The Motion Of No Confidence Best Left Unmoved

INDICATIONS are that Liberal Party strategists are working with an eye to the election due, barring unforeseens, in 2016; in this context, the motion of no confidence in the government that Tony Abbott threatened to move this week — forcing it to the polls next month — might best be quietly abandoned.

I’ve been flicking through the Monday papers online, and an article by Sid Maher and Joe Kelly in The Australian caught my eye; this can be accessed here, and it gels with one aspect of the opposition’s current parliamentary tactics that I can’t agree with.

And as Peter van Onselen (also in The Australian today) neatly puts it, a Coalition government’s first term will be largely spent funding their own promises, funding Labor’s late-term commitments and finding ways to reduce spending; the real reforms will be presented to the electorate in 2016, and be enacted during Abbott’s second term.

Regular readers know I am very open about my membership of the Liberal Party, and my support for Tony Abbott’s leadership of it in particular; even so, there’s relentless pressure and there’s overkill, especially with twelve weeks until Parliament is dissolved anyway.

The article I have linked to today confirms what must be the greatest non-surprise of the past three years; namely, an assessment — attributed to Coalition frontbencher and key tactician Christopher Pyne — that almost three years after selling their ultra-conservative constituencies out by preserving the Labor Party in office, independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott would likely vote in Labor’s favour in any no-confidence vote.

The rationale for attempting to force the Gillard government from office is obvious: a successful no-confidence vote almost certainly secures an immediate election, and in doing so would send the ALP to the polls with the additional rancour of being thrown out of office by a parliamentary vote — just to cap its abysmal record as a government.

The climate in which Abbott’s threat to pursue this course of action was made entirely justifies it: the aborted leadership coup in March, followed by the steady disintegration of the government’s position on key issues — most notably, its management of the budget — is indicative of a government in disarray that should be removed from office by any legitimate means and at all costs.

But even if Windsor and Oakeshott were inclined to do the right thing by their electorates and by the country for once — which I don’t believe for a moment they would, or will — I see a no-confidence vote as pointless, counter-productive, and a potential Pandora’s box.

Let’s assume — for argument’s sake — that the Liberals move a no-confidence motion in Julia Gillard’s government during the budget session as threatened (now, in other words) and that by some miracle Windsor and Oakeshott are persuaded to vote in favour of it.

Does the government fall immediately? Not necessarily.

The accepted wisdom and convention in such circumstances would be that Gillard must either resign or call an election.

Were she to resign, the Governor-General may invite Tony Abbott — as leader of the opposition — to form a government; if thus commissioned, his first act as Prime Minister would almost certainly be to advise an election.

Here, however, is where the problems start; such an election would have to be for the House of Representatives only, as the earliest date constitutionally allowable for half the Senate to face election is Saturday 3 August.

The Senate poses an additional consideration in that a half-Senate election must take place prior to the end of June 2014.

Abbott would be unlikely to delay the House election until 3 August; to do so would mean a formal campaign of eleven weeks in duration, at a time when most ordinary Australians are already fed up with the machinations of Canberra and the goings-on of its politicians.

The only way to avoid this would be holding separate elections, which isn’t much better.

There seems little doubt that the Coalition would win the House election in a landslide, but what would it do about the Senate?

The best of a raft of messy options would be for Abbott (remembering he would be a caretaker Prime Minister only during the House campaign) to immediately issue writs for a half-Senate election to take place in September when those for the House election are returned.

It would keep the period the country remained in “campaign mode” to a minimum, and a single bloc; but it wouldn’t be any better than running a continuous campaign for the August option if the no-confidence motion removed Gillard from office.

Another “pro” would be that Abbott could use the deferred Senate election to strike as quickly as possible after the House win, and before any gloss wore off his newly-minted government; the “con” is that with a second five-week campaign so soon after handing the Liberals a massive majority in the lower house, voters might think twice about replicating the favour in the Senate.

