Tantrum Of The Entitled: Support-Free Senators Lash Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But as a candidate for Family First?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Advance Of Jacqui Lambie: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

THE PROSPECT of idiot Senator Jacqui Lambie’s party winning up to seven Senate seats at a double dissolution — almost certainly more than the National Party, and possibly gaining the balance of power — is a horrendous prospect that would cause untold damage to Australia; with Lambie’s ignorant, childish politics based on little more than settling imaginary scores, government would grind to a halt. Undoing her impact would take years.

In the small hours of Monday morning and still with things to do in advance of the week ahead there are better things I can think of to discuss, but anything to do with Jacqui Lambie — especially when it concerns the prospect of her spreading her influence — warrants attention.

I’ve seen an article from the regional Tasmanian newspaper The Advocate today, which cites Liberal Party polling quoted from Victorian Liberal state president Michael Kroger, suggesting that Tasmanian Palmer Senator-cum-Independent Jacqui Lambie currently commands 22-24% of the vote on the Apple Isle, and is said to be polling strongly in Queensland, Western Australia, and perhaps even in Victoria and New South Wales.

Whilst no tabulation of the numbers was presented (and remembering, of course, that three parts of evidence is often accompanied by three parts of gamesmanship where internal political polling is concerned), the looming spectre of a double dissolution election more or less doubles the ability of small parties to win Senate seats on account of the much lower electoral quotas required.

And whilst the findings Kroger was quoted discussing are unknown, the notion of Jacqui Lambie with two or three seats in Tasmania and up to one more in each of four of the five mainland states — possibly as many as seven in total — is, frankly, bloody terrifying.

I’ve been accused (usually by Coalition turncoats and ALP types who just want to stoke the fire when it comes to breakaway right wing outfits) of being everything from a sexist and misogynistic pig to an elitist and patrician snob (Moi? seriously?) for my determination to do anything I can to build public sentiment against Jacqui Lambie and help obliterate her political prospects.

But in declaring as regularly as she is discussed in this column that I believe her to be the stupidest individual ever elected to an Australian House of Parliament, I don’t do so lightly: and I don’t do so without a passing nod to the pantheon of no-hopers who, in some cases frantically, burst forth from the musty arras of history with comprehensive claims on the dubious status I accord to Lambie.

It’s not because she is so challenged as a communicator as to be virtually incoherent: everyone has something worthwhile to say, or at least that’s the theory, even if Lambie is incapable of conveying meaning in any other sense but the banal, or the xenophobic, or with the vitriol that invariably accompanies a complete victim mentality.

And it’s not because there is no evidence that anything about Lambie is in any way couth, civilised, or that she comprehends what her current role as a Senator demands of her: there are plenty of bogans around, after all, and almost all of them are great people.

Rather, it traces to eccentricities — to be generous — such as a former army truck driver and military policewoman purporting to be an expert on high matters of defence policy, when ample evidence exists that most service personnel find her cringeworthy at best and, in short, a joke.

It traces to peculiarities such as the barely articulate distinction she attempted to draw between “Chinese” and “Communist Chinese” and the suggestion that somehow the first group of people were just great in her eyes, whilst the other necessitated Australia taking up nuclear arms and blasting the dreaded Yellow Peril off the face of the planet.

It traces to the fact — conceded in her own words — that she hung around both the Liberal and Labor parties to play them off against each other to see what she could get; since those dizzying glory days she has been in and out of the Palmer United Party (and say what you will about Clive Palmer, but it’s a reflection on Lambie that she professes to be perturbed that following instructions might have been a requirement after she was elected on the back of a truckload of the mining baron’s money) and is now onto at least her fourth political party in fairly rapid succession: this time, her own.

For someone who professes expertise in military strategy — where mates have each other’s back, and nobody runs out and hides when the company is under attack — Lambie does not appear to be the kind of soldier you’d want to follow into battle, and this is a salient point for those flirting with voting for her to consider.

For the benefit of readers who missed it, I republish here the article I posted in March, when Lambie announced she would do what most disgruntled basket cases seem to do these days, having been elected on someone else’s coat tails and subsequently deciding their excrement doesn’t stink, and start a party named after themselves: and that article also contains links to several previous pieces that have formed discussion of Senator Lambie whenever her unfortunate ideas and objectives have come to public notice.

Aside from disability funding (a cause she came to champion after she got pissed and walked in front of a car) and defence force remuneration (because she’s such an expert on the military) the only thing Jacqui Lambie really stands for — as far as can be reasonably distilled from her idiotic utterances — is herself.

And just about the only thing that apparently drives her is revenge: revenge against the Liberal Party and Tony Abbott, for reasons unknown. Revenge against Clive Palmer, for reasons that speak to her own decisions and her inability to judge Palmer and his likely demands on her if she was elected on his ticket. Revenge against anything, or anyone, who dares to campaign for a position on something that isn’t explicitly what Lambie herself deems desirable.

Then — when you add in the racist, xenophobic diatribes, the fact she is supremely and naively out of her depth, and the fact she regularly threatens to bring Parliament grinding to a halt unless she gets what she wants, and to hell with anyone else (and God forbid, the national interest) — it really does become clear that not only is Lambie a simpleton masquerading as the big kid in the sandpit, but that the last thing she should ever be entrusted with is the balance of power in the Australian Senate.

It’s not hard to see how this could happen; after 20 years in which the ALP has seen its left flank slowly eroded and annexed by first the Australian Democrats and now the Communist Party Greens, a similar phenomenon seems to have commenced on the political Right, with Clive Palmer and Bob Katter (and earlier, Pauline Hanson) all hiving off large chunks of Coalition support.

