NT Election: Mediocrity, Cynicism, Hypocrisy The Only Winners

THE LANDSLIDE recorded by the ALP at yesterday’s Northern Territory election should be a cause for despair for anyone interested in sound governance in Australia; on the one hand, a fractious conservative administration with a penchant for self-immolation has been ejected from office with the force of a missile, whilst a Labor Party responsible for shocking miscarriages of justice has been restored. There is nothing to celebrate here.

I wasn’t going to even bother commenting on the circus that is NT politics, but lest ALP triumphalism spiral out of control, a few passing comments are probably warranted.

They say things are done differently in the NT, but as I see it, politics there are following the same cynical trajectory as is being pursued elsewhere in the country: and the same disastrous consequences — not least, the continued disenfranchisement of increasingly jaded voters — are likely to ensue.

Just as this column declined to publish so much as a congratulatory syllable after the Coalition “victory” at the 2 July double dissolution, we similarly see little reason to do so in relation to Territory Labor today; the ALP may indeed have prevailed in elections for what passes as the Territorian equivalent of a state government, but the circumstances in which it has done so are tasteless in the extreme.

In the blue corner sits the Country Liberal Party: racked by divisions and the competing agendas of misplaced egos, elected four years ago and ravaged by leadership ructions ever since, the CLP has paid a predictable price for self-indulgence, petty bickering, and the utter political ineptitude that now seems to permanently infect conservative administrations comprised of MPs determined on factional grounds rather than merit, and aided and abetted by advisers who in the main are bereft of a skerrick of political judgement, strategic or tactical nous, or the ability to convincingly sell ideas or policies to an electorate that expects better of its parliamentary representatives.

In the red corner sits a Labor Party which, like its interstate and federal counterparts, boasts precisely nothing to recommend it: a classic illustration of the adage about oppositions not winning elections and governments losing them, the new ALP Chief Minister — the aptly named Michael Gunner — may come to rue the fact his election triumph was sealed in a controversy over prison abuses that were perpetrated on his own party’s watch in office several years ago.

The defeat of the CLP — never in any doubt — was almost certainly amplified by some appallingly partisan “investigative” journalism by the ABC, which saw its way clear to run an explosive expose about the torture of young offenders in the NT and other outrages on its Four Corners programme just as the NT election approached: never mind the fact these excesses occurred during the last administration Labor formed, and never mind observing quaint notions of impartiality like declining to broadcast such material during an election campaign; the result of the Four Corners production was to ensure the fallout hit the CLP with laser-like precision, as intended. The kneejerk reaction of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in announcing a Royal Commission into the affair, made it a certainty.

Territory politics are notoriously volatile, and — since the end of almost 30 unbroken years of CLP rule — have been a template for instability. The projected 18 of 25 seats Labor is expected to finish with will guarantee it one term only, and whilst a further term must be considered likely, such is the nature of the beast that the resurrection of the CLP after a single term, whilst difficult to foresee today, cannot be ruled out.

But in this sense, the NT is merely following the pattern of politics that is starting to become entrenched everywhere else in Australia these days.

We have arrived at the point at which the ALP and, by extension, a broad coalition of like interests — the unions, the Communist Party Greens, the teachers, the churches and the welfare lobby, among others — simply refuse to acknowledge or accept the election of conservative governments and, whenever such a government holds office, the singular priority of these groups is to destroy it.

Aside from extending the reach of unions and kowtowing to the faceless thugs who run them, the Labor governments subsequently formed either achieve nothing or (as in the case of the Andrews government in Victoria) cause massive economic and social division, as inept MPs propelled by self-interest and greed for power prove spectacularly unsuited to the task to which they have been elected.

This is also a theme that will continue to play out across Australia in the years to come.

I’m not interested in the welfare or good fortune of the parties of the Left and their fellow travellers; even so, the ascent of the ALP in a minor regional assembly merely underlines even further the challenges faced by parties of the Right and their seeming inability to grasp them, let alone resolve them.

An abjectly pathetic approach to electoral politics, in which the hierarchy of the Liberal Party is run as a clubhouse rather than a bona fide war machine, means the actual business of winning elections and prosecuting arguments is relegated to an afterthought as alliances and crony cohorts are elevated above ensuring the best possible people are installed to engineer the triumph of right-of-centre policies and the sustained success that increasingly eludes it.

In the process, Labor becomes more and more the default choice of voters, thanks to compulsory preferences that reward the ineptitude and indulgences of the Liberals in office with defeat.

It doesn’t matter that Labor is guiltier of the same sins, or is demonstrably incompetent when it comes to the business of government: the Coalition parties across Australia is increasingly incapable of carrying even those arguments publicly. This result in the Northern Territory is simply further proof of it.

