by Dr Mark Hayes
Who still hasn’t seen or heard any campaign ads on TV or radio, actively avoids them, and whose most reliable election guide has for years been ‘his water’.
Some brief UpDates ~ Tuesday, January 27 ~
That George Harrison ear worm ~ Sue You Sue Me Blues ~ got worse overnight, and it really is lawyers at ten paces now. This could be a very interesting distraction, with fallout well after the election too, because it sort-of folds into the ALP union laundered bikie gang cash stash caper (more below).
While not reaching for a lawyer, independent Nicklin MLA, Peter Wellington, who knows a lot about how the game is played, and about hung parliaments too, is referring Campbell Newman to the Queensland Electoral Commission over the LNP’s threat not to look after electorates that vote “incorrectly”.
John Birmingham’s gone out of his tree in defence of Mr Strong Choices, who, he declares, really does love us but is hurting because enough of us don’t seem to love him. Calm down, Birmo. It won’t be that bad for Muscles, will it? I’m sort of reminded of one of my less favorite Eastern European communist dictators, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who, apparently, when overlooking a seething crowd of angry Romanians, remarked to his fawning entourage, “See! My people really do love me”. A short while later, he and his equally loathsome wife, ended up against the wall.
If you’re really desperate to follow all the action, try Brisbane Times’ rolling updates, The Courier-Mail (might be paywalled after several visits though), and they’ve gone to an Oracle who ponders why the LNP’s campaign seems to have come unglued.
Dr Mark Branisch reckons that, despite what my water is telling me, and Antony Green’s always erudite psephology is telling him, Labor might still be able to win. The key, he suggests, might lie in preference swaps or deals, new candidates, and retiring MLAs relinquishing their personal recognition and incumbency dividends.
UQ’s Dr John Harrison detects the calming hands of Crosby Textor behind the LNP’s Operation Boring strategy, which they momentarily dumped last week, as I cataloged below. By Australia Day, Mr Newman reversed tack so sharply he seriously annoyed the press pack by refusing to answer any questions except about Strong Choices, jobs, and jobs and Strong Choices.
And the citizen journalism site, No Fibs really is doing an excellent curating and aggregating service, pulling together heaps of material from mainstream and social media, including some delicious pictures and tweets.
Read on for some of the excitement, fear, loathing, and weirdness up to sunset, January 26, 2015 ~
(Apologies for no pictures but I’ll get them up soon.)
I have a feeling in my water about this election.
The LNP will win, and that’s stating the bloody obvious given the massive swing needed to unseat them. And when the LNP Government is triumphantly restored to its rightful place, Queensland will be in for a revolution.
Apologies in advance, but I’ll explain my thinking in a later piece.
Just as the Abbott Government’s real policies are contained in the Recommendations of the National Commission of Audit, and therein lies the basis of much of the angst and grief, much self-created, being endured by the Abbott Government as it tries to implement at least the less politically toxic parts of those Recommendations, the Newman Government’s real policies are contained in the Costello-chaired Commission of Audit Recommendations.
From these, we got Strong Choices, the Newman Government’s Plan for Queensland, the central part of which are asset sales, err, sorry, 99 year asset leases, which will get Queensland out of debt, restore our AAA credit rating, and fund a future of prosperity and security, and everything.
Real and UnReal Jobs Lost & Found, Sort-Of
A point which has been neglected in the campaign, but which bears close interrogation in all the hyperbole about all jobs being, to be, will be, created, is what the Newman Government regards as ‘real jobs’.
Back on January 8, 2015, which seems almost like ancient history such is the excitement we’ve been having since, Brisbane Times’ Amy Remeikis and others reported Mr Newman as saying: “Real jobs are created in the real economy, in businesses and particularly in small businesses, they are not created by government authorities and Comcos”..
“They are created by business conditions that are conducive and situations where there are long-term plans to support those businesses. That is how you get job creation in Australia and indeed any western free market democracy,” Mr Newman said.
Huh? So people employed in government or state owned or operated workplaces, like public schools, public hospitals, the police force, or even the public service, minus the 14,000 or so Mr Newman sacked during his first year in office, are not working in the ‘real economy’ doing ‘real jobs’. So what the hell are they doing?