Since we are talking about Kroger, one of the meetings I’ve been to this year where he was speaking saw him talking about what the Liberals need to do to retrieve their standing in Victoria — which, as he put it, was to once again advocate policies (and when elected, to govern) that reflect the values we as Liberals say we believe in.

It isn’t rocket science, but Kroger is absolutely right.

I have been critical of the Abbott government at various times; one of the key criticisms readers will have heard from me many times is that there is nothing conservative about it: there isn’t anything liberal, in the classic sense, about it either.

There are issues with the Senate and the way it is elected (and especially since the ALP fiddled it in 1984) that have lately been gamed and strategised to elect people with virtually no popular support, and whilst it’s something I believe needs to be fixed, and urgently, I don’t propose to divert down that particular tangent now.

But given it’s the Right — the Liberal Party especially — that stands to lose the most from any populist onslaught by Lambie, I obviously have a vested interest in trying to see that something is done to counter it.

People vote for fringe entities like the Palmer United Party, or for fruit cakes like Jacqui Lambie, because they are disillusioned with politics and feel government simply doesn’t do anything to make their lot in life better; in the absence of anything meaningful, they connect instead with “rough diamonds,” or people they think are “authentic,” or bullies who might “keep the bastards honest,” or some other permutation of the fact they feel established political parties deliver only for the people who run them and work in them.

If the Liberal Party, for example, developed policies that truly reflected its small government, pro-family, pro-business, strong national defence ideals that emphasised the virtues of opportunity for all, personal freedom and personal responsibility — and actually sold these properly in a way that voters could reconcile the intended outcomes with their own individual circumstances — then I believe the last thing it would need to worry about is losing a swag of Senators to someone like Jacqui Lambie at a double dissolution election.

Delusional stories of Lambie’s desire to bed rich men with huge dicks might be most amusing, but they aren’t a reason to vote for her.

The threat can be circumvented by the advocacy of policies that embody traditional liberal and conservative values: after all, it’s reasonable to assert those are what people thought they would get when they elected the Abbott government in a landslide but, to date, they haven’t got them at all.

We already know about Lambie’s mad, bad agenda. We already know she’s quite open about threats to strangle the process of government until or unless she gets what she wants.

Were she to ever control the balance of power in the Senate and thus the capacity to make good on those threats, God knows what she might be capable of. The damage — and the potential carnage — she could inflict on this country, its governance and its economic welfare, is incalculable. It is a horrific thought to contemplate.

If Kroger’s numbers are right, the only way to stop her is to ensure the next election reaps her no increase in her parliamentary numbers: and to achieve that, it’s obviously high time that the strategists and tacticians in the Coalition bunker set to work on cutting the niche constituency of disgruntled conservative voters out from beneath her feet.

 

Personal Parties Another Stain On Undemocratic Senate

WHAT PAUL KEATING colourfully — and accurately — characterised as “unrepresentative swill” is now being abused as a vehicle for personal aggrandisement and empire building by obsequious individuals with little to no public support, as a proliferation of “personal parties” are initiated by deserters from irrelevant minor parties exploiting lax registration provisions. It is merely the latest signpost to the need for an overhaul of the Senate.

No politician will ever say so — for fear of being accused of “talking down” Australia, its economy and/or our system of government — but there is a sickness affecting Australian politics which, unless something is done about it, stands to become a self-defeating affliction.

As jaded voters walk away from major parties that lose sight of their mission to govern for the majority and into the arms of microparties, which — to differentiate themselves, and to attract crucial media attention — obstruct and oppose and embark on crusades against the bigger parties, individuals, and (in Jacqui Lambie’s case) past benefactors: the effect of which is to create more chaos, contributing to the unworkability of Parliament, and making it harder for Australia to be effectively governed.

In turn, this merely fuels the disaffection and jaundiced estimation in which politics is held: and on the cycle goes as a consequence.

Now more than 30 years after the event, the Labor Party must (at least privately) rue its handiwork in 1984; the fiddle it committed upon the Senate that year — enlarging the chamber from 64 to 76 Senators, with the explicit if unspoken objective of preventing the Coalition from ever again controlling it, and thus ensuring a repeat of the events of November 1975 could never occur — is directly responsible for the fractious state in which the Senate finds itself today, and in hindsight was arguably the most anti-democratic injury inflicted upon Australia’s political system in decades — if not since Federation.

That act of political bastardry in 1984 has also proven to be a gift that keeps on giving — and not in a positive or even pleasant way.

In time past the Senate has come in for quite a lot of scrutiny in this column, culminating in an article about six months ago that outlined some ideas for overhauling it; I should make the observation that my gripe against the Senate isn’t that the Coalition doesn’t control it (it probably still wouldn’t, based on the 2010 and 2013 Senate election figures, even on the pre-1984 system) but rather that Labor’s act of bastardry has turned that chamber into little more than a sinecure for mostly irrelevant and sometimes odious individuals, often with virtually no public support, from which absolute mayhem is perpetrated under the guise of “diversity of opinion” and “inclusivity.”

It has taken time for the full consequences of Labor’s act of sabotage to fully become apparent; just as it has taken time for the major parties’ collective share of the primary vote to corrode, it has taken time for unscrupulous and sometimes power-crazed interests to work out how to game Senate elections, “harvest” preferences, distort election results, and achieve the election of people to the upper house who in reasonable circumstances would never be elected and who — on objective criteria — would never be elected on merit.

Today, however, I want to make note of the growing number of personal “parties” that are springing up, for this — just like the 1984 “reforms” to the Senate — is a symptom of the sickness afflicting Australian politics.

