#AusVotes2019: Are we there yet?

April 23, 2019

As a rule, I don’t mind election campaigns but this one already feels like stale pizza sitting in the bottom of the fridge. I’m hungry, but I really don’t want to eat it.

So, we got through the first couple of the of five election campaign weeks relatively unscathed. Good Friday provided a respite day even though we still got footage of a smirking Prime Minister bothering God and small children.

Bill Shorten went to Luna Park in Melbourne, an apt metaphor for the swings and round-abouts of campaigning and the roller-coaster ride of chaos that has characterised federal politics over the last four years.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 9.00.29 am

The ‘circus’ analogy gets over-used, but if it’s OK for Michelle Grattan to double-down on it, who am I to be picky.

We may have had a short break from the campaign over Easter, but are we any closer to having a clear front-runner for the only poll that counts on 18 May?

Well, I thought it was pretty clear from the last gazillion Newspoll results that the ALP was going to win the election in a canter.

However, Michelle Grattan (no, I’m not picking on her) reckons it was a “scratchy” first week for Shorten because of a small gaffe on superannuation and because he’s “vulnerable” on Labor’s ambitious carbon emission reduction policies.

Well, I’m Okay with that because at least the ALP has some policies to quibble about. The Liberals, on the other hand, are in such confusion they don’t even know what their own policies are – like on electric cars, for example.

But some scribes even reckon Morrison is somehow making a comeback.

That’s like saying a man on life-support in a palliative care ward is going to make a full recovery.

I’m really not sure how they reach such fanciful conclusions.

Ah well, I suppose anything is possible inside the Canberra “bubble”.

So how is Morrison going to stage this political miracle?

Well he is, after all,  Scott the “disruptor” according the Katharine Murphy writing in The Guardian:

Scott Morrison’s strategy is to run over the top of the trench firing bullets every which way, in an effort to disrupt Shorten’s rhythm.

Well, he has to, doesn’t he?

Morrison has no choice but to act like a demented and stupid-brave World War One sapper high on the fumes of battle. There is nothing else there.

The Liberal Party has been totally devoid of ideas, imagination, initiative and innovation ever since Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott were running the country after trashing the joint in the 2013 election.

Turnbull had nothing in 2016 and only just hung on because Labor started from a long way behind after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd omnishambles and the deceitful ‘carbon tax’ campaigning masterminded by the discredited Credlin.

Three years later and Morrison has had a chance to prove to the Australian public that he’s an empty vessel. Well, not exactly empty, he’s actually full to overflowing with bombastic populism, smug ego and meaningless fury.

Let’s take the electric cars policy as an example.

The COALition began the campaign bagging Labor’s pledge to have 50 per cent of all new car sales converted to electric vehicles by 2030. That’s a whopping decade away and its only half of the average 1.1 million new cars sold each year, according to industry figures.

So that’s 500,000 electric vehicles added to the national fleet, on average from 2030 onwards.

It is an ambitious policy given that there are less than 10,000 electric vehicles currently on Australian roads, including about 4000 Tesla models. This is about 0.3 per cent of the total number of cars on the road.

So, it seems that the Liberals might have been right to poke holes in Labor’s policy. The only problem was, the COALition had an almost identical policy on the books.

Morrison and his ministerial colleagues looked stupid when they were warning Australian petrol-heads that Bill Shorten was coming for their petrol utes and big-engined cars, in a bid to wreck their enjoyment of the traditional Aussie weekend pursuits, like boat and caravan towing and driving illegally off the beaten track through national parks.

Morrison looked stupid, but then Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor stepped up and gave Scotty their beers.

Peter Dutton is on a knife-edge margin in his Queensland electorate of Dickson, so he made the excellent decision to attack his Labor opponent for not living in the electorate.

Fair enough, if you conveniently forget that Dutton owns several luxurious multi-million dollar properties outside of Dickson himself.

But the attack focused on Ali France’s disability. She has a prosthetic leg because of a horrific car accident. She lives close to Dickson in a home she spent over $100,000 on to modify in order to make it convenient for her.

So what did Dutton do? Well, he’s well-known for his sensitivity to less-fortunate people and promised us when challenging Turnbull that we would see more of his engaging human side.

Thanks Peter, you’re doing well.

He said – in an engaging and human way – that Ms France was milking her disability in order to win the sympathy vote in Dickson. His grovelling apology was equally engaging and human.

I guess we should also not be surprised that this story was first run in The Australian. The Murdoch media is going all out to help the coalition.

