Cowardly: Qld ALP To Wait For One Nation To “Implode”

IN A DESCENT into the depths of gutlessness, Queensland Labor is to delay a state election widely thought to have been just weeks away in the hope Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party implodes; the decision — weighed against Hanson’s declaration that Labor is her “enemy” — defies the fact Labor won in Western Australia on Saturday in a canter, and flies in the face of the abjectly pathetic campaign performance turned in by Ms Hanson herself.

My grandfather used to have a saying: it was better to keep quiet and let people think you were an idiot than to speak up and prove that you were, and this idiom is one that certainly applies to Pauline Hanson and the eponymous One Nation outfit that may not yet have collapsed but which, based on the frightful performance turned in by Hanson herself on the stump in Western Australia, is looking decidedly shaky at best.

I am going to keep my comments brief this afternoon — there may well be a federal Newspoll out later tonight, and if there is, I will repost again with analysis of that — but an interesting snapshot of the mentality of ALP types in the wake of Saturday’s thumping win in Western Australia has emerged, and it speaks volumes of the misreading of the political climate that is being engaged in with the distractions of red herrings like One Nation and its preference deal with the WA Liberals being given more oxygen by the media than they deserve or warrant.

I have been reading an article posted in the Fairfax press this afternoon by James Massola, whose observations on political behaviour are usually pretty good; the core thrust of his piece is that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to defer the looming state election that many suspected was a matter of weeks away — or even a chance to be called tomorrow — on the basis that Labor would prefer to give Hanson and One Nation time to “implode” before they head off to the polls.

“The thinking process is, we give them enough time to do our job for us (sic),” Massola’s article quotes an ALP source as saying. “We let them go and let them implode and let the public see them for what they are. Waiting until early next year does that.”

Never mind the fact the ALP — despite a high-profile One Nation presence — has just scored its biggest state election win in Western Australian political history.

Never mind the fact that Hanson — upon whom naive journalists have lavished the unjustified praise in recent weeks that she has “matured” — saw fit (among other things) to posture as an anti-vaccination campaigner, to urge GST monies to be diverted from Queensland to WA (despite the obvious need to front Queensland voters at some point within the next 12 months) and to make the stunning confession on the stump that she “is from the east” and that whilst she consequently might not always “get it right” in Western Australia, her defence to accusations she didn’t understand the West at all essentially boiled down to no more than an empty assertion that her heart was in the right place.

And never mind the fact that the WA Liberals, in making the quantum leap gaffe of a preference deal that not only placed One Nation ahead of Labor and the Greens (as it should have) but above their National Party governing partners as well, have guaranteed themselves ridicule and condemnation on a national scale that will follow the LNP into the Queensland election, and probably still plague the Liberals in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia next year too, even if common sense prevents a repeat of what can only be described as a fuck-up.

Hanson — early in this latest incarnation of her on-again, off-again One Nation juggernaut, which she launched claiming to be “fed up” — made the declaration that the ALP was “her enemy,” presumably on account of the fact it was a Labor state government that jailed her in Queensland on convictions for electoral fraud that were eventually quashed.

Yet traditionally, it has been the Liberal Party and its satellites that have repeatedly been the worst affected by One Nation and the effects of its preference strategies: Coalition state governments killed off in Queensland in 1998 and Western Australia in 2001; a Country Liberal administration destroyed in the NT in 2001; and Coalition oppositions all but obliterated in Queensland in 2001 and New South Wales in 1999 stand testament to One Nation’s disproportionate drawing power of votes from the Coalition’s base and/or preference strategies explicitly calibrated to wreak as much damage as possible upon the Liberals, the Nationals, and in today’s parlance in Queensland, the LNP.

To say that Queensland Labor is using One Nation as its pretext for delaying a state election in view of all this is bizarre: a judgement less based in spin than reality suggests that despite the smashing victory enjoyed by its western brethren, Queensland Labor is simply terrified.

The simple truth is that by moving to abolish optional preferential voting and restore the compulsion to allocate preferences that was dispensed with in Queensland 25 years ago — and to do so before this latest burst of One Nation activity had really cranked up to full throttle — Queensland Labor thought it would steal a march on the LNP by harvesting Communist Greens preferences, and gaining an unfair advantage over the LNP led by Tim Nicholls in so doing.

Instead, this brazen electoral rort has backfired: just as there is a stream of preferences Labor might harvest from the Greens, so too now are there preferences en masse for the LNP to target from One Nation that it can, and should, target (so long as it is less hamfisted in its approach than the WA Liberals were).

The fact is that by forcing One Nation voters to allocate preferences — especially when it is remembered that such votes are disproportionately drawn off the Liberal pile anyway — the probability Queensland Labor can reap the ill-gotten fruits of its electoral rorting and win a majority becomes significantly lessened; far from waiting for One Nation to “implode,” the likelier explanation is that Labor knows Queenslanders really aren’t impressed, after two lacklustre and do-nothing years: “not being Campbell Newman” might have been a strategy of sorts for winning an election against Campbell Newman himself, but it is not a template for government, and Queenslanders have well and truly woken up to it.

The strategy of Palaszczuk and the Queensland ALP is nothing more than old-fashioned gutlessness.

Hanson conducted herself appallingly in the WA campaign; her party scored less than half the votes it was expected to attract; WA Labor won its biggest ever state election victory despite her presence; and when the Liberal Party isn’t confronting the political mortality of Malcolm Turnbull this week, it has the headache of the WA Division’s stupid and destructive deal with One Nation to unpick, unpack, and discard.

Why is Palaszczuk delaying a state election in Queensland?

Readers can play “connect the dots” for themselves, but among the plausible or proffered reasons, the likelihood of the Palaszczuk government being re-elected is not one of them.

