Stone Age: Knuckle-Dragging Unions Are Australia’s Filth

A DENIAL OF REALITY so abject as to motivate an attempt to expel of one of their best servants in Martin Ferguson from the ALP showcases the incompatibility of labour unions with any meaningful role in modern Australia; this archaic, feather-bedded, self-serving cabal of rent seeking Neanderthals is a pox on Australia, its governmental and social institutions, the ALP, and on workers they pretend to represent but rather compromise and imperil.

It is, perhaps, one of those delicious ironies that a group of thugs who profess undying hatred and contempt for “conservatives” should in fact be the most conservative band of troglodytes in this country itself, but this is the reality of the “modern” union movement in Australia.

Dwindling in size and number but clinging stubbornly and malignantly to long-outdated organisational structures that they refuse — almost violently — to submit to transparent standards of governance, Australia’s unions are today a byword for mindless attacks on business, compromising the employment of their members through frivolous wage claims, and the ruthless purging and victimisation of anyone in their ranks who dares speak out about the deep culture of thuggery that sustains an edifice that is predicated on a lie.

I suggested to readers a few days ago following a brutal onslaught on Twitter from union thugs and associated mouthpieces for the labour movement that I would have something to say on the subject at some point this week; I have been pipped at the post to a degree by the appearance of an excellent article in The Australian today by Janet Albrechtsen — no friend of the Left — and I will come back to that fine missive shortly.

But to fill readers in on the shitfight (an understatement if ever there was one) I got embroiled in on Twitter over the weekend, I must say that an attempt to discuss the fraught issue of penalty rates soberly and intelligently was responded to with some of the most ridiculous slurs and insults I have ever heard; I’m a big boy of course, with the hide of a rhinoceros, and this sort of thing doesn’t faze me in the least.

But for once, it’s noteworthy not because of the undiluted hatred and venom hurled in my direction, but on account of the bald assumptions made about me by people I don’t know and the total insistence among themselves (and presumably publicly, for Twitter is no private platform) that they were right that does make me shake my head, for if this is indicative of how the unions treat any individual seeking to engage in discussion then it’s little wonder they carry so little moral authority (or membership) among ordinary Australians today.

Weeding out the proliferation of Fs and Cs that were thrown my way, I was a “Tory arsewipe” who was on “six figures” who championed “slave wage rates” in my “brutal attack upon Australian workers;” penalty rates — about which I was said to have never worked in a role that attracted them — were something I cruelly and callously wanted to take away from decent people struggling to make a living. I was on a vicious crusade to destroy workers and advocate for business, which had “fat enough profits” to pay more without endangering the viability of individual enterprises: and when pressed on the struggle of small businesspeople to make a living, I was high-mindedly told that people should ensure they could pay all penalties and plan for wage rises before they opened a business, and that if they couldn’t afford to trade on a Sunday (for example) they shouldn’t bother going into business at all as Sunday penalties were a “right” of workers that is “stolen” by businesses who close “to avoid paying what they owe.”

I could go on, for that is just a small (and sanitised) selection of the “arguments” put to me: and whilst I admit to being “a Tory” every other assumption about me was false.

The point — simply stated — is that penalty rates are a relic of the time when Australia more or less operated from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm, and in an old story, the increasingly global nature of our world and the increasingly 24/7 nature of our society means that for wages to be sustainable, the concept of “ordinary time earnings” needs to be expanded, revised, and brought into the 21st century.

Unions love the idea of additional employment and available hours for workers that go with these evolutionary societal changes. But they refuse to acknowledge that they, themselves, must change; the one constant in an ever-changing world is the union movement, with its demands for usurious pay rises, obsolete penalties that no small business should have to place at the top of its list of budgeted expenditures merely to be able to open the door, and the culture of extorting what it wants by brute force, thuggery, disruption of the world around it, and — when all else fails — violence.

It should be noted (and here is as good a place as any) that unions now count just 15% of Australia’s workforce as members, which tends to explode the myth that unions are the only parties able to bargain with employers to secure satisfactory outcomes on wages and conditions, but they dispute that too: and for my trouble over the break, I was told by my assailants on Twitter that I was “delusional” and one of the “lucky few” people who weren’t ripped off by a boss if I thought that way.

So there you have it: Australia boasts tens of millions of exploited people. Who’d have thunk it?

At some point we will come back to the seismic trouble in Australia’s economy, its budget deficit, and the ballooning pile of debt left behind by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, for which Labor presently refuses to take responsibility nor even acknowledge the existence of at all. It’s all another Tory conspiracy, you see.

But in the sense that some tough decisions must be made to aright the ship after Labor (in cahoots with its thuggy mates in the union movement) spectacularly and reprehensibly trashed it, once again, the staid conservatism of the unions is on show for all to see: the rest of the country can pull its belt in, and make sacrifices, and do it a little tougher for a little while as far as the union movement is concerned; they, meanwhile, will continue to go about their business of driving businesses into the ground, imperilling the jobs of countless workers by militantly pursuing ambit wage rises that are unaffordable and unsustainable, and seeing to it that Parliaments across the country are stacked out with Labor stooges guaranteed to do whatever they are told by their masters over at Trades Hall.