It’s an important point; despite the solid overall 2010 result for the Coalition, in the Senate it went backwards; those Senators elected last time superseded those from 2004, when historic gains for the Right handed the Howard government a slim Senate majority.

Abbott would be loathe to risk diluting a Senate vote that may well neuter the Greens; a separate Senate election could very well do that.

In any case, the current Senate is exceedingly hostile to the Coalition, and the ability to maximise conservative numbers there as Senators elected in 2007 face re-election this year simply cannot be compromised if the Liberals are to lead an operational government.

Messy, isn’t it? But these considerations are precisely what a successful vote of no confidence may lead to.

Even so, there are other scenarios that wouldn’t do the Liberal Party any favours either.

One is that following such a no-confidence vote, a new Labor leader does the same deal with the independents that Gillard originally did, advises the Governor-General that they retain the numbers to form government in the House of Representatives, and the ALP continues on its present trajectory under either Kevin Rudd or Bill Shorten.

As inconceivable as a Labor win at this year’s election may seem now, such a development would provide the ALP with the badly needed circuit breaker it has been looking for, and to that end, federal politics could well prove to be a whole new ball game, so to speak.

The election result certainly couldn’t be guaranteed as it can now, for a start.

And were such an outcome to eventuate, the psychological damage to the Liberal Party would be colossal; it would be seen to have gambled recklessly and impatiently to get the election it needed only wait an additional few months for — only for its punt to have spectacularly backfired.

The third option, of course, is that Abbott is able to move his motion of no confidence in the Gillard government, and having done so, Windsor and Oakeshott remain unmoved and the government’s present numbers ensure the motion is lost.

And that — the best strategic result of all, in my view — doesn’t warrant the grief involved in undertaking the exercise in the first place.

There is an additional problem as well: were the Liberals to get an election before September, they would also have to either own Wayne Swan’s budget or introduce something of their own it is place.

It’s all the more reason, to my mind, to let the Parliament run its course, go to the election in September as scheduled, and ensure Swan and Gillard are held accountable for their actions rather than being seen to let them off the hook in any way whatsoever.

I appreciate this has been a rather convoluted article: it has to be, because a successful no-confidence vote now is more likely to hinder the Liberals’ political interests, not help them.

It’s why, looking ahead to 2016, the best results for Coalition strategists to work with will be secured at an election for the House of Representatives and half the Senate, held concurrently, and most probably on 14 September.

And it’s why, upon seeing the article in The Australian I opened my remarks with, it was impossible not to put my thoughts on the issue to print.

Peter Slipper’s Jaundiced, Deluded World

Having posted less than 48 hours ago on Peter Slipper’s last (taxpayer-funded) ride out of the sunset, events since have given every semblance of an animal in its death throes; the subsequent antics and misadventures of Slippery Pete stink of a desperate man’s desperate measures.

Given the nature of the various allegations against Slipper, it is no surprise that opinions are hardening against him — and not least on the ALP’s own back benches, where marginal seat holders and time servers are now wondering aloud what the hell their leader has got them into by selling out the Speakership to the member for Fisher.

What is less of a surprise is that Slipper appears to want to fight; after all, he has made a career from fighting his way out of self-inflicted disasters, especially where the use and misuse of travel entitlements at public expense are concerned.

This time, however, the walls are closing in on him, and he would appear fatally trapped.

It was with one eyebrow raised this morning that I read an article in The Australian which heralded Slipper’s “meticulous” use of Cabcharge documents; it quoted Tim Conroy, owner-driver of Peter Slipper’s “favourite” limousine company, who stoutly defended the Speaker’s handling of taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets for travel between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

“He always fills out Cabcharge dockets when he travels with us, and he takes meticulous care. He was painful…in filling them out. He did not hand blank dockets to us,” Mr Conroy was quoted as saying.