 

The Violence Of The Lambs: WA Liberals Face Slaughter

EIGHT and a half years of Coalition government in WA will end today, as Colin Barnett’s Liberals face annihilation at the ballot box; an ageing Premier, coupled with crippling debt in the wake of the mining boom and an inability to resolve GST shares in his state’s favour, will see voters sweep an unready — and undeserving — ALP to office. The result will be a debacle, and a humiliation for Malcolm Turnbull. But it will contain a silver lining of sorts.

First things first: yet again, my apologies to readers for a week and a half of radio silence; the past couple of weeks have been a little busier than I envisaged, and whilst we’ve missed a few issues — not least, the endgame of the WA state election campaign — most of these remain live, and we will catch up on some of them in the coming few days.

But last time I was in England (and it bothers me enormously that it was almost nine years ago), three big political developments occurred: the onset of the Global Financial Crisis, of which nary a word had been reported in Australia, but which erupted the first week I was in London with the force of a doomsday alert; the replacement of hapless federal Liberal leader Brendan Nelson by Malcolm Turnbull, raising the curtain on a misadventure that continues to play out today; and the ascension, in minority, of Colin Barnett and a Liberal-National “alliance” to government in Western Australia for the first time since a One Nation preference campaign laid waste to the government of Richard Court in early 2001.

Despite the fact we haven’t found the time to discuss it in this column, I have been keeping an eye on the WA election campaign, and the only way I can describe it — as today’s Newspoll in The Australian shows Barnett on track to suffer an 11% swing to Labor and the loss of 13 seats — is as a gigantic face-palm event.

Already reeling from the “It’s Time” factor and from the explosion of state debt to some $40bn in the aftermath of the end of the mining boom — and hurt by the decline of WA’s return of GST monies paid in that state to just 30 cents in the dollar, under the convoluted formula used to determine GST payments — the Liberals’ reputation for sound economic management has, perhaps through little fault of its own, become tarnished in the minds of voters who don’t comprehend the finer details of Commonwealth-State relations, and don’t want to: in their view, the local man in charge in Perth is the man who carries the can.

At 66 years of age, Barnett is the oldest incumbent Premier to seek a further term in office since Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s final victory in Queensland in 1986: whereas voters once accepted government was an activity largely conducted by “old men,” those days are long gone — as John Howard’s defeat federally in 2007 showed — with people likelier to “give a young feller a go” rather than cultivate a governing class of gerontocrats of the kind once personified by names such as Bolte, Askin, Menzies, Playford, Court and, of course, Bjelke-Petersen himself.

Barnett’s government was significantly weakened by the transfer of arguably its best minister, former Treasurer and Attorney-General (now federal Social Services minister) Christian Porter to federal politics in 2013, and by the inevitable loss of the freakishly talented but irretrievably flawed Troy “Chair Sniffer” Buswell after literally more than one scandal too many in 2010.

And the deal the WA Liberals have struck with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation — foolishly agreeing to place the minor party ahead of their alliance partners, the Nationals — made a prudent exercise in seeking to harness lost protest votes through preferences a justifiable millstone for their opponents (and the Nationals themselves) to publicly hang around their necks.

Image result for hannibal lecter blood

A bloody mauling awaits the Liberal Party at today’s state election in Western Australia.

This column has openly advocated Coalition parties placing One Nation ahead of the ALP and Communist Party Greens, noting that of the two extreme fringe parties, the Greens are far worse than One Nation; but placing the Hanson party ahead of their governing allies was a lunatic act of overreach by the WA Liberals that will now compound, rather than ameliorate, their imminent defeat.

It is a relatively unimportant detail that the Nationals, under the unpalatable stewardship of the incendiary Brendon Grylls, are an irritant the WA Liberals feel they could well do without: to lose the support of National Party MPs in the lower house, as the political waters recede drastically from the near all-time high mark recorded in 2013, is to lose almost any hope of remaining in office at a difficult election long foreseen in reputable polling to herald likely defeat.

And the Nationals’ beloved “Royalties for Regions” project — which was the key to Barnett receiving their support in minority in 2008 — may well be an expensive fancy that is now completely unaffordable after the evaporation of the rivers of royalties gold that initially funded it, but Barnett’s open promise to all but abandon it is tantamount to a poke in the eye with a sharp stick on top of the brutal betrayal served up by the Liberals’ unwise preference arrangements with One Nation.

The deal with One Nation was all but invalidated anyway by Hanson’s demonstration, in front of TV cameras from the Perth media, of how to vote One Nation without helping to re-elect Barnett: a simple but lethal tutorial in the dangers of getting closer to Hanson’s protest party than the Liberals needed to.

And in any case, Barnett’s case for re-election — which in essence boils down to an appeal for support of the “trust us, we’ll be better than they will” variety — is an intangible offer that voters have no real way to either qualify or to quantify.

Indeed, his suggestion yesterday that Perth would grind to a halt — and that things would “stop happening” in WA — if the ALP is elected today carried with it the distinct whiff of desperation.

Of Labor, there is little to say, except that its case for government in 2017 is barely different than that offered four years ago.

Its leader, Mark McGowan, is at first glance an inoffensive and amenable character who doesn’t scare the horses. In practice, he is merely the latest in a long line of former union hacks and spivs served up to the electorate as a “man of the people” when in fact, he is no more than another Trades Hall stooge uninterested in all that much beyond the whims and decrees of his union masters.

The abortive coup last year — which purported to replace him with former federal minister Stephen Smith — offers a glimpse into just how securely McGowan is ensconced in his leadership: the odds on him being rolled as Premier, should he put a foot out of line in the eyes of his union overlords, are very high indeed, which is hardly an inspiring reality before the keys to the Premier’s suite on Harvest Terrace have even been secured.

And Labor’s signature Metronet initiative — buried by a frenzied Liberal Party attack in 2013 and mired in hitherto unresolved questions of its financial viability — is once again the centrepiece of McGowan’s pitch for votes in Perth.

I think the Newspoll finding of an 11% swing against Barnett is about right; the only real question in my mind is how it translates into seats, for the 57.3% scored by the Coalition in 2013 would, had the swing against Labor been more uniform, have yielded at least three more seats than it did, and possibly as many as five: in other words, Labor’s underlying starting position is stronger than the belting it received four years ago would suggest at first glance.

