18c Farce: Leyonhjelm Right To Sue Uncle Fairfax

A DAY after we opined on the “horse shit” of the socialist Left and the opaque institutional and judicial edifice it hides behind, a test case emerges; Senator David Leyonhjelm — branded an “angry white male” by SMH writer Mark Kenny — has taken action against Fairfax Media under S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. It is vexatious and may fail, but in showcasing the double standards of a fatuous, contemptible law, Leyonhjelm’s action is right.

I am in Brisbane for the day today once again, so this morning’s post will be reasonably succinct; even so, it was probably only a matter of time before the infamous “18c” reappeared on our radar, although I didn’t expect it would happen quite so soon.

Literally a matter of minutes after I published yesterday on the issue of free speech — including, coincidentally, the need to abolish S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act — news broke that the Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, who had been branded an “angry white male” by Fairfax scribe Mark Kenny, was instituting proceedings against Fairfax Media, claiming he had been offended or vilified on the basis of the colour of his skin.

First things first: the “offending” article from the Sydney Morning Herald may be accessed here; readers can find some additional material on the subject, from The Guardian and The Australian, here and here.

18c is objectionable for precisely the reasons that are now being lobbed at Leyonhjelm, in the form of ridicule, to underpin suggestions his action against Fairfax is frivolous.

Leyonhjelm himself admits he wasn’t offended by Kenny’s characterisation of him as an “angry white male,” and even seemed to imply the proceedings he has instituted are destined to fail.

But he is right to proceed, as he acknowledged, on the basis that Kenny’s remarks singled him out for the colour of his skin, and also correct to note that had the reference been to an “angry black man,” nobody would be laughing, groaning, or otherwise making any attempt to dissuade the pursuit of legal action against whomsoever made such a reference.

Just as S18c provides recourse, among other things, for those who are insulted or offended on the basis of their race, S18d offers some cover if the utterances are made as fair comment: it is this provision Leyonhjelm’s detractors are pointing to in suggesting the good Senator might have shot his bolt.

But speaking of bolts, 18d didn’t stop Andrew Bolt from being prosecuted, ostensibly in making a reasonable argument in relation to Aboriginal issues, so there goes that theory.

The problem here (as with so much of the rubbish the Left is peddling in this country, and which persists even with Labor and the Greens in opposition) is that minorities are “protected” by the Racial Discrimination Act, but when the shoe is on the other foot in any way, those affected can — to use the vernacular — get stuffed.

In other words, there are two sets of standards at play: just as we talked about yesterday.

Leyonhjelm, however, has set up a perfect storm.

Declaring he is taking action against Fairfax to demonstrate the stupidity of the law, as opposed to being motivated by a real sense of grievance, what the Senator is doing probably kicks the door to either modifying or abolishing S18c wide open.

If his case is successful, it will demonstrate just how petty the scope for using S18c to pursue ambit agendas really is: handing ammunition to those who want it changed on the pretext the potential for abuse is clear.

If his case is unsuccessful, it will clearly and graphically show that there is indeed one set of standards for the majority population and another for minorities, gifting ammunition to those who want S18c abolished on the basis the law itself is discriminatory.

Either way, the Left — which fashioned this dreadful piece of legislation in a too-clever, too-smug attempt to arm itself for future action against political opponents (like Bolt, for instance) will be shown up as the cynical frauds they are.

This column does not suggest Mark Kenny set out in any way to deliberately offend or vilify or humiliate Senator Leyonhjelm: quite the contrary. Whilst it is clear Kenny is no political friend of Leyonhjelm’s, it is difficult to infer there was any malice in his article.

But that’s the whole point, and it seems that however the action by Leyonhjelm plays out, the continuity of S18c is far from certain if any concerted attempt to change it emerges from the ramshackle new Parliament elected six weeks ago.

Gillian Triggs must be choking on her corn flakes this morning.

If she is, who could complain about that?

Media “Bias?” Uncle Fairfax Throws Stones From A Glass House

RESPLENDENT in its outrage, the Fairfax press is having a field day; whilst castigating rivals in the Murdoch stable for “bias” toward the Coalition, the Fairfax tomes have ripped into the new government, the Prime Minister, and his ministers. The pot is clearly black — regardless of what it calls the kettle.

I think we all know the drill: there is — stereotypically — media bias in Australia and across the world for that matter, as far as they eye can see; and the big, bad ogre in the whole conspiracist plot is one R. Murdoch.

It’s a convenient argument, and an entirely inaccurate one at that; as anybody who has ever been within cooee of a Coalition election campaign knows all too well, the Murdoch press is as prone to swing wildly in the breeze of electoral change as any media outlet is.

