Monthly Archives: March 2012
Society Has Factions Too, But Their Fluidity and the Need to Appeal to Many Leads to Ideological Impurity of Political Parties
We’ve all heard about the prevalence and strength of factions in politics, particularly the power that factions can hold when determining the policy of a party or even the people in it- think of the now infamous New South Wales right faction which, by virtue of its own actions has been dragged through the mud in recent years in Australian politics. It is equally true too that society is made up of factions, even if they do differ to the relatively unmoving in ideology groupings within political parties in the Australian political landscape.
These “political factions” that exist outside of the political sphere, in broader society, unlike their intra party equivalent are not stagnant and people within society often straddle different factional groupings or move in and out of these different and border-less sects depending on individual policy leanings where a person can support the party overall, but may strongly disagree with one or some of their particular policies.
This phenomenon too, does occur in political parties, but of course democracy rules and when policies are voted on by the party and carried by a majority, those in the minority as is fair will lose out.
The difference between these like-minded sections in political parties and in broader society is that these numbers in the latter are open to decrease over particular issues and increase over others whereas within these men and women of similar mind in our political system tend to stick together on many
As a result of societal faction instability and fluidity, ideological purity of political parties in the Australian political environment is non-existent. While a party may not completely stray away from their respective political beliefs, there will often be occasions where political reality deems it necessary to nudge or even overstep the boundaries of their political faith.
Political parties have to appeal to all the different factions that exist within the broader electorate, which political parties have to represent in order to hold a majority in the parliament. It is an electoral reality that parties at some stage in the electoral cycle will have to resort to populism in order to appeal to the vastly different stakeholders that exist in any municipality, state or c0untry.
The trick for political parties is to strive for relative ideological cleanliness, to not give in too much to populism and not go too far down the path of walking away from the ideology their respective party was created to pursue and to uphold to the perceived benefit of the people. For if our parties were to venture too far from their political and ideological origins, then that can be no good for the party and would lead to the breaking away of the “true believers”, those who firmly believe in the ideology of the party and would get disenfranchised were it to forget where its roots were forged.
Either way, both society and politics has factions, albeit of a different nature and strength and if the latter ignores the former, then it does so at the downfall of its wider representation, the political party. It’s a delicate balancing act for political parties to respond to this kind of movement within society.
The ultra-marathon of an election campaign has been run and won emphatically by a resurgent and united conservative force in Queensland politics. The relatively new LNP have swept to power in well over 80% of electorates across the state. The result was brutal leaving a predicted 77 seats gained by the LNP against a predicted 8 for the ALP (which could be reduced to 7 in a by-election) and two each for Katter’s Australia Party and Independent MP’s, a truly embarrassing state of affairs for Australia’s oldest political party. In the process, the ALP also lost a number of candidates for leader in the post-Bligh era of Labor Party politics, including Deputy Premier and Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Cameron Dick, the Minister for Education and Industrial Relations.
To top it all off the outgoing leader Anna Bligh, as is often the practise of former state and federal leaders after an electoral defeat, announced her intentions to resign from the parliament as the member for South Brisbane as soon as possible. This is essential for renewal of the Labor Party and as many commentators have also said, to remove the stench of the Bligh area by getting rid of the chief contributor and figurehead of the electoral whitewash.
It would appear from reports that Annastacia Palaszczuk the Bligh Government Minister for Transport and Multicultural Affairs and former Disability Services Minister will tomorrow be confirmed as the new leader of the ALP in the Queensland Parliament. Ms Palaszczuk will have massive responsibilities after such a devastating outcome leading a parliamentary opposition which would be considered a minor party in many parliaments around Australia and the world, coordinating a team of 8 at this stage.
Not only will Ms Palaszczuk have to manage with a team of just eight people, but the MLA for Inala will have to deal with a team that have suffered a massive psychological blow and will be low on confidence with what will most certainly be a prolonged period in opposition after 20 of the last 22 years in government in the state.
Also, after the scale of defeat that was suffered on election night Saturday, Ms Palaszcuk will lead a team of “old hands” with all marginal seat holders and a myriad of safe seat holders no longer in the parliament. This includes the outgoing Disability Services Minister Curtis Pitt, in Mulgrave and Tim Mulherin in Mackay the former Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies who even though his seat is currently in doubt, should manage to hold on.