There are always some curmudgeons, and these include UQ’s Professor John Quiggin (the story is from the Queensland Country Life newspaper, reprinting a Brisbane Times piece from January 12, so these dissident ideas are getting around regional Queensland). QUT’s Dr Mark McGovern is also highly skeptical of both the LNP and ALP’s plans for the Queensland economy too.
And no; I’m not channeling Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen on the night the National Party won government in its own right in October, 1983, who had ‘some wonderful news for Queensland’.
We all know how that eventually ended, don’t we, for Sir Joh and the National Party, and the echoes and ricochets from the Fitzgerald Inquiry are still bouncing around Queensland governance.
How these echoes and ricochets are hitting the campaign in its last week deserves closer attention, which I’ll give in my next piece.
Working through some ‘conventional wisdom’ first.
The ABC’s indefatigable Antony Green has crunched the numbers, reviewed his history, and here’s his always thoroughly forensic overview. And he’s added his “bellwether” Electorates, the ones he reckons bear close watching.
“The odds on the LNP being re-elected are overwhelming, but it is a realistic possibility that the Government will be returned without its Premier,” Mr Green concludes.
Vote Incorrectly, your MLA has no Strong Plan, so No Government Goodies
And Premier Newman explicitly warned that any electorate voting incorrectly would not get any of the promised goodies he’s been spruiking, and which would be funded from asset sales, er, sorry, asset leases. He was speaking in Toowoomba: “”I think it is quite reasonable for me to say that if an LNP candidate or member who has put forward a strong plan is not elected, it is quite reasonable for me to say that whoever then is the MP might have [a] completely different set of priorities,” he said.
Unpack that if you dare. We assume, then, that if Mr Newman’s electorate of Ashgrove votes “incorrectly”, the $18 million of goodies he’s promised them will evaporate and Ms Jones will deliver bugger all because she ‘might have [a] completely different set of priorities’.
Perhaps Mr Newman was issuing a threat to voters to “vote correctly or else” ~ to the victors the spoils ~ or explaining a basic ‘mandate theory’ of politics ~ those who voted for the winning party get to do what they like (within particular social tolerances) to those who didn’t. Or perhaps he was just being unusually brutally honest.
If you desperately want minute by minute reportage of the first Leader’s Debate on Friday evening, January 23, try The Brisbane Times or The Guardian. Depending on who you take seriously, the debate was a tedious tie, with neither side really knocking the other down, or a resounding win for Mr Newman.
Some brief weirdness, with added crocodiles, comes later.
The citizen journalism site, No Fibs, continues its very helpful collation and aggregation of election reportage, and the ABC continues to collate its election stories on the entry page to the 2015 Queensland Election.
Play around with Mr Green’s calculator and you’ll see the ALP has to get a 11.5% swing on a two party preferred basis to equal the LNP, and that would result in a hung parliament with deals being done between both major parties, minority parties, and independents to either form government or just to get legislation through on a piece by piece basis. That also assumes nobody drops dead, has to resign due to illness or scandal, or stalks off in a snit to join the cross benchers. Recall the grief a single disaffected Liberal caused the Napthine Government in Victoria in its final year.
Both the LNP and ALP have solemnly asserted they’re not going to do deals with minority parties in the event of a hug parliament, though nobody seriously believes them. The LNP has gone further, warning voters of the dire consequences of a hug parliament. So too has business, which is hardly surprising. And the Courier-Mail helpfully profiled possible independents and balance of power holders as a ‘motley crew’.
Engineering & Plotting for a Hanging
All these solemn warnings about ‘not wanting to govern with independent’s help’, ‘refusing to do deals with cross benchers’, and so on, invoked, in my mind anyway, a dastardly voter conspiracy being hatched, like climate change deniers ascribe to climate scientists, with hordes of voters all getting together in the modern equivalent of smoke filled hotel back rooms, attics, or basements, On Line chat rooms, Blogs, e-mail Lists, and the like, preference whispering their votes in key seats in sufficient and sufficiently targeted numbers to seriously make a difference, such as engineering a hung parliament.