We have talked quite a bit about the unions and their bloody-minded crusade against reason and the real world in recent months; from their penchant for bringing whole cities to a halt to advance their insidious agenda, to the price they seek to extract from Labor governments indebted to them for the fruits reaped from their thuggery at the ballot box, and to the charade of “penalty rate flexibility” that merely redistributes the total cost of the penalty rate bill across the whole wage ledger of gullible businesses who bargain with unions in good faith, there has been an awful lot going on when one remembers this “bastion” of workers’ rights that claims to be fighting for its existence shows scant regard for the realities of modern Australia that are so incompatible with the spurious and ambit nature of its agenda.

(Obviously there are a lot of related subjects I could have included, but in the interests of concision we will leave them — for now).

But this brings me back to Albrechtsen’s excellent article (and if you didn’t click through earlier in this post, the link is replicated here); with an eye to the despicable campaign waged in unions’ interests in NSW against electricity asset leasing, we’ve already discussed the notion that expelling former ACTU head and Labor minister Martin Ferguson runs counter to every constructive consideration the unions might care to entertain — but it seems, bloody-minded as they are, that the unions will persist in having Ferguson thrown out of the labour movement anyway.

I urge readers to peruse Albrechtsen’s piece today, for in the context of the ground I have already covered, it fleshes out the case I had in fact intended to make anyway; as I said at the outset, I have been beaten to the mark to some extent by her article, but that’s fine: it’s all part of a conversation that needs to be had.

But Albrechtsen highlights the background of the militant CFMEU that now arguably controls the state government in Victoria, bought its way to influence through donations to Queensland Labor, and exerts a heavy influence over Labor in NSW — as evidenced by the campaign the union mouthpiece Luke Foley waged in that state in an unforgivably dishonest (and racist) campaign against asset leasing.

The fact such thuggish organisations wield such disproportionate power with just 15% of the population buying into them is a cause for alarm, not celebration, as Albrechtsen correctly notes in reflecting the triumphalism of ACTU chief Ged Kearney after the election result in Victoria became clear last year.

And when it is remembered that former union hack (now federal Labor “leader”) Bill Shorten was instrumental last month in scuttling legislation that would have enforced the same standards of governance on union conduct as applies to the business community — hardly an unreasonable proposition — the deeply enmeshed ALP is as much part of the problem today as it always has been, and no Labor government can ever be expected to institute responsibility where workplace relations are concerned whilst Shorten remains at its head, or whilst Labor’s present and unhealthy reliance on union henchmen for its daily riding instructions continues unabated.

Lest the import of my case today be lost in the detail, I conclude by restating the clear thesis I started with, and which the balance of this article — and its various links — flesh out: and that, very simply, is that the union movement in Australia is composed of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who are a filth upon Australia, and a disgrace to what historically might be seen as a fine tradition of union representation.

“Modern” unions add nothing to this country, and it is time the debate about their role and influence is properly had; insults and bastardry are one thing, but as the lobby group for workers’ rights in this country the unions are a powerful agent for economic destruction: and far from advancing or enhancing the interests of anyone or anything — except themselves — Australia’s unions will, if left unchecked, simply destroy the very benefits they insist must be spread further and further among those they purport to represent but which, in practice, are mere tools to featherbed their own sinecures and self-interest.


Labor Will Expel Martin Ferguson At Its Peril

THE MOVE BY UNIONS and the ALP to expel former ACTU head, Labor MP and minister Martin Ferguson — for no greater crime than attempting to talk sense, and to motivate Labor into the 21st century — will be realised only to the ALP’s detriment; a party that stands for no more than the getting of power on behalf of union thugs, obtained by flagrant dishonesty and reprehensible means, will soon enough have nothing to offer anyone who matters.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this, for it is neither my desire nor my intention to argue the ALP into common sense and sanity.

But the substance of a report appearing in the Fairfax press today throws into stark relief the unfathomable and self-defeating lengths to which the union movement — and by extension, the Labor Party — is prepared to go to safeguard what it appears to believe are its interests even if, as is patently clear to most outside the movement, those “interests” run counter to arguably every other major grouping in the country.

We spoke prior to Saturday’s state election in NSW — convincingly won by the Liberal Party — about the racist scare campaign the ALP mounted over the Baird government’s platform of leasing 49% of the state’s electricity infrastructure to the private sector; the anti-Asian, anti-Chinese bent of this campaign (initiated, unsurprisingly, at the behest of the NSW divisions of militant unions) was thoroughly rejected by voters as it deserved to be, and its backfire upon the Labor Party (whilst unquantifiable) is probably the reason the corrective swing against the Coalition was well under the accepted likely threshold of a minimum of 10%.

That campaign was vociferously opposed by Labor elder statesmen such as Paul Keating and Michael Costa, and with good reason: such a race-based scare campaign is intolerable at the best of times, but for Labor to do it for no better reason than to protect the featherbedded nests of its union masters is reprehensible.