Well, quite, but myriad other accounts to the contrary appeared in other newspapers across the country today, which made for reading with both eyebrows raised.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported a driver with Canberra Hire Cars, Berris Crossin, as saying she had a deal with Mr Slipper regarding the use of his cab vouchers; Ms Crossin said Slipper would use four to six vouchers for a single trip so ‘‘it didn’t look as bad as one big fare.’’

Another limousine driver who has regularly driven Slipper for many years when he is in Sydney, Antwan Kaikaty, spoke to the Murdoch press, claiming Slipper would supply multiple Cabcharge dockets to pay for travel.

Bizarrely, Kaikaty disputed claims that Slipper would hand over blank documents, but did admit that Slipper, who had been “(his) client” for years, and would nonetheless provide him with a “few vouchers” at the end of a trip.

Is this again to try to disguise the overall total of the expenses being racked up by Slipper? Or is there more to it than that? Either way, it is clear that despite Slippery Pete’s protestations, some folk at least are prepared to blow the whistle on his dodgy practices.

And it begs the question: if the total value of a journey is so great as to attract scrutiny, doesn’t the problem begin there? And if the use of multiple Cabcharge dockets is required to try to disguise the amount of public money Slipper has been spending, isn’t that a rort in and of itself?

Meanwhile, it has come to light today that Archbishop John Hepworth — the head of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the ultra-conservative breakaway Anglican church Slipper is a member of — has asked Slipper to stand aside as an ordained priest and legal officer of the church.

Even so — in an exercise reeking of Slipper attempting to marshal cronies — the Archbishop attempted to make a spirited defence of Slippery Pete, saying he was “shattered” by everything that had occurred, and opining that there are “a number of Peter Slippers” — and cited examples of Slipper the devoted husband and Slipper the arrogant drunk.

It’s not a very convincing defence, and to my mind if Slipper suffers from multiple personality disorder it merely underscores his unfitness for elected office.

Archbishop Hepworth claimed, in relation to the various allegations currently levelled at Slipper, that he has “…pursued some of these rumours…and (has) been satisfied that there was no proof existing.”


I have no doubt Hepworth is an honourable man, but a properly constituted court and/or a forensic legal practitioner under Australian law, he isn’t; and rather than trying to defend the indefensible, it might be better if the Archbishop allowed the legal processes currently underway in relation to Slippery Pete run their course.

Archbishop Hepworth added that he was having “an exchange of texts” with Slipper on account of the fact Slipper and his wife “both actually have ‘flu at the moment.”

Well…if Slipper is sick, it hasn’t stopped him from taking to Twitter to protest about this and that, maintain his protestations of innocence, and go on the general attack; at time of writing, Slipper has tweeted no fewer than 16 times in the past 24 hours — hardly the work of someone bedridden with influenza.

Slipper complains about the media infringing his privacy; whilst I don’t condone such things if they have indeed occurred, perhaps ol’ Slippery should give consideration to what he has served up to the journalistic community over long years: a history of questionable conduct, proven through repeated repayment of wrongly claimed monies; all the “interesting stories” floating around that are a potential goldfield for journalists seeking to make a name to mine; and the latest round of allegations, soon to be tested in court, of which Slipper may or may not be guilty.

There’s a small amount of Anzac Day noise from Slipper of the “Lest We Forget” variety — only a skerrick, mind; there is also a handful of tweets which, on face value, appear to be Slipper corresponding with friends/well-wishers/favourably disposed acquaintances.

I say “on face value” because nobody can see what was written in the tweets to which Slipper is responding; indeed, some time ago — outraged that he was blowing his trumpet and holding court with someone, making himself out as a world authority on Parliamentary procedure — I tweeted to him, accusing him of being a “damned traitor” who should be ashamed of himself, and that I looked forward to him being crushed at next year’s election “if he had the balls to stand.”

The response was an excited-looking tweet thanking me for my support; I tell this story because a look at Slippery Pete’s Twitter feed suggests everybody is his friend, when in fact, so many people are nothing of the sort.