The idea that “a party” can qualify as “a party” under Australia’s electoral laws is a regulatory absurdity that should be immediately dispensed with; the provision that a single member of an elected chamber can automatically be accorded party status serves no other purpose than to pander to heretical miscreants who either walk out of an established party, under whose banner they were elected, or as an incentive for an MP elected as an Independent — perhaps fearful of defeat, or merely to create for themselves officially sanctioned self-importance to trade on — to call themselves something pompous in an effort to beef up their public profile for political purposes.

Yes, I’m talking about you, Jacqui Lambie, with your silly “Jacqui Lambie Network.” You too, John Madigan — DLP deserter and now the apparent leader of the “Manufacturing and Farming Party.” There is no prerequisite for these “parties” to substantiate any degree of public support whatsoever, and places them at an unfair and indefensible advantage over other obscure parties who might never win a seat, but which have nonetheless done the groundwork to at least satisfy statutory requirements that they pass a certain threshold of financial party members.

An earlier example, from a comparatively kinder and gentler time, can be found in the case of former Australian Democrats leader Meg Lees, who walked out of that party to form the “Australian Progressive Alliance;” I liked Lees, and despite disagreeing with her views politically readily acknowledge she was a far more substantial figure than virtually all of today’s crossbench Senators (and some dwelling in the major parties, just to be clear). But when the votes were tallied at the Senate election of 2004 it was clear that the only person “allied” to Lees’ crumb of a party, in round terms, was herself.

South Australian Nick Xenophon is on stronger ground, having polled a quarter of the South Australian primary vote in 2013 and almost winning enough votes to get a second Senator elected on his ticket but even this fails to pass the test in my view, for Xenophon faced voters as an Independent, not the leader of a party. When all else is said and done, it’s still a breach of faith with voters.

And whilst I have extreme objections to the fact Ricky Muir (and his half a percentage point of the vote in Victoria) sits in the Senate at all, one must at least acknowledge his Motoring Enthusiast Party was a registered entity before the obscenity of preference harvesting swept him to Canberra with negligible public support.

I’m aware that Lambie and Madigan are facing legal action from Clive Palmer and the DLP respectively, in retribution for them deserting the parties for whom they were elected; that’s another argument for another time, but I believe (and it’s a personal opinion) that the Constitution is on the side of the defectors; whether it is or not, one is prepared to suggest that Palmer’s pursuit of Lambie and fellow PUP defector Glenn Lazarus for some $9 million is ridiculous.

And whether it is or not, it still doesn’t change the fact that there is no defensible or morally justified argument that legitimises Lambie, Madigan, Xenophon, Lees before them, and others who have come and gone (and probably will again) declaring themselves “parties” on the basis of having a single seat in Parliament.

I’m sure we will be talking about this again — and not least on account of the fact that in Lambie’s case at least, the good Senator from the Apple Isle seems unable to keep her mouth shut, especially whenever the inclination to spout forth with verbal diarrhoea hits her.

But I challenge anyone to mount the counter-case that any of these so-called “parties” should be allowed to stand as such for any other reason than the defective regulations that permit them to.

What is a party? Is it a “gang of one,” as I derisively said of Lambie?

Rather than lowering the bar to enable “parties” to spring up like weeds in September, I think the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act should be changed to lift it: if you can’t expend the hard work and shoe leather, and recruit a reasonable number of grassroots supporters to your banner in the very first instance, then you shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself “a party:” and if that means parliamentary “careers” are terminated through the inability to generate publicity, so be it.

Nobody is owed a seat in Parliament simply because they want it. And nobody who already has one is entitled to hang onto it forever.

All this provision amounts to is a crutch for elected representatives to break faith with the people who elected them and — mostly — the parties whose support they relied on to achieve that election in the first place, and whilst the Constitution may or may not allow them to remain in Parliament after doing the dirty on their original supporters, the Electoral Act most certainly shouldn’t aid their endeavours to be re-elected to it.

If we’re going to talk about Senate reform at all, this is one aspect of the overall sickness that affects the chamber that can be cured relatively easily, and it should be.

Gang Of One: The Divisive “Core Beliefs” Of Jacqui Lambie’s Party

POSSIBLY THE STUPIDEST PERSON ever elected to an Australian Parliament — mercenary Senator Jacqui Lambie — has chosen to emulate other deluded pathology cases, and to start an eponymous political party; said to be built on “core beliefs,” the Jacqui Lambie Network aspires to advance a narrow, contradictory, divisive agenda. Its sole beneficiary will be her public profile. Where principle is concerned, it will quickly be shown to have none.

I’m not going to make any apologies for this article giving the impression that it seeks to attack Jacqui Lambie personally; in view of such weighty pronouncements from the woman herself that she would personally block every government bill in the Senate until the Prime Minister and her colleagues acceded to the blackmail the threat implied — seemingly oblivious to the fact 74 other Senators get to vote on those bills as well — we’re not talking about a genius.

And in fact, this column has intermittently followed the travails and escapades of Senator Lambie with great interest: see here, here, here, here, here, here and here, just for starters.

In considering her incoherent and cringeworthy lack of comprehension of issues — such as the excruciating differentiation she drew between “Communist Chinese” and “Chinese” (the former able to be hit on Chinese soil with nuclear weapons without harming the latter in any way, or so her logic dictated) or her ridiculous understanding of the “Sharia Law” she so vehemently rages against — along with her foul mouth, her total lack of apparent refinement or sense of occasion or position, and the victim mentality she deploys as both justification and camouflage for her demented rants, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Lambie is in fact the stupidest person ever elected to any Parliament, at any level, anywhere in Australia.