But I have grave doubts that Labor will prove any better than the Liberals in dealing with the huge debt racked up in the wake of the mining boom — a debt at least partly fuelled by Grylls’ expensive RfR scheme — and whilst an ALP Premier from WA will undoubtedly have his work cut out trying to wrest more money from a Coalition government in Canberra, the rhetoric from McGowan’s federal counterparts about not diverting funds from so-called “mendicant” states (Tasmania, South Australia) suggests the inclement weather of federal-state relations would not be improved by the arrival of a Labor government in Canberra, either.

There is however no point trying to sugar-coat the electoral wrecking ball that is about to slam into the WA Liberals with the impact of a force ten gale, and no credible way to suggest the carnage will not reverberate across the country in the same way their landslide win in 2013 probably sealed both the fate of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and of Labor itself in government nationally.

There are, however, a couple of improbable silver linings to wrest from the coming political disaster.

One — in a repeat of the pattern that followed One Nation’s unlikely success at the Queensland state election of 1998 — is the undeniable sign that having made real electoral inroads, the wheels on the One Nation cart are beginning to wobble; Hanson’s behaviour on the campaign trail, coupled with her unilateral disendorsement of a swag of candidates and the clear signs of trouble within her federal Senate team, shows once again that whilst One Nation may be able to secure a handful of seats through its destructive populist antics, it simply isn’t up to the responsibility that trust imposes upon it to act soberly, maturely, and rationally.

Hanson’s blatant denial of calling for GST revenues to be diverted from Queensland to WA, only for the footage of her doing so to be splashed across the media this week, is just one misstep that has contributed to the steady decline in the One Nation vote for today’s election, and which is likely to erode its support in the Sunshine State as Queenslanders too face a state election — perhaps within a matter of weeks.

And two, the unmitigated disaster today’s loss will force the Liberal Party to confront will have severe ramifications for the federal party’s standing. The already weak leadership of Malcolm Turnbull will be further compromised by a clear rejection of his party in one of its traditional strongholds. The magnitude of the defeat will be impossible to attribute to Barnett and his misfiring administration alone. Taken in aggregate with the Liberal Party’s loss of multiple seats in WA for the first time in 20 years at last year’s federal election, today’s fiasco will at best ram another nail into Turnbull’s political coffin, and at worst may trigger a move against him by his federal colleagues.

It is every bit as bad for the PM as that. Perversely, for the federal Liberals, the defeat could provide the impetus for something positive, although it remains to be seen whether they have the bottle or the stomach or the judgement to act on it.

But to paraphrase the 1991 horror flick The Silence of the Lambs, the lambs are crying; in this case they find form in the voters of Western Australia, and they are baying for blood. It is a Liberal government that now faces slaughter, and the violence of its executioners will leave the survivors with many wounds to lick.

I will be watching the count online after 9pm Melbourne time, but whichever way you cut it, tonight will be a very bad night indeed for the Liberal Party.

Unless the lessons from the debacle are quickly absorbed, and responded to astutely, many more will soon follow.

Battle Stations: Newspoll’s 55-45 To Labor A Call To Arms For The Liberals

THE CEASELESS fall in Coalition support under Malcolm Turnbull over the past year has continued in the latest Newspoll; now lagging by ten points, attempts to claim Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party remains viable are dubious indeed. It makes the changes called for in this column yesterday all the more urgent, and suggests that even if they are forthcoming, Turnbull — and the Coalition’s hold on government — may be doomed anyway.

Eight down, 22 to go…

Today’s Newspoll — published in The Australian, with comment and tables accessible here and here — might not be so bad for the Turnbull government if it had used the authority from its re-election last year to introduce a painful mini-budget, or some other measure to aright the haemorrhaging federal budget, or to do something to introduce a reform program, even if that proved unpopular; the problem of course is that in the aftermath of last year’s election, the government and the PM have little to no authority anyway, and the disastrous position they confront in the polls has been arrived at with virtually nothing to show for it.

My remarks this morning will be relatively brief (I am off to Sydney for the day, and have a plane to catch) but it does seem that the discussion opened in this column yesterday — calling for a radical overhaul of the way the Coalition is conducting itself in office, and the personnel with which it is doing so — was very timely indeed and, if anything, the findings of this latest Newspoll suggest the changes I called for are more urgently required than ever.

When we last had a Newspoll to dissect three weeks ago, I suggested Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party might be doomed, and have since opined that that poll represented the point at which he (and the government) might have passed the point of no return; today’s numbers will do little to ameliorate this growing perception, and it seems only a matter of time now before conservative Liberal MPs at least countenance a leadership change.

The two-party result of 55% recorded by Labor in today’s poll is the highest lead for the ALP since 2010, shortly after Julia Gillard called that year’s election; more ominously for the government, the primary vote it is harvested from — just 34% — is the lowest Coalition primary vote recorded by Newspoll since…well, since Malcolm was leading the Liberal Party last time, when a series of bad judgements and inadvisable pronouncements led to a collapse in the Coalition’s standing and prompted speculation then-PM Kevin Rudd would call a double dissolution election.

It all seems so long ago, but it all seems so fresh in the memory.

With just 29% of Newspoll respondents approving and 59% disapproving of Turnbull’s performance, the PM is now less popular than predecessor Tony Abbott prior to his overthrow at the hands of Turnbull’s minions in 2015: hardly a ringing endorsement of the wisdom of that change.

Even Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as “preferred PM” has continued to evaporate, and now stands at just 7%, and has gone from convincing, to solid, to now barely being “clear.”

There is a lot of comment (and not least in The Australian itself, which is decidedly pro-Turnbull in these matters) that the outburst last week from Tony Abbott, combined with a rise in support for One Nation, are responsible for the ongoing erosion of the government’s position, but I beg to differ: to all appearances, the Coalition isn’t behaving or acting like a government at all, and this — coupled with minor but high-impact events such as the defection of Cory Bernardi and the poor look of Turnbull’s confrontation with US President Donald Trump, no matter the spin placed upon them — are proving far more deleterious than the predictable musings of a disgruntled former PM.