I don’t support Peter Slipper. End of story. If he thinks otherwise, he’s delusional.

But the real nugget in what he has had to say on Twitter in the past couple of days centres on Tony Abbott, the relationship between the two men, and Slipper’s “role” in Abbott’s ascension to the Liberal leadership in late 2010.

Claiming to have been a friend to Tony Abbott when the latter “had very few friends left,” Slipper references Abbott’s attendance at his second wedding in 2006.

Now, to be fair, whether Abbott and Slipper are or were friends is a private matter; but whether they are or were or not, it has no bearing on current events. More to the point, a personal friendship with the leader of the Liberal Party does not engender some automatic right of entitlement — as the tweets appear to suggest.

It has been reported in the press in the past couple of days that Slipper claims to have cast “the crucial decisive vote” in making Abbott Liberal leader; his ramblings on Twitter bear this out, especially a remark saying “…if I had voted another way, then he wouldn’t have become Leader.”

I should get my violin out. Pack your bags everyone, Slippery is sending you on a guilt trip!

It is true that Abbott won the Liberal leadership by a single vote, 41 votes to 40, with one absentee (former MP Fran Bailey was ill the day of the ballot).

Yet Slipper is no kingmaker; nor is he any more responsible for making Abbott leader than any of the 40 of his then colleagues who also voted against Turnbull. And — crucially — none of them knew how close the vote would be; nobody, least of all Slippery Pete, was a conscious kingmaker. Indeed, this sort of proclamation simply marks Slipper out as the grandstanding imbecile he really is.

There’s a lot more detail around Slipper’s movements in cars paid for by the Commonwealth that I could cover; beyond what has already been said, I don’t see the need.

The point here is that Slipper is throwing up markers to his own little world this week; some parallel universe in which he is blameless, but in which everyone else is out to get him and of course, Slipper has been grievously wronged.

In other words, it’s OK for Slipper to carry on like a law unto himself, but the millisecond his actions catch him up, it’s everyone else’s fault, and Slipper himself is the sweetly innocent victim of God-knows-what.


I think all interested parties — the parliamentary ALP, other MPs, the press corps and the voting public — should allow the latest round of inquiries to run their course; if Slipper really has gone too far this time and is caught, then the consequences of his actions will follow.

In the meantime, Peter Slipper should simply be ignored. His utterances are crafted to mislead, to manipulate, and to cultivate sympathy where none is deserved or warranted.

Let the grub sit in his own jaundiced, deluded, caustically self-obsessed little world, and let the rest of us get on with the business of the real world.

A high-order business item in the real world is the sifting and testing of allegations and accusations against Slippery Pete; and if he is to be damned for those, the repercussions will ensue — for Slipper himself, and for the amoral Labor government that has hitched its fortunes to his dubious, and waning, star.


The Final Coming Of Peter Slipper

For many years now, it’s been the same; fast moves and even faster talking have allowed Peter Slipper to stay one step ahead of trouble. This time the game appears to be up, and Slippery Pete returns to Australia from his latest overseas jaunt a hunted man.

Of course, we must be careful not to say anything that might prejudice investigations into the latest round of alleged expenses fraud by Slipper, nor into the explosive and sensational allegations of sexual harassment levelled at him this weekend by an employee.

Nonetheless, that caveat still leaves plenty of scope to comment on the latest episode in the life of a scoundrel, a treacherous dog, and a pretty poor specimen to boot.

I’ve known Peter Slipper for 20 years, and he always put a shudder down my spine; I’ve never known what it was, but the guy used to give me the creeps. Fortunately it has been a long time since I have seen him, and I hope I don’t see him again.

A parliamentarian once told me in the mid-1990s that “Peter’s a good guy” — an observation that made me more, not less, wary of Slipper whenever I saw him thenceforth.

