson by now, but apparently not.

When Labor managed to sweep away its detested, loathed, hated Howard government in late 2007 — described by some in its ranks as “evil” — one of the first things the Rudd government did, with the explicit support of the Greens, was to abolish the highly successful “Pacific Solution:” that suite of policies that brought the arrival of asylum seekers by sea to a total halt.

The next thing anyone knew, 50,000 asylum seekers were arriving every year — in addition to well over a thousand who didn’t survive the journey, drowning en route at sea — with the costs of (you guessed it) housing, educating, medicating and throwing welfare money at them running to well in excess of $10bn per year.

The longer it went on, the faster the boat arrivals came; the more it cost, the more people turned up as word spread back to the Middle East that Australia was a soft touch that would let anyone claiming to be a refugee into the country: so long as they made it through the trip.

To Labor and the Greens, however, this was the “compassionate” and “humane” way to deal with them.

By the time anyone at the Labor Party noticed there was a problem, this running sore had already filled millions of acres of opinion and comment in those organs of record so decried by the Left as illegitimate; every one else in Australia knew — and so did the good burghers at the Murdoch press — that whilst this country isn’t filled with cruel, hard-hearted arseholes, the capacity to cope with this level of unannounced immigration (many of whom were not “refugees” at all, but economic migrants seeking to jump the queue) had already far transcended Australia’s ability to do so.

And when the Labor government, by then led by Julia Gillard, tried to do something about it, there was an East Timor solution, a Malaysian solution, and a Regional Processing Centre: none of which ever happened, of course, and the suspicion the promises were nothing more than a macho PR exercise was borne out by the fact the East Timorese government made it known that the first they’d heard of any solution involving their country was when it was announced in the media.

Tony Abbott and his three-word-slogan opposition was looking like it was onto a winner with a pledge to Stop the Boats; naturally, when Rudd was reinstated to try to undo some of the looming electoral carnage his party faced for its misadventures in office, he solemnly declared, po-faced, that with Labor in office, no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be permitted to settle in Australia. Tony Abbott, by contrast, would start a war with Indonesia over the issue, he said.

The rest is history: the Liberal Party won the election; the Abbott government stopped the boats; no war with Indonesia was either in prospect nor occurred; but Labor and the Greens used their numbers in the Senate to frustrate and disrupt the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution — voting, for example, to disallow the reintroduction of temporary protection visas — and whilst the boats have stopped completely, the ALP and Greens still have not a shred of credibility on the issue.

Yes, you’d think the Left might have learned by now: Australian people will not tolerate an endless flow of largely economic migrants through open borders.

Not coincidentally, whilst these parties were in power, hundreds of children were placed into detention in Nauru: and as cynical as it might sound, it is tempting to regard this aspect of Labor’s mismanagement of the asylum problem as an investment in the day it was eventually booted out of government, for the ALP — and the wider Left, notably the Human Rights Commissioner, the contemptible Gillian Triggs — have played politics with children in detention ever since, seeking to hold the Coalition to account for a problem entirely of Labor’s and the Greens’ making.

This latest frolic on Andrews’ part — using the desperation of others for political ends — comes as the High Court struck down a bid this week to have mandatory detention on Nauru declared unconstitutional by a 6-1 majority; knowing no shame, part of the pretext for Andrews’ approach to the Prime Minister was that 37 babies born in Australia were among the 267 facing deportation to Nauru: claiming residency by right of birth has long been a tactical play of both asylum seekers and their advocates in the Australian establishment who think they know better than the rest of the country, and merely underlines exactly why it is necessary to stop it in its tracks.

According to Andrews’ office, the Victorian Premier’s letter was posted to Turnbull yesterday prior to its appearance in social media earlier today, and Turnbull’s people say they are yet to sight it; but given postal services between Melbourne and Canberra occur overnight at the minimum (and in this case, over a weekend) such a claim on Andrews’ part is fatuous: even if a paper copy was dispatched yesterday, it’s fairly clear the intention was to kick some sort of own goal on Twitter — and to force the PM to play catch-up on the hop and with no advance warning whatsoever.

The tactics are appalling. The claim that this stunt shows how “compassionate” Andrews and his government are is sickening.