In fact, just about the only bright spot for Turnbull today is the standing of opposition “leader” Shorten, whose net approval rating of -26% is barely better than Turnbull’s: yet the fact it is better at all, considering the low calibre of the opponent Turnbull faces, is an indictment in itself.

And as I have said for some time now, any move by the ALP to change leaders should be interpreted as a sign it is serious about winning the next election; with the ALP primary vote now back to 37% — the level at which Gillard was able to harvest a minority government, and its highest in some years — that time cannot be far away either.

This Newspoll also marks the point at which just one marker from Turnbull’s disastrous first stint as Liberal leader remains to be covered anew: the two-party result of 45% is a single percentage point better than the average result recorded between September 2008 and November 2009 of 44%. It is as bad now as that.

Suffice to say, it’s time for Turnbull to get his skates on if he wants to outrun a near-certain leadership challenge or, further down the track, a near-certain bloodbath at the polling stations.

The course of remedial action outlined in this column not just yesterday, but for months, is the only viable way in which Turnbull may salvage his Prime Ministership — and the only way any potential replacement may salvage the government’s standing at all.

But that would take common sense, hard work, the will to develop and fight for sweeping policy reform and, most importantly, the ability to connect with the electorate to sell it, and it is increasingly the case that none of these attributes appear evident even on a generous reading of the government’s strengths.

We are about to find out just how hungry Malcolm really is to remain Prime Minister, and just how important it is to Coalition MPs to stay in office beyond an election certain to occur by May 2019.

On the former count, I’m not convinced, but on the latter, the mutterers have been muttering now for some time. This morning, you can almost hear them sharpening their knives.

I will attempt to comment further when I get back from Sydney tonight, but if I miss, I will catch up with readers later in the week. Tomorrow and Wednesday see me on another trip — this time to Brisbane. Such is life. 🙂

Just Mad: Pauline Hanson’s Garbled, Incoherent “Plan” For Australia

FOR someone who’s had years to get her story straight — if, that is, she was ever serious about solving problems she whips up fear and discord around — the agenda Pauline Hanson has unveiled to fix Australia’s alleged ills is a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would do untold damage to this country. It underlines the fact that on matters of consequence, One Nation is just mad, bad, and downright dangerous.

Today’s article deals with a subject — Pauline Hanson — that is a perennial headache, an enigma, and a national embarrassment sprinkled with tiny kernels of justification; that said, the position of this column is (and always will be) that Hanson and her One Nation party, which attracts extremists, nutcases and ordinary folk who are fed up with mainstream politics in equal measure, must be neutralised and defeated at all costs.

Regular readers know that one of the central criticisms I have levelled at Hanson (who I know personally) is that she has always been adept at identifying “problems” — Aborigines, Asians, Muslims, single mothers, dole bludgers — but when it comes to offering “solutions,” Hanson has traditionally had nothing meaningful to say.

Until now.

I have read the rather generous profile piece being run in the state-based Murdoch mastheads today (and one in The Australian, too), in which Hanson outlines a manifesto (for want of a more suitable term) to “fix” Australia that — to be completely blunt — is a recipe for laying waste to it rather than rendering any remotely beneficial change.

Perhaps we should have been content to let her rail on about “problems,” and forget about seeking the “solutions” that might have spared her the criticism of being just another empty-handed troublemaker, content to foment paranoia and discord, whilst selling little more than snake oil and baseless prejudice.

Either way, the onus is now on the major parties — and the Liberal Party in particular — to systematically dismantle Hanson’s program and to show, unequivocally, that far from saving Australia it would, in fact, virtually destroy it.

Before we get started, I should remind readers that this column did in fact call for the Queensland LNP to strike a preference deal with One Nation for the looming state election (see here and here); whilst I stand by that call, it should be in no way construed or misrepresented as an endorsement.

Whether you like it or not, a disproportionate number of Coalition votes are fuelling the rise of One Nation, in the same way a disproportionate number of Labor votes fuelled the growth of the Communist Party Greens; whilst One Nation is a very different creature to the Liberal Party, the two are closer than One Nation is to the ALP, in the way Labor and the Greens are similarly closer than the Greens to the Liberals. It is high time the Coalition focused on discrediting the relationship between Labor and the Greens, ensuring as many One Nation votes as possible return to it on preferences, instead of self-immolating over the issue and becoming paralysed by inertia as a consequence.

But let’s be fair: Pauline Hanson has apparently done as this column has demanded, for the first time in almost 20 years of milking votes and electoral funding from a brazen dog whistle to every redneck idiot in the country, and put some policies on the table.

Let’s see how they stack up.

The 2% EzyTax proposal she apparently pins her economic credibility on is a stinker that has been doing the rounds of those looking for something jingoistic and idiot-simple to flaunt as “tax reform” for decades; I’ve seen it surface, for example, at the fringes of the Liberal Party repeatedly during 27 years as a member.

This silly notion — that literally every transaction of money should attract a 2% tax impost — may or may not lead to a zero-sum equation where total government revenue is concerned, or even yield more revenue; I’m not an economist and even if I was, I don’t have access to the kind of modelling that would provide a ready answer.

But some of the consequences are so blindingly obvious that anyone with a skerrick of understanding of economics — which Ms Hanson and her cohorts clearly do not possess — could foresee them.

In the short term, the effect of this policy would be to convey the appearance to consumers that their disposable incomes had rocketed; after all, income tax would fall to 2%, and GST would be abolished.

This would fuel a boom in imports and a steep hike in the inflation rate, as consumption ballooned; as consequent price growth accelerated to facilitate profit growth, wages would follow suit, locking in the kind of prices-wages spiral that afflicted the Australian economy during the Whitlam years and arguably took a decade to unpick.