As small oppositions go after a landslide defeat, the member for Inala would almost certainly not be leading the Australian Labor Party into an election winning situation. This could leave it to the young former minister Curtis Pitt, or the less likely, but experienced Tim Mulherin (providing he holds on in Mackay) to lead the ALP into an eventual election win, although Mr Mulherin could well have left the parliament before the ALP were able to move themselves into such an envious position.
Curtis Pitt may, after a time be in a position to lead the ALP into an election win after Palaszczuk likely loses the Labor leadership after a term or more on the opposition benches and this is a real possibility at the present time given the scale of what is required to get back into government but is not the only possibility that exists for Labor.
In all likelihood, the next leader of the ALP, because of the scale of the election win, may not yet even be a member of the parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland and could well enter the parliament at the next election in the form of a former Bligh Government Minister like Andrew Fraser or Cameron Dick or a promising new talent that the ALP identify in the time that they have to conduct the search.
There is one final option that presents itself to the ALP if they are in need of winning an election after a long period inhabiting the opposition party room and that is to embrace the “Newman Solution” of putting up a very strong candidate with leadership experience elsewhere in government or even business into a seat. Make that person leader and then they can campaign for a time before an official election campaign. Hey, it worked for the LNP didn’t it?
Either way, it is all but certain that we will not hear the words “Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk” escaping out of anyone’s mouth, nor read them in the newspaper or online the day after a state election.
Over the weekend the LNP and its leader from outside of parliament, Campbell Newman swept to power in Queensland to take the government benches in an embarrassing rout of an on the nose Bligh Labor Government.
STATE OF THE PARLIAMENT
LNP- 77 predicted according to
ALP- 8 predicted according to
Katter’s Australian Party- 2 predicted according to
Independent MPs- 2 predicted according to
The swing away from the ALP was over 15%, a monumental shift in the ALP vote which created this historic state of affairs for the amalgamated LNP, its first election victory as a united force.
MINISTERS KNOCKED OFF
By far the biggest scalp claimed by the LNP on election night was that of the Deputy Premier and Treasurer and MLA for Mount Coot-tha. The new LNP member for this seat will be the giant killer, Saxon Rice. Andrew Fraser was considered by many in the ALP to be a future Labor leader.
Another big scalp comes in the form of the Minister for Education and Industrial Relations, Cameron Dick, the member for Greenslopes, set to be replaced by police officer Ian Kaye. Cameron Dick was also considered future ALP leader material in the post-Bligh era along with the former Deputy Premier and Treasurer.
The latest Queensland Labor Health Minister and representative in the seat of Ferny Grove, after the number of issues facing Queensland Health and as a result of the massive statewide swing also lost his seat. Geoff Wilson will be succeeded by Dale Shuttleworth of the LNP as the member for the suburban seat.
Stirling Hinchliffe was another Bligh Government minister knocked off in the most extraordinary of nights in Queensland politics. The Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining was beaten by the LNP candidate, medical specialist Chris Davis.
Tourism Minister Jan Jarratt lost her idyllic seat of Whitsunday in north Queensland to Jason Costigan of the LNP.
The Minister for Women, Karen Struthers lost her seat of Algester to Anthony Shorten of the LNP, unable to fend off the huge swing against the ALP in the result that was much worse than just about any commentator expected.
Phil Reeves, the Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Sport was beaten by long-time lawyer Ian Walker in the seat of Mansfield. Mr Reeves was on a margin of 4.4% and his seat was always set to go when the swing required for the LNP to take the government benches was more than that required for Mr Walker to win Mansfield.
Sam Cox of the LNP appears to have beaten Craig Wallace the Minister for Main Roads, Fisheries and Marine Infrastructure in the Townsville-based electorate of Thuringowa, achieving a swing of over 9%.
Finally, the Minister for the Environment, Vicky Darling was beaten in what was quite a surprise with the member for Sandgate prior to Saturday night sitting on a margin of over 12%. The swing in the electorate was similar to the statewide swing and the new LNP member for the seat of Sandgate will be Kerry Millard.
THE OUTGOING PREMIER RESIGNS
The morning after the phenomenal result for the LNP, the outgoing Labor Premier Anna Bligh held a press conference where she announced, after promising to stay on, that she would vacate the seat of South Brisbane and the parliament to allow for renewal in the ALP.