Martin Ferguson’s was one Labor voice among many that expressed unease and/or disgust with NSW Labor’s election tactics, although he has been singled out for special treatment by the unions; Ferguson has committed the cardinal sin of aligning himself with the business community in the eyes of militant unionists, and for this it seems he must pay with the withdrawal of his “privilege” to Labor Party membership.

After the conclusion of his parliamentary career 18 months ago, Ferguson joined a panel that provided advice to lobbyists in the oil and gas sector: in the eyes of the head of the notorious Maritime Union of Australia, Kevin Bracken, Ferguson now “advocates purely for business” and “doesn’t represent any union at all.”

Ferguson was supportive of the privatisation program of the Baird government for the same sound reasons others like Keating were: it would free up funds for infrastructure works (that, incidentally, would provide union labour with thousands of jobs); it would partially divest the state of depreciating assets that in time will be worth no more than the land they sit on, and which will revert to the state anyway; and — and this is the kicker that should sway any politician seeking to curry favour with voters — electricity prices in those states with privatised electricity assets have risen less, and remain comparatively lower, than those states in which full ownership of networks has been retained in state hands.

But Ferguson has gone further, arguing in favour of the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with references the militant CFMEU should be brought to heel — and this seems nearer the mark where unions’ vitriol toward him is concerned, for federal Labor “leader” Bill Shorten combined with the Communist Party Greens earlier this month to scuttle an Abbott government bill that would have held the union movement to the same standards of governance as the business sector.

And the unions — as everyone who refuses to have anything to do with them knows — believe themselves very much a cut above everyone else.

My point is that Ferguson (with an impeccable old-school unionist Labor pedigree, no less) belongs to a small band of old Labor hands who not only see the evolutionary path Labor must take if it is to survive and prosper, but is prepared to stick his neck out to advocate for it.

Throwing him out of the party will achieve nothing — or at least, nothing of benefit to the unions, or to the Labor Party.

Of course the ABCC must be reinstituted, and violent and lawless unions either tamed or deregistered: community standards will not tolerate one set of laws for the 15% of the population that retains trade union membership and another set for the overwhelming majority of the population that is far harsher and more stringent.

Of course the unions’ stand against electricity privatisation, manifested in the disgusting campaign by NSW Labor, was wrong: let’s just forget about its racist foundations for a moment, although that’s bad enough. At root, this campaign was aimed at inflicting higher energy prices on the NSW public to preserve the sinecure of a handful of union officials. There is no justification whatsoever for embedding such a position within the platform of a major political party in a democratic context.

But more than anything, the union movement has shown again that it is rooted in a past that no longer exists; if, that is, it should have ever existed at all.

A movement representing 15% of the working-age population has neither the moral nor numerical right to control or dictate to the other 85%.

There is no justification for the union movement to be treated any differently to business and commercial entities.

It is an irony of sorts that Ferguson’s involvement with lobbyists of any description should be the pretext for the unions’ moves to have him thrown out of the Labor Party when the unions, too, are no more than lobbyists themselves (or at least, that’s the theory).

And it is a further irony that they should rail against Ferguson’s involvement with business — which provides all of the jobs unions so lovingly profess to provide representation for — when there is ample evidence that by its actions, its tactics and their outcomes, the union movement is the single largest destroyer of employment and livelihoods in this country.

Any cursory study of the car industry is sufficient to substantiate the point.

I could go on, but this much is clear: Ferguson, like a small number of his ilk, can see exactly what is wrong with the union movement and the ALP, where they need to change, and how they must adapt if they are to carry any relevance whatsoever in the Australia of the 21st century.

If all Labor has to work with are lying scare campaigns, bigotry, and the personal vilification and crucifixion of opponents such as Tony Abbott for no other reason than they are a recognisable threat, then it has nothing to offer to those who really matter: the men and women of Australia who elect governments, and who depend on the outcomes they deliver.

Already, the parliamentary ranks of the ALP across the country are far too heavily skewed toward union hacks and other self-interested leeches who are happy to gather and concentrate power in their own hands, but who exhibit scant and cavalier regard for those they expect will deliver it to them.

Soon enough — if Ferguson is expelled, and as others like him depart voluntarily or otherwise, out of disillusion or sheer disgust — Labor will have nobody left to fortify it with reason, or substance, or a perspective that is in any way meaningful.

If the ALP succumbs to the decree of its union masters and expels Ferguson from its ranks, it will do so at its peril: and if the unions, with or without the collusion and complicity of their stooges in the Labor Party, continue on the kind of course they have embarked upon in this instance, they will do so to their great — and perhaps terminal — cost.

Memo To Labor: Why Not Just Select The Best Candidate In Batman?

IT’S ON again; thanks to the retirement of veteran  MP Martin Ferguson, the ALP in Victoria has a vacant seat — ultra-safe on paper — to find a candidate for. But amid “debate” over whether to install a Prime Ministerial mate or a token female, finding the best candidate seems the least of Labor’s concerns.

It might sound unduly cynical of me to say so, but Labor preselections are about as impressive and as transparent as watching grass germinate from a Boeing 747 at 37,000 feet; you can’t see much and what you can see isn’t clear, but even if it was you wouldn’t waste your time because you already know the outcome, and it’s of little interest anyway.