In turn, this would leave the Reserve Bank with no choice but to start moving official interest rates steeply higher in a desperate attempt to choke the life out of an unsustainable price-wage-consumption bubble; and the effect of that would be to trigger a vicious contraction in the property market — perhaps inducing a recession — which would see potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs (to say nothing of the hard-earned wealth of Australian workers) lost.

Higher interest rates would also send the Australian dollar sharply higher, again mitigating against economic growth, this time by making Australian exports much more expensive.

Eventually, the adjustment — one way or the other — would be carried through.

But the permanent effects of this policy would be to devalue the savings of the ordinary people Hanson claims to want to help: every time they took money out of the bank, 2% would be added to the withdrawal; every time they deposited money, 2% of it would disappear. Whilst I support GST being extended to everything except healthcare, education, retail banking and housing, it is a paradox that most of those cheering Ms Hanson on are typically opposed to these basic services (and food) being taxed: under her policy, they would be.

With GST abolished, 2% EzyTax would make the states more reliant on Commonwealth handouts, not less, which in turn would make Commonwealth-state relations even more confrontational, and render the two tiers of government more inclined to playing each other off for partisan gain than they already are.

And all of this is merely represents the most obvious adverse effects of 2% EzyTax. There are bound to be countless others. Is this the kind of tax policy a modern, advanced, first-world economy should countenance? I suggest the answer, resoundingly, is “no.”

For a politician purporting to want to roll back the role of the state, Hanson offers other policies that are oxymoronic, to say the least.

She wants couples to be forced to lodge pre-nuptial agreements with the Family Court before they can marry: a ridiculous, unjustifiable imposition that in any case will cause the marriage rate to drop like a stone, in turn fuelling even greater burdens to befall the Court and the welfare system as de facto relationships are easier for people to walk away from, leading to a potential spike in single parent payments, protracted family law litigation, and the like.

(Speaking of children, these agreements are supposed to cover, in advance, arrangements for managing children that result from marriages. Just shake your head and invest in a pack of tarot cards: the reading will have as much chance as any other mechanism of getting that particular piece of silliness right).

She would unapologetically mire Australia in a reputation for sovereign risk, forcing foreign companies who have bought infrastructure assets into compulsory divestiture; it is unknown what Ms Hanson proposes to pay these companies to acquire them, but it’s a fair bet it would be a discount to their fair market value — compounding the dreadful reputation as a place to do business she openly advocates shackling Australia with.

In any case, government debt — another Hanson priority — would need to blow out exponentially in order to fund an acquisition program that would likely run to trillions of dollars.

With no sense of irony, Hanson claims she would offer a taxpayer-funded program to get young Australians into apprenticeships, apparently ignorant of the fact such schemes have existed for many years.

There is no detail offered around the notion of offering manufacturers tax incentives “to create Aussie jobs (sic),” but I would note that a) jobs presently filled by immigrants on 457 visas are typically jobs that others refuse to take, and that more to the point, b) the deleterious effects of Ms Hanson’s broader economic “vision” are likely to be so dire as to substantially reduce the base of potential employers in the first place.

Hanson says she would cull the number of politicians in Australia. How? As “Prime Minister” she would have no jurisdiction over state or local governments, and there isn’t a syllable in her announcement advocating, say, the removal of state governments and a streamlined two-tier system of governance.

Readers know I have advocated a referendum to abolish the “nexus” imposed by S24 of the Constitution (which dictates the House of Representatives be roughly double the size of the Senate) in order to reduce the number of Senators and increase the number of electorates in the lower house to enable better representation of a growing population, but this kind of complex argument appears beyond the capacity and/or inclination of Ms Hanson and her cohorts to attempt.

In other words, any move to implement this one-liner of populist nonsense is likely to bog down in constitutional litigation, a constitutional crisis, or both.

Limiting immigration is a classic calling card of far-Right entities appealing to base prejudices on the fringe of the electorate that raise more problems than they solve. With an ageing population (and fewer people to pay the taxes that support government expenditure), Australia relies on its immigration program for its viability. We do not have the critical mass of the 320 million people of the United States, or even of the 65 million people in the United Kingdom, but we do have a population that is rapidly becoming top-heavy with old people. A more credible proposal would be to alter the immigration mix to achieve a heavier emphasis on skills and less emphasis on family reunion, but even this straightforward distinction appears to be too much for Hanson and her party to draw.

And of course — as a token sop to racists (yes, racists) — full head coverings (read: the burqa or niqab) would be banned. I don’t like the sight of people covered from head to toe either. But this pledge, rather than ranking well down the pecking order of One Nation’s priorities, is in fact a headline act near the very top of the bill.

Ms Hanson wants a Royal Commission to determine whether “Islam” is a political ideology or a religion; this half-arsed suggestion is perhaps the greatest attempt to hoodwink the gullible and the stupid in this country in some time.

It fails to draw the distinction between militant, radical Islam (which aims to destroy the liberal democratic societies of the West) and more moderate, orthodox strains of Muslim doctrine (whose adherents don’t want to hurt anyone, and simply want to be left alone). Yet once again, the idiot-simple appeal to bigoted lunatics appears to hold more sway at One Nation than any attempt to prosecute a nuanced, finely argued case, separating extreme elements from the harmless, and coming up with constructive ways to deal with the former whilst leaving the latter well enough alone.

Hanson says she would introduce an identity card to end welfare fraud: not to stamp out identity fraud, which costs Australia billions of dollars per year, but to single out welfare recipients and to brand them all as bludgers and criminals who are on the take. In practical terms, this means those doing the wrong thing will simply have more hoops to jump through to get their welfare cheques (and as surely as night follows day, they will be prepared to jump through them).

There are indeed those who are rorting the welfare system to the cost of both working Australians and of those genuinely needy people who can’t help themselves, who might get more assistance if the Commonwealth wasn’t also supporting the indolent and the unmotivated. But this measure will not make a shred of difference (aside from adding to compliance costs) and, as I said, the real scourge of identity fraud would be relegated to an afterthought.