Turnbull can probably feel lucky in that directly at least, the NT can inflict no further damage on the federal Coalition; Labor controls the Territory assembly, and holds both federal electorates as well as one of the two NT Senate spots.

But any national interpretation of the result can only invite the conclusion that the Liberal Party’s current decline is not just continuing, but accelerating.

Of the remaining Liberal state governments, the one in WA is likely to fall when it goes to the polls early next year; the one in Tasmania appears to have run aground in a state not noted for goodwill toward the conservative parties, and in which the perennial threat of minority ALP-Greens administrations seems once again poised to consign the Liberals to opposition. Mike Baird in NSW is beginning to look as if his party is readying to surrender office to a discredited ALP just two terms after claiming office, as did the Greiner-Fahey outfit 20 years ago.

Liberal oppositions in SA and Victoria — for different reasons — seem certain to remain in opposition in 2018. What happens in Queensland, where Labor has rigged future elections by abolishing its own system of optional preferential voting with neither consultation nor a mandate, is anyone’s guess.

What is certain is that the only victors from yesterday’s field trip to the polls in the NT are the forces of mediocrity, cynicism and hypocrisy: and today at least, that means unjust reward for the ALP, which will simply be emboldened everywhere else.

Once again, the real losers are the poor bastards forced to choose between two unpalatable options.

If anyone finds this state of affairs worthy of celebration, it says much about the insidious narcissism and obsession with power at any price — with flagrant disregard for the consequences — that continues to infect politics and elections in this country.

Make no mistake, there is nothing to celebrate here. It is a reality that the predictably shattered CLP, the more decent adherents of the ALP, and their counterparts across Australia would do well to contemplate.


Time To End The Annual Daylight Saving Farce

THE FARCICAL MISHMASH of four time zones for 24 million people resumes tomorrow; coming just hours after the AFL Grand Final and coinciding with the finale of the NRL season — marking, obliquely, a passage from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Australian sport moves on to horses and pretty girls in dresses — the inefficiency, waste and confusion caused by daylight saving is again upon us for six months. It’s time for the circus to end.

It’s a less “heavy” post from me this morning, and I begin with a familiar apology to readers on account of the dearth of time I have had for posting comment; whilst the heavy workload I’m under is manageable, the additional impost inflicted by the medical fright* I have obliquely alluded to over the past two months will shortly be resolved as well: and whilst I’ll still be busier than a swarm of bees, the time I have been carving out to attend to the latter is about to draw to a close, and this is probably the difference between the three articles I’ve been delivering each week and at least another couple, so do bear with me.

I’ve read the editorial from this morning’s Brisbane Courier Mail, and whilst it contains a couple of errors of fact — Queenslanders (including, then, me) voted in a Daylight Saving referendum in 1991, not in 1992 as stated — I have to say I couldn’t agree more.

When those north of the Tweed last had their say on the permanent adoption of Daylight Saving, I voted against it.

But I did so with the explicit rider that had I lived in Melbourne, I would have been unreservedly supportive; I have of course lived in Melbourne now for almost 18 years, and whilst I don’t like the “extra hour of afternoon heat” that comes with Daylight Saving during the most unpleasant excesses of summer, the fact it remains twilight until almost 10pm during the longest days of the year (and is light enough first thing in the morning) outweighs that concern.

When I lived in Brisbane, it was still dark by 7.30pm — even during the three-year trial of Daylight Saving introduced by the Ahern government in 1989.

But time, experience, and the passage of more of life’s journey can evolve perspectives, and it certainly has in my own case.

True to its reputation of being “different” — a euphemism if ever there was — some of the arguments advanced against Daylight Saving in the so-called Sunshine State back in those days were ridiculous; the birds at the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, for example, were said to be disinclined to show up an hour early to be fed.

The same was said of country cows, who lacked comprehension of time zone changes, and would supposedly fail to arrive for milking at 4am…because they would still believe it to be 3am.

And my favourite was the effect Daylight Saving would have “on the curtains,” and watching Gerry Connolly’s Gerrymander Joh And The Last Crusade at Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre in December 1989, audience members were treated to the disgusting spectacle of “Flo” hanging the most flatulently garish curtains at the Bjelke-Petersen ranch in Kingaroy, assuring the neighbour who had “popped in for a cuppa” not to worry about the hideous pattern on them because “they’ll be bleached white in no time with all this extra daylight we’re having.”

It is difficult to believe intelligent people could ever come up with this sort of rubbish. But the truly deleterious effects of Daylight Saving are no laughing matter.

In the almost quarter of a century that has passed since that ill-fated 1991 referendum, Brisbane has changed; no longer the archaic backwater that closes at 5pm and all weekend every weekend, the Brisbane lifestyle has evolved to make far more use of the daylight hours for recreational purposes than has ever been the case.