The “outcome,” of course, isn’t necessarily the person who wins: rather, I am talking of course about the process of factional warfare, tokens and baubles for women, “stars” and backroom operatives, and often sheer bloody-minded vindictiveness.

There’s a recent precedent for the sort of thing I am alluding to; the seat of Gellibrand — also in Victoria, also on an obese electoral buffer, and also vacated by its long-term occupant — would seem to offer a textbook example of what not to do when selecting candidates for a safe seat already held by the party making the selection.

But just like Groundhog Day, when it comes to the Labor Party nothing ever changes.

I’m talking about Martin Ferguson’s seat of Batman, which thanks to his justifiably surly resignation from Parliament — a bloody decent individual lost, I might add — will now have a new representative for the first time in nearly 20 years after the September election.

I put it in those terms because there’s no guarantee that such a representative will be from the ALP, and Labor hardheads must surely realise this; Batman — just like Melbourne three years ago — might well be won by a Communist Party Greens candidate.

But with the risks of the consequences of any bad behaviour safely dismissed from consideration, Labor is ploughing ahead with a ridiculous and needlessly divisive preselection that so far resembles the one in Gellibrand seven weeks ago in all but name.

The first hat into the ring was that of Senator David Feeney, one of the so-called “faceless men” who helped orchestrate the midnight assassination of Kevin Rudd and the installation of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.

Facing re-election in September from the unwinnable third spot on the ALP’s Victorian Senate ticket, it has long been accepted that a factional deal would see Feeney preselected to a lower house seat that fell vacant prior to the election.

The next cab off the rank — and just as quick to return to it — was ACTU President Ged Kearney, who immediately attracted support from the likes of Left faction figure Jenny Macklin simply on the basis she was female.

Kearney’s withdrawal likely saves Labor a lot of angst; as we have discussed before, she has already been linked to attempts to cause industrial trouble for a Liberal government, and union militancy is the last thing Labor will need as it works to rebuild its shattered party after the election belting now confronting it.

Now two more candidates — both women — have leapt into the fray; one is Hatice (“Hutch”) Hussein, whose LinkedIn profile presents her as “Senior Manager-Refugees Immigration & Multiculturalism” (sic), listing a string of roles in the migrant and social work sectors, as well as long involvement at the head of the deeply socialist feminist organisation Emily’s List.

The other — Mary-Anne Thomas — has a profile on LinkedIn too; hers lists out a stack of ministerial advisor roles during the Bracks/Brumby government and earlier at the LHMU, but aside from a short stint at NAB there’s nothing to suggest any meaningful relevance to the ordinary man and woman on the street.

In fact, you could say the same thing about all three of them: bovverish Labor insiders and fellow travellers who really don’t represent a cross-section of ordinary people at all.

I’d be asking the simple question, if I were a rank and file member of the ALP in Melbourne’s north: where’s the real candidate? And if there isn’t one, why isn’t the party replacing Ferguson with someone of at least similar public standing and esteem?

But no, the reality is more prosaic; it’s far more important in the Labor Party to engage in a round of public bloody-mindedness and faction fighting over the merits of political midgets than it is to put up decent candidates.

News Ltd quotes Hussein — from her Facebook page — as saying that “At 37, I not only embody Labor values as a passionate supporter of social justice, but also represent the face of that change.”

How nauseatingly pompous from someone aspiring to a seat in Parliament.

Thomas — who indications suggest is being backed as the Left’s preferred candidate — at least had the decency to make a more moderate pitch, saying that “my strength is I’m from this community; I’ve lived here for 15 years, I’ve brought up my family here.”

But the problem with both of them — which in turn is one of the big problems with the wider ALP — is that their candidacies are being showcased through the prism of Labor’s tokenistic and demeaning quota system for women.

Apparently, if a woman doesn’t win Batman only 27% of Labor’s MPs in Victoria will be female, and that’s just not good enough.

The fact a man emerged victorious from the preselection shitfight over Nicola Roxon’s vacant Gellibrand seat makes this imperative all the more urgent.

And Feeney, for his part — a man looking to collect on an agreement to keep him in Parliament — isn’t someone who springs to mind as Prime Ministerial material either, or even someone you’d want to discuss a constituent matter with as your local MP.

So there it is: a backroom boy and two little-known Leftie women are Labor’s candidates to represent 150,000 people in Parliament in one if its safest seats. What a sham.

I’m sure all three are perfectly charming and decent people, but what do they have to offer the ordinary men and women they expect to support them? I’d wager not much.

And it brings me back to the overriding point: why not simply find the best candidate, and endorse them? If there is no comparable replacement for Ferguson, why not encourage the brightest rank-and-file members to stand, and take a punt on one? They might surprise.

Who cares if the best candidate is male or female, so long as whoever it is does the job?

To hell with Emily’s list, Labor’s quotas, and the Left’s prescriptions for social engineering, insiderish political bovverism, and the largely useless government all of this culminated in with Julia Gillard’s ascension to the Prime Ministership.

And if there is one spectacular piece of proof of the sheer uselessness of Labor’s quotas for women, it is the Prime Minister herself: a walking, talking, political disaster that strikes every time she opens her mouth, who is largely responsible for the enormous and perhaps terminal damage the ALP is set to suffer at the election a little over three months away.