This leaves the electorate facing a by-election sometime in the near future which they will not particularly like and does put the seat at some risk in a by-election of falling to the LNP and combined with people’s dislike of by-elections.
SEARCH FOR A LEADER
After the electoral defeat and the resignation of Anna Bligh from the parliament, the ALP will now search, among their 7 or 8 MPs for a leader to take the party forward. With such a low number of seats in the parliament, chances are that the leader will not last until the party is again in an election winning position.
The talk is that the ALP may elect Annastacia Palaszczuk from the electorate of Inala, a minister in the former Bligh Government or even Curtis Pitt the former Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships as Opposition Leader.
A “stop-gap” leader is a real possibility too as is someone of relative youth with some experience like Curtis Pitt when opposition seems a reality for some time yet.
By far the biggest political action in Australia this week occurred in the state of Queensland, which overnight saw its majority eviscerated at the hands of a unified Campbell Newman led Opposition. But alas, this blog is about Australian politics and aside from some electoral implications for the federal Australian Labor Party and the change in complexion of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the events of the week in Queensland have little relevance when examining the events of federal politics over the past week.
Yes, the result is in many respects another stake in the heart of federal Labor which on results tonight would be all but wiped out across Queensland if swings were uniform statewide. When the Gillard Government is already in a minority government situation, the trend toward the Coalition in Queensland alone, if it were borne out at the next federal election would see the government fall easily, before even adding in New South Wales where there is potential for catastrophic losses.
An incoming Newman LNP Government means that another Coalition Premier has a seat at the COAG table, along with the Premier’s of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. This probably will not have a major impact as COAG in recent years has tended to be fairly tame and “cooperative federalism” has reigned supreme. However from time to time issues may present themselves where the Liberal Premiers feel the need to join together in opposition to something that the ALP Government chooses to pursue. It would appear that the carbon tax is in the sights of the Premier-elect, so this and the MRRT appear to be at least two exceptions to the rule.
Julia Gillard and her government saw the passage of their Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), by the Senate this week which was alone in major events in Canberra for the week in Australian politics, the last sitting period before the budget is handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan in May. Tony Abbott and the Opposition have vowed to continue to fight the tax after its implementation and to repeal it in government and their parliamentary strategy over that and the carbon tax in recent months have echoed those words.
The parliament shared its focus in Question Time between the carbon tax, largely as a result of Opposition questions and the newly passed mining tax. The Opposition focused on perceived effects of the carbon tax on business and households and the revenue projections of the mining tax and the effect the tax may have on the economy.
The government focused on the spending associated with the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the tax cuts to small and big business which the Coalition opposes because it opposes the tax.
Also this week, Canberra descended into gaggles of laughter which transcended political boundaries after a very strange speech from mining magnate Clive Palmer who has since tried to put distance between himself and his comments. Mr Palmer claimed that the Greens were funded by the CIA to wreck the Australian economy by destroying the mining industry which helped keep the nation afloat during the GFC.
As Australia continues to meander toward the May budget, the focus outside of the parliament will be on Treasurer Wayne Swan and the ability he and his government have to deliver the surplus they promised for fiscal year 2012-13. The focus of the media will be on trying to get a picture of the extent of the task before confirmation of the severity of any further cuts and just how much the effort will rely on the sneaky deferral of spending priorities for the budgetary year. There promises to be much political fodder over the coming weeks and the political discourse will certainly not be dull.
Ahead of Queenslanders going to the polls to vote out a long-term ALP state government tomorrow, it’s time to make some final predictions about the numbers that will begin to unfold beyond the 6pm closure of voting in this government-changing election. The most important aspect of the count to watch tomorrow will be who wins Ashgrove, whether it is Premier Campbell Newman or soon to be ALP backbencher Kate Jones. The size of the swing to the LNP will also be an important piece of data, with the swing required for the Opposition to take government being 4.6%. The total number of seats has also been much talked about with polls predicting the ALP could be reduced to as few as 12 if swings across the state were uniform. The highest profile scalp that the LNP claims in this certain election win also deserves a major focus as does the likely downfall of other Bligh Government ministers. The final major point of interest will be how Katter’s Australian Party performs in their first election.
ASHGROVE AND THE RACE FOR PREMIER
From the moment when Campbell Newman decided that he would run for the Premiership and the seat of Ashgrove from outside of the parliament the polls indicated that the would-be Premier was well ahead on a 2-party-preferred basis, cruising to a win at that point.