There have always been a lot of interesting stories floating around about Peter Slipper; some of these have become common knowledge — the loose interpretations of travel entitlements, the flights via Sydney to maximise frequent flyer points, questions over ComCar usage and frequent late-night visits to Kings Cross, Fortitude Valley and St Kilda are a mere few.

And other of those stories have never — publicly — seen the light of day for various reasons, but interesting stories they remain.

And so it is a curious development this weekend that an employee of Slipper in his role of Speaker of the House of Representatives has made public an official sexual harassment complaint against him.

A lot of the allegations contained in this are pretty tawdry stuff; suggestions Slipper asked about such things as homosexual partner preferences and…er…bodily ejaculation locations…are, if true, completely unbecoming of a member of Parliament, and especially in terms of one acting as the boss of an employee.

The problem Slippery Pete has is that according to the court documents extensively leaked and published in the Murdoch press over the weekend, the allegations are backed by SMS text messages and emails purportedly from Slipper to the employee in question.

If those communications do exist, and if they are able to be conclusively linked to Peter Slipper as the author and sender, then the erstwhile member for Fisher might be staring down the barrel of a gun.

On the other side of the ledger, it comes as little surprise that the allegations of sexual misconduct are accompanied by a fresh round of allegations concerning travel expenditure, this time involving fraudulent use of Cabcharge vouchers; after all, if there is one thing Peter Slipper has repeatedly found himself embroiled in over the years, it is arguments over his misuse of travel entitlements.

I note for the record that in years past, Slipper has repaid tens of thousands of dollars worth of incorrectly claimed entitlement monies; his excuses generally boil down to each incident being “a misunderstanding.”

Like anyone, Slipper is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but I just wonder what his “misunderstanding” might be in terms of the sex charges he now faces. That it was all a joke? That he, Slipper is the real victim? Or that the whole thing is an elaborate set-up? We will see; time will tell.

Having said all of that, the response from the Labor Party (and from Prime Minister Gillard especially) has been shockingly inept.

All weekend, out trundled the trusty ALP figures; they couldn’t pre-empt the coming legal cases, but Slipper had done a very good job as speaker; they weren’t buying in to the discussion but they wouldn’t be taking any action to remove him from the Speakership, either.

Gillard, for her part, said nothing.

Nothing, that is, until Slipper voluntarily stood aside from his post; after that, she welcomed him taking that course of action…but couldn’t say any more until the legal matters on foot had been resolved.

In other words, a greater volume of nothing.

Not that Slipper had any alternative to standing aside, mind you; at the minimum, he faced a vote when Parliament resumes to strip him of the Speakership that was almost guaranteed to be carried; beyond that, he risked a no-confidence motion being moved against the government on the basis of his continued presence, the outcome of which would have been impossible to predict.

I would make the point that having recruited Slipper for reasons of pure political expediency — in the full knowledge of what he is like, his past conduct, and of the probability of skeletons lurking in his closet — Gillard and her colleagues do themselves no end of residual damage in refusing to cut adrift such a liability.

It tarnishes them, it tarnishes the Labor Party, and it sends the unmistakable signal that political survival at any cost is preferable to the ALP than is decency, the upholding of standards, and the accountability of politicians in the eyes of the law.

Don’t forget, Gillard’s government is a shelter to not one, but two iffy characters facing criminal investigations and possible charges: just as Peter Slipper enjoys its patronage, so too does Craig Thomson.

At some point Gillard’s sycophantic refusal to distance herself and her party from these gentlemen (and I use the term loosely) is going to permanently stain the Labor Party as an organisation that turns a blind eye to official misconduct and criminal behaviour; or to put it bluntly, she is turning a once-proud and principled party into a degenerate cesspool of amoral nihilism.

It should ring alarm bells to Gillard and Labor that Tony Windsor is now canvassing the possibility of supporting a no-confidence vote moved by Tony Abbott in certain circumstances; Wilkie’s support for such a measure would seem a no-brainer.