Murdoch newspapers campaigned heavily for Kevin Rudd against John Howard in 2007, for example; they weren’t much use to the Coalition’s prospects in 1993 either.

And the mass circulation Murdoch publications of Fleet Street arguably played a big part in keeping the Conservative Party out of office in Britain for over a decade.

Yet even that misses the mark, because whilst the Murdoch media is often (but not always) friendly to the political Right, the Fairfax press, the ABC, the Guardian, Private Media and a whole slew of others are unflinchingly and unfailingly adherent to the Left.

And this is why, reading in the once-honourable mastheads of the Fairfax stable that now remain in name only, the “Let’s get Abbott!” mentality of the Fairfax tomes seems blinkered in its partisanship and almost childish in its vehemence.

Before we get too far into this, a question for readers: Going back to, say, 1975 (and being completely objective and impartial — difficult, I know 🙂  ), which election results in Australia did the voting public really, really get wrong?

Setting aside caveats about always campaigning for a Liberal Party win, that the worst Tory government is always better than the best Labor one and so on, the one that stands out vividly is 1993 (although 2010, for obvious reasons of recent history, comes close).

It is true that the then-leader of the Liberal Party, John Hewson, wasn’t a salesman’s bootlace, and had all the political acumen and judgement of a turnip.

And it is certainly true that the Prime Minister of the day — Paul Keating — met these shortcomings with a vicious assault on the Liberals’ Fightback! manifesto, destroying Hewson and his election prospects in the process.

But the ALP had run out of puff after ten years in office; once re-elected, it embarked on a traditional borrow-tax-spend binge, moving to occupy the insiderish, politically correct, elitist, minorities-driven and welfarist position that we have so recently witnessed of the ALP in office under Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd — and which would have been the end destination of the Whitlam government had its tenure not been abruptly truncated in 1975.

Whose responsibility was the Liberals’ election loss in 1993? I don’t blame the press, ranged against us as it mostly was at that time.

But to listen to present incarnations of once-respected publications such as The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, you’d think the media alone is responsible for determining who governs Australia, and on what terms.

Forget about Abbott the misogynist, Abbott the unfit Prime Ministerial candidate, the unready Liberals, and stories of agendas designed to plunge the populace into poverty and the country into a depression: all spin, fabricated in the bowels of Labor’s Sussex Street citadel, and dutifully regurgitated by Fairfax and the other media cabals of the Left.

Does anyone seriously think voters made a mistake dumping the ALP in September, or — more to the point — that Labor actually deserved a third term in power? Even if they can’t admit it publicly, I daresay many of the Labor Party’s own people know their party deserved the thumping it was given.

Which is why the grand old time apparently being had over at Fairfax Media should be a fruitless rearguard action, to say the least.

A quick scan of the front page of The Age website yesterday (and remember, The Age was the only major newspaper in Australia to endorse Labor at this year’s election) reveals no fewer than six leading, highly prominent articles advancing the causes of the Left, ripping into the new Liberal government — and, of course, into Murdoch’s News Limited press.

News Corp Bias Against Kevin Rudd,” screams the headline of an “exclusive” report into anti-Labor bias in the Murdoch press uncovered by an independent study.

The “independent” study — as readers quickly learn — was commissioned by the Labor Party at the request of veteran ALP strategist and key Rudd adviser Bruce Hawker.

It had previously been “confidential,” which is presumably why it was leaked on an “exclusive” basis to the Fairfax press.

Unsurprisingly, the study found — among other things — that the Sydney Morning Herald had been “the leading source of unfavourable press coverage of Tony Abbott and the Coalition.” Surprise, surprise.

Next: “Executives Add Voices To Call To Redress Gender Disparity” screeches a “business” article that just happens to focus on the affirmative action agenda and gender quotas so lovingly championed by the far Left.

Needless to say, the editorial endorsement is glowing.

Tony Abbott ‘Thumbing His Nose’ At Voters, Says Laurie Oakes” — it must have been a real coup by Fairfax management to get this stuff on the record from Oakes, who is — after all — a resident columnist at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

The original headline on that article was “Laurie Oakes Slams Abbott Government,” which makes you wonder why it was changed; after all, the first headline would seem far more in line with Fairfax’s editorial priorities than the second.

And to the uncritical or the exceedingly stupid, the remarks attributed to Oakes — at first glance — appear damning of the Coalition.

Yet all it takes is to read the story to ascertain that despite the best efforts to put the anti-Liberal, anti-Abbott slant on it, Oakes is actually talking about the new government finding its way in terms of media management; he is not (as some feverishly wish) adding his imprimatur to an arbitrary and summary judgement of the Abbott government.