Given the complexity of the Australian Senate voting system, that’s entirely possible, witness the 2013 outcome. But not in Queensland, though there have, apparently, been meetings between some minor parties and the preference whisperer.
Now, my friends know I like a good conspiracy theory, but it had better be a really good one, which is deeply based in verifiable data, internally consistent, convincingly set out and told, but with just sufficient weirdness to throw a dissonant note or spin on what’s pretty obvious, like who really fired the fatal shots in Dealey Plaza, Oswald from the sixth floor, a Mafia or CIA sniper on the grassy knoll, a secret service agent’s dropped or fumbled loaded rifle from the following vehicle, or a combination. My favorite conspiracy theory remains Alternative 3, because it ticks all the boxes for a really good one, and its appeal is renewed because of climate change. Now, about those alleged Moon landings…
But sufficient hordes of voters across sufficient key electorates to, together and with malice aforethought, plot, scheme, and actually vote to achieve a hung parliament as the 2015 election outcome, that’s an evolving conspiracy theory which just does not cut it, at least to my standards.
So, my water tells me, ‘Forget about a hung parliament’. The swing to Labor and enough minor parties to result in a hung parliament is too great, even allowing for significant voter unease with the Newman Government. But the LNP and Campbell Newman are sufficiently worried to urge voters to Just Vote 1 for LNP candidates in Queensland’s optional preferential voting system, which the ABC’s Antony Green explains in his usual forensically clarifying way. With the explicit threat from Premier Newman of not getting any goodies if an electorate votes incorrectly.
Climate Change is not a ‘Quasi-Religious Belief’
Before we leave conspiracy theories, but there’s more coming, promise, Deputy Premier Seeney absolutely, positively, did not describe climate change as a ‘quasi-religious belief’. “Allan Sutherland, of the Moreton Bay Regional Council north of Brisbane, stated Mr Seeney made the comment during a discussion about the council’s regional plan in October. The meeting was also attended by four council officials,” the ABC’s Mark Willacy and Mark Solomons, reported. “”I did not say that. What I’ve said to the Mayor of the Moreton Bay Regional Council is that he should stop playing politics with this issue and try and find a resolution that protects the property values of the 7,500 people who have objected to his town plan,” Mr Seeney said.
The council had inserted clauses in its development plan, which made reference to the risks of sea level rise amplified by climate change for coastal properties and developments, which Mr Seeney, who’s also Development Minister, insisted be removed. The Insurance Council of Australia has been warning about this for years, and coastal local government authorities likewise, because they could face very significant liabilities for approving developments later rendered uninhabitable or worthless decades hence.
I am not aware, and nobody else seems aware either, of any really interesting ructions or local campaigns which, like Indi in northern Victoria in 2013, produced the most interesting outcome of that Federal election when independent, Ms Cathy McGowan, narrowly unseated Sophie Mirabella with a 9.2% swing in a usually safe rural Liberal seat following a fascinating grassroots campaign well reported on citizen journalism site No Fibs.
I’ve been looking for any stirrings in rural seats affected by coal seam gas exploration, such as Beaudesert, Dalrymple, Mulgrave, Nanango, Warrego, and Condamine, but so far, nothing of any concern to sitting members, though Mulgrave is marginal ALP and Dalrymple is safe Katter’s Australia Party. Though the ABC is reporting some stirrings in Nanango over the extension of the New Ackland coal mine, about which Alan Jones has been ranting (more below too).
Warrego, a very safe LNP seat has Mark O’Brien, who polled well as an Independent in 2012 now standing for the ALP against Ann Leahy, the former and retiring LNP MP, Howard Hobbs’, electorate secretary.
None of these seats will change hands though Mulgrave, held by ALP shadow treasurer, Curtis Pitt, deserves watching. The ALP narrowly won on KAP preferences, and Mr Pitt is facing former KAP member Dr Damien Byrnes, now standing as an independent.
I’ll get to just why there seems to be no significant stirrings over CSG later too.
While I approach opinion polls with a highly informed skepticism, knowing how they are assembled and then interpreted, often badly, sometimes in ways that would get a sociology honors student failed in Stats 101 (I know, I was once one who nearly did fail Stats 101), this close to election day, I’m seeing them come home for the LNP.