Apparently, One Nation wants to build more dams, railways, and ports. With what? After its compulsory asset acquisition program bankrupts the federal government, and sources of private sector capital flee Australia in panic, there won’t be any need for railways and ports because the country’s trade relationships will have been destroyed.

As for dams, which I support, good luck with that. After all, if One Nation can’t make a sensible case for anything else Hanson says it is advocating, there is no foreseeable way it can engage the Greens in a fight over damming rivers and come out on top.

On and on it goes; we could be here all day, if the blowtorch was applied to every aspect of this mad, bad, dangerous “vision” for Australia’s future, which in any case is nothing more than a step-by-step recipe to destroy the country Ms Hanson claims she wants to “save.”

Her adherents will lash out at my remarks, claiming they are just a manifestation of the “panic” sweeping major parties that are scared of her; I simply say that the points I have made are merely the tip of the iceberg in any concerted, rational, fact-based smackdown of an agenda that is lunatic in nature and a guaranteed way to wreck anything in its path.

And of course, the articles I’ve linked from the press today contain a healthy dose of the victim mentality on which Ms Hanson invariably trades; she’s had knockdowns. She’s been in prison. They haven’t beaten her. She’s got up again. They can throw everything at her. Blah, blah, blah. The irony is that nobody has ever really subjected Ms Hanson to the full force of a frontal assault over everything she stands for because until now, there has rarely (if ever) been a package of “solutions” put forward by her to take aim at.

Now, however, she has presented a much bigger target for her opponents to attack, and attack it they must: for these ideas are nothing short of ridiculous, and constitute a very dangerous delusion indeed about how this country works — and how the issues that face it can be managed.

It is true that Australia has problems, and readers have seen me repeatedly advocate a program for moderate, mainstream conservative solutions that would be difficult enough for a proper conservative government to implement in the face of irresponsible populism and blather from the likes of Bill Shorten and Labor, but which in any case are vastly more realistic and practicable than anything included in Pauline Hanson’s plan.

I have said before and will say again that Hanson herself isn’t a bad person; I genuinely think she means well. But she is very limited in both her ability to grasp critical issues and comprehend the ramifications of what she proposes, and whether she likes it or not, her voice — and the message of One Nation — are forces of destruction and conflict, rather than agents of anything positive or useful.

The agenda she has unveiled is nothing more than a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would inflict great damage on Australia’s institutions of governance, its economy, its standing in the world, and on Australian society itself.

Hanson has had decades to get her story straight, and if this is the best she can come up with, perhaps it would be better for all concerned if she slunk off into retirement like so many people of her age are doing.

Certainly, the very supporters looking to anyone who will listen to them would be best served if she and her party simply disappeared. It is just one more irony among many that her own supporters stand to be the hardest hit by the policies she now says she will pursue if ever (God forbid) she is elected to a position from which to implement them.

In the final analysis, One Nation is just mad: the Hanson announcement this weekend sounds a clarion call to all parties to tackle this menace once and for all, and to drive from Australian politics a scourge that has been permitted to fester and ensconce itself as a legitimate offering for far too long.

“Responsible” Urgings To Put One Nation Last Are Political Stupidity

THE DEFECTION of an inconsequential, two-bit monument to mediocrity to One Nation notwithstanding, this column maintains that Queensland’s LNP should place both the ALP and Greens below One Nation on how-to-vote cards for the looming state election; the outrage over Steve Dickson’s defection to the far Right party should not cloud the fact supposedly “responsible” observers are using One Nation to goad the LNP into electoral suicide.

It is a very quick post from me this morning; quite simply, I have to go to my office today.

But when you look at what some sneering southern commentators described, for a time, as “the other Australia” — that portion of the country located beyond the usually smugly Left-entrenched citadels of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania — it isn’t hard to see how a disastrous hegemony of Labor state governments came to exist during the 2000s: and how it still persists in South Australia and Victoria today.

Reader have seen two posts from me in the past week dealing with matters afoot in Queensland: one, arguing that the conservative LNP should exchange preferences with One Nation at the looming state election; and two, a scathing piece after the defection of forgettable LNP MP Steve Dickson to the fringe party on the crass pretext of medicinal cannabis.

There is no reason, based in logic, emotion or fact, to suggest that the rabid cabal of fruit cakes at the Communist Party Greens is any better than or different to One Nation in terms of the odious nature of their policies and the insidious presence they represent in Australian politics at any level.

Yet as readers have heard me lament too often — albeit correctly — the Coalition parties, of which Queensland’s LNP is one, couldn’t articulate the desire to purchase sexual services in a brothel if they tried: so defective are their ability to communicate much at all, let alone sell anything, and political strategy and tactics are concepts that all too often might as well be alien to these entities.

Today, an article has appeared in the Courier Mail, this time from generally respected Brisbane political scientist Paul Williams, who makes the spurious case that because one of its MPs has leapt into bed with Pauline Hanson’s nascent outfit, the LNP would be “insane” to preference One Nation after the event.

But this type of argument ignores reality, and the behaviour of the ALP in seeking and accepting preferences from the Greens for decades.

The Greens (and this is an old story) essentially wish to de-industrialise the West — despite whatever feeble rhetoric they offer by way of denial — and despite the territorial risk the Greens pose to Labor, as they seek to devour everything that lies in their path, Labor invariably preferences the Greens above the Coalition and its related entities in almost 100% of cases, as well as pocketing the almost 80% of Greens preferences that are available to it at elections across the country.

So addicted to Greens preferences votes is Labor that in Queensland, it has also rigged the state’s electoral system to ensure it gets them.

I don’t like One Nation any more than I like the Greens, and whilst I regard the Greens with a contempt that is no less than a party of hard socialism deserves, it worries me that people voting for One Nation out of the desperation that follows the fact they believe nobody else listens to them could place their trust and faith in a false messiah like Pauline Hanson and the irresponsible messages she send to milk votes, a public profile, and public election funding.