At least the combatants in Batman haven’t resorted to accusing each other of “misogyny” (as even the women did among themselves in Gellibrand); at least, not yet.

But the chances of this turning into yet another ugly brawl are better than even, and we watch with great interest.

Even so, it may prove to be a useless enterprise in the end — whoever stands in Batman.

The seat might notionally sit on a 25% two-party margin over the Liberal Party — on such a basis, indeed, the safest Labor seat in Australia — but the 2010 election wasn’t a contest between Ferguson and the Liberal Party; it was between Ferguson and the Greens.

On that basis, his two-party margin is just 7.9%, and whilst one would expect the Liberal Party to preference Labor ahead of the Greens as it did at the state election in 2010, largely robbing the Greens of a weapon in the contest, it might yet be a moot point.

With Ferguson gone, the Labor vote in Batman will be susceptible to the collapse the party faces in almost every part of the country, and if the Greens can pick up a decent portion of the 52% ALP primary vote to add to the 24% they scored in 2010 it might just be enough, with minor party preferences and the inevitable leakage of Liberal votes, to push them over the line.

It’s not probable but it is certainly possible in the current climate.

And were it to occur, it would show up the bickering over past agreements, female quotas and all the other irrelevant crap Labor engages in for the charade it is.

They should go back to the branches, and look for the rough diamond who could be polished into a glittering gem of the Labor Party’s future.

But they won’t.

Labor Leadership: Is Crean Mobilising As The “Third Option?”

FRESH from unanimously re-endorsing Julia Gillard as its leader, the ALP is seemingly more in need of a circuit-breaker today than it was just a few short weeks ago. And hot on the heels of his one-man stand against Gillard then, Simon Crean is pretty obviously up to something now.

This column, ever since I started publishing it, has followed the rather farcical history of the Labor leadership: the intrigues and the rumours and the muttering, all inextricably linked to a politically inept incumbent, the machinations surrounding a publicly popular but internally-detested alternative, and a record in government that is truly shocking.

I have consistently stated that Julia Gillard remains leader of the ALP mainly because of the deeply ingrained hatred of Kevin Rudd in the Labor caucus.

Whilst I don’t disagree with some of the assessments of Rudd that have been freely offered by Labor types, it says something about the state of the ALP that seething personal hatred of one man has led to a situation in which a majority of its MPs would prefer electoral defeat to a leadership change that might — might — at least save some of their seats.

So much for the party that brought Australia the idea of “whatever it takes.”

Even so, politicians being prepared to accept defeat instead of giving their leader the boot? And in the Labor Party indeed, the outfit that gave NSW four Premiers in six years?

We have canvassed the prospect that a change in the Labor leadership may well involve a third option beyond Gillard and Rudd; the most spoken about names belong — in no particular order — to Bill Shorten, Stephen Smith and Simon Crean.

Shorten can be discounted; aside from simply not being ready, he gives every indication of being prepared to wait until the smoke clears from the post-September election carnage.

Smith, it seems, will stay loyal to Gillard (which is a pity, putting partisanship aside).

Is Simon Crean mobilising, therefore, as the “third option” to give the ALP one final roll of the electoral dice, and to try to save some of its doomed MPs?

As readers will recall, the “non-spill” that took place in the Labor Party a few weeks ago was brought on by Simon Crean’s remarkable press conference calling for change, a vote on the leadership, and urging Kevin Rudd (whom Crean himself was happy to sledge a mere 12 months earlier) to stand in such a vote.

It was widely assumed that Crean was acting as a stalking horse to invite the candidacy of a more substantial figure: Kevin Rudd.

But events since that fateful doorstop press conference suggest otherwise.

In the end, Kevin Rudd didn’t stand of course; faced with certain defeat he decided he couldn’t, and so Julia Gillard was reselected — unopposed.

This was no definitive endorsement for Gillard, despite the jubilant triumphalism some of her acolytes have engaged in; simply stated, the alternative candidate knew he would lose, and that that reality rendered the contest pointless.

Gillard got off the hook.

Even then — despite some of them having to clench their teeth — Rudd would have scored at least 40 of the 51 votes* he needed to win a contest in March: again, the endorsement Gillard received was hardly a ringing one.

Yet the criticisms made of Julia Gillard’s leadership — internally by her own MPs, in the press and opinion pages like this one, in the business community and in the electorate at large — are all, fundamentally, every bit as valid today as they were a month ago.

Rudd has ruled himself out of ever contesting another Labor leadership vote, and made a great deal of noise about holding to his word from last February, when he pledged to never challenge Julia Gillard for the ALP leadership again.

On one level, he had to do that; to have his name near a third prospective leadership vote in a little over a year would stink of desperation and wilful divisiveness, and cruel what is left of Rudd’s political career forever.

But on another — more basic — level, had the votes been there to support him in a winning bid, nobody believes Rudd would not have stood against Gillard when the opportunity presented itself last month.

Naturally, this means Gillard will either lead Labor to the election, or be replaced by someone other than Rudd beforehand.

Enter Crean.