(I acknowledge, however, that plenty of comers from all sides have constituted serious competition for that dubious honour).

And Lambie, who is explicitly on record as a stated aspirant to the position of Prime Minister, deserves as such to be assessed on her merits: and in this regard, her conduct and utterances to date reveal her to have none.

Her latest enterprise arguably boasts even less than that.

So let’s not waste any time on crocodile tears about a personal attack upon Jacqui Lambie.

For just like every other egomaniacal, self-obsessed pathology case who has come to Australian politics either deluded that they are the Messiah and/or in search of the gathering and exercise of brute power in their own hands, Lambie has seemingly decided that other Australians share her warped view of her own importance, and has started her very own party: the Jacqui Lambie Network, which sounds more like a bad comedy on a subscription TV channel than it does a serious attempt to build a political organisation.

Depending on preference, readers can peruse reports from the Murdoch and/or Fairfax press in relation to this Earth-shattering event.

In a clear sign Lambie learned nothing from the cyclonic Palmer United Party she recently stomped out of, she has already emulated one of Palmer’s worst mistakes: the appointment of a husband and wife team as chief adviser and holder of senior roles in the party’s organisational wing, respectively (a mistake also made in the case of the Liberal Party, of which Lambie should have been well enough aware to have avoided).

I’m not actually going to spend the time deconstructing the likely electoral appeal of Lambie’s new “force” — just like the credibility of her views and her merits as an MP at all, it has none — or on the fatuous fairy story of the overwhelming demand Lambie has received for a “Lambie brand in politics” (I think getting the sick bucket would be quicker and more expeditious for all concerned).

But I do want to look at the 12 so-called “core beliefs” her party is purported to be founded upon, for this creed is contradictory, divisive, and fashioned to give the impression of a limited individual working hard to grasp the implications of the issues she stands for when in fact, it is aimed merely at bolstering her own public profile.

(And that’s something that natural justice would see swiftly cut from under her too).

Right from the beginning, Lambie’s “core beliefs” get it wrong; the insistence that “members must always put their state first in all decisions they make” is simply a recipe for the Jacqui Lambie Network (or “JLN,” as it is already being somewhat irritatingly referred to) to descend quickly and irrevocably into a seething cesspit of state chauvinism and conflicting prejudices that are, by their nature and the word of this ridiculous edict, impossible to reconcile.

A similar recipe for chaos lies in the statement that JLN “supports conscience votes on all moral and ethical issues:” just how does it propose to demarcate these from “ordinary” issues? Which issues warrant the JLN’s lofty ethical and moral consideration, and which ones are merely so run of the mill that any question of conscience or ethics doesn’t apply to them? And it is clear that party discipline or a considered, united position on most things is not a priority for Lambie, which is perhaps a reflection on her own abysmal conduct as a member of Clive Palmer’s team, such as it was.

The “core beliefs” reveal Lambie to continue to obsess over the lot of veterans, with a number of motherhood statements on the subject intersecting with the almost complete disregard for the rest of the Australian community. (Never mind the fact that most service personnel I speak to are deeply affronted that this troublemaking miscreant from the junior non-commissioned ranks has the temerity to present herself as an authority on military matters, or to agitate on their behalf).

And I say “almost complete,” because Lambie enshrines in her party’s silly platform the incendiary, racially divisive scheme she first raised six months ago for reserved seats in Australian Parliaments for Aborigines: even if you accept the goodness of her intentions (and I don’t), this is one of the surest ways to stoke tension and resentment between black and white Australians any fool could volunteer. It does not matter what they do in New Zealand. It does not matter whether Lambie is of Aboriginal descent, a point hotly disputed in any case by some Aboriginal elders in Tasmania. It is little more than reverse racism, and the fact Lambie is prepared to argue for it should be a cause for alarm, not acclaim.

On and on it goes.

A transactions tax to “guarantee pensions” for returned servicemen; slashing foreign aid to boost university funding; support for the “proper regulation of Halal” (sic) and for a “monitoring and regulation system” to ensure fuel and electricity prices in Australia are no higher than overseas (wherever “overseas” is actually meant to be) that sounds like a recipe for interventionist government and the wastage of tens of billions of dollars in market-distorting subsidies that will render far more damage on the Australian economy than they will ever avert.

It’s all conflicting, turgid, pseudo-populist rubbish.

I particularly like the “Special Economic Zones” Lambie wants to establish in regional and rural areas to “help boost profitability and job creation.” How? Where? With what? What profitability? What jobs will be created? Only a fool would be hoodwinked by such empty gibberish.

Or — to paraphrase the immortal line from Don’s Party — the carbon tax Lambie supports, but only after “our major trading partners” introduce “a similar tax on their coal-fired power stations,” which in its half-a-bob-each-way sentiment sounds like a recommendation to eat shit in case it tastes like watermelon.

It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to see that the only thing Lambie wants to further or advance is herself: this mercenary political harlot, who has admitted “infiltrating” both the Liberal and Labor parties prior to her election to see what she could get from them before joining Clive Palmer’s ticket in a brazen move to get campaign funds, is not someone who can readily be accused of any consistency or principle in her public life to date.

I have seen some comments in the mainstream press this evening suggesting that all the Jacqui Lambie Network even exists for is to provide a vehicle with which to secure public election funding and, whilst this may or may not be the case, I don’t think Lambie stands to make all that much money from it, for one very salient — if cruel — reason.

Jacqui Lambie does not possess the mass appeal to rednecks and bogans of a Pauline Hanson; she does not possess the vast sums of cash to bankroll political campaigns or the inexhaustible bile and hatred and thirst for “vengeance” to single-mindedly drive them of a Clive Palmer.