Crikey’s Poll Bludger aggregates and interrogates the polls as they are released and a consistent pattern, one well understood, is emerging a week out from polling day ~ the advantage of incumbency. Even in Campbell Newman’s seat of Ashgrove, polls are showing the ALP’s Kate Jones won’t necessarily be a shoe in regicide.
Weirdness & Crocodiles on the Campaign Trail
Wouldn’t be a Queensland election campaign without some weirdness, would it.
Election campaigns are, by definition, weird, and being on the campaign trail with one of the leaders is, depending on your perspective, a version of Purgatory (at least you know when the torment will end), or a Magical Mystery Tour because the minders and managers never tell you where we’re all going next or what we’re doing when we get there except it will be Amazing Scenes, including Politicians Saying And Looking At Things and Politicians Meeting Carefully Vetted Real People. The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour reported on A Day On The Trail With Annastacia Palaszczuk, including crocodiles. And in the interests of balance, Joshua Robertson tagged along with Campbell Newman. Different locations and itineraries, pretty much the same control and management to prevent Something From Happening.
But then there’s Alan Jones
Alan Jones has been on 4BC railing against the Newman Government, focusing on alleged lies about the expansion of the New Acland Coal Mine in the Darling Downs. Crikey had an interesting analysis of Jones’ likely impact (paywalled, but take out a guest subscription, or actually subscribe; I do). The Brisbane Times folded Jones’ intervention with that of former LNP Stafford MLA and junior minister, Dr Chris Davis, to suggest that both are feeding into voter’s unease with the Newman Government for its arrogance and intolerance of opposition, despite the government’s pursuit of Operation Boring for much of 2014.
In case one has been hiding under a rock for a decade or so, The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour helps out by probing Jones’ recognition factor in Rockhampton and Brisbane, and QUT’s Dr Jason Sternberg adds his not inconsiderable wisdom as a media scholar to her analysis.
I haven’t heard anything of Jones on 4BC because I never listen to commercial radio and have a profound objection to being treated like an idiot and shouted at, but in the course of other research, have caught up with some of his extraordinary rants against CSG and mining companies muscling their legal ways into farming communities. The superficially unlikely alliance between Lock the Gates’ Drew Hutton and Jones, well remembered and, in many quarters, loathed, because of his misogynistic attacks on Julia Gillard, is not so unlikely when it is probed more deeply.
Imagine our shock, dear devoted Radio National listeners, when Mr Jones appeared on RN Breakfast on Friday morning, January 23, to be put mercilessly to The Question by guest presenter, Hamish McDonald, about why he’s gone all Greenie and is sinking his fangs into LNP Premier Newman.
Gonna Sing Those Sue Me Sue You Blues
But then things got a bit serious later that damp and drizzling Friday Brisbane morning, Newman and Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney reached for their lawyers and commenced defamation action against Jones and 4BC for the horrible, dastardly, contumelious, and grievously untrue things Jones had been saying about them on 4BC. By week’s end, more politicians, including Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, and at least one senior public servant, Director-General of the Premier’s Department, Jon Grayson, were reportedly also joining the defamation action against Jones. The ABC helpfully published Mr Newman’s and Mr Seeney’s Statement of Claim.
At least the LNP is funding the action, and not the Queensland taxpayer, though we’d be paying for any senior public servant’s action.
Given that only a tiny fraction of defamation actions ever lodged with the courts gets anywhere near a stern and unsmiling judge, most lapse, a few quietly settled out of court, this one almost certainly won’t provide ‘entertainment’ several months, more likely years, later. Even if Clive Palmer’s offer to fund Jones’ legal fees is taken up. The point is to shut Jones up, otherwise Jones could be held in contempt of court because the matter is now legally afoot.
But reaching for your lawyer, even if the point is really to shut one of your high profile critics up for the duration of an election campaign, and then let the matter quietly lapse, brings not a few risks.
While reaching for his lawyers, Mr Newman really should, in the interests of consistency, come for the Queensland Police Union’s Ian Leavers, who accused him of lying over funding for alcohol free or Safe Night Out precincts. All a misunderstanding, Mr Newman eventually explained.