Businesses on the Gold Coast (which have traditionally driven any Daylight Saving push in Queensland) these days simply ignore the time change, and turn their clocks forward to synchronise them with their neighbours south of the Tweed River.

The cost in lost economic output and waste from the hotchpotch of time zones that exist for half the year has been estimated at $4 billion — a lot of money at the best of times, and inefficiency and waste that can scarcely be justified as the economic climate turns decidedly sour.

And the instrument of Daylight Saving itself seems to have become a de facto vehicle for state chauvinism and the persistence of States’ Rights that are becoming increasingly difficult to demarcate or even justify in a modern, integrated society such as Australia’s.

In theory, I spend a day each week commuting to Brisbane and back at present: and from this coming week onward, airline schedules become truly confusing, as flights to Brisbane take (on paper) one hour, whilst the return leg takes a little over three.

I am dependent on the latest departure possible on the return leg, on account of what I’m going for; to ensure flights arrive and depart in Melbourne at the same time all year round (and by extension, on other routes to the southern states) all of those departures become one hour earlier tomorrow — which scarcely helps business travellers requiring a full day interstate.

And having alluded to the little medical issue I have been working against of late, after the most recent incident Qantas barred me from flying until the condition was diagnosed and resolved (which will happen this week) — and I spent the following two days driving the length of the Newell Highway to get home: I raise this because Australia isn’t a series of petty fiefdoms, but a continuous, rolling plain that merely changes the further you go; there is no border checkpoint at Goondiwindi, or Tocumwal, or anywhere else. To arrange the country as if there were is fatuous, and a relic of a bygone era that belongs in the history books and not in the 21st century.

It’s only a few weeks since we last looked at Daylight Saving: through the lens of vacuous expediency and cheap political frippery deployed by South Australia’s Liberal Party to scuttle a move to permanently align that state’s time zone with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania; filled with imbecilic righteousness and a sadly misguided sense of self-importance, serial embarrassment and senior Liberal Vickie Chapman spoke of a need to remain “in sync with northern trading partners” (in Darwin, of all places) and to avoid becoming “a western suburb of Sydney” as the Liberals’ brain-dead reasons for torpedoing what was objectively a pretty good idea.

The same sense of faux righteousness emanates out of Queensland irrespective of who is in office these days; the LNP claims to be defending the small business community by acting to preserve the status quo, whilst Labor simply claims there is no consensus on the issue despite its platform committing it to Daylight Saving for decades.

I understand there are parts of Queensland — its rural west and its far north, for instance — in which Daylight Saving really isn’t a fit; these are the areas that hardly depend on efficient or harmonious accord with what goes in in the southern states, and which can and indeed should probably be left to their own devices.

But the south-east — say, from Noosa and Coolum to the border, and west to take in Ipswich and perhaps the Warwick/Toowoomba arc, depending on local sentiment — really should be brought into line with the vast majority of the population that lies south of the Tweed, and as the Courier Mail correctly notes, majority support in the south-east for such a move existed even at the time of the 1991 referendum.

But there is a bigger issue here; does Australia remain a series of disparate former colonies that reluctantly tolerate each other’s existence, or is the country evolving toward being a united, single nation?

Some express surprise whenever, as an unabashed conservative, I express my view that the states are basically redundant; far from the mad centralism the likes of former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen would accuse anyone of if they dared suggest abolishing state government, I actually advocate the opposite: a federal government devolving responsibility wherever possible to a system of beefed-up local authorities, and getting rid of one tier of government in a ridiculously and indefensibly overgoverned country.

It’s an argument for another time, of course. But this internecine sniping over daylight saving is a symptom of national dysfunction, not some machismo expression of the bona fides of states’ rights.

If you look at any global map of time zones internationally, these are not crisp, clean, and do not run in straight vertical lines: there goes that theory, and debunks the cretinous argument of Vickie Chapman for good measure.

It’s high time someone took some leadership, moved South Australia and the Northern Territory onto the same time zone as the eastern states — ignoring mental midgets like Chapman and charlatans like everyone in the Queensland Parliament, it seems — and bring as much of the eastern half of the country into sync.

There are ample provisions in the Constitution to justify the Commonwealth instituting such a change, even if the charge of riding roughshod over “sovereign” states becomes the next irresponsible political fraud to be kicked around the place as a consequence.

Frankly, if an elected federal government using the mechanisms available to it to override the irresponsibility and posturing of hillbilly state politicians whose usefulness in the big scheme of things is a colonial relic ruffles a few feathers, then so be it.

AND ANOTHER THING: with the Grand Final set to begin in a few hours in Melbourne, my tip; with no disrespect to my old mates in Brisbane, I am not interested in what happens in the NRL  — having grown up a Carlton supporter many years before God invented the Brisbane Bears — but I wish those who love their rugby a great game tomorrow.