Instead, Lambie is deservedly ridiculed and widely regarded as a joke, and an embarrassment.

And nobody will take her new party particularly seriously.

Back in November I characterised Lambie as an idiot whose like had never been seen in federal politics, and would hopefully never be seen again; and regrettably, her Jacqui Lambie Network is merely the latest proof that that assessment was far from inaccurate.

If this is what Lambie believes in, then God help Australia if she ever attains a position from which to act on it: she won’t, of course, for Australians might be generous to an underdog, but Lambie is asking too much of even that noble sentiment.

Once again, Lambie has proven herself to be just about the stupidest individual in politics today: and whilst there is nothing wrong with the ambition of becoming Prime Minister, there are some who are so defective as to fail to even be entitled to such a delusional aspiration in the first place.

Lambie sits in that category.

 

Budget Thuggery And Votes Matter More To Shorten Than Medicare

THE MERITS of the government’s reform of Medicare rebates aside, the decision by Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — bolstered by most of the Senate crossbench — to disallow the changes is predictable, irresponsible, and fuels the abhorrent truth that winning office at any cost means more to Shorten than whatever dubious “principle” he prates of. Shorten is typecast by his antics. They pose a dagger over any government he might some day “lead.”

Regular readers of this column know that where the Abbott government’s efforts with the federal budget have been concerned to date, I have been highly critical — at times, scathingly so — and that I have called repeatedly for Treasurer Joe Hockey to be replaced as part of the government’s “reset” heading into a new year after a torrid 2014.

There is some irony, therefore, that just as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his colleagues embark on a much more tangible and substantial attempt to prosecute their case for difficult measures, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten should present himself as a bulwark against “damage” being done to Medicare.

Like so many aspects of governance that were mishandled during the six years of Labor government Medicare has become unsustainable, with its cost to the taxpayer spiralling from $8 billion per annum a decade ago to $20 billion today — an impost set to balloon to $34 billion in ten years’ time if nothing is done to to redress it.

But Shorten — who stoutly refuses to concede there is any problem with the federal budget at all in the wake of the last Labor government, despite $350 billion in debt that wasn’t on the books when the Howard government left office, and $50 billion deficits lined up as far as the eye can see over the next decade — will have none of it.

The Liberals, he and his colleagues say, are simply being the ideologically driven nasty bastards Labor has always warned of; there’s no “budget emergency,” despite a growing procession of economists, finance journalists and senior Treasury bureaucrats arguing the public case that such a crisis indeed exists — no, the Liberals, to listen to Shorten, simply want to make people pay more. Because they can. Because that’s what politics enables them to do. Re-elect the Liberals, Shorten is saying, and costs to the average Australian will rocket, with nothing to show for it.

Some mainstream press reporting for readers: depending on preference, coverage from Fairfax and the Murdoch stables.

I think people know I have been fairly busy this week — this is the first article I have published since the weekend, and it’s Thursday already — so I need to be brief again this morning; I am not going to rehash to intricate specifics of this issue when I give people credit for being across it in the first place. But there are a few observations I would make.

The first involves the government: now exhibiting signs it is going to make the detailed case for tough budget decisions that it should have been making all year last year, Abbott’s team needs to be doing a lot more of it; the hard details in this case of the funding requirements for Medicare should be seared into the collective conscience of voters in the way, say, Paul Keating might once have driven home the case for some of the unpopular but necessary measures he instituted as Treasurer in the 1980s.

Conspicuously unnoticed in this regard is Hockey, with new assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg seemingly everywhere on the airwaves since his appointment, and Abbott himself now intervening to help sell the arguments in the way Howard did at times when Prime Minister. As the steward of the budget and of the government’s economic fortunes, Hockey should be all over this debate. The fact he is not, visibly, is telling — and not least at a time when he not only needs to raise his game, but to be seen by the public to be doing so.

But this aside, the short-term sugar hit Labor might experience from Shorten’s dishonest and opportunistic approach will leave a nasty headache when it wears off.

A majority of the Senate crossbench, more often than not, is prepared to throw in its lot with Labor when it comes to attempts to tear this government down: the Communist Party Greens almost invariably, and newly liberated ex-Palmer Senator Jacqui Lambie too; Clive Palmer and the remnants of his brigade (including Ricky Muir) less so, although I have pointed out many times that “deals” with Palmer usually involve hits to the budget bottom line of billions of dollars at a time that represent an unacceptable price for his “support” at a time the national debt pile is spiralling by a billion dollars per week; the rest of the crossbench takes a more case-by-case approach, which doesn’t help the government at a time such a solid contingent of Senators votes to either defeat or sabotage its money measures on an unjustifiably consistent basis.

On Shorten’s watch, Labor won’t even vote to legislate several billion dollars in savings it took to last year’s election itself, which speaks volumes for the fact the only beneficiary of its politics is itself, much less the people it expects to vote for it.

It’s hardly a revelation to say so, but Shorten’s strategy is clearly to win an election at any cost: far from concern for Medicare or compassion for anyone affected by hard changes designed to effect urgent repair of the government’s budget position, Shorten is selling out the very people he claims to stand for.

Allowing Medicare to spiral into complete unsustainability, for example — and beyond the point where restructuring it to put it on a sounder footing is possible — might play well to the ignorant and the scared, and it might win some votes now. But later, it will simply mean the kind of cuts to government services that will be needed are far worse than anything this government is doing.

Shorten Labor denies there is a “budget emergency” and at times has even had the nerve to explicitly deny that the Rudd and Gillard governments presided over any increase to the national debt pile at all.