This is essentially a good and decent man in the “old Labor” tradition, when the party actually stood for something (even if it was wrong), and its footsoldiers didn’t just pay lip service to “Labor principles” — they were diligent and loyal servants to them.

True, he was an abysmal failure as leader, even if he never led his party to an election. But failure as an opposition leader is neither new nor a bar to the future prospect of a second, successful stint at the helm — just look at John Howard and Jeff Kennett.

But what at first looked to be a dummy run to bring Rudd out of the shadows now seems to be something else altogether.

With the debate over superannuation reforms now occupying (domestic) political centre stage — presumably because leaks, to road-test those reforms, have placed them there — Crean is again leading a very public revolt against the measures, speaking what many others in his party think but will not say, and drawing plenty of attention in the process.

“This (the mooted changes to superannuation) has got to be opposed,” Crean thundered a few days ago.

The suggestion has been made that he might cross the floor of the House of Representatives to scuttle the changes, voting with an opposition and at least one of the other crossbenchers who are resolutely opposed to them in their reported form.

Crean has allowed the suggestion to circulate, making no attempt to kill the speculation, although it is unlikely he would ever vote against his own party in Parliament.

And as someone who was resolute in his support for Julia Gillard until very recently, Crean would not be taking such an overtly suicidal political path for no reason.

The press conference that led to the aborted attempted coup, it has since transpired, was based to some degree on a false premise; Crean had understood Rudd would stand if there was a vote, whilst Rudd had privately committed to do so only if there was “a sufficient majority” of the votes in caucus guaranteed him if he did so.

So if you are Crean, and you are resolved to enact top-down change in the Labor Party in one final attempt to stave off electoral oblivion or at least to save five or ten additional seats — and your first attempt involving Rudd failed — what do you do?

Significantly, most of the other Rudd supporters followed the sacked Crean out of Gillard’s ministry; Albanese remains, of course, because without his tactical smarts and parliamentary direction of the ALP attack, Gillard’s government wouldn’t survive for the metaphoric five minutes.

Of the others, Kevin Rudd, Martin Ferguson, Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Joel Fitzgibbon are some of Labor’s best performers, languishing on the backbench; they, and others like them, constitute what has been popularly described as “the government in exile.”

Murdoch press columnist Andrew Bolt got it about right, when he described Labor’s backbench as being stronger than its frontbench, a contention all the more credible for the fact that the likes of Wayne Swan, Stephen Conroy and even Gillard herself remain on the frontbench in the first place.

Certainly, the replacement of Gillard — accompanied by a wholesale cleanout of the ministry — could hardly reduce Labor’s political effectiveness or competence below the dismal level at which it presently stands.

A government with Crean as Prime Minister, Bowen as Treasurer, Rudd in Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Carr in Education, Ferguson in Industry, Infrastructure and Workplace Relations, and Fitzgibbon in, say, Tourism and Regional Development would start with a solid nucleus of reasonably competent people in many of the key roles around which a full ministry could be constructed.

And it would remove Labor’s single greatest electoral liability after Julia Gillard — the legend in his own mind, Wayne Swan — from any position of further influence.

By way of extra reading, I have included a link to a related article by Bolt here for readers’ interest; I also include a link to an excellent article by Graham Young (publisher and columnist at On Line Opinion) here that deals with the very same subject — but from a different perspective altogether.

(I also saw an article in The Australian earlier in the week by Ken Wiltshire, in which he advocated Crean and his mates setting up a totally new party to contest the looming election; I think this is fantasy-land stuff — for the moment — but depending on the scale of the ALP defeat, we’ll revisit it in the aftermath; I have long opined that reform of the Labor Party could transform it into a proper social democratic party along the lines of the mainstream Left in Europe, but it won’t happen this year).

I think there is one more attempt at a leadership change left in the Labor Party, this side of the election.

It is easy to forget that the bloc of votes that supported Crean as leader against Kim Beazley, and which made Mark Latham leader against Beazley, also forms the nucleus of Gillard’s support base; times change, and so does personnel, but there remains a solid core within the Labor caucus that was once loyal to Crean, and may again be so.

If the votes of the hardcore Rudd adherents, combined with those of disaffected MPs who have supported Gillard until now, reach 52 of the 102 votes in the Labor caucus, my bet would be on a leadership challenge from Simon Crean.

And with the Rudd consideration among Labor MPs removed, it is difficult to see Gillard prevailing over Crean in such a scenario — irrespective of how unlikely a Prime Minister Crean may seem at first thought, and as at today’s date.

It’s the only realistic circuit-breaker left for the Labor Party to try, and confronted by the prospect of posting its worst election loss in history, we know the ALP will try something.

*Two of Labor’s 102 MPs were overseas during the March leadership confrontation; had there been a ballot 100 MPs would have voted, making 51 votes a winning tally.

Gang Of Four: ALP Resignations The Start Of The Bloodshed

CONTINUING fallout from yesterday’s leadership shenanigans in the ALP has seen three more Gillard government ministers join the sacked Simon Crean on the backbench; with dismissal the alternative to going quietly, it sounds a sinister note of what lies ahead — for this is only the beginning.