Obviously, with my beloved Blues not playing in finals this year, I don’t have anything invested in what transpires at the MCG this afternoon.

Yet by the same token — and this used to rankle friends when I lived in Brisbane and refused point-blank to abandon Carlton (or even find my way clear to make supportive utterances of the Bears when they sputtered into the competition in 1987) — I only ever support an interstate side when they play Collingwood and especially Essendon, which I utterly and absolutely despise (and would barrack for a freight train en route to the MCG against the Bombers if I thought there was some prospect it could prevent them winning).

Seriously, the present iteration of the Hawthorn Football Club is the best football side the national game has seen since the Brisbane Lions of 2001-03, and probably the Hawthorn and Carlton sides of 1979-1991 before them; that brown and gold outfit that has already won three flags from four Grand Finals over seven years has another opportunity today, and I am convinced Hawthorn will prevail.

The West Coast side they face is a seriously impressive unit, and cannot be dismissed out of hand today; there is the realistic prospect they will score a lucky strike this afternoon and will be worthy winners if they do.

But I see the Weagles as potentially next year’s champions rather than today’s, and faced with a battle-hardened opponent at its ruthless best almost every time the big occasion demands it — and especially when backed into a corner — it is impossible to believe Hawthorn won’t add to its legend as one of the best sides to ever play Australian football when it lines up against West Coast at the G this afternoon.

Hawthorn by 27 points.

*For those who’ve expressed concern in comments, I can assure them I am perfectly all right — perfectly all right — but the “stroke” symptoms that triggered a flight diversion to Sydney when I was returning home from Brisbane seven weeks ago have turned out to have been caused by one of the myriad of harmless (albeit unpleasant) afflictions that mimic a stroke but which have nothing to do with the brain or a stroke at all: I have the extremely rare condition baroparesis facialis which is believed drastically under-reported (I’m the 24th confirmed case worldwide) that is simply an ear problem in which pressure changes caused half my face to collapse at 37,000 feet — and would have righted itself upon return to sea level if unattended to.

Regrettably, confirming that diagnosis (at considerable expense) has had me spend some days in total with a raft of specialists and included a whole-day field trip down an MRI tunnel last week…the “cure,” at age 43 (which may or may not relieve the problem) is a grommet — the sort of thing I never had as a child — but then that should be that.

I’m lucky it was nothing sinister (and with excellent BP and blood numbers, it shouldn’t have been anyway) but it’s better for medicos to err on the scary side first and work backwards rather than the other way around…thanks for the concern people have shown too. Happily, it seems it has been a false alarm this time. 🙂

Latest “Coup” By Clive Palmer No Bargain Deal

AMID SUGGESTIONS of vote-buying and trying to “purchase” a government — which he not only denies, but says will issue defamation proceedings over — Clive Palmer’s latest bolt-on additions to his Palmer United Party are three disgruntled MPs from the conservative government in the Northern Territory. It represents no triumph, and whilst Palmer may deny allegations of buying votes, his policies are indicative of anything but selflessness.

As ever in politics, there is a fine line at times between reality and spin; Clive Palmer is apparently determined to walk it, however, and woe betide anyone who stands in his way.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman would have the franchise on that singular reality today; apparently awaiting service of a defamation writ from the portly billionaire’s lawyers, Newman — who has sparred with Palmer ever since the latter stormed out of Queensland’s LNP 18 months ago — committed what appears to have been the fatal error of suggesting Palmer had “tried to buy a government” (Newman’s) and that he subsequently “went on a rampage around Australia, trying to buy other people and buy other people’s votes.”

Palmer, for his part, pledged no mercy in the legal proceedings he plans to unleash upon Newman: “There’ll be no settlement, no negotiations, the matter will go to trial,” he said.

All of this has come to a head after three MPs from the CLP administration in the NT — apparently disillusioned with the regime of Chief Minister Adam Giles — joined Palmer’s eponymous party, with Palmer crowing that he was on the verge of controlling the balance of power in NT politics.

Is this starting to sound familiar just yet?

The interesting thing about Palmer’s decision to sue Newman over his “vote-buying” comments is that similar sentiments have been expressed, directly, by virtually every media outlet, commentator and political observer in Australia: none of whom have elicited similar retributive action from the eccentric mining figure and federal MP.

In fact, whilst the precise figures are subject to conjecture, it is estimated that Palmer outspent the major parties in the recent Western Australian Senate election rerun by as much as ten to one, with campaign expenditure in other electoral battles PUP has contested to date similarly disproportionate to what might be expected of a minor party built on protest and disaffection.

But Palmer can’t expect to be received with open arms by those sections of the press and the wider community in which some thought is applied to his actions; after all, about the kindest thing one could say about his party’s “platform” is that it believes in inflicting as much damage on the major conservative parties as it possibly can, and only a fool could fail to spot its implicit get-square objectives.