Andrews’ letter was as follows:

Embedded image permalink

Embarrassingly, this document looks like campaign paraphernalia: it is jingoistic, pompous, and entirely innocent of any grounding in either common sense of the wishes of the Australian public.

“Victoria stands ready…” well, I don’t, and neither do a considerable number of intelligent, decent people in Melbourne I have been discussing this with today. Most are horrified, for far from being some magnanimous gesture of generosity, this is exactly the kind of thing tough immigration laws were repeatedly introduced to stamp out: and abandoned once already by a Labor-Greens cabal to disastrous effect, this silly stunt could well have the same practical outcome now — with consequences that would be nothing short of cataclysmic.

Triggs, for the non-existent value she represents to this country in exchange for an obscene monthly pay cheque, opined that children are scared at the idea of returning to Nauru — and therefore should remain in Australia — to which I say, what about their parents? It is not this country’s fault their parents put them in a position by which mandatory detention on Nauru is their fate for the foreseeable future. But the Left (and Triggs embodies it in all its repugnant malignancy) have never bothered themselves with the concept of personal responsibility.

If Victoria is permitted to get away with this — because Andrews “wants these children and families to call Victoria home,” and because sending them back to “a life of trauma” on Nauru “is not a fair solution” — then as sure as night follows day, Queensland will follow suit; once that happens, the ACT will try it on; and before you know it, and South Australia gets in on the act, every Labor-controlled state and territory jurisdiction will be running an illicit parallel immigration racket to undercut and sabotage the legal (and constitutional) one in place at the federal level.

It should be noted, of course, that immigration is a federal government responsibility: but if you are Andrews, the ALP and the Left generally, that doesn’t matter.

The end result of Andrews getting his way on this will be, with neither exaggeration nor hyperbole, to send the signal to people smugglers that Australia is once again open for business; and when that occurs, the flood of boats will resume: the only difference will be that instead of making for the Western Australian coast, the intended points of landfall will be in Victoria, and Far North Queensland, and along the Limestone Coast in SA.

And should that occur, a cursory glance in the direction of Europe is enough to send a shudder down the spines of all right-thinking folk: the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in Germany last year are more or less tearing the place apart; another 50,000 arrived in January alone, and as one scribe today noted, 50,000 in a month actually represents a big slowdown.

Whether you like it or not, the capacity of Western countries to absorb literally endless numbers of people who just don’t want to live in their own countries any more is actually quite limited; it is a question of resources, affordability, and the capacity to integrate new arrivals whilst preserving social structures and the cohesion of existing communities.

Whether you like it or not, and whether it is right or not, there is ample and growing evidence that when it comes to large numbers of Muslim asylum seekers — because that’s who we’re talking about, let’s be honest — this simply isn’t possible, and with no disrespect to the ones who simply want to live in peace, there are too many in their ranks who want to blow the place up and terrorise the women who live here to justify taking the risk on any of them.

And with the article from the Fairfax press I’ve linked today confirming that each asylum seeker would require at least $10,000 per annum in state support (a figure that seems suspiciously low, frankly) for the 267 in question here, the few million it would cost to have them mightn’t seem like much at first glance.

But where there are some, there are more — many, many more — and just as Labor swore in 2008 that its abolition of the Pacific Solution would not lead to a flood of asylum seekers (which it did, directly) it will make similarly empty pledges now.

There are three main points to make in closing.

One, the High Court — the highest in the land since Labor abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council — has ruled that the intended handling of these people is constitutional: but just like personal responsibility or public opinion generally, the law is only of interest to the Left when it says what the Left wants it to say; for the Left, in the end, thinks it knows better than everyone. It doesn’t.

Two, just who in hell Daniel Andrews thinks he is — seeking to usurp immigration laws that are the domain of the Commonwealth — is anyone’s guess, but in trying to interfere in the fate of these 267 asylum seekers he is playing with a particularly dangerous barrel of dynamite. Asylum seekers, in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, will recommence their bombardment of Australia’s shores in a heartbeat if they think they will be received here; I, and dozens of other conservative commentators, said at the time of the 2013 election that if the flow of asylum seekers was not halted, millions more waited ready to test their luck. That contention has been proven in recent months in Europe. Germany and Sweden in particular are finding they have imported gang violence, the rape and other sexual assault of their country’s women, and a lawlessness that shows neither respect nor heed for Western values. We do not need this here. But this is the danger Andrews is flirting with as he grubbily tries to score a point against the federal Coalition on behalf of the Chardonnay drunks and finger shakers of the Left who urge him on.