Add Bob Katter Jr and Tony Crook to the 71 Coalition votes in the House as well, and there are the 75 votes to 74 on the floor of the House to remove Gillard from office and force an election.

Support from Rob Oakeshott would merely seal the deal.

It’s now as close as that; indeed, a fresh election would increasingly seem the only way out of this mess once and for all.

And with Slipper now back on the cross-bench and Labor’s Anna Bourke assuming duties as Speaker, Gillard is once again wholly wedded to the support of Independents for her survival.

This story obviously has some way to run and we will follow it as it develops.

But I return to where I started: for many years, through a combination of fast moves and quick talking, Slippery Pete has managed to stay the half-step in front of trouble he’s needed to in order to survive.

Today he came back to Australia, after yet another overseas junket; flying headlong into controversy as usual, and flying straight into the most serious allegations officially levelled at him thus far.

I think Houdini Pete has come to the end of the line; only a miracle will save him now.

This time, the clouds of fire into which he has leapt would seem that bit too hot for comfort.

What do you think?


Opinion Polls, Leadership Rumblings, And Shifting Sands

Meanwhile…back over at the federal Labor Party — it looks less like a government by the day — the polls have flatlined, the mutterers are muttering, and this time it seems the sand really is shifting beneath Julia Gillard’s feet.

We’ve had opinion polling in the last week from Galaxy, Newspoll and Essential, all of which show the Coalition maintaining a 54-46 lead over the ALP on the two-party measure (and — given this consistency — validating each other’s findings).

This means the (approximately) two percentage point improvement on this measure, recorded across the reputable polls on average at the end of last year, is finished.

Even so, 54-46 represents a swing of 4.1% since the 2010 election, which would leave the ALP with 60 seats and the Coalition 89 — this assumes Labor winning back Andrew Wilkie’s Tasmanian seat of Denison and the Greens’ seat of Melbourne, and the Coalition winning Rob Oakeshott’s seat of Lyne and Tony Windsor’s electorate of New England.

In other words, the Coalition gains in Independent seats is almost a given; Labor gaining Denison and Melbourne is possibly generous, and so the result for Labor could be worse than what I am outlining.

And this means that even after a modest rise in the polls after preferences late last year, Labor remains on track to be slaughtered.

It’s simply a question of degrees.

And to make it worse, whilst the Liberals and Nationals aren’t building on their overall lead in the polls — yet — Gillard is once again close to slipping behind on the “preferred PM” measure; her personal popularity is beginning to deteriorate further, whilst Tony Abbott’s admittedly modest ratings are inching upwards again.

It is against this backdrop that what we have known for some time is coming — a leadership showdown in the Labor Party — seems to have finally arrived.

The coming contest could put the final nail in the Labor government, and consign it to the electoral wilderness for at least a decade.

Commentary in the mainstream media talks of a leadership showdown between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard; it speaks of Rudd settling the score and Gillard being finished (which I said months ago) but it isn’t that simple.

For one thing, there is no guarantee — indeed, it’s unlikely — that Rudd could convince a majority of the Labor caucus to restore him to the Prime Ministership.

For another, it discounts the possibility that Gillard would even stand, so fatally wounded would her authority be by anything other than a colossal, overwhelming win against Rudd.

Fairfax Radio reported in Melbourne this afternoon that Rudd could command “perhaps 40” of the 103 votes in the Labor caucus; of course, the situation is fluid, but 40 votes falls 12 votes short of winning.

But what it would do is to inflict a lethal blow on Gillard; were she to survive a leadership vote on those numbers, she would remain Prime Minister, yet completely devoid of any credibility, authority, or stature.

Utterances from ALP MPs this week have been predictable, to say the least.

On the one hand, one unnamed MP opined that he would “rather eat razor blades” than entertain a return to the Prime Ministership by Rudd.

On the other, the rumours about MPs who would resign from Parliament out of spite, should Rudd return, are circulating again.