Palmer campaigned in WA on a mix of oddball populism and a promise to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax. But away from the ballot box, Palmer’s support for the repeal of either measure is linked to an ever-increasing list of caveats that can only be designed to cause angst for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for whom Palmer makes no secret of his contempt.

Shortly after the 2013 election, he tried to make the passage of any government legislation conditional on being allocated parliamentary staff and other resources he wasn’t legally entitled to with the number of MPs his party won, although we haven’t heard anything about that for some time.

And it remains the case that he did stomp out of the LNP in suspiciously close proximity to having failed to get something he wanted from Newman’s government, namely the routing of a rail freight corridor close to some of his mining interests.

Even so, when he isn’t threatening the direst of obstructive consequences for Abbott’s government, he openly supports the abolition of the carbon tax — so much so that he wants it made retrospective, which is a matter of public record, and the only logical reason for this is to win refunds for monies paid by his own businesses.

He wants the mining tax repealed, too, for rather obvious reasons.

He is refusing to support the passage of Abbott’s Direct Action climate package through the Senate, which is curious in light of his position on the carbon tax, and whilst I have opined that he might be doing Abbott an inadvertent favour by taking such a stand, it invites the conclusion that he would prefer no operative policy on climate change at all.

In the name-calling and insulting behaviour he now complains Newman has “attacked his integrity” by engaging in, Palmer has shown himself to be no slouch, labelling the Queensland government “a bunch of crooks” and accusing the state’s impressive Treasurer, Tim Nicholls, of “cooking the books” in quantifying the reprehensible level of debt bequeathed to the LNP by the Labor Party.

And for a man apparently affronted by the suggestion he seeks to control governments, his publicly stated political objectives tell a different story.

Putting aside the usual Palmer bluster that at every election PUP contests it will win outright in a landslide, Palmer seeks the balance of power — explicitly — every time.

PUP was going to win the balance of power in Tasmania, he said. It’s going to win the balance of power in Victoria, he claims. Thanks to the defections of three disloyal footsoldiers in the NT it almost controls the balance of power there, he’s stated. And he has made much of his own reality that with three Senators and a fourth who has agreed to toe the Palmer line that he “effectively” holds the balance of power in the Senate.

It should alarm anyone interested in sound governance that a political party set up by one of the richest individuals in the country has as its principle objective a minority crossbench role seeking to disrupt the balance of power.

In turn, there are two and two only useful purposes for holding the balance of power in realisation of such a deliberate and considered objective: to obstruct, punish and otherwise inflict misery on (conservative) governments from whose ranks Palmer stomped out in high dudgeon and/or to extract precisely the policy decisions that suit his own purposes.

I don’t want to comment on any legal action Palmer might actually proceed with against Newman, but when expressed in such terms it does sound suspiciously like Clive wants to pull the strings for his own ends.

Despite the bluster, there is no “revolution” and no landslide of public support for Palmer and his oxymoronic party.

At every turn, Palmer’s only real “appeal” is to foment discord and benefit from apathy and disaffection with the political process: there is nothing constructive, no vision, and what policies do find their way into public view either smack of self-interest or (literally) don’t add up.

All told, the Palmer United Party holds nine seats in Parliaments across the country; of these, five — more than half — are no-hoper turncoats from conservative parties who didn’t amount to much in the big scheme of things beforehand, and certainly won’t under Palmer’s tutelage.

Palmer’s own seat — the only lower house electorate it has won anywhere to date, and thus the only place it has ever managed to put together 50% of substantially other people’s votes — was won with a miserable primary vote of 26%, which is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Two of his three Senators — Glenn Lazarus in Queensland and Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania — took seats that would otherwise have been won by the Coalition, which tends to flesh out my point about inflicting damage and exacting revenge on the Coalition.

Lambie is impressive, and gave a good account of herself some weeks ago on the ABC’s QandA programme — and the independent train of thought she exhibited probably points to a parting of the ways with Palmer at some stage. It is not known what political expertise or policy vision, apart from admiration of Palmer, Lazarus brings to the Senate.

And whilst Palmer polled 13% of the vote in the Senate rerun in WA, anyone with political insight knows that election was a by-election in all but name; Palmer would probably have won a Senate seat in WA anyway. But the 6% it recorded at the federal election last year is a more accurate indicator of PUP’s true support in WA, and Palmer would believe otherwise to his detriment.

As for the rest: enticing two plodders out of Queensland’s LNP hardly amounts to lighting a political bushfire that will burn across the country; in fact, Carl Judge and Alex Douglas are unlikely to survive the looming state election in Queensland irrespective of whose party they wave the flag for. Judge will lose his seat to the ALP and Douglas’ will be regained by the LNP. It will be a small pointer to the vote-pulling “power” of the Palmer name.