Indeed, one observation made by the reporting journalist is that some media requests for information from government ministers are “frequently left unanswered,” which conveniently ignores the fact that ministerial staff recruitment isn’t finalised yet, and won’t be for some weeks: this is a new government starting out, let’s not forget.

PM Stumbling Around The International Stage,” writes Raoul Heinrichs, in an exposition of Abbott lurching “from one diplomatic disaster to another” making “rookie mistakes” with our Asian neighbours.

It sits in stark contrast to the majority of the coverage of Abbott’s recent trip through Asia, which was overwhelmingly positive (and not confined by any stretch to the Murdoch press, either).

The punchline comes, of course, at the bottom of the article in a bio-grab that identifies Heinrich as a former staffer to Kevin Rudd, with a note that “an earlier version of this article failed to mention this.”

What a shock.

Moving on…”Case Of Give A Little, Take A Lot More” says business columnist Malcolm Maiden, who concedes that tax changes outlined this week by Treasurer Joe Hockey “clean up” the taxation regime the government inherited, whilst delivering on election promises without impacting heavily on the commonwealth budget.

Even so, there’s a distinctly chiding tone: after all, the Liberals are increasing tax receipts by $10.9 billion over four years, and Maiden manages to note the things Labor tried to bribe voters with — Schoolkids Bonuses and the unfunded Low Income Superannuation Payment — have been deleted, whilst also noting tax increases on superannuation for high income earners were being abandoned.

It’s a pragmatic analysis infused with a little convenience.

And — from the same columnist who cheerily wrote about gender quotas in the business community — we’re informed that “Murdoch Wants His Pound Of Flesh” in a piece that could easily be presented as the second instalment of the “exclusive” about media bias over at News Limited.

According to The Age, Uncle Rupert was “the largest single contributor to the election of Tony Abbott’s Coalition government” who is now “looking for his reward.”

The rest of the article goes on to talk about the same wish list Murdoch has always pursued in search of changes to media regulation and ownership restrictions, and which he has pursued for decades before federal governments of both political hues.

The only “new” bits are the updated items that just happen to be his present priorities: demands that would have been made of a re-elected Rudd government just as they will be of the Liberals.

There you have it: an awful, awful lot of anti-Liberal press content for a media outlet purporting outrage over “bias” in the reporting of Australian politics.

But this is the problem with the Left; the lofty and portentous standards it demands of others aren’t applicable when it comes to its own conduct; the pot can always call the kettle black, but nobody pays heed to a habitual hypocrite.

Yet far from being downbeat and dispirited, the Left is merely getting warmed up.

I’m going to share one more article with everyone today; this is from one of my favourite opinion writers at the Murdoch press, Miranda Devine, and if you don’t read any or all of the links provided to The Age in my piece today, I urge you to read this one.

Devine hits the bullseye with this, and — using a different anecdotal process to the one I have used here — arrives at the reason why there is so much noise emanating from the cabals of the Left right now, and why it will only grow louder as the Liberal Party continues in office.

It’s all part of the plan.

So it’s no wonder the Fairfax press generally, and The Age in particular, are engaged in the puerile, selectively accurate and highly biased crusade against Abbott and his government that they have embarked upon, simultaneously decrying “bias” at their Murdoch rivals.

It is, as Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt accurately described it, “a crock.”

But as ever with the Left, reality is always an afterthought to the pursuit of its agenda.

 

Now It’s Clive Palmer MP: Yet Another Argument For OPV

CLIVE PALMER has finally won the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, beating Liberal candidate Ted O’Brien by 53 votes on a recount; the win is likely to be Palmer’s first and last, if his erratic behaviour to date is any guide, and is yet another argument in favour of the adoption of Optional Preferential Voting.

First things first: The Red And The Blue congratulates “Professor” Palmer on his belated victory in the federal election; the result may yet be overturned if a complaint is made and upheld in the Court of Disputed Returns, of course, but for now — winners are grinners, and Palmer has certainly won.

I don’t begrudge Palmer his moment of triumph, but a moment is all I can spare, because as far as I’m concerned Palmer hit the nail on the head when he mockingly told a reporter that he shouldn’t be in Parliament.

Readers can access that clip — embedded in a report on Palmer’s win from Sydney’s Daily Telegraphhere.

This column has had cause to be critical of Queensland’s merged Liberal-National Party in the past, notably during a public flaring of tensions along the old Liberal-National divide and some controversy over former state minister Bruce Flegg.

Yet I support the LNP, insofar as my continuing interest in Queensland politics is concerned, despite being vehemently opposed to the merger when it occurred: it’s one thing to get frustrated and to criticise, but it’s another thing altogether to stomp out in disgust and wilfully set up shop in opposition, because you can’t get what you want.