Senior kool-aid dispenser Piers Akerman was photographed out on a door-knocking campaign walk with Tony Abbott in Warringah. He looked really happy to be there just standing “in the background”, but the candid snap confirmed what we have been saying all along.

The Liberal Party is a subsidiary of NewsCorpse.

And what about poor old Angus Taylor. Taylor is the Energy Minister in Morrison’s government and he has previous form as a nasty, spiteful dickhead. He was famously sacked by British Tory knob, Boris Johnson, while he was mayor of London.

In that instance Taylor was accused of making insensitive racist comments. He’s right at home in the modern Liberal Party where he has languished for the last five years.

Taylor must have been thinking that the Liberal campaign could do with a boost in the past week, so he thought it the right time to grab the headlines with a poorly-timed and ill-conceived threat of legal action against two independent journalists over their retweet of a now infamous Twitter thread on the minister’s involvement in the snowballing water scandal that brewing away nicely in the background.

There is no better way to draw the spotlight onto yourself and your possibly dodgy dealings than issuing threatening legal letters to journalists who don’t have a lot to lose.

Given Mr Taylor’s propensity to launch his lawyers at anyone suggesting he acted with impropriety we are making no comment on the water sales issue, but we can’t help but think that firing off a defamation threat in the middle of an election campaign is a distraction Scott Morrison could do without.

As an aside, we can note that the other senior COALition figure allegedly in the centre of the water sales scandal is the delightful family man and member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.

It’s a short week this week with the Easter Monday and ANZAC Day holidays. Both Morrison and Shorten have said they won’t officially campaign on those two days, but we can be sure that their faces will grace the nightly news and dominate the front pages because it’s much easier for the journalists to just follow the leaders than attempt to cover actual policies.

Burn of the campaign – so far

The false war over electric cars made for some interesting door stops and prompted several car manufacturers to publicly critique the COALition’s scare-mongering.

My favourite burn moment of the campaign so far has been the start of a television advertising campaign for the global launch of the all-electric Hyundai Kona, a compact SUV that will retail for around $37,500.

This is an affordable and smart-looking option for people wanting to go into the EV market.

It may not be deliberate, but the Hyundai advert feels like a giant FU to the Liberals this week.

It’s quite funny to think that the COALition might get run down by a fleet of electric cars.

How to sell a television documentary: Al Jazeera, One Nation and media ethics

March 27, 2019

Like many people I was fascinated by Al Jazeera’s investigation, “How to sell a massacre“, into the relationship between Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the American gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 12.06.17 pm

The story broke in Australia with several teasers from the Al Jazeera program, which is screening in two parts. As I am writing this on Wednesday 27 March 2019, the second installment is not available in Australia via the Al Jazeera website, so my comments are qualified by the disclosure that I’ve only seen part 1.

Never-the-less, as one of the unwitting ‘stars’ of the documentary.PHON fixer James Ashby claimed, a shit storm would erupted if news of his visit to Washington DC ever became public.

Indeed it has. PHON chief strategist and Hanson’s latest Svengali (or perhaps Rasputin), James Ashby, has been anxiously trying to play down the significance of the revelations in the Al Jazeera film.

It is important to nail down exactly what these revelations are, or could be, because the investigation has also raised a number of important questions and issues about journalism ethics.

Does “How to sell a massacre” pass the public interest test?

Public interest here is the key. We’re not just talking about the voyeur’s delight we might feel in watching two PHON honchos make total fuckwits of themselves. Sure, there is pleasure in that, but it is not a strong enough justification for the deception that was perpetrated in the name of pubic interest and disclosure.

In particular, when is an undercover sting operation, like the one at the centre of this story, justified by the public interest in getting “facts” out into the public domain. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Wentworth by-election result the middle of the beginning of the end for Skid?

October 21, 2018

I woke up this morning with a slight headache. Maybe it was the blackbird singing outside my bedroom well before dawn; maybe it was a disturbed sleep because the cat kept jumping on my head.

Nah, it was the celebration of the middle of the beginning of the end of  Scott Morrison’s interim occupation of the Prime Minister’s comfy leather couch.


I admit it. I probably had too much to drink, but who didn’t?

COALition supporters were either drowning their sorrows or drinking angrily whilst plotting revenge against someone — anyone really — on the other side of the factional fence.

Labor supporters were celebrating their guy losing so convincingly in a winning kind of way; while the Greens will find an excuse to drink at any time.