Meanwhile, the haemorrhage of red ink from the Commonwealth’s coffers continues unabated at the rate of $50 billion per annum. How many $50 billion deficits will it take for Australia to catch the debt-addled basket case countries in Europe up? With a decade of this kind of thing already as good as locked in as a result of the Senate’s obstruction of the government, half a trillion dollars is set to be added to the already 25% of GDP in debt this country is. With that as a backdrop, the distance to reach real trouble if nothing is done is terrifyingly short indeed.

But Shorten will have none of it. Cuts to Medicare rebates (and anything else that might save the budget money) is simply, according to his public conversation with voters, the Liberals being nasty.

It is perhaps telling that despite being implored by Abbott to put alternatives on the table, Labor and its cohorts continue to fail to do so — a point noted in both of the articles I have linked to today, and which Shorten himself is on record as having specifically refused to do.

Yet in many ways, he can’t produce alternatives for the simple reason that doing so would bring the entire edifice of wildly dishonest pronouncements about the state of the country crashing down.

The only “new” policy Shorten has announced in relation to Medicare to date is to end the private health insurance rebate — a policy that would cripple, at a stroke, the ability of the public health system as it is flooded by a mass exodus from the private health system.

It is unsurprising in recent months that he — and his shadow Cabinet — have stopped talking about this policy, quietly allowing it to disappear from view. But if this is Shorten’s idea of “policies that will benefit Medicare,” Australians are entitled to dread whatever next is presented by the ALP under the auspices of health policy.

Far more concerned with the ALP’s own fortunes than he ever will be about what the government delivers for people in areas like Medicare, Shorten has put his party in a position whereby to acknowledge the problem is to destroy Labor’s entire vacuous claim to office which, simply stated, is that there’s no problem here — despite knowing full well that this is false.

Shorten rattles on about unfairness and cruelty, yet the unfairest and cruellest aspect of all of this is the hit being inflicted on those voters whose services will have to be slashed in 10, 20, 30 years’ time to pay for the largesse Labor presided over in government, and now refuses to allow the Abbott government to bring to a halt.

He is boxed in by his own rhetoric, and should he ever — God forbid — become Prime Minister, Shorten will be forced to confront the irresponsible way he got there: namely, by refusing to allow Abbott to fix the mess Labor bequeathed on the first place, mostly by denying the mess exists, Shorten would have nowhere to turn.

Actually, he would have one option to play with: tax rises.

Big, big tax rises, covering anything and everything in sight; with the option of cutting spending removed — perhaps forever, in electoral terms — the only lever a Labor government would have at its disposal in such a circumstance is to tax the living daylights out of anything that moves, and anything that doesn’t.

Not that this is an alien concept for the ALP, mind. Then again, its failure to construct a functional tax in mining and resources ought to alarm even those who think Labor’s tax and spend approach represents a proper alternative — not that there are many of those in any case.

My point is that some sections of the community may variously be angry, alarmed, frightened or even disgusted by measures being taken by the Abbott government — in this case in relation to Medicare — as it seeks to fix up the country’s books.

Those people should give some thought to the prospect of the colossal tax rises that must surely follow the election of another Labor government: the only alternative to what Abbott is trying to achieve.

Of course, Labor could simply do no more than continue to borrow and spend if restored to office, with any consideration of the revenue side of the budget dispensed with altogether.

And if that sounds far-fetched or ridiculous, it’s not much of a jump for a Labor Party that is already pretending the country is in rude economic health. If it later decides to shun the opprobrium of big tax hikes to cover its largesse, then what I am suggesting won’t be far-fetched at all.

Australians are well justified in being afraid. Shorten is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He cannot be trusted. And the government, which is now much more visible in making the case for its reforms, needs to also find a way to ram that reality down the throats of the voters Shorten expects to blithely make him Prime Minister.

Labor’s behaviour can mean only massive tax rises in government, or the complete disintegration of things like Medicare in the absence of the money to pay for them. There is no compassion in anything Shorten is doing. He now must be held to account for the consequences of his words.

 

Lambie, Palmer, And A Great Big Cock-Up

JACQUI LAMBIE’S resignation from the Palmer United Party today warrants condemnation, nothing more; even so, the disintegration of Clive Palmer’s eponymous party is to be eagerly and enthusiastically welcomed, as the get-square implement of a despotic autocrat continues to collapse under the weight of competing egos, a policy agenda with the actual and moral clarity of a sewer, and an electorate awake to the fact it was cynically conned.

It looks like my article on Senate reform is going to have to wait at least another day after all, although with the mooted resignation of Jacqui Lambie from Clive Palmer’s party looming large as I posted this morning, I half expected this might be the case. Nonetheless, I promise readers that by the middle of the week at the latest, the proffered Senate piece will be published.

I wanted to add my thoughts to some of the comment that has found its way speedily into print today after Lambie’s infantile tantrum culminated in her departure from the Palmer United Party, and far from echoing any of the faux grace she attempted to exhibit on the way out the door, readers might be surprised to know that I think what she has done today is reprehensible.

Lambie’s resignation from the Palmer United Party deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible terms: no more, no less.

This abominable and virtually inarticulate specimen, plucked from the Tasmanian boondocks — to continue, it seems, her career as a victim, albeit on a bigger stage — owes her position in the Senate to the party Clive Palmer founded, and as painful as it is to say it, Palmer is actually right to lambaste Lambie for daring to arrogate to herself the role of an Independent just a year after being elected on Palmer’s ticket, as a member of Palmer’s party, and bankrolled by Palmer’s money, which she has admitted herself on the public record that she needed to sustain her campaign.