Graham Perrett — backbench MP for the highly marginal Brisbane seat of Moreton — is one who has already stated he would do precisely that.

There is circumstantial evidence to suggest Treasurer Wayne Swan would leave Parliament in disgust as well (and if Rudd did return, and Swan left, I would cheer him  on in a non-partisan assessment as having voluntarily removed a complete imbecile from the governance of this country).

Former leader Simon Crean — a potential compromise replacement for Gillard — hit the nail on the head this week: Rudd cannot and should not ever return as Prime Minister.

On one level, it matters not how aggrieved Rudd and his cohorts and family are at the method of his removal; the simple fact is that he is essentially a dictator who is reviled by his own party.

I would question how deep his purported popularity around the country actually is; after all, Rudd’s own ratings as Prime Minister — along with the ALP vote — were already showing signs of collapse, serious signs, when he was dumped.

It’s an old adage that voters have short memories, and this is why I have consistently said that were Rudd to return, his “honeymoon” wouldn’t last long enough to get through an election campaign: like a lover dumped, or a bad job left, people tend to draw conclusions immediately when they stray back into the fold on the back of “time” having diminished the anger and hostility that led to the split in the first place.

Yet common consensus suggests that Labor MPs have accepted as inevitable a leadership confrontation: possibly as early as next week, but certainly no later than during th parliamentary budgetary sitting in May.

There are three scenarios at this early stage of the active phase of leadership movement over at Labor that I would canvass.

One: Gillard vs Rudd. Gillard wins, albeit narrowly (which I think is the best result she could hope for); Gillard limps on, fatally wounded, and the portents for Labor moving forward aren’t good.

Two: Rudd wins. It wouldn’t be by much, and he would inherit a party that had disposed of Gillard out of pure fear of electoral loss — and specifically, of individual seat-holders fearful of losing individual seats.

Rudd’s chronic faults would resurface in record time, the electorate would quickly express as much in opinion sampling (even after a three or four week honeymoon), and Labor would be back to square one.

And Rudd would paradoxically lead a party in which a majority of his MPs hated, detested and reviled him…how long does anyone think it would take for further mischief to surface from that?

Three: the Gillard/Crean side of the ALP does a deal, like Crean did for Latham nearly a decade ago, and run a new leadership candidate against Rudd.

This would remove Gillard as PM, and avoid the internal rancour associated with returning the detested Rudd to the Prime Ministership.

Stephen Smith or Crean himself, in other words.

Whichever way you cut it, one by-election in a marginal seat — just one — is likely to see the ALP lose its slender grasp on the House of Representatives, be forced to an election, and get kicked out of office anyway.

I would argue that the return of Kevin Rudd as PM would heighten that risk, not lessen it.

Close to closing, I must say that one of Gillard’s greatest mistakes may well have been to keep Rudd-appointed advisors in her office.

What happened on Australia Day, with an apparatchik’s attempt to turn aborigines into political pawns for gain, is likely to be viewed in retrospect as the final nail in the coffin of Gillard’s leadership.

The fact that Hodges was a Rudd appointment goes to my point.

There will always be “Hodges” to be found, and Rudd as a restored leader will find them, but their judgement is non-existent, their political value nil, and their worthiness to hold the offices to which they are appointed dubious in the extreme.

This time, it’s bitten Gillard: what happened on Australia day has probably finished her off as Prime Minister, irrespective of who follows.

But if the replacement is Rudd…what would anyone expect, apart from more of the same?

These are my views, and we will no doubt be talking further about this, at length, and very soon indeed.

What do you think?



A No-Confidence Motion? It Won’t Succeed…This Week…

The open rumour today is that the Opposition will move a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives next week, potentially terminating the current Labor government. It either won’t happen, or it will fail.

This time.

As the fallout and retribution from Thursday’s disgraceful Australia Day riot continues, consideration is apparently being given, in opposition ranks, to the movement of a no-confidence vote in the government in an attempt to force a fresh election.