And another target really should be lawyer, Richard Carew, who accused Newman of lying about renewal of sand mining leases on Stradbroke Island, and the publisher of those aspersions, Fairfax’s Brisbane Times, too.
And Mr Newman and co had also better come for Dr Chris Davis too.
But here’s the kind of Sue Me Sue You Blues of which the LNP and Mr Newman would probably approve.
Anybody looking for any weirdness out in Lockyer, should look at the contest between the LNP’s incumbent, Ian Rickuss, and the KAP’s David Neuendorf, not because the LNP will lose this seat, but because KAP did surprisingly well in 2012, though its preferences largely went to the LNP. You won’t get any weirdness out of Pauline Hanson.
Lockyer is also momentarily interesting because of some stirrings of opposition to CSG exploration and mining, including a visit there late in 2014 by Alan Jones on behalf of Lock the Gates.
The Impertinence of Some Reporters
Some serious weirdness occurred in the southern Gold Coast seat of Mermaid Beach, held by the LNP’s Ray Stevens on 26%. He’s also an assistant minister and Leader of the House, so he’s no lightweight. When he was bailed up by a journalist from the Independent Australia, he went buggo, and the video, helpfully shot by a campaign worker, quickly went viral. One was reminded of the great 1960s comedy singer of the same name. But Brisbane Times’ Amy Remeikis reckoned that Mr Stevens, MLA, was on to something, at least being honest with a pesky reporter asking questions about his business interests.
I mean, really, with his extremely comfortable margin, why should Mr Stevens have to put himself through all this campaigning nonsense, including being asked questions by an impertinent journalist from some flakey On Line waste of electrons. “It’s pretty funny though, I’ve got to say, a bit odd and perhaps a lot of people out there will set the video to some music,” Newman said while flying back to Brisbane from Cairns. Try the original Ray Stevens’ Guitarzan.
Yeah. A real hoot what those LNP Gold Coast politicians get up to at times.
Further north on the Glitter Strip, LNP MLA for Broadwater, Verity Barton, had to admit she’d lost her driver’s license twice for not paying tolls, and is facing community objection to a cruise ship terminal and residential development off the Broadwater, as John-Paul Langbroek, LNP Education Minister and neighboring Surfers Paradise MLA had reinforced at a community forum.
Who’s Best at Catching Crocodiles
Meanwhile, as The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour carefully reported, “In the campaign universe of forced small talk, smiling and nodding for the cameras and never, ever letting your guard down, the fact that you do not want children eaten by crocodiles is a perfectly reasonable thing to make sure you publicly state your position on”. Quite so too.
But if you were still undecided, particularly in Queensland’s crocodile country, vote LNP because they’ve caught more crocks than the ALP ~ 110 since March, 2012, versus 13 up to March 2012 ~ so there. The LNP’s Strong Policies even take crocodiles into account.
That’s real crocodiles, mind, big bitey wriggly ones, lurking in rivers and creeks, and not bikie gangs.
The Bikie Gangs & The ALP
At the Friday, January 23, Leader’s Debate, Mr Newman, almost as a throwaway line, suggested that the ALP was going soft on outlaw bikie gangs and had promised to repeal the anti-bikie laws because it was receiving donations from gangs.
“We know criminal motorcycle gangs are backing you, how do you know they’ve made no donations to the CFMEU?” Mr Newman asked. “Have you got clean money?”
Opposition leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, vigorously denied the claim, and asked about the LNP’s donations from mining companies.
The Australian’s Michael McKenna, very helpfully explained from whence, and how much, the LNP was probably getting in donations.
But Premier Newman kept repeating the claim of bikie money sloshing around the ALP on Saturday, January 24, and, when pressed, told reporters to ‘Google it’.
“You’ve got a smartphone there right now, try it, try Googling CFMEU bikie links and see what comes up. There’s a report when I looked at that by an ABC journalist reporting on a senior Victorian police officer talking about the infiltration of the CFMEU and the linkages between the bikies,” he said.
This might well be the story to which Mr Newman was referring to.
In evidence to the Heydon Union Governance and Corruption Royal Commission in Victoria on September 18, 2014, Victoria’s Assistant Police Commissioner, Stephen Fontana, said ‘that police have begun several investigations into allegations of violence, intimidation and debt collection carried out by outlaw bikie gang members for the [CFMEU]’, the ABC reported the next day.