But their votes are no less valid than anyone else’s: and that includes those cast for the Greens, as offensive and downright dangerous as that party is.

Nobody has ever held Labor to account for the cottage industry of harvesting Greens votes, and as things stand, nobody from the major parties is ever likely to; indeed, the ALP is unlikely to ever revisit this dirty little arrangement.

But there are those who now seek to goad the LNP into a political catastrophe, urging it to eschew One Nation votes on “principle,” when any reciprocal application of such a virtue would and should see the ALP drop the Greens like a hot brick — and seek to preference it out of existence.

I don’t know if Dr Williams has a particular penchant for ALP administrations elected in a landslide, but if he doesn’t, a quick look at history is instructive: the Coalition’s loss of government in WA in 2001, Queensland in 1998 and in the NT in 2001, along with Coalition wipeouts in Queensland in 2001 and NSW in 1999, were the direct result of exactly the behaviour he now advocates in Queensland.

Whilst One Nation will never win enough support to win an election outright (or even as the senior partner in a coalition, if anyone is silly enough to form one with it), it has a demonstrated history of destroying the electoral prospects of those who preference against it — and if “everyone” preferences against One Nation, it takes aim first and foremost against those parties it can inflict the heaviest damage on, and those are the Liberal and National parties (and the LNP).

Tim Nicholls and his associates should ignore the urgings of people like Paul Williams, and seek to harvest all the preferences from One Nation they can.

After all, defeat beckons if they follow this “principled” advice; it would be defeat of epic proportions, and a loss it would take another decade from which to recover.

But this may be exactly what the “principle” merchants want, for seven years in WA, 16 in NSW and 14 years in Queensland were the tenures of the resulting state Labor governments.

If the LNP wants to hold office in the Sunshine State this side of 2025, it would be well advised to ignore the rantings of those who seek to harm it, and — the outrage of Dickson aside — do the deal that will at the very minimum mitigate the electoral damage that One Nation would almost certainly otherwise inflict.

Qld LNP’s One Nation Defector Not Worth A Pinch Of Shit

THE NEWS Queensland MP Steve Dickson has defected to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation — on the laughable pretext he’ll be deputy Premier — has nowt to do with “principle” and even less to do with Ms Hanson or One Nation. Despite a ridiculous excuse about legalising medicinal cannabis, Dickson is merely the latest clump of faeces with deluded ideas about his own importance and in reality, isn’t even worth a pinch of shit. Good riddance.

Nobody denies there is an awful lot wrong with conservative politics in Australia at the moment — the Prime Minister himself is walking, talking proof of it — but the one thing worse than the wrong people running the show attempting to take voters for fools is when some thoroughly unimportant speck of fly shit does it, and masquerades the act as “principle.”

I’ve heard some strange reasons for walking away from the Liberal Party over the years, but the inability to peddle dope has never been one of them, until now; the claim by LNP turncoat and general shitbag Steve Dickson — that he defected yesterday to One Nation because it would give the terminally ill access to medicinal cannabis — ranks as one of the lamest, most ludicrous and contemptible excuses for treachery and disloyalty I have come across in more than 30 years’ association with the Liberals.

Mind you, I’m not completely unsympathetic to arguments about legalising cannabis for medical purposes within a strictly regulated and controlled framework, and I too think more can be done to ease the suffering of the terminally ill, but any member of Parliament who walks away from the party they arguably owe their career to over such an issue — and to a party of the far Right, no less — either stands for very little at all and/or is simply taking the piss.

In the case of Dickson, it is arguably both.

But first things first: readers can peruse a selection of the Murdoch coverage of this issue here and here, and the Fairfax press’ take on it here and here, and my earliest reaction on hearing the news that Dickson had defected yesterday was to mentally lump him in with the likes of Martin Hamilton-Smith — whose bald ambition and pay cheque chasing saw him all but join the ALP nearly three years ago — and another LNP defector in Alex Douglas, whose gullibility was such that he actually believed Clive Palmer would make him Premier of Queensland.

Yes, people really are this stupid.

And stupidity is the order of the day in Steve Dickson’s case, for it appears he has spent some time bragging to his LNP colleagues that he is set to become deputy Premier of Queensland — presumably, that is, if One Nation were to win the looming state election.

One Nation is not — I repeat, is not — going to win a state election, in Queensland or anywhere else, and anyone who thinks it will is just as deluded as Dickson is.

It is not going to win an election in Queensland or anywhere else: not now, not ever.

One Nation could conceivably wreak havoc at a Queensland state election, and tear the LNP apart: much as it did cumulatively across the 1998 and 2001 state elections, but it will not win; rather, the greater its impact, the likelier it is that the ALP will romp home — preferential voting or not — and for a party that claims Labor is its “enemy,” the shortsightedness of people like Dickson in joining it is stultifying.

From 11 years in Parliament, Dickson boasts one very mediocre stint as a junior minister in the government of Campbell Newman to his credit; he may or may not be a half-decent local MP (and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be one of those) but for “star” quality, Dickson has none.

If anyone at One Nation has promised him the deputy premiership — not that they will ever be in a position to gift it to him — then Dickson has fallen prey to the most cynical (and cheapest) form of flattery on the planet if he thinks he can believe it.

LNP leader Tim Nicholls got it bang on the money when he said Dickson’s defection had nothing to do with medicinal cannabis, noting that Dickson had “selfishly put his own interests ahead of the good people of his electorate.”

With an additional year to run on his current term — unless an early election intervenes, which seems likely — there is nothing remotely honourable or praiseworthy about using that term, arguably obtained on false pretences and using the resources, brand and money of the party he now seeks to disavow, to benefit another party that as at today’s date has exactly zero elected authority from the people of Queensland at a state level.

However, having a taxpayer-funded electorate office to work out of, with all the taxpayer-provided resources at the disposal of a sitting MP to fight an election with, is a boon One Nation probably can’t believe it has secured for nothing more than a promise of promotion it cannot and will never have to deliver on.