It’s true that what occurred on Thursday was completely unacceptable, and it is no exaggeration that the episode at The Lobby restaurant shamed Australia internationally.

As the questions are progressively asked in terms of who knew what and when, it is equally true that despite the sacking of a ministerial advisor that questions in terms of the wider picture of what happened remain unanswered.

Tonight, I don’t want to debate the issue afresh, but rather to look at the option of a no-confidence vote and analyse the likely course of events should one be presented.

Indeed, Andrew Wilkie — the Independent who incurred severely burnt fingers as a result of dealing with Julia Gillard — has indicated he would support such a motion.

Technically, what he has agreed to support is the movement to suspend parliamentary standing orders to allow a no-confidence motion to be debated, but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing.

I don’t believe a no-confidence vote against the Gillard government will succeed — this time — and it’s not a question of the merits of the motion; rather, it’s a question of the numbers.

With ex-Liberal traitor and general shitbag Peter Slipper occupying the Speaker’s chair, there are 149 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives; 75 of them add up to a win on any piece of legislation or on a motion such as this one.

There are 71 Liberal and National MHRs.

Add Andrew Wilkie to that, and presumably WA National Tony Crook — if he values his re-election prospects — and that makes 73.

Add Bob Katter, too; he wanted to put the Liberal Party into government with his vote as a crossbencher after last year’s election.

Nothing has changed in terms of the issues Katter stipulated as the terms for receipt of his vote, so we’ll add him in — and that makes it 74 Coalition-aligned votes.

The 72 ALP MHRs will obviously vote for themselves, as will the Communist Green MP Adam Bandt; so there is 73 guaranteed pro-Labor votes.

Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are a different story.

Oakeshott’s papers are firmly and clearly marked; having thrown his lot in with Gillard — as the holder of an overwhelmingly conservative electorate, but with very few tangible political smarts — it’s fairly obvious that he would line up on the government side in any no-confidence vote.

Which makes Tony Windsor the key, on the current make-up of the House.

Windsor is very different to Oakeshott, despite holding a similarly conservative electorate, in that he a) has some political nous of his own, and b) has unfettered access to the political brain of his relative Bruce Hawker, the ALP strategist.

His own polling numbers in New England are holding up better than those of Oakeshott in Lyne, to the point that Windsor — whilst still likely to lose his seat on paper — may yet find a way to survive.

Perhaps bringing down the Gillard government in a no-confidence vote might be just the circuit-breaker he needs.

But I still think — not just yet.

For those readers unfamiliar with the whole idea of no-confidence motions in Parliament, the reality is fairly simple: if one is moved and succeeds (meaning the government loses the vote on raw numbers) then by convention, the government must either resign or call an election.

My instincts are that this issue, whilst absolutely deplorable and reprehensible, isn’t the hook Tony Abbott and the opposition need to ensure Windsor’s vote and get the fresh election they seek.

Craig Thomson might be a very different story, in a month or two…

The sheer depravity of the allegations against Thomson are one thing; for him to be charged, as seems increasingly likely, are another.

And if he is, the brief of evidence will be available, and that will form the basis of a no-confidence motion that may very well succeed.

I’d make the point that — paradoxically — it is now in the best interests of the Coalition to defer an election for a while; with half the parliamentary term now gone, a window opens in a bit over twelve months to take half the Senate to an election as well as the House, which would avoid either two elections in two years and/or a separate half-Senate election, the last of which occurred in 1973.

So if there is to be a no-confidence vote next week (and there may), I’d be surprised if it were successful.

But whether there is or not, or whether it is or not, a solidly legitimate pretext for another go is not too far away.

And if this analysis is correct, then Craig Thomson — holder of a classic marginal seat with an alleged penchant for hookers — might find the price of a screw to be very high indeed.

And so might the Prime Minister and her government.