Whilst nobody will ever now know, it seems inconceivable that Lambie would have been elected under her own steam last year: her Senate spot would have gone to the Tasmanian Liberals, whence it was arguably stolen under a false premise.

And her claims today to have had “a great weight lifted off (her) shoulders” in resigning from Palmer’s outfit ought to instead hang like a millstone around her neck, or be flung back in her face to politically crucify her: for, like it or not, Lambie was elected as a Palmer United Party Senator for Tasmania. Far from a weight being lifted from her shoulders, she has in fact absconded from the job she was elected to, and dumped on those Tasmanians who voted for her.

Her assertion that she is now free to act as a Senator for Tasmania is unbelievably crass: she was already that. And with the degree of levity Palmer was clearly prepared to extend to her for her fancies — despite the obvious acrimony between the two — it is reasonable to assert there is nothing she can achieve now that could not have been achieved had she remained in the role to which she was elected just an embarrassingly short amount of time ago.

Lambie’s resignation is no act of principle, nor a stand for anything that is right, decent, or even coherent. It is a sham.

For the record, I have no truck whatsoever with the unrelenting goading and taunting Palmer has engaged in over the past few weeks, almost daring Lambie to go ahead and leave his God-forsaken rabble; his accusations that she sought to defect to other parties — and even that she was a plant who infiltrated his party to sabotage it — are ridiculous, fatuous, and distasteful in the extreme.

But two wrongs do not make a right, and Lambie has — good to her word — given as good as she has received, returning fire at Palmer through the receptive organs of the media at every opportunity, and the duo have better resembled a warring marital couple than a pair of sober, professional political operatives.

Lambie tried to be gracious today, with remarks about Palmer’s “beautiful family” and suggesting that when “the dust has cleared” there will be opportunities for her to work with her former Palmer colleagues “in the national interest.”

Yet there is nothing about Lambie, Palmer, or the entire Palmer United Party infrastructure that could be remotely construed as being in the national interest, and the only surprise about Lambie’s resignation is that she chose to jump before Palmer pushed her: after all, and as I have opined here recently, being kicked out of the Palmer party would fit nicely with Lambie’s narrative of herself as a victim battling against almost everything and everyone she encounters.

In truth, today’s developments should be kept in perspective: yes, they will make a fractious and unpredictably hostile Senate that much harder for the Abbott government to handle, and the mysteriously expanding list of issues Lambie says she wishes to champion will make her difficult to deal with at all. But they will only make a bad situation infinitesimally worse, and continuing the slow disintegration of the Palmer United Party, the welcome aspect of Lambie’s actions today is that is should inevitably hasten its demise.

For the Palmer party is, indeed, disintegrating; already, it has lost half the MPs it has either managed to have elected to various Parliaments around the country, or has managed to coerce away and poach from the Coalition.

Stories of the dictatorial and autocratic manner in which Palmer runs his party are well documented and well known, as is the disturbing trend to friends, family members and loyal lieutenants increasingly filling key roles in the party and being awarded preselection berths.

The policy platform of the Palmer United Party — if it even has one — has all the clarity, real, moral, or otherwise, of a sewer: and I use the metaphor advisedly.

Its only real agenda (and this is an old story) is one of a malevolent, belligerent, get-square crusade aimed at Queensland’s LNP and, by extension, Coalition administrations elsewhere, for the simple reason Palmer was not given what he perceived he was entitled to in return for substantial support of the LNP and for Campbell Newman’s successful bid for the Premiership of Queensland.

Just to cap it, Western Australian Police confirmed today that they are conducting inquiries into Palmer in relation to allegations he siphoned money from his Chinese business partners to help bankroll his election campaign last year which, at the very minimum, contradicts Palmer’s flat denials that he faced any such investigations at all.

The cumulative reality that all of this represents — from the first hint Palmer might start his own party, up until the circus act today — has seen popular support for the Palmer United Party collapse across reputable opinion polls, and whilst it’s impossible to say “never” in politics, it is entirely possible that the point at which Palmer candidates begin to experience defeat (and the loss of their existing sinecures) is now at hand.

To this end, Palmer’s latest enterprise is to stand candidates for upper house sinecures at this Saturday’s state election in Victoria: once again, seeking to play the wrecking role, the spoiler, and to secure a vantage point from which no constructive contribution can ever be extracted.

Simply stated, the Palmer United Party’s claim to any of these spots rests solely upon the fact it is not the Liberal Party, or the Labor Party, or the National Party.

The time for Palmer to cash in on public disenchantment with politics and politicians has now passed, and as I have said in this column before, enterprises like the Palmer United Party merely fuel the very disillusionment with politics they purport to solve, and when the facade is stripped away — as it now has been, with an electorate well awake to the fact the Palmer United Party was just a con job — they feed back in to turning people away from politics even more.

If Palmer comes up empty-handed in Melbourne at the weekend, he will have received exactly what he deserved from Victorian voters.

 

 

“Leadership” Stoush: Palmer Party Nothing But Ego-Driven

THE APPARENT self-challenge by Clive Palmer as Palmer United Party leader is a crass development that shows, once and for all, that his party is nothing more than a squirming bag of appetites fed by competing egos; Palmer may well be trying to subdue the brainless Jacqui Lambie or drive her from the party altogether, but whatever the result, the truth is brutal. Palmer’s people are obsessed with themselves: and to hell with the national interest.

I have been busy this week; but readers already know that.

Yet here we are — again — talking about Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie — again — only this time, the tyrant master and his plebeian serf have finally shown the world what rank political amateurism looks like (as I always suspected, sooner or later, they would) when the perception of self-importance so dwarfs its actual relevance as to manufacture the iron sulphite commodity of odourless excrement in such commercial quantities as to require a shovel.