The potted version of the Palmer story goes something like this.

Having been around the then-National Party since the days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen — including a period as that party’s media director — Palmer, having accrued a fortune of uncertain scope, became the single biggest donor to the Nationals in Queensland: a practice that continued with the Queensland Coalition and later with the amalgamated LNP.

Soon after the thunderous LNP win in Queensland last year, Palmer walked out on the LNP in the wake of state government decisions that ran counter to his business interests.

Earlier this year, he set up the United Australia Party (hurriedly rebadged as the Palmer United Party when it emerged the name was already in use) with a prediction he would become Prime Minister of Australia and winning “100 seats in Parliament.”

Along the way, Palmer bought things; one of them was the Hyatt Regency Coolum Resort, which (according to the Sunshine Coast press) has caused great angst in the local community with poor standards and low occupancy rates hurting businesses that have traditionally depended on the resort for their lifeblood.

Along the way, a couple of disgruntled LNP MPs in Queensland agreed to sit under the Palmer banner in State Parliament, their ranks since being augmented by (at present) three Senators and Palmer himself in Canberra.

And he now arrives in Canberra with a policy position — one of many — to repeal the carbon tax and to ensure that the federal government refunds to businesses all monies they have paid in carbon tax bills to date.

It has been estimated in other media that Palmer’s companies would stand to reap a windfall of more than $6 million were this to occur.

Palmer has also demanded his PUP be provided with staffers and other resources in federal Parliament to which they are not entitled; he has brazenly threatened to ensure the Abbott government is unable to pass any legislation — “not a single bill” — until or unless this occurs.

Before and since his departure from the party, Palmer has repeatedly lashed out at the LNP; this time last year he was quoted saying of the state government that “never have such a bunch of crooks held office in Queensland” and accusing the state’s Treasurer, Tim Nicholls, of “cooking the books” to overstate Queensland’s net debt by some $54 billion.

Judged by his own aspirations and 100-seat target, Palmer’s political foray has been a failure; his fledgling outfit has won three Senate spots (one of which, in WA, hangs in the balance pending an investigation into 1400-odd lost votes) and one lower house seat — his own — by the skin of his teeth.

Since the election, the bluster and belligerent rhetoric has continued; the AEC was incompetent, the system corrupt, and a conspiracy being played out to deny him victory.

One of the things Palmer threatened to use his Senate numbers to bring government to a halt over was the issue of electoral reform: Tony Abbott had better deliver it, or else.

Now, however, his PUP will block electoral reform on the basis it could involve the introduction of Optional Preferential Voting (OPV), which would disadvantage his party at future elections.

And it remains to be seen, of course, whether Palmer holds good to his threat to challenge his own victory in Fairfax in the Court of Disputed Returns; I’ll bet tens that he doesn’t do it — but then again, when it comes to Clive Palmer, who’s to know?

Don’t get me wrong; I like Palmer, and find him quite amusing; it would actually be an interesting afternoon to have a couple of beers with him, methinks.

But like mates at a pub, having a bit of time for someone personally doesn’t automatically entitle them to support for Parliamentary service.

Palmer now says — in keeping with his crusade against the Queensland LNP — that he intends to damage Premier Campbell Newman with claims of corruption; this apparently came about during an interview with the ABC, in which he was asked whether he had evidence of “illegal payments” being made to LNP ministers.

Quoting from the Tele, he said that

“Wait for a while, I can’t give you all the news tonight, when I get into Parliament we can table, you can read it and you’ll love it – Campbell will love it, too…what I’ve said is I’ve got a certain amount of evidence, I don’t have conclusive evidence, but it’s in the public interest and we’ll put it out there…Goodbye Campbell Newman.”

I grew up in Queensland under a National Party we all knew was crook; this kind of thing is no trifling matter (NSW and WA readers will know — from the ICAC hearings this year and the WA Inc debacle respectively — something of the first-hand nature of this too).

Indeed, the endemic cronyism and systemic corruption that occurred under that National Party government was one of the reasons I was vehemently opposed to the state Liberals merging with the Nationals — even though I’d been living away from Queensland for ten years by the time it happened.

So if Palmer has “evidence” incriminating the state LNP, individual ministers, the Premier, or anyone else associated with Newman’s government, let him immediately hand it over to the Federal Police and/or Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission — whichever is the relevant jurisdiction — and get the investigation started as a matter of urgency.

On the other hand, if he doesn’t (and Palmer has said his “evidence” is inconclusive), then forget about tabling things in Parliament — under privilege, and with the immunity from prosecution it confers — and stop playing juvenile and vindictive games.

Whichever way you cut it, though, Palmer’s election in the seat of Fairfax is a great recommendation for OPV.