The other three in the NT — over whom yesterday’s brouhaha erupted — appear to believe that the Palmer United Party understands and possesses great expertise in Aboriginal matters, and will favour Aboriginal rural communities if elected to office in the NT at the next election.

It’s a fine assertion, but little material exists in the public domain to bear this out.

Whilst I will comment no more on how they came to join the PUP or what Palmer may or may not have said to them in the course of that process, I simply point out one of them — Aboriginal activist Alison Anderson — is now onto her third political party in five years, and if that doesn’t sum up the credibility or otherwise of the Palmer political outfit, I don’t know what does.

And it puts Palmer close — but again, not quite close enough — to controlling the balance of power in yet another House of Parliament, albeit without a single vote being cast by any member of the voting public.

For the Northern Territory, and for Australia, Palmer’s latest “triumph” is anything but.


Making A Big Mistake Bigger: Nova Peris Endorsed By ALP

Following last week’s announcement by Julia Gillard that former Olympian Nova Peris would run for the Senate for Labor in the Northern Territory, the deal has been sealed in the ALP backroom; the Prime Minister might be smiling today, but this ridiculous stunt will cost her party dearly.

As readers will recall, this time last week as the barely believable news broke that Gillard was acting as both executioner of one of her MPs and unilateral commissioner of the replacement, I described the move as autocratic, self-obsessed and completely undemocratic.

And as events in the subsequent week have shown, those observations are correct.

The outrage with which the Prime Minister’s announcement has been met — from the Opposition, sections of the media, the aboriginal community and even from within her own party — has been almost universal in its condemnation of the move, and utterly contemptuous of Gillard and the sledgehammer tactics she has employed.

It hasn’t helped that the axed Senator Crossin is a supporter of deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; although there is no suggestion of a further vote on the ALP leadership, Gillard has been seen to enact further retribution upon her bitter enemy by proxy.

Indeed, many ALP MPs, and especially those supportive of Rudd, are said to be worried about the prospect of Gillard exercising further so-called “Captain’s Picks” to depose and replace them with pliant and complicit alternative candidates.

(At time of writing, one of them — Sydney-based MP Robert McClelland — has announced he won’t recontest his seat; it would surprise nobody if many more were to follow).

I think their fears are reasonable; Gillard has now shown there are no depths too low for her to stoop to in her pursuit of control over her party, and of power.

As has been widely touted over the past few days, a number of additional candidates contested the “preselection ballot” staged by Labor’s national executive today; these were shafted incumbent Trish Crossin, indigenous former deputy chief minister Marion Scrymgour, indigenous former NT minister Karl Hampton, and an unsuccessful indigenous candidate at the last NT election, Des Rogers.

This “ballot” was, of course, a sham, engineered merely to rubber-stamp an anti-democratic act, although it should be noted — as an article in The Australian reports — that  at least two of those on the executive did not vote for Nova Peris.

Yet to rub salt into raw wounds and to spit into the eyes of those who dared attempt to stand up to Gillard, Natalie Hutchins — a Victorian state Labor MP of no significance to the general public, but a member of the ALP’s all-powerful (and notoriously faceless) national executive — chose an insultingly patronising tone, telling the media that “I’m sure the others will play their part in Labor politics one day no doubt, but Nova was by far the most outstanding candidate that we had on the ballot today.”


The most outstanding candidate?

Measured against what objectives?

Compared to whom, and based on what?

Is this assessment based on Peris’ political experience, which is precisely zero?

Is it based on her support in the rank-and-file membership of the NT ALP, which anecdotal and circumstantial evidence suggests is close to non-existent?

Is it based on her aboriginality? If it is, surely all of the three Aborigines who stood against her — Scrymgour, Hampton and Rogers — are, on any objective analysis, better qualified.

Perhaps the assessment is based on a half-baked punt on Peris’ public profile as a successful athlete and her name recognition; if so, the entire God-awful episode of knifing a sitting Senator and refusing members a vote on a replacement virtually guarantees that recognition will work against her personally, and against the ALP on a wider basis.

The problem Gillard has created in the past week is like a Hydra; cut one head off and there are plenty of others.

The situation now exists in which respected aboriginal politicians on both the Left and Right have attacked Gillard, Peris, and the exercise in general; one has scathingly likened Peris to a “maid in waiting” who will simply make the tea in Parliament; another has referred to her as “the pet Aborigine around Parliament House.”

By her actions, Gillard has galvanised fury among the ordinary members of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory; the consequences of that one remain to be seen, but any modern political party has enough trouble attracting and retaining members without embarking on the kind of misadventure Gillard has.