Because I always exhort my students to Go to The Source when reporting on something, you, and Mr Newman too, should go to the Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption, look up the tranche of evidence on the CFMEU and see what you can find. Or work through the documents and evidence produced by a search on ‘Fontana’ at the Commission.
Sooo… Because the ALP receives donations from unions, including the CFMEU, and some CFMEU members, in Victoria, might also be involved with or associated with, or might have once met with, or been seen with a bike gang member at some time, and the bikie gang member might also have been an entirely law abiding tradie of some kind, as not a few bikies also are, Mr Newman was quite right to say, “We know criminal motorcycle gangs are backing [the ALP], how do you know they’ve made no donations to the CFMEU?”
Let’s try that again… Because the ALP receives donations from unions, and some unions might have, in the past, received donations or support from then entirely legally operating bikie gangs (allowing that several gangs and their members were engaged in illegal activities and other activities most law abiding folks would find questionable or distasteful to say the least, and the police already had sufficient powers to come for them before VLADD was introduced), the ALP was in receipt of dirty bikie money. Or might have been in the past. Or could still be.
‘Thar also be dragons, ya’ll see, me hearties!’ And yes, Mr Newman did pop by to where there’ll be pirates, and lots of Strong Jobs too, earlier in the week.
By then, several carefully targeted Google searches, including by people, like me, who really do know what we’re doing when interrogating On Line search engines and then evaluating the credibility of the results, came up with nothing except major re-postings and updates of the story.
The Courier-Mail helpfully investigated the matter and the LNP found a video of the ETU’s Peter Simpson telling a rally that unions had received bikie donations and support during the infamous waterfront dispute in the 1990s.
The newspaper reported that “Mr Newman denied he was doing the same thing to Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk that former Premier Anna Bligh did to him during the 2012 election campaign when she made allegations against him she eventually had to drop after being unable to offer any evidence”.
‘“I hear Queenslanders saying this. They say this to me all the time. They see that the bikies, the criminal gangs are backing Labor. They’ve seen that and everyone knows the Labor Party are very heavily funded by unions,” Mr Newman said.
“They are saying that the Labor party are the ones that need to explain what’s going on there.
“At the end of the day, those are the questions that Queenslanders are asking and at the election in less than a week, Queenslanders will be the ones that make the decision on this one.”
Mr Newman was unapologetic for his stance, denying voters would see it as a conspiracy theory’, the Courier-Mail reported.
The ABC comprehensively updated the issue on Sunday afternoon, January 25.
By Australia Day, Mr Newman was quite forcefully telling pesky reporters that he had nothing more to say about the ALP and its alleged union laundered bikie gang cash stash and was only on about Strong Choices, much to the exasperation of Brisbane Times’ Amy Remeikis and The Courier-Mail’s Sarah Vogler, as well as The Guardian’s Joshua Robertson. But one reporter actually counted up how many Strongs Mr Newman used, like The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour counted on January 13, 2015, and the total looks even more Strong (28 or 32 by the look of it).
This is really seriously heavy duty stuff we’re talking about here ~ a major political party and its leader alleging his opponents are receiving donations from criminals laundered through at least one major union, itself under Royal Commission investigation for its own allegedly seriously dubious, even illegal, activities in some of Australia’s biggest industries.
And Mr Newman’s back on his Strong State Strong Choices Strong bloody Everything mantra like a monk chanting holy writ.
The Sparkies Hate Buddhists
The Electrical Trades Union issued a terse statement on Sunday afternoon, January 25, asserting that, among other sources, they had not received any monies from NASA, bikies, or Buddhists.
Fair enough too ~ no dough from Soul Pattinson, Ackland Coal, Newcrest Mining, or criminals, but what do the ETU have against Buddhists, eh!? No screaming headlines about the ETU hating Buddhists, which was bitterly disappointing to miss seeing on Australia Day morning.
This New Learning Amazes Me
All this, frankly, reminded me of how Monty Python reasoned their ways through deciding whether or not a woman caught by some villagers was a witch.
If only it all wasn’t so very serious.