And three, little over a year since winning office in Victoria, Andrews has pissed more than a billion dollars up against a post — cancelling the East-West Link he said the contract to build wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and that tearing it up would expose the state to no compensation — and has turned a $2bn budget surplus into a $250 million budget deficit in the space of a single financial year; beyond these dubious “achievements” there is nothing of any value to show for 14 months of Labor government in the Garden State.

Maybe Andrews should concentrate on his own job — running the State of Victoria — and leave federal matters to the federal government.

After all, the policies in place on immigration and asylum seekers were endorsed at the ballot box in 2001, 2004 and most recently in 2013; and after all, for a man who campaigned on putting an end to a “circus” he claimed had played for four years on Spring Street, the nicest thing you could say about Daniel Andrews is that he’s a clown — and he has proven it today with this stunt.

 

With The Silly Season Over, The Year “Starts” Today

BACK TO REALITY — in some cases, with a thud — is the order of political business from today, with the passage of Australia Day marking the end of the traditional “silly season” as the country knuckles under for 2016; the major agenda item is a federal election, which may not be as straightforward as it seems at first glance. Plenty of action in the states, where no elections are ostensibly due, and issues from left field, will round out a busy year.

I wanted this morning to simply pause and reflect on where things stand, even after a modestly busy festive season threw up plenty to keep us talking; the political year proper really starts from today, though — the silly season done and done with — and it promises to be a very interesting year in Australian politics indeed.

The central feature, of course, will be the federal election that must be held by January, is “due” around September or October, and whose timing is the subject of great conjecture and argument.

Whilst this column does not support the present Prime Minister as the leader of the Liberal Party and has said so countless times since its inception almost five years ago, we nevertheless believe Australia’s best interests will be served by the emphatic re-election of the Coalition to government, preferably at a double dissolution election, and ideally one held before Easter at the very latest: the worst Tory government is better than the best Labor one, and whilst few would seriously describe Malcolm Turnbull as “a Tory,” or his government as the worst* the Liberals have formed, the so-called alternative offered by the present opposition under its present “leader” is, to be brutal, no credible alternative whatsoever.

I was critical of the ability of Turnbull to translate the easy popularity he recorded in polls prior to resuming the Liberal leadership into electoral success, and whilst the Coalition now averages 54% after preferences on an aggregation of reputable polls, I will be convinced if and when he wins a landslide victory at the polling booth; the 70% who said they would vote for him as Prime Minister have of course melted away to a more believable level, but big opinion polls leads count for nothing if they don’t deliver the government benches at an election.

Just ask John Hewson.

Even so, Turnbull must be an odds-on favourite to secure re-election, and I restate my view that the best way to make this a certainty is for the Prime Minister to get himself to Government House as quickly as he can — even in the next fortnight — to call a double dissolution election for the first half of March (and yes, unbelievably, March is now less than five weeks away).

I think the longer an election announcement is left, the harder it will grow for Turnbull to record the smashing election win the polls currently indicate is within reach; as he demonstrated in September, when launching a leadership challenge against Tony Abbott, when you have the numbers, you use them. It is to be hoped that this same logic is applied to the sterner electoral test — a date with voters — for whilst he may have the numbers now, the nature of electoral support is such that it is never permanent.

Obviously.  🙂

The further the year progresses without an election date, the greater the propensity for hurdles — known and unknown — to be cast into Turnbull’s path.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the government’s greatest political asset — Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — is already on borrowed time, with a mooted switch to Tanya Plibersek late last year averted partly by Plibersek’s ridiculous position that she would seek to bind ALP MPs to vote in favour of legalising gay marriage, and partly by the re-emergence of a Federal Police investigation into Turnbull supporter (and suspended minister) Mal Brough over his alleged involvement in the Peter Slipper affair some years ago.