If this bozo was as good as his “principles,” he would vacate his seat of Buderim and fight out a by-election for it. That would cost money, however, which I doubt One Nation is flush enough with to throw $150k at a by-election, and it would almost certainly result in his defeat.

I tend to think he will be defeated anyway — the Sunshine Coast hinterland isn’t at the top of the list of regions that swung to One Nation in 1998, and any federal pointers drawn from the seat of Longman last year probably had as much to do with distaste for its puerile adolescent former MP than with anything else.

Dickson has asked the LNP, and his former colleagues, not to regard him as “the enemy.” Were I in their shoes, my only response would be to tell him to get fucked.

With media across the country noting that as recently as October, Dickson was publicly declaring himself “loyal” and a “team player,” so far as I am concerned he is no longer entitled to any commensurate respect given he has so starkly revealed himself to be neither of those things.

Dickson has probably quietly congratulated himself on being so “clever” as to give Nicholls just 15 minutes’ warning of the press announcement of his defection and, to be sure, it caught Nicholls on the hop, forcing him to return to work from his holidays early.

But to everyone else watching, it merely reinforced the grimy, opportunistic (and amateurish) appearance Dickson’s actions convey.

The simple truth is that right now, One Nation is polling 15% in reputable polls measuring state voting intention in Queensland; come polling day it may be 20%; it may be 10%. But it will not be enough to win an election.

Dickson — apparently now the champion of an issue the Communist Party Greens have championed since their long-ago days as tree-hugging, do-nothing environmentally obsessed ratbags — has, on the specious pretext of “principle,” deserted the pre-eminent party of the mainstream right for the lunatic vehicle of the hard Right.

If he proves unwilling to adopt the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, pro-gun catechisms of his new anti-reality friends, Dickson will soon find out that his new friends don’t like him any more than the old ones he shat upon yesterday from a great height.

And whilst compulsory preferential voting will shield the LNP to some extent from the split in the vote on the Right that may have cost it even more seats under OPV, Dickson has probably driven a slew of city voters directly into the ALP’s arms by his actions: and for that, he will be heavily culpable if Labor is re-elected later this year.

As I said at the outset, nobody denies there is a great deal wrong on the conservative side of politics in Australia at the moment, and within the Liberal Party (or LNP, in Queensland’s case) in particular.

Just as the apparent hard Right version of “a conservative party” Cory Bernardi and his acolytes seem certain to launch early this year is no answer, the false messiahs of the far Right — Pauline Hanson first and foremost — will deliver nothing constructive either.

In fact, in One Nation’s case, it is unlikely to deliver anything at all, for there is a limit to how many people can be hoodwinked into supporting such poorly contrived and ill-conceived slogans, xenophobic and anarchic as they are, that could never fulfil the requirements of government if the party were to be elected: which it won’t be.

I am sorry to labour that point, but with electoral behaviour something of a specialty, I have no qualms in stating unequivocally that One Nation will not form government anywhere in Australia at any time.

There are those who have never been involved in politics prior to their association with One Nation, and whilst I disagree with their chosen party, my next point does not apply to them.

But those who have spent years (or, as in Dickson’s case, decades) as members of the Liberal Party (or the LNP) would serve themselves, their party, and ultimately their constituents far more effectively by trying to fix their party from within, rather than taking actions that will not only trash it, but help entrench Labor in power for a generation.

This is all too hard for people like Dickson, who — like Hamilton-Smith, Douglas, and countless others like them — would rather choose the seemingly free ticket to Easy Street than do the hard work required to actually earn it.

People of Buderim, take note: Dickson has shown himself unworthy, and untrustworthy, to be given the renewed privilege of representing the 30,000-odd voters who make up a seat in the Queensland state Parliament these days.

In fact, Dickson isn’t worth a pinch of shit at all: not to the LNP, not to his new chums at One Nation, and most certainly not to the electors of the seat of Buderim.

All he amounts to in the big scheme of things is the latest clump of faeces, diabolically misled about the degree of self-importance he should apportion himself, whose expedience and nihilism is being masqueraded as principle when he has shown that he doesn’t actually have any.

It is to be hoped — to continue the metaphor — that the good burghers of Buderim flush what’s left of his political career away whenever the field trip to the ballot box occurs.

Good riddance.

 

 

In Dealing With Pauline Hanson, Remember Rob Borbidge

With hysteria levels in nominally conservative circles approaching fever point on the question of precisely what to do about Pauline Hanson, I thought it instructive to repost an article originally published in August, in the aftermath of the federal election.

It does seem that every time I think the planets are aligning to permit me more time for publishing comment, something new emerges from other quarters: and to this end, spending most of last week interstate, combined with more interstate work before Christmas and a slew of commitments outside business hours over the next few weeks, it means our regular conversation will have to wait.

For now, I encourage everyone to contemplate afresh the initial thoughts on Pauline Hanson winning four Senate spots and with them, partial control of the balance of power in the upper house; One Nation now stands to inflict great damage on all who stand in its way, beginning with a state election in Queensland next year.

For the major parties, and the Liberal Party especially, cooler heads — and far more refined levels of astute judgement — will be paramount in heading off this insidious electoral threat.

YS

The Red And The Blue

COALITION MPs who think Pauline Hanson must be vilified and her party smashed must reconsider; the inherent risks in any attempt at accommodation of the right-wing party are tempered by the dangers of literally ignoring it. A procession of state Coalition figures 15 years ago — headed by former Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge — offers an object lesson in the consequences of crucifying Hanson, One Nation, and the people who vote for it.

If there’s one thing that has generally been missed in much of the published commentary since last month’s election, it’s that the overall swing that occurred — in raw terms — was to the Right, the success of Nick Xenophon in South Australia notwithstanding, rather than to the Left.

Certainly, it’s the ALP and Bill Shorten who ostensibly emerge as the biggest winners and, in the House of Representatives at least, this is also certainly true; Labor now requires just seven additional…

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