Kerryn Phelps deserves to nurse her own hangover this morning too. She has woken up to the aftermath of a political tsunami that rose up out of Double Bay on Saturday morning and came crashing down along the sandy coastline from Bronte to the Sydney Heads in the evening twilight.

It feels delicious to write this morning that Skid has led his tory scum to their worst EVER defeat in a by-election. It is historic and has captured attention from the international media.

Wentworth Nightmare

Read the rest of this entry »

Malcolm Turnbull 30 days on #Newspoll death row

April 9, 2018

Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is safe for now. However, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports, he is forever stained by his 30th Newspoll loss in a row.

Published on Independent Australia

MALCOLM TURNBULL increasingly looks like a very worried man.

It’s not surprising really; last weekend he was at an AFL game in Sydney and when his face was projected onto the big screen, the crowd let out a mighty roar.

Well, it was a sustained booing noise really and the Fizza looked very, very uncomfortable.

Today he is looking – and no doubt feeling – a lot more uncomfortable. It’s easy enough to shrug off a few, perhaps light-hearted boos at the footy; it’s a lot harder to ignore your 30th Newspoll loss in a row. Hard indeed, when your initial claim to the prime ministership was that your hapless predecessor had reached that magic number. But that is indeed the precarious position that Malcolm Turnbull finds himself in this week.

This week, Turnbull closed the gap a little on Shorten, but really only within the statistical margin of error. The ALP still holds a four-point lead – 52-48 – over the COALition. The shift in Turnbull’s favour is not enough to overcome the ALP’s substantial two-party preferred lead over the COALition.

He’s safe for now. But, not, perhaps, for much longer. According to reported comments, the main leadership contenders –Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop – have spent the last few days pledging their loyalty.

And we all know what that means … the leadership speculation will continue and so will the internal plotting against Turnbull.

Now, he’s also facing the difficulty of having a formal faction of backbenchers – the so-called Monash Group – who will be meeting regularly to agitate against the Government’s coal and energy policies. It’s not difficult to believe they’ll also be discussing Malcolm’s failures of leadership too.

Je ne regret, rein?

In late 2015 Malcolm Turnbull cited then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 30 Newspoll losses in a row as one of the reasons he launched his challenge. Now he is rueing the day. In the lead up to his 24th consecutive loss in the poll numbers, Turnbull was widely quoted as saying he regretted making the 30-loss issue so prominent.

“I do regret having said it,” Turnbull admitted today during a live internet radio interview with News Corp columnist Miranda Devine:

“Only because it allowed people to focus on that, rather than the substantive reasons [for my challenge]. The substantive reasons that I stated were related to economic leadership and governance.”

Instead, Turnbull has claimed that his challenge to Abbott was based on the latter’s poor communication practices and his failing economic policies. That was in December last year. Now he has added to his tally of failures and equalled Abbott’s disastrous record.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where is the Australian Jeremy Corbyn hiding?

June 27, 2017

BRITISH LABOUR LEADER Jeremy Corbyn has achieved rock star status in the UK, he gave a radical speech to a crowd of 120,000 cheering music fans and the British ruling class is worried.

One of my Facebook friends described Corbyn’s speech at Glastonbury as the reawakening of English socialism, not seen since the days of Marx and Engels.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but Corbyn has certainly ignited a welcome spark of resistance to austerity, the Tories and capitalism. Now the search has begun to find our local saviour.

I’ve been quite bemused by speculation on the Australian Left about who might be “our” Jeremy Corbyn. A number of names have been put forward, but none of them is a viable contender in my view.

The most obvious nominee to the role is Anthony Albanese of the NSW Labor Left faction. But Albo does not aspire to be our Jeremy. He has publicly said he doesn’t want the job and that he thinks Corbyn is too left wing. Albo is actually totally unsuited to being the Aussie Jeremy. Corbyn has been an activist all his life, even while in Parliament. Albo is a grey suit in a lobby of grey suits who poses as a cool DJ on weekends.

Albo is a dud.

This week another likely candidate popped up but one with even less left credentials than Albanese. Queensland MP Wayne Swan has made vaguely pro-worker statements to the ACTU conference this week, but his rhetoric falls far short of Corbyn’s. Swan has also attempted to boost his standing with the Labor Left by meeting with Bernie Sanders, but he also met International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials on the same trip. Swan’s “revolution”, is really just a fig leaf for more business as usual politics.

If not from Labor then where? Read the rest of this entry at Independent Australia.