Shorten could yet be dumped. Brough could yield all sorts of political trouble if the Police turn up anything concrete with which to charge him. New Treasurer Scott Morrison is due to deliver a budget in May — which, if it is to be responsible in an election year, must come laden with tough economic medicine to finally fix the haemorrhaging bottom line and the corresponding explosion in public debt — and this could knock the government right back to where it was under Abbott. Turnbull has already obliged the Coalition to deliver firm policies on labour market flexibility and structural taxation reform. These issues are minefields, not cakewalks.

And all of that is before things just happen, as they invariably do, and typically at the worst possible moment.

I think the best thing Turnbull could do is to spend the next few weeks making broad directional announcements around the key issues his government intends to tackle that provide clear parameters from which to proceed, but which restrict the detail, and then announce an election for both Houses of Parliament; obviously, such a campaign would need to explicitly target the crossbenchers and urge a vote for either of the major parties in the Senate, with the attendant announcement that after an election, measures to clean up the notorious Senate voting system would be legislated.

Bills for Senate changes can and should be introduced to Parliament before it is dissolved: and if not instantly passed, with the government guillotining debate in the lower House to hasten their passage to the Senate, could form an additional justification (if not, indeed, a constitutional trigger) for a double dissolution in the first place.

Shorten, for the little he is worth to Australian politics, would of course bluster and rant about “unfairness,” but an early poll announcement would lock him into his job — which is what Turnbull needs to ensure. On balance Shorten, his vacuous scare campaigns, his paleolithic renewable energy policies and his union baggage pose less of an electoral risk to Turnbull than either hard detail on tax reform or any of the other latent issues that might explode in his face is permitted to fester.

Take the early option, Malcolm.

I can’t remember the last time we entered a year with no state elections due, off the top of my head — perhaps a reader will remind us — but an unscheduled election in Queensland, a year after the LNP was historically booted out of office after a single term and despite the biggest win in Australian history three years earlier, simply must be an odds-on bet.

The minority government formed by Labor after that unedifying loss has hardly set the world on fire; indeed, it seems that aside from restarting the haemorrhage of budget red ink by irresponsibly ramping up spending, the only tangible agenda of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government has been to remove as widely as possible any trace of Campbell Newman’s handiwork. The latest item on this to-do list appears to be a move to abolish the so-called VLAD laws that put an end to organised criminals using the Gold Coast as a virtual sanctuary.

And Palaszczuk has her problems: with one MP (Billy Gordon) expelled from the ALP and another (Rob Pyne) reportedly contemplating quitting the party — and with scandals around MP Rick Williams and sacked Police minister Jo-Ann Miller all chipping away at what little legitimacy the government has — Palaszczuk enters the political year in a parlous position. An election seems inevitable, and should be a lay-down misere for the LNP to walk back into office at with a healthy majority.

Yet there, too, there are problems; arguably, three-time loser and re-re-recycled LNP leader Lawrence Springborg is the best card in an otherwise poor Labor hand. There is word that Springborg — a true gentleman of politics — is set to be given his marching orders once and for all within the next month. We hope so, and endorse former Treasurer Tim Nicholls as the best bet to aright the listing LNP ship and make a promising electoral position a winning one should Queenslanders return to the polls any time soon.

Still in Queensland, Liberal Lord Mayor Graham Quirk faces what should be a straightforward exercise in re-election in March, coming off a 68% vote four years ago and with the LNP holding 18 of Brisbane’s 26 council wards after a redistribution.

But there are signs that the 12-year-old Liberal administration is growing tired in the minds of voters; a recent poll I saw (and I haven’t got the link, unfortunately) suggested 39% of Brisbane voters thought Quirk deserved another term, 33% were undecided, and 27% favoured the ALP candidate, Rod Harding.

Those numbers almost perfectly mirror the sort of numbers Sallyanne Atkinson was recording at the same stage of the cycle back at the start of 1991: and we all know how that ended.

I would expect Quirk to win, probably not by much, and certainly not with almost 70% of the vote after preferences as he did last time. The interesting thing will be whether he can also retain a majority in the wards (remembering 13 wards will still give the LNP control of Council), and I think he should. It makes the contest in Brisbane a little more interesting than last time, to say the least.