It isn’t as if his win is a resounding one; Palmer scored a mere 26.49% of the primary vote. You can see the AEC tables here.

It quickly becomes obvious that two-thirds of that primary vote was drawn from the Greens and the ALP — conservative Clive winning the votes of the Left — and that preferences from those parties actually elected him.

Three-quarters of his electorate cast a primary vote for someone else: as I have said before, this is an MP with less depth of support in his own back yard than a wading pool.

Somewhere amongst the bluster and hyperbole and bellicose rants Palmer has indulged in since it first seemed he might win the seat, he has championed reform of the federal voting system: I agree, and suggest the only reason he has for blocking it is the same one that will stop him challenging his own election in Court.

On an optional preferential vote the LNP would have easily retained the seat, and all the nonsense from Clive Palmer that we’ve seen since 7 September would be occurring somewhere removed from getting the job of governing Australia underway — if at all.

In any case, Palmer only has a 53 vote margin; losing half of those will wipe it out.

I don’t think Palmer has a snowball’s chance of hell of re-election in three years’ time — if he even seeks it — but based on the past six weeks generally and his promise of “evidence” against Newman’s government in particular, I don’t think he’d win a by-election now.

What do people think?

Media Circus: Fairfax Signals Start Of Anti-Abbott Crusade

IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: under the dubious cover of its charter of editorial “independence,” the Fairfax press has been quick to start its nit-picking, niggling crusade against Tony Abbott; today, it’s an interview Abbott gave the Washington Post. As night follows day, there will be much more of this.

Article IV of the Fairfax Media Charter of Editorial Independence states:

“That full editorial control of the newspapers…be vested with the editors of the papers and that the editors alone shall determine the daily editorial content of the newspapers.”

Article II of the Charter speaks to the issue of bias and balance, stipulating its papers

“must record the affairs of the city, state, nation and the world fairly, fully and regardless of any commercial, political or personal interests.”

So it must be through some extraordinary confluence of editorial thinking that The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Canberra Times, and online-only portals WA Today and the Brisbane Times are all carrying the same story, verbatim, proffering dire warnings of the damage Tony Abbott stands to inflict upon Australia’s relationship with the US.

The reason? Abbott dared to criticise the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government in an interview with the Washington Post: a hanging offence, to be sure, if only a capital punishment remained on the statute books for such treason.

For context, readers should peruse both the Fairfax article and the interview from the Washington Post.

That this is indicative of the supposed “quality” journalism Fairfax prides itself on goes to the heart of why its publications are so out of step with mainstream opinion in Australia, to say nothing of detached from reality.

It’s also a clue as to why Fairfax Media is close to broke, and unlikely to exist in its present form in a few years’ time.

I have (obviously) read the Washington Post interview at the centre of the firestorm Fairfax seeks to whip up, and see nothing wrong with the remarks Abbott made in relation to the former Labor government.

That assessment has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I am both a member of the Liberal Party and a staunch supporter of Tony Abbott personally.

Rather, it is informed by a bit of perspective: a commodity, based on today’s piece, of which the Fairfax juggernaut has none.

To be fair — no pun intended — Fairfax has apparently gone to some trouble to find support for its contention that Abbott’s observations about the ALP “could affect US links.”

It cites Norman Ornstein, an author and political scientist with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, as having ”winced” when he read the interview in which Mr Abbott “put the boot” into the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government.

”It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad,” Dr Ornstein is quoted as saying. ”It certainly can’t help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party, government and — at least implicitly — leader, with whom Obama has worked so closely.

”Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.” Well, fine, but it’s a convenient argument.

It takes us back to 1992, when US President George H. Bush was beaten by Bill Clinton, despite the Conservative government in the UK of John Major doing everything it could, publicly, to send the signal that the continuity of policy and the trans-Atlantic alliance were crucial concerns — implicitly, an endorsement of the senior Bush.

That particular favour was returned — with interest — in 1997, when then-President Clinton all but campaigned for Tony Blair’s Labour Party to beat Major’s Conservative Party (which, of course, it did).

Neither bout in the tit-for-tat exchange caused any serious long-term damage to the UK-US relationship, and it is difficult to see how Abbott’s straight answer to a couple of straight questions could similarly affect Australia’s relationship with the US in this case.

And politicians have been talking about domestic political considerations internationally for years, a reality hardly groundbreaking for its appearance in Abbott’s latest utterances.

The Fairfax piece observes that Julia Gillard forged a “warm and constructive relationship” with President Obama, noting the scintillating detail that hers “was one of just 12 world leaders whose calls Mr Obama returned personally after they had called to congratulate him on his 2012 re-election.”