Then came smear and allegations against Mr Newman and his family over business dealings as the election campaign got closer, which intensified once the campaign proper began with a plethora of ads asking questions of the candidate for Ashgrove and the Premiership. This saw support crumble for the former army engineer and Lord Mayor of Brisbane into single digits and eventually, in recent weeks to a small lead for incumbent ALP MLA Kate Jones.
The Crime and Misconduct Committee (CMC), an anti-corruption body set up in the wake of the Bjelke-Petersen era investigated allegations on multiple occasions and on each it was found that there was no case to answer for Campbell Newman.
Not long after the final clearance by the CMC and once it became clear to all voters this week, that the LNP would certainly be heading to a sweeping victory, the polls bounced back, indicating this week, at the time with just days to go, that the Premier hopeful would likely win the seat and therefore become the Premier of an LNP Government.
The swing required to win the electorate of Ashgrove is 7.1% and this should be eclipsed with a swing around 8-9% seeming likely.
THE STATEWIDE SWING
Polls seem to indicate that the swing to the LNP in Queensland will be massive, up to around 10% statewide against the Australian Labor Party after such a lengthy term in office.
The LNP only requires a swing of 4.6% to take office and is certainly set to achieve that.
MY PICK: The LNP win will come with a swing of anywhere between 7%-10% and Labor will be decimated around Brisbane and the suburbs and will lose significant numbers from the regions.
NUMBER OF SEATS LABOR WILL BE LEFT WITH
There has been much commentary in recent days over how many seats the ALP will be left with after votes have been finalised by the Electoral Commission Queensland.
The results have been talked about in terms of sporting teams, whether it be a cricket team (11 plus a 12th man), a rugby league team (13 plus a bench of 4), a rugby union team (15 plus 7 reserves) or an AFL team (18 plus 4 reserves).
It is almost certain that the number of seats the ALP will be reduced to after the election will fall somewhere in this range.
MY PICK: Labor will be reduced to a rugby union team minus the bench players, that’s 15 MPs in a parliament of 89.
THE BIGGEST ELECTORAL SCALP
Other than the must watch seat of Ashgrove, which now looks certain to go to the LNP and incoming Premier Campbell Newman, the electorate of Mount Coot-tha will be a major focus as the current Bligh Government Treasurer, Andrew Fraser battles to hold onto his seat with a margin of 5.3%, just 0.7% above the swing needed for the LNP to take the reins of government.
On the polls it looks certain that the LNP will well and truly surpass the margin needed to form government in their own right, possibly more than doubling the swing of 4.6% required if the polls are near accurate. This means that the LNP candidate for the electorate, Saxon Rice will almost certainly beat the incumbent Mr Fraser.
This result would be absolutely disastrous for the ALP which look set to lose other ministers tomorrow and the last thing they need is to lose the Deputy Premier and Treasurer and youngest member of the Bligh Government and quite likely Bligh successor as Labor leader.
MY PICK: Saxon Rice but close, especially if the ALP vote does not collapse too much in the seat as the Greens traditionally poll very strongly in this seat and any preferences would flow to Mr Fraser.
THE FORTUNES OR MISFORTUNES OF KATTER’S AUSTRALIAN PARTY
As noted, this will be the first election for Katter’s Australian Party and its state leader and former LNP, Independent and Queensland Party MLA Aidan McLindon. This party was created by Bob Katter and included the Queensland Party which Mr McLindon started after leaving the LNP and giving up being an Independent member of parliament.
The party had high hopes for themselves, at first of taking government and then holding the balance of power, though we all knew that this was completely out of the question. Polls have continuously confirmed that the swing against the ALP was unlikely to convert into many, if any extra seats for the fledgling political party fielding candidates in 76 of the 89 seats (though they did hope to do so in all 89).
Dalrymple MLA and LNP defector Shane Knuth will probably hold onto his seat in the north of Queensland, becoming an electoral success story for Katter’s Australian Party. With a margin of 14.4% it would be a difficult gain for the LNP.
A member of the Katter family looks able to win the electorate of Mount Isa in the north west of the seat.That person is Robbie Katter, son of party founder Bob Katter who represents that electorate in the federal parliamentary seat of Kennedy.