A look around the states shows two Liberal governments in NSW and Tasmania travelling well, polling very well, and both in a position to convincingly win an election “if an election were to be held this weekend,” as the standard pollsters’ question goes; in NSW, however, a sleeper issue is the machinations moderate Liberals are engaging in over federal preselections at present, and given some of the key players are based in state politics, it could impact Mike Baird’s government if it all goes pear-shaped (which, given the scorched Earth approach the moderates seem determined to take, is a distinct possibility).

One will say something positive about the South Australian Labor government too — which seems on course to win an unprecedented fifth term in 2018 unless the Liberals somehow, unexpectedly, miraculously get their act together there — in that its leader, Jay Weatherill, is exhibiting a willingness to at least engage in mature and realistic discussion about GST reform and allocations from the federal government to the states, unlike his Labor counterparts in Victoria and especially Queensland (and Shorten), who seem more content to use the issue as a political football, advancing “solutions” that are nothing of the kind, despite the heinous damage inflicted on the budget by Labor prior to 2013, and despite irrefutable evidence that the lingering malaise is now really beginning to damage the country internationally.

But the state Liberals in WA — re-elected in a massacre of the ALP three years ago that some thought could take three terms to undo — continue to wallow in poor poll numbers as an ageing Premier with no identifiable successor is walloped by the collapse in state revenues that derives from the end of the mining boom, and as his state staggers under ballooning debt loads as a consequence.

And the Labor government in Victoria wins this column’s early vote as the likeliest political bomb-out of 2016: Daniel Andrews’s promise that cancelling a contracted toll road across Melbourne would expose the state to no liability for compensation has been exploded as either incompetence or a lie, with the bill already at $1.1 billion — for no road or other tangible return — and not certain to remain at that level either; the state budget has been turned around on Labor’s watch in a single year from a surplus approaching $2bn to a deficit of some $250 million. Andrews looks and sounds out of his depth (which he is) and is backed by a ministry that could only be described as lacklustre. With unions almost openly running the Andrews government and its record to date conjuring up unflattering comparisons with the Cain-Kirner years, the prospect of this particular administration becoming a train wreck is a compelling one indeed.

The other obvious candidate for bomb-out of the year is one Clive Palmer, likely to be involuntarily ejected from federal Parliament if he is silly enough to stand again for his seat of Fairfax, where current polls show his support at 2%: Palmer has proven to be a destructive loudmouth, unsuited to politics, and bent only on causing as much damage to the Liberal Party as humanly possible — exactly as forecast in this column when he first put his head above the parapet three years ago and announced he would form his own party.

In fact, the effect of Palmer (and of the rabble elected under his banner to the Senate in 2013) has been tantamount to providing an additional faction to the ALP, so prejudicial to the Coalition’s interests has palmer proven.

And with revelations that Palmer “ghost directed” his failing nickel company under the alias “Terry Smith” — despite repeated public declarations he was “retired from business” — along with great anger from businesses and residents in his Sunshine Coast electorate (and not least, over the “Palmer Coolum Resort” that has been all but destroyed as a viable concern under his ownership), nobody can argue that getting the boot from voters is not exactly what he deserves.

It would have been better for Fat Clive to keep quiet. From what I’ve heard, voters aren’t the only group of people who have historically been amenable to the boofhead at first blush, only to develop a near-hatred for him once they got a good look. Perhaps being a shadowy, eccentric benefactor to the LNP now looks like a good wicket wasted in retrospect. Who knows what Palmer really thinks.

And that brings up time for me this morning: obviously there will be other issues, but my objective today was simply to provide a curtain-raising look at the main ones, keeping a weather eye on the political goings-on around the country from an overall perspective.

I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to a long, busy, exciting, and very interesting year in politics.

Can I thank readers for their continued support — last year was our best in terms of readership thus far — and ask that if you enjoy the conversations and debates that take place here, to spread the word to others with an interest in politics and to get them involved as well.

And don’t forget, if you’re not following me on Twitter already, you can do so @theredandblue.

 

*Take a bow, Bill McMahon.