Election 2016: Opinion polls, swings, roundabouts and statistics

May 31, 2016

This is not good news [The Australian paywalled] for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull government is facing the prospect of losing 10 seats in NSW, six in Queensland and three in Western Australia, with a significant slump in support in the key election battlegrounds.

The Australian headlined a six per cent swing against the government according to its own Newspoll data on 30 May.

I wrote this piece the day before [Sunday 29 May], without seeing the Newspoll data. Then in Monday’s Fairfax papers we also saw confirmation that the coalition is in trouble. James Massola wrote that the LNP is likely to lose at least a dozen seats and maybe even more.

Political strategists for both major parties believe the Coalition is on track to lose about 12 seats at the July 2 poll, slashing Malcolm Turnbull’s buffer in the Parliament but returning his government with a reduced second-term majority.

 Seems like I might be on the money with my prediction of a Shorten ALP government after the election.
But the numbers depend almost entirely on who’s doing the counting.
Labor thinks 11 seats in Queensland are in play, but to others the margins in some seem insurmountable.
For example it would take an almost unachievable 6.7 per cent swing to unseat Immigration Minister (and part-time potato model) Peter Dutton in Dickson. But some plucky voters have a strategy to help make it happen on polling day.
Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

The key thing is that local factors will influence the national swing and an average swing of around 4 per cent may not be enough to unseat Turnbull if it does not occur in the right electorates (those that the ALP needs to win back and has a realistic chance of winning).

Read the rest of this entry »

Can Labor win? It ain’t gonna be easy, but it ain’t impossible either

May 29, 2016

For the last few days I’ve been allowing myself to think that Bill Shorten can actually beat the Fizza on July 2nd.

I know it’s going to be tough. The odds are not necessarily in Bill’s favour and we cannot underplay the significance of an all out News Corpse attack on Labor over the next few weeks. We saw how successful this was in 2010 and 2013 and Murdoch’s hacks will pull out all stops to see Shorten defeated.

However, despite the obstacles, we could actually have a Labor government in the second half of 2016.

Share your opinion at the end of this post in the EM polldaddy poll of polls.

The math is not impossible, but it might take a few miracles.

The Fizza hits the streets

The Fizza hits the streets

In a way perhaps I’m just channeling the late Bob Ellis. He predicted a Shorten victory way back in December last year. At the time I was wishing, but not hopeful, but now I am convinced Turnbull cannot win on 2 July.

A few handfuls of votes is all it takes

To be honest, the prospect of beating Malcolm and his fizzas comes down to a few handfuls of votes in some key swing seats. Labor has to take back 17 seats and this requires a swing of around 4 per cent or a bit more. It’s not impossible for this to happen.

NSW Seats 2013 % swing to coalition Change required in two party preferred vote
Banks 3.28 2000 votes
Barton 7.1 500 votes
Dobell 5.75 700 votes
Eden-Monaro 4.85 500 votes
Lindsay 4.11 3000 votes
Page 6.71 2500 votes
Reid 3.53 500 votes
Robertson 4.0 3500 votes
Victoria Seats
Corangamite 4.22 4000 votes
Deakin 3.78 2600 votes
La Trobe 5.67 4000 votes
QLD seats
Capricorn 4.45 1600 votes
Petrie 3.04 500 votes
SA seats
Hindmarsh 7.97 2000 votes
Tasmania seats
Bass 10.78 3000 votes
Braddon 10.4 1500 votes
Lyons 13.51 800 votes

When you break it down like this even a seat like Lyons in Tasmania is winnable for Labor if around 800 electors change their vote from the coalition to Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

Lyons is an interesting example because according to the ABC’s swingometer, a swing of just 1.4 per cent to Labor would mean they win this seat. At 1.4 per cent Labor would also win Capricornia and Petrie in Queensland.

A swing of just 1.7 per cent would also give Labor the seat of Solomon in the Northern Territory. A swing of just 1.9 per cent means that Labor also gains Hindmarsh in South Australia.

A gain of 2.7 per cent in Braddon would give Labor its second Tasmanian seat. Only 2.8 per cent and the NSW seat of Banks returns to Labor.

Take the swing to an even three per cent and Labor wins nine seats including the bellwether of Eden-Monaro in NSW. Add just 0.3 per cent to that and the seats of Robertson and Page (NSW) and Deakin (Victoria) return to Labor. At 3.4 per cent Labor gains Macarthur and Reid in NSW.