Day One of Julia Gillard’s Brave New World Of Control over at the Labor Party has seen the number of frontbenchers aligned to Kevin Rudd and moving to the backbench swell to eight, with Martin Ferguson, Kim Carr and Chris Bowen joining Simon Crean — sacked immediately after his press conference yesterday for disloyalty — and four parliamentary secretaries and whips on the outer.

It has been made clear during the day that all of them (Crean aside, obviously) were expected to jump ship — and that if they didn’t, they would be pushed.

There are other Rudd supporters remaining in the Gillard ministry tonight — Anthony Albanese and Mark Butler most notably — and it remains to be seen whether they, too, are confronted with the choice between resignation and the high jump.

As the leader of her party — and especially one unanimously re-elected to the role — it’s true that Gillard is, nominally, free to manage personnel issues as she sees fit.

But for all the talk of a fresh start, and of leadership questions having been “conclusively ended,” these early moves are suggestive of a more sinister undercurrent.

It is probably true that Gillard has decided that she will brook no more; that having battled against forces loyal to Rudd — whether openly or behind the scenes — for the best part of three years, she has decided that enough is enough.

It probably speaks to an insecurity in Gillard that she does so: after all, her own midnight murder of her predecessor was plotted in secrecy and sprung without warning, and faced with the reality that she would be forever targeted for retribution, the prospect has likely haunted her ever since.

And it is certainly true that with the exception of Crean, all of the frontbench departures have been resignations, not dismissals.

Yet anyone with the most rudimentary grasp of how these things work knows that resignations can be sought and obtained, or are offered as a more palatable option to taking the metaphorical bullet on someone else’s terms — in this case, Gillard’s.

And it is clear that anyone identified as loyal to Kevin Rudd will be in for a rough time in the ALP, at least for the foreseeable future.

I tend to think the resignations can be taken at face value in terms of the words of each departing minister along the lines of honourable courses, appropriate actions and so forth.

It is clear that many people in the Labor Party are in vehement disagreement with its leadership, but not all are prepared to say so; those that have done so, however, really do have the one honourable option, and that is to give Gillard a free run.

It is difficult to disconnect from a leader whose entire agenda is regarded as anathema whilst nonetheless remaining in the parliamentary party; even so, sitting on the backbench does represent the strongest action these people can take without the added histrionic step of quitting the party.

But in terms of the looming catastrophe the ALP faces at the ballot box, it remains to be seen whether it will do them any good: I will be watching with great interest how the likes of Crean, Ferguson et al fare relative to others in the Labor Party on election night, but ultimately, they’ll be just as much in opposition as the remainder of the Gillard cabinet after 14 September — those of them, of course, who retain their seats.

Even so, the methods that Gillard appears to intend to use leave everything to be desired.

As I said, it may well be that she wishes to see out her term unencumbered by those allied to a man intent on bringing her down, and exacting his revenge.

But it also says a lot about the mean-spirited and brutal (and short-sighted) way Gillard and Labor play their politics that the purge has to extend so far down the ranks, and to otherwise reasonably effective personnel.

Experienced veterans like Crean, and effective ministers like Ferguson, are the exception in the Labor Party, not the norm; and the continuing Gillard cabinet will be the worse for their absence.

To compound the issue, incompetents of the ilk of Wayne Swan remain where they are, with the perverse reality that electoral liabilities are part of the Gillard plan, whereas less-supportive but competent ministers (who might bolster the government’s case) are not.

I reiterate again that those resigning have done so in the face of being tossed overboard if they didn’t — which doesn’t strike anybody as the actions of a leadership paying anything more than lip service to notions of healing, a fresh start, and the rest of the rhetoric deployed by Gillard and her coterie yesterday.

I also note that in one of the many debacles that have been self-inflicted by the Gillard government of recent times, the Prime Minister exercised her so-called “captain’s pick” to disendorse another known Rudd supporter — the NT’s Senator Trish Crossin — and replace her with a “star” candidate who is resented by the local rank and file, and little-known at close range in what is intended to be her electorate.

God knows who is next, but even the most conservative estimates of Rudd’s support before yesterday had him commanding 37 leadership votes; with eight gone so far, that leaves a lot of additional targets for the Gillard people to hassle.

As the next few weeks progress, it will become clear that the eight frontbench scalps that Gillard has taken with her new-found “authority” are merely the tip of the iceberg.

There will be a great deal more bloodletting and internal retribution in the ALP; hardly healthy at the best of times, but especially now, with the party in the deeply divided and highly charged state it is in.

And I reiterate a point from yesterday: to paraphrase, what the electorate thinks of all of this doesn’t seem to matter; after all, they’re only voters.

I have said before that I really don’t know why Labor continues to endorse Gillard’s leadership; after all, it’s been stunning only insofar as its incompetence, and for pure electoral appeal it has none — as the ALP will soon learn to its enduring cost.

The final word — for today, at least — belongs to Joel Fitzgibbon, who has resigned as Chief Government Whip; asked on Triple J whether he thought the ALP had yesterday chosen to lose the coming election, his answer was succinct: “I do.”

As ever, we’ll follow this issue, but it’s not likely to get any prettier.