The aboriginal community in the NT has already shown — by its wholesale defection to the CLP at the Territory election six months ago — that it is quite prepared to desert Labor if the circumstances suit its doing so; one wonders how much direct damage they will cause the ALP at the looming election.

It may not be enough to prevent Peris’ election to the Senate (although if Labor runs a second candidate on the ticket with her, anything could happen), but it will almost certainly cost the government Warren Snowdon’s marginal seat of Lingiari — and lower house seats are a commodity Labor can ill afford to lose.

Gillard has sent a message to her MPs that nobody is safe if they cross her, and the national executive has signalled its willingness to override local members to enforce whatever Gillard demands and decrees; it’s enough to guarantee a raft of retirements before the election (which is never a good look), and it’s yet another reason for the electorate at large to throw her government from office.

And, finally, Gillard has once again shown the rest of the Australian public exactly what her true colours are: an underhanded, dictatorial autocrat who will say, do and sacrifice anything or anyone in the naked pursuit of raw power, and in her own interests — and certainly not in theirs.

I reiterate my point from last week’s article: if Gillard wanted to bring an aboriginal woman into the parliamentary ALP via a Senate seat in the Northern Territory, Marion Scrymgour was — and is — the obvious candidate.

Not least given it has emerged in the past week that Crossin was prepared to retire voluntarily in favour of such a candidate.

Instead, we have witnessed an unedifying and pig-headed brawl, which is far from finished, and which ultimately will not resolve in Gillard’s interests — one way or the other.

This column has made it very clear that there is no issue whatsoever with Nova Peris personally; on the contrary, I feel very sorry for her.

The personal harassment, vilification and muck-throwing she has endured in the last week at the hands of her own people and members of her own party is the thin edge of the wedge.

But Peris has been made the meat in the sandwich; I agree that her preselection should be an honour and something to be savoured, but Gillard and the faceless hacks of the ALP have seen to it that the week’s events are anything but.

Yet again, Gillard has shown a ruthless and duplicitous capacity for wielding the knife in her scramble to deceive and hoodwink voters into re-electing her useless government, and Peris — whether she realises it or not — is being used as a pawn in that pursuit.

Readers should be under no misapprehension that beneath the feel-good babble and weasel words based on affirmative action, positive discrimination, and all the other empty rhetoric that pours forth from her forked tongue, the only interests of any value or consequence to Gillard are her own.

Nova Peris-Nobody: Gillard Stunt An Insult To Aborigines

In a characteristically cavalier gesture posing more problems than it solves, Julia Gillard today anointed former Olympic champion Nova Peris as an ALP senate candidate in the Northern Territory, riding roughshod over women, aboriginal Australia, her party and the national interest in one fell swoop.

In short, Gillard’s announcement that Peris is to replace long-term incumbent Trish Crossin — apparently without a ballot of local members — is emblematic of the autocratic, self-obsessed and completely undemocratic method in which this PM operates.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I have no issue with Peris personally; on the contrary, I have always liked her enormously, and (despite her iffy political preferences) am pleasantly surprised she has chosen to put her name forward to serve.

Even so, she has a total lack of political experience, and this point is one of several that are central to the reason Gillard’s actions today are deplorable.

Gillard does herself no favours with this kind of thing; this time it might come back to bite.

Firstly, she has effectively directed local NT Labor members — via the insultingly impersonal vehicle of national television — to dump the sitting Senator and replace her with a hand-picked Gillard candidate, and with a rubber stamp rather than a vote.

Secondly, she has effectively kneecapped the campaign of Marion Scrymgour — a highly respected aboriginal woman with many years’ distinguished political service in the Northern Territory (including a stint as acting Chief Minister) — who has been said in media reports to have been canvassing local support for a move against Crossin for her preselection.

Third, she has made an absolute mockery of any pretence within the ALP that it is a democratically structured party; that half-portion of it not falling within the purvey of union thugs is able, apparently, to be dictated to at whim.

Fourth — and not least with an eye on the fact Scrymgour was already eyeing a preselection bid — Gillard’s “initiative” stinks of tokenism towards aborigines, wrapped up as it is in sensationalist and histrionic pap about “redressing a wrong” in that the ALP has never been represented, federally, by an indigene.

This is perhaps the most offensive aspect of the whole thing; if that’s what Gillard really wanted, Scrymgour should have been her girl. But no, this isn’t about aboriginal representation and advocacy at all; it’s about the Labor way of recent times that a “star” is far preferable to a proven and loyal Labor foot soldier.

Even when the “star” and the foot soldier are both aboriginal women.

And in turn, the real message from what Gillard did today, to aborigines, is this: we don’t really care two jots about you…until it suits us. Then, Labor is your friend.

Does anybody else find this brand of politics particularly nauseating?