Macarthur would be the first seat to change hands in 2016 that was not held by Labor before the last election. In other words, it would be a loss for Turnbull, not a seat regained by the ALP. Significantly, a uniform swing of 3.4 per cent to Labor would result in a nearly hung Parliament.

Labor would have 71 seats, the coalition 75 and four would be in the hands of independents. It is at this point that the 2016 election becomes very interesting.

A swing of 3.7 per cent would give Labor its second steal from the Coalition, delivering Bonner (Qld). It is worth noting that this would require about 4000 people to switch their votes from 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »

Australia celebrating today: Liberals mortally wounded; workers finding their voice

February 1, 2015

If you’re a progressive in Australia this has been a good weekend and much more fun than the official “Australia Day” of last week.

The Soceroos beat South Korea 2-1 to win the Asian Cup in soccer.

Soceroos celebrating CanDo Newman's own goal last night.

Soceroos celebrating Campbell Newman’s own goal last night.

But even better, Campbell “Can Do” Newman got smashed in the Queensland state election and the knives are being sharpened in the Liberal caucus to stab Two Punch Tony Abbott in the back, the ribs, stomach and the neck.

In fact, by the end of the week he is likely to have more punctures than a balloon after a fight with a porcupine.

To top it off, the kool-aid slurping columnists on Rupert Murdoch’s Aussie rags are beside themselves with hubris and confusion.

So forget the soccer and the tennis; this weekend has been all about the politics.

After backing Two Punch Tony all the way for the past 16 months the NewsCorpse minions are now falling over each other in an attempt to explain away Abbott’s obvious failings and to shift the blame elsewhere.

Even the rusted-on Liberal editbot Chris Kenny is getting twitchy about Abbott’s chances.

It’s no surprise really because Rupert himself has been Twittering his thoughts to all and sundry; his editors could hardly miss the point:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Looming Queensland Revolution ~ Welcome to A Future

January 26, 2015

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).

One angle to that I didn’t mention below was how some bikies tried to donate to the LNP, surely in the interests of spreading their largesse, you understand. The LNP reportedly knocked them back.

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.

For a bit of a taste, though, check out Dr Mark Bahnisch’s very perceptive pieces in The Guardian and The Monthly. With a brief, more recent, commentary on his new Blog too.

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.

I’m starting to get an ear worm of George Harrison’s song, Sue Me Sue You Blues. (Ok; taken out of context. Harrison was reacting to a plagiarism suit for My Sweet Lord.)

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.

CanDo Newman — a losery winner in the Queensland election?

January 7, 2015

by Dr Mark Hayes

Dr Mark Hayes is a native Queenslander, a journalism academic, and a former researcher, reporter, and producer with the then ABC TV state-based weeknight current affairs programme, The 7.30 Report. He helped report on the Fitzgerald Inquiry and its aftermath, which continues today.

We’re off to the polls on January 31. Calm yourselves. The LNP will win.

After that confident prediction, several really interesting things may occur, interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

Rather than go into all the psephological details, the ABC’s indefatigable Antony Green is on the case.

Dr Hayes predicts an LNP win – let’s hope he’s wrong

The LNP will win because it holds a huge majority of seats in Queensland’s single chamber Parliament and there would have to be a genuinely astonishing state wide swing of almost 12% two party preferred against the Newman Government for Labor to win government in its own right. Then again, the massive swing against the Bligh Government in 2012 was astonishing.

Suprised? So are we

Suprised? So are we

The LNP holds 73 seats in Queensland’s 89 seat Parliament. The ALP holds nine, independents hold three, and Katter’s Australian Party holds three seats.

Just to be clear about this, Newman and the LNP didn’t win massively in 2012 because Queensland voters eagerly endorsed, understood, or were even told what their real agendas and policies were, and remain.

The LNP largely won so comprehensively because they weren’t the tired Bligh Labor Government which had betrayed voters by privatizing some state assets, such as Queensland Rail’s lucrative freight division, after promising voters they would not do so, and Queensland Labor ran an awful election campaign. Campbell Newman capitalized on his high profile as former Brisbane Lord Mayor and the fact he wasn’t Anna Bligh.

Essentially the same reason the largely accidental Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, elected Opposition Leader by one vote and then pursuing a relentlessly corrosive attack strategy, won in September, 2013. He wasn’t Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd and he wasn’t leading the ALP.

What has occurred since is largely backfilling the narratives to argue for ‘mandates’.

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