Yes, verbal acrobatics aside, it really does seem that Lambie has grown too big for her britches and, ironically, Palmer is justified in trying to knock her down a peg.

But the problem now is that so poor is what has passed for a policy agenda from the Palmer United Party, and so toe-curlingly damnable its behaviour since last year’s election, that anything Palmer and/or his acolytes do now merely reinforces the message of total amateurism and incompetence his party is sending out to anyone who cares to listen.

After this week, I’m wagering that won’t be many people at all: at least, not people contemplating voting for it.

The litany of misdeeds committed by Jacqui Lambie — an idiot whose like has rarely been seen in federal politics, and hopefully never to be seen again — is long, well-known, and has attracted more than its share of attention, including in this column.

And one can well understand why Palmer, a self-made man answerable to nobody for decades, might have apparently reached his limit in terms of how much of her shenanigans he is prepared to tolerate.

Yet his suggestion today that Lambie challenge him for the leadership of the Palmer United Party is so ridiculous as to transcend being laughable, and shows Palmer is no less an amateur when it comes to active politics than the cretinous Tasmanian Senator his party is responsible for inflicting on an unsuspecting public.

With four MPs — and even then, spread across both houses of Parliament — the idea of a leadership challenge at all is preposterous.

And with Senators Dio Wang and Glenn Lazarus seemingly held in thrall by Palmer’s will, the outcome of such an activity would be a foregone conclusion if (God forbid) there was ever a vote.

But there is something very, very wrong when the Russian media is reporting that the only politician in Australia with any intelligence is Jacqui Lambie: even allowing for her sycophantic fawning over Vladimir Putin some weeks ago, and even taking Putin’s penchant for self-serving propaganda into account.

They are like an old married couple, Palmer and Lambie; Palmer rips into the Chinese in the most abusive terms possible, so Lambie follows suit with a call to nuke the Chinese off the face of the planet.

And that’s on a good day.

Now, with the weather having apparently turned poor — and with Lambie having taken her cue to outrageous drivel from Palmer way too far — it seems all they can do is to gossip malignantly behind each other’s backs, confiding conspiratorially from behind their hands in the sympathetic ears of the voters they are (supposedly) obliged to serve.

Palmer demands Lambie campaign for him in Victoria; Lambie says she’s too busy.

Lambie says that unless Palmer backs her pet project of either forcing a bigger pay rise for the armed forces or crippling the government, Palmer will be finished; Palmer simply ignores her.

Palmer engineers the expulsion of former National Party MP Rob Messenger from the Palmer United Party; Lambie reacts by refusing to move him on as her chief of staff.

Lambie proceeds daily in the delusion she will some day be Prime Minister; Palmer reminds her (via the national press) that as a Palmer United Party MP, her position in Parliament at all is something she owes him almost in its entirety.

And all of this comes — perhaps not coincidentally — as Palmer takes court action to stave off the deregistration of his party in Queensland ahead of an imminent state election, claiming moves to strike the Palmer United Party from the register in that state is an “attack on the right of freedom of association” despite many of the “members” whose status is in dispute have come forward publicly to state they were never members of the party, or resigned from it in writing, and that consequentially the registration of his party is reliant (at least in part) on “memberships” that don’t even exist.

I think we are finally seeing the facade torn away; Palmer’s party was only ever established as a get-square mechanism to wreck conservative governments as far and as wide as he could manage, with Campbell Newman’s in Queensland the top priority target, and in this endeavour nobody could say he has been completely unsuccessful.

But the public is now able to see what lies at the heart of this ego-driven rabble: a squirming bag of appetites that subsist on the egos and petty personal delusions to adequacy and competence of the principal participants in the whole Palmer sideshow.

On leadership — and the continuity or otherwise of Lambie as a Palmer United Party MP — there is no winning outcome: if she stays in the tent (and irrespective of who occupies what role), all of this will continue; if she leaves, either voluntarily or on the end of a boot, she will take pot shots as an Independent that Palmer, based on his behaviour to date, would seem certain the retaliate against in the press.

The whole unprofessional circus will roll on irrespective.

I don’t think Palmer, his MPs, or his party have acted once — uno numero — in the national interest to date; and as I said last time we talked about this, the only times they ever support the government are after considerable political damage has been inflicted on the Coalition through their horse trading, and brinkmanship, and forcing the Abbott government into backdowns and humiliations in pursuit of conditional support that sometimes doesn’t even materialise when promised.

And why wouldn’t they?

After all, Palmer mightn’t need the money (depending on who you talk to) but he has three MPs who are well remunerated by the taxpayer; as a group, they can afford — literally — to spend their days slinging mud at each other and making fools of themselves.

It is perhaps timely that this latest round of gnawing at each other’s throats has erupted three weeks out from a state election in Victoria; as we did with Pauline Hanson and as we did with the federal incarnation of the Palmer rabble last year, another opportunity has been presented to Victorian voters to send the none-too-subtle message that Palmer, and his warring minions, are completely unwelcome south of the Murray River.

I hope the rest of Australia is watching all of this, and paying close attention. If it is, then whether Lambie campaigns in Victoria or not will be beside the point. Based on its behaviour of late, Palmer and his stooges won’t win anything again, anywhere, in much of a hurry.

And whilst his Senators might have six years on the clock to leach off the public purse, that, too, will end in due course: and when it does, none of them will have anything much to show for it.

Neither, incidentally, will Australia. But then again, if you’re from the Palmer United Party, the bests interests of the country are the last thing you need to be concerned with when the ability to fight and argue among yourselves is such a more appealing proposition.