And remember — we’re only voters, so why should our opinion of what the Labor Party is doing matter?

I’ll see you all tomorrow…

Alternative Leaders of the ALP

The subject of what is irretrievably wrong with the Labor Party, and Julia Gillard’s government in particular, is going to take a number of posts to deal with.

Tonight I want to talk about who might take her place.

After all, the whisperers are whispering; the problem now is that chastened by the experience of last year’s election, and emasculated by the eventual outcome of the leadership lottery that was the Labor government in NSW, the stomach to replace Gillard is…well, empty.

Julia Gillard has been an abject failure as Prime Minister; this will be the subject of my next post, but as gun-shy as the ALP might be to do something about it there are serious problems with virtually all of the potential replacements — real or unbelievable.

We’ll start with the deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan…this guy wouldn’t inspire mould growth in a crypt, let alone inspire anyone to vote Labor. It isn’t clear that Swan stands for anything other than the carefully-scripted Hawker Britton lines everyone in the ALP spouts these days, and other than those inspired words, he sounds like a carping whinger and more than a little envious of the political skills of Tony Abbott.

Then there are the Union Boys, Bill Shorten and Greg Combet.

Shorten, aside from the fact that he simply isn’t ready yet, has a clear conflict of interest when it comes to party leadership for as long as his mother-in-law, Quentin Bryce, remains Governor-General. Further, apart from his triumph as a union official in seeing trapped Beaconsfield gold miners safely to the surface in 2006, Shorten’s list of undisputed, indisputable and publicly-acclaimed wins is zero. Yet he has vaulting ambition, and rumours emanate periodically from reliable sources that he checks his numbers every once in a while.

Just rumours, mind, but recurrent ones…

Combet is the better candidate, yet the poisonous option: having been given charge of Gillard’s carbon tax policies, Combet will be the fall guy when the entire edifice crashes down around Labor and destroys its government. Yes, it will destroy Gillard too. But Combet will never recover.

Chris Bowen is spoken well of in Labor circles as a leadership candidate. If you’re outside the political class and take no interest in these things, you’re probably asking, “Chris who?” Well, quite. The immigration minister might be well-regarded in his own circles, and that regard may be coloured by the portfolio he holds, but the ordinary voter wouldn’t know him if they fell over him.

I have a lot of time for the Defence minister, Stephen Smith, and I always have; a thoughtful, warm and decent individual, Smith went to Canberra in 1993 with “leadership prospect” written all over him. As Labor politicians go he is one of my favourites, and he did himself no harm in his dealings with the naval sex scandal recently. However, an astute judgement says he will never lead the ALP. The colleagues don’t rate him, the voters barely know him, and he makes no effort to suggest he aspires to more than he has. It’s a pity.

Jenny Macklin would never be a serious contender, Lindsay Tanner is gone, Martin “Marn Ferson” Ferguson — recently touted in some quarters as a viable leader, and regarded in all others as a joke when mentioned in the same breath as the words “party leadership” — happily exudes no interest in the role, and Mark Latham, thankfully, is both long gone and taken seriously by nobody.

There is his old sparring partner, whom he used to call “ol’ knucklehead.” I talk, of course, of Kevin Rudd. I could write a ream on the guy and still not be finished, not least if I talked about his track record in Queensland working under then Premier Wayne Goss.

I will simply say that former Prime Minister Rudd, whilst attempting to build public sympathy for a return to his old job, will never be Prime Minister again. His colleagues detest him so deeply, based on his arrogant and abusive treatment of them when he held the position, that I suspect more than a few would at least contemplate supporting a no-confidence vote in him on the floor of the House of Representatives should he ever hold the office of Prime Minister again.

Oddly, having been such a catastrophe in the role when he held it almost ten years ago, the best existing prospect for the ALP leadership right now is Simon Crean. Remember that wagging finger, the accusatory look, the schoolmaster’s mien? Crean as an elder statesman of the Labor Party is probably what the ALP needs right now, but the world has passed him by.

At least, the Labor world has, with its culture of spin and spivs, backroom boys and backroom dealings, nihilistic values and midnight executions, apparatchiks and insiders, poll obsessions and “advisors” (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Not the party Crean led ten years ago. At least it stood for something meaningful then, even if what it stood for, by and large, was misguided.

All this leads us back to…


…who is dead in the water.

The coup was a failure; technically the ALP lost the election she was meant to romp home in.

Gillard is a failure, as Prime Minister, and the Labor Party have nobody viable, feasible, and/or willing to to turn to.

Deep and deepening trouble..We’ve looked at the history of coups, and now the complete absence of alternative leadership options open to the ALP to replace Gillard.

Next time I’ll talk about Gillard as Prime Minister. I’ll be called a sexist for no other reson than giving an assessment on the professional performance of an elected female, and it won’t be flattering or complimentary for the simple reason that as Prime Minister, she has been dreadful.

Let’s face it: if Gillard were a man, she’d be judged just as harshly as she is being judged now. Indeed, the lady has benefitted unduly from the deference of many, many people wishing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

If she were a man, she would have lost to Abbott last year.

See you all tomorrow…internet connection permitting…