It’s made worse by the fact that in claiming Labor has never been represented by an aborigine federally (which is true) it has, over the years, been served very well by aboriginal representatives in state and territory Parliaments — a disingenuous semantic argument indeed, replete with its implicit disregard for the service rendered by its indigenous representatives in other jurisdictions.

And Gillard isn’t doing much through this process to enhance her much-vaunted but largely meaningless claim to be a women’s advocate by making a cat’s paw of one, crucifying a second by proxy, and engineering a right and royal shafting at arms’ length of a third — Scrymgour — who is actually the obvious candidate for the spot this catfight is predicated upon.

And the proof of it is that Nova Peris is not being moved into the House of Representatives seat of Lingiari, held for Labor by Warren Snowden, or the seat of Solomon held by the CLP (a Liberal Party equivalent for those unfamiliar); the latter is unwinnable, and Snowden is likely to be blown away if he stands again.

No, to pull this stunt, Gillard is commandeering a virtually unloseable Senate spot, which speaks volumes about the real faith she has in this latest plan were it ever tested somewhere it actually needed to achieve majority support.

So let’s not entertain any of the nonsense Gillard is spouting about a “Captain’s Pick;” it is all, sadly, hypocritical nonsense. Such a pick, very simply, is not a feature of the ALP’s rule book.

Federally, of course — and I note this with no jab intended at the ALP — the Liberal Party has been represented by aborigines, starting with the late Neville Bonner in Queensland; a Senator from 1971,  four years after the referendum that allowed his people the right to vote.

But to note in the one breath that a great disservice has been rendered by the ALP in not endorsing aborigines federally, ever, and then to crap on in the next about “proud Labor history (in Aboriginal Affairs)” stinks of hypocrisy, tokenism, and — dare I say it — paternalism.

The other issue here is that of the “star” candidate, parachuted into Parliament; it’s something both sides have done, and with mixed degrees of success.

The LNP did it in Queensland last year, and sealed an election triumph in doing so.

The ALP did it in 2004 in the federal seat of Kingsford-Smith, and imported what has proven to be a dud in Peter Garrett who has endangered Labor’s decades-long hold on his electorate.

The SA Liberals did it in 1992, parachuting former senior state MPs Jennifer Cashmore, Dean Brown and John Olsen (Olsen had moved on to serve as a Senator) back into the state Parliament to elect a leader — Brown — who went on to annihilate the ALP at the following year’s election.

The ALP did it all the way back in 1980, shoehorning ACTU president Bob Hawke into the vacant Melbourne Labor seat of Wills, and the rest was history; two and a half years later, Hawke commenced his tenure as Labor’s longest-serving Prime Minister following his triumph on 5 March 1983 over Malcolm Fraser.

There have been other instances of the phenomenon, and more, doubtless, to come; I’m hoping Alexander Downer is the next Premier of South Australia, and if he is, it’ll be on entry to that Parliament for the first time on election day next March.

My point is that in all of these cases, the recruit has been someone with either vast political experience or, in the cases of Hawke and Garrett, from backgrounds very commensurate with political life and offering a reasonable expectation of solid performance.

Nova Peris (and I’m sorry to have to say it) is a political nobody, no background, nothing to justify expectations of solid performance, just a star because Gillard wants one.

To make her look good.

To associate with the “beautiful people” (of which Gillard, clearly, is not a member).

To curry favour with white voters impressed by Labor/Greens pandering to minorities (again, the tokenism I was talking about earlier).

And to try to win votes off Peris’ back in suburban Sydney and Melbourne (where it won’t make a shred of difference).

I sincerely hope that if Nova really wants a political career — yes, in spite of Labor leanings — that she can have some success, whether here and now, or in the future.

But she really is a piece of work, our Prime Minister.

In the end, Gillard today has offended just about every law of political decency; nobody really wins from the half-arsed stunts she cooks up in the backroom with her coterie, and this sort of thing does a massive disservice to the very constituencies Gillard has the bare-faced audacity to purport to be the champion of.

Ultimately, however, the greatest disservice rendered by Gillard today may yet prove to be wrought upon Nova Peris herself.

It might have been better to have allowed Peris — with encouragement, if desired, from behind the scenes — to have worked the NT Labor branches to win over the local burghers, generating her own momentum and the press attention that would accompany it, than to have placed her on a national stage and at the epicentre of what looks likely to be an uproar inside the ALP over her tactics.

And of course, to make an undeserved fool of Peris if, somehow, the whole scheme amounts to nowt.

The Red And The Blue wishes to reiterate that this column has absolutely no issue with Nova Peris; that lovely, laudable and shining light has unsurprisingly given no offence and has conducted herself today with grace and style. It is very sad to see such a good person used in such a cynical fashion by such an objectionable specimen as Julia Gillard.