It’s heartwarming to know that an unreconstructed socialist and a former Communist had the opportunity to catch up personally, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Tony Abbott and it misses the point.

At the time, the stationing of US marines in Darwin (to which the Fairfax article even alludes) was very much a topical issue: of course Obama was going to pay special attention to Gillard, given she had (correctly) agreed to a highly controversial US military deployment that the Obama administration had requested of her.

And Fairfax quotes the former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, John Menadue  — with no indication given of when the remarks were made, or whether they even relate to the Washington Post interview — as saying that “it remains to be seen whether make the transition from a critic in opposition and an attack dog to a responsible and constructive Prime Minister.”

All of this is well and good. But Fairfax is strangely mute when it comes to criticism of Julia Gillard, who today chided Obama for sending a “really bad message” for cancelling his appearance at the recent APEC summit on account of the government shutdown in Washington.

It seems that in the eyes of “Uncle Fairfax,” the fellow travellers of the Left can say whatever they like, especially about each other.

International ramifications? Of course, there are none of those in such utterances.

But as soon as the criticism comes from the Right — especially when it comes to Tony Abbott, destroyer of Labor’s two most recent Prime Ministers and the unquestioned darling of the hard Left in Gillard — well, that’s a gaffe, an international incident, and a catastrophe.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

For the fourth time in less than six years — and twice as a result of internal ALP machinations — this country has a new Prime Minister, and Abbott has been at pains since the instant he was elected to emphasise that Australia again enjoys a stable government, is once again open for business, and is looking outwards — rather than obsessing with itself.

In that context, his remarks that the previous government was “a circus” and “an embarrassing spectacle” were entirely appropriate — and entirely accurate.

It’s true the Fairfax article assembles a series of facts, quotes and events. But interjections such as the admonishing, tut-tutting paragraph that “politicians around the world typically refrain from engaging in fierce domestic political argument when they are speaking to an overseas audience” leaves little doubt about the response it seeks from its readers.

And in any case, the assertion that Obama and Gillard were “close” neither discounts the sheer ineptitude of her government, nor affords it any insulation from valid criticism — be that in Australia or elsewhere.

We all know the Fairfax press, figuratively speaking, will not sleep until the evil, sexist, misogynist, hero-slaying ogre Tony Abbott has been driven from office, and preferably in some demeaning and humiliating defeat.

In the meantime, perhaps it would better serve its readers — even those of the slavering, sycophantic Left — by practising what it preaches and presenting balanced journalism, rather than a convenient compilation of material with an unmistakable “Let’s Get Abbott” slant to it.

 

Fairfax Farce: Clive Palmer Threatens To Kick Own Goal

CLIVE PALMER — seemingly about to enter Parliament via the blue-ribbon conservative electorate of Fairfax — looks set to kick a spectacular own goal, with his crusade against the Australian Electoral Commission likely to end in the Court of Disputed Returns in a stunning political miscalculation.

I’ve deliberately held off posting on closely contested electorates until the results begin to filter through (and yes, the Liberals appear to have been defeated in Indi, McEwen and Parramatta as well as Fairfax) but the case of Clive Palmer in Fairfax warrants comment.

Since polling day a little over a fortnight ago, the eccentric businessman has engaged in a highly visible public rant against the Australian Electoral Commission.

According to Palmer, the Commission has shown gross incompetence and a complete lack of transparency; he has accused it of “vote tampering” and alleged other irregularities in the vote counting process in Fairfax.

Last week, he called for a recount in the Sunshine Coast seat due to “suspected major voting discrepancies” and went as far as to (unsuccessfully) seek a Federal Court injunction to bring the count in Fairfax to a halt and have a fresh election in that seat ordered.

Some of his missives have been typically preposterous; a case in point was his assertion that retired military personnel are disproportionately represented in the ranks of AEC polling officials, and that the military “should not be allowed anywhere near democracy.”

If nothing else, that particular argument should neatly alienate the returned services community in Fairfax, which could be problematic in more ways than one — and sooner than Palmer might think.

Indeed, if good to his word, Clive Palmer may soon get more than he bargained for.

The prospect of a recount notwithstanding, one might have thought that being declared the victor in Fairfax on the weekend over his opponent, the LNP’s Ted O’Brien — albeit by the slender margin of 36 votes — may have mollified Palmer and soothed his grievances.

As recently as yesterday, however, Palmer was maintaining his rage; in a statement he said that on the basis of evidence, a fraud has been committed” and accused the AEC of “a cover up.”

“I will continue to fight to hold the AEC accountable as they’ve shown themselves to be greatly incompetent with no transparency,” the statement said.

Intriguingly, it continued: “we will be highlighting the many discrepancies we’ve uncovered in the Court of Disputed Returns. The ballots have no security and the AEC is a national disgrace that needs to be heavily scrutinised.”

Come again?

Is Palmer proposing to challenge his own victory in the Court of Disputed Returns?

It seems inconceivable — based on the sheer belligerence of Palmer’s attacks on the AEC — that if the recount overturns the provisional result, and O’Brien is declared the winner, that Palmer would do anything other than challenge the result in Court.

But if he wins, will he hold good to his threat?

If I were advising him (assuming the recount confirms him as the new member for Fairfax) my advice — to put it bluntly — would be to shut up and take his seat in Parliament.

But nothing is so cut and dry where Palmer is concerned.

If he decided to pursue his campaign against the Commission and indeed take it to the Court of Disputed Returns, one of two things happens.

The first, of course, is that the Court dismisses the complaint.

The second is that it upholds the complaint, sets aside the result in Fairfax, and orders a supplementary election; if that occurs, Palmer will have signed his political death warrant.

For starters, he will have handed O’Brien and the LNP a potent campaign theme: that just to prove he’s right, Palmer will have engineered the waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in the form of a by-election whose purpose is to confirm the very result his Court proceedings had overturned.

On a two-party preferred basis, the election day contest in Fairfax was close enough; even if the vast majority of electors voted the same way at a supplementary election, the net movement of just 19 votes into the LNP column (in an electorate with more than 95,000 enrolled voters) would be sufficient to elect Palmer’s LNP rival.

And perhaps the most poignant aspect of any “second round” at the ballot box between Palmer and O’Brien lies in the fact that on 7 September, Palmer barely managed a quarter of the valid first preference primary votes cast.

With 74% of electors in Fairfax casting their first preferences for someone other than Clive Palmer, it’s obvious that the mining boss does not enjoy unqualified, widespread support in his electorate.

Indeed, leading up to the election, there were plenty of Fairfax voters whose anti-Palmer sentiments found their way into ready newspaper stories, with his Palmer Coolum Resort at the epicentre of their hostility.

It’s also the case that whether he likes it or not, Palmer — should the recount find in his favour — will have been elected mainly on ALP and Communist Party Greens preferences; at any supplementary election, the LNP’s ability to split even a few additional percentage points off those preference flows by appealing to Green and Labor voters not to reward blatant political grandstanding at the expense of the taxpayer would be enhanced greatly.

And there’s another issue here; Palmer has picked a fight with the very people charged with running, administering, counting and declaring votes at Australian elections, even after their efforts found him to have been elected; it would seem an odd call to make, but to perpetuate it in the face of victory beggars belief.

Would Palmer really challenge his own electoral win in the Court of Disputed Returns?

Who knows, in the end.

But if he does, it will almost certainly cost him his seat, and probably signal the end of his Palmer United Party — just as the “party” was seemingly getting started.

Despite its apparent defeat — for now — in Fairfax, the LNP in Queensland must scarcely be able to believe its luck.

 

A “Corrupt” System? Palmer’s Antics Will Soon Become Tiresome

WITH THE PRIME conservative seat of Fairfax seemingly in the bag, Clive Palmer has — since Saturday’s election — continued the eccentric behaviour for which he has become known; whilst some of his arguments have merit, most don’t. His pronouncements and outbursts will quickly become tedious.

I have been keeping an eye on what Palmer has been saying and doing since Saturday, and I am far from impressed; it seems that having achieved a sliver of the political power he has insisted for months would fall his way, he is hellbent on picking all the fights he can.

Which, of course, is his prerogative.

There are two reports today that I want to look at that provide some insight into the way Palmer appears determined to operate, and we will come to those shortly.

It is apparent, however, that barring a huge surge in the LNP vote from postal and absentee votes, Palmer will win Fairfax; the electorate — based on the central and northern parts of the Sunshine Coast — is as traditional a patch of blue-ribbon, heartland conservative territory as you will find anywhere in the country.

Its loss will rankle the Liberal Party, and the merged LNP in Queensland in particular.

At the time of writing, Palmer remains nearly 1,400 votes ahead of the LNP candidate, Ted O’Brien, with over 80% of votes counted; it is quite possible his lead can be overturned as counting is finalised, but that prospect — regrettably — is receding.

Whether he wins or not, Palmer has launched an unprecedented attack on Australia’s electoral processes; as The Australian reported yesterday, he has declared there is “absolutely no way I will win based on voting irregularities and the security of the ballots,” which might provide him some cover if he loses, or he might — might — have a point.

As readers will see, the article from The Australian goes on to list, in detail, a number of concerns and grievances Palmer says he has issue with over the conduct of the election.

If his concerns are genuinely held, he should make a formal complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission, which in turn would be bound to investigate and to institute remedial action in response to any breaches it identifies.

But Australian politics has historically been remarkably corruption-free; to the extent misconduct or irregularities (deliberate, accidental or through oversight) occur, Australians can have confidence that the occasional instances of prosecutions for electoral fraud, court-ordered supplementary elections and so forth clean the bulk of them up.

Palmer, however, goes a step further, declaring that “if there were UN observers here, this would be regarded as an unfair election.”

It does rather seem like overkill.

Yet the same article records what can only be interpreted as an extraordinary threat of political blackmail (and any member/s of the administrative wing of Palmer’s party prepared to officially clarify this, in writing, can leave their details in a comment and I will contact them to facilitate this — their details will not be published without their consent).

The Australian reports — and I quote contemporaneously — that

(Palmer) says that if he fails to win Fairfax, the two members of his party bound for the Senate will block Tony Abbott’s policies unless electoral reform is promised…“We think it’s a corrupt system. Until that’s sorted out Abbott won’t be getting any legislation through the senate with our support,” Mr Palmer said.

In other words, if Palmer is defeated in Fairfax it will be on account of the “corrupt” system, not through the will of the people, and that if he is defeated, he will instruct his Senators to obstruct the Abbott government in the Senate.

I should point out that with primary support in Fairfax of just over a quarter of the votes cast, Palmer is somewhat fortunate to be in a position to contemplate being elected at all.

And this brings me to the second of the two articles I alluded to; one I have been “sitting” on since the day after the election. This report, from news.com.au, can be accessed here.

Some of the spin and theory propounded by Palmer in this report warrants rebuke.

It is interesting — albeit completely unsurprising — that Palmer is holding himself up as some kind of kingmaker to whom Tony Abbott should be grateful for winning the election.

Palmer — and this is an old story — stomped out of the merged LNP in Queensland when he couldn’t get it to do what he wanted, and set up the Palmer United Party to get candidates elected who would.

(If anyone doubts this, look at the Palmer promises on the abolition of Fringe Benefits Tax, cutting income tax, abolishing the mining and carbon taxes, et al — all of which would benefit Palmer’s companies if enacted).

Most of the votes Palmer’s party won on Saturday were drawn from the LNP; far from being responsible for Tony Abbott’s election win Palmer has, if anything, blunted it.

Assuming PUP’s support ends up at 6%, as Palmer says, his preferences cannot be said to have elected Abbott to office; all minor party preferences leak when distributed, and even assuming 80% of them went to the Coalition, that leaves 20% that ended up with the ALP.

Thus, the national ALP vote is at least 1.2% higher after preferences than it would have been had Palmer opted to butt out of conservative politics when he abandoned the LNP.

This means there are seats across the country, now on margins below about 1.3%, that have remained in Labor hands when they should have been won by the Coalition. Palmer’s PUP is directly responsible for these outcomes. And there is no shortage of seats, retained by Labor, in that category.

That said, many of the seats the Coalition won were secured either on primary votes above 50%, or on preference flows from other candidates that rendered anything that might have been forthcoming from Palmer technically redundant.

In other words, whilst there are tightly contested seats the Liberals and Nationals won in which PUP preferences may have been decisive, the reality is that of the 90 seats the Coalition looks likely to end up with, enough of them would have been secured anyway irrespective of Palmer and his PUP.

And far from enhancing the Coalition’s prospects in the Senate, the very presence of PUP has compromised its gains in that chamber: firstly by drawing off the Coalition’s votes, and secondly — again — through preference leakage.

On top of that, the two Senators likely to be elected on the PUP ticket, and Palmer himself in Fairfax, are direct reductions in the Coalition’s seat tallies in the upper and lower houses respectively.

How all of this makes Palmer responsible for Tony Abbott being elected is beyond me.

Don’t get me wrong, Palmer seems likeable enough; I have no issue with him personally.

Even so, these latest events simply continue the pattern of controversial and/or odd public pronouncements that simply don’t withstand scrutiny.

A lot of people — understandably awed by the influx of minor party candidates to the Senate — seem to have lost sight of the fact that all of these Senators, including Palmer’s, are there for six years, not three.

If they really are of a mind to be wreckers, they will act as such for a very long time.

And Palmer himself, if elected in Fairfax, will no doubt be viewed with amusement and consternation in equal measure, even by those who take him seriously.

The fact is that Australia is bereft of larger-than-life figures; the days of the outspoken larrikin in Parliament are gone, and to that extent alone Palmer is refreshing.

Even so, if his comments and commentary prior to and since the election are a reliable indicator of what he is likely to contribute over a period of years of active engagement, a great many people will grow very tired of him, and very quickly.