The big battle for Katter’s Australian Party could be to hold onto the seat of Beaudesert with Aidan McLindon on a margin of 8.3% within the possible statewide swing range in a conservative seat (although the party that Aidan McLindon represents is heavily socially conservative).
The electorate of Nanango is a real possible gain for the new party with high-profile candidate Carl Rackemann in with a real chance upon the retirement of Independent MLA Dorothy Pratt. The margin at only 2.9% opens up the seat for a possible LNP gain for candidate Deb Frecklington.
MY PICKS: Aidan McClindon to lose Beaudesert. Robbie Katter to take the electorate of Mount Isa in a tough fight. Shane Knuth to hold Dalrymple. Deb Frecklington to beat Carl Rackemann in Nanango
Queenslanders are a day away from knowing the make-up of the parliament for the next 3 years and just how large a majority the LNP will be granted by voters across the state. It will certainly be a sweeping majority, with the LNP likely holding more than a 2/3 majority in the unicameral Queensland Parliament, with big ministerial scalps claimed in the process. The electoral hopes of Katter’s Australian Party will prove to be another big fizzer.
London has all the major international sporting athletes and attention descending on it in under 200 days, for two weeks of intense sporting competition equal to nothing in depth and breadth. The 2012 London Olympic Games begin in just 126 days, running for two weeks from the 27th of July-12th of August at and in the vicinity of historic English sites. Our prospects look better than they did just 12 months ago with some of our swimmers putting in very strong performances at the Australian Swimming Championships which came to an end last night in Adelaide. Other athletes in different sports, including Sally Pearson in athletics also add to medal promise of our Australian Olympic team.
But it is our Paralympic athletes in the pool that I will be watching when the Paralympics commence in London in only 159 days at the same venues as their Olympic counterparts. Our swimmers with a disability have shown over the past week of competition that they have what it takes to not only win more gold medals, but to also break more world records in the process.
Over the whole Australian Swimming Championships, Paralympic hopefuls broke an astonishing 25 world records in striving to make the team for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. How many did our Olympic athletes achieve? Zip, donuts. That’s not to say that our Olympic medal prospects are bad, they are not. The men’s team has strengthened much over the 4 years since the last Olympics from China, with stars like James Magnussen agonisingly close to achieving world-beating times and our men’s and women’s relay teams looking as strong as ever.
It will however be our Elite Athletes with a Disability that lead the way in London in the “real Olympics” with 25 world records surely converting into a gold medal in at least a bare majority of these events come the Paralympics later this year.
Our swimmers to compete in the Games are far from household names and they should have at least been mentioned in a breath of news coverage of the disastrous comeback campaigns of the likes of Ian Thorpe et al. Names to watch include Matthew Cowdrey, Prue Watt, Ellie Cole, Michael Anderson, Kayla Clarke, Jacqueline Freney and Blake Cochrane to name just some of our gold, let alone broader medal hopes.
These swimmers will now head back to the pool after perhaps a short break to refresh and refocus their minds on the big task of stepping up another level in London in just months. They will go in knowing that if they keep their focus and training is maintained and they stay injury-free that their chances are very strong of replicating the amazing efforts over the last week and a bit that have gone disgracefully unreported as is unfortunately the case on a too regular basis. I know I would rather watch our Paralympic swimmers, but I love the sport, so I will be watching both, hoping that our Olympic swimmers really do show up to compete and smash the world. The difference is, with our Paralympians, I don’t need to hope.
WOMEN’S 50m BREASTSTROKE
1 Prue Watt S13 36.27
2 Madeleine Scott S9 39.96
3 Tanya Huebner S6 47.62
4 Dianne Saunders S6 47.94
5Amanda Fowler S14 38.91
6 Monique Beckwith S15 39.07
7 Emily Schmidt S14 41.33
8 Maddi Elliott S8 47.88
MEN’S 50m BREASTSTROKE
1 Blake Cochrane S8 37.29
2 Matthew Levy S7 37.63
3 Richard Eliason S14 32.03
4 Jay Dohnt S7 41.59
5 Ahmed Kelly S4 53.41
6 Jeremy McClure S12 36.34
7 Jesse Aungles S8 42.39
8 Michael Auprince S9 37.28
Today marks the last sitting day of the parliamentary week and the last day of parliament before the budget is announced in Canberra on Tuesday May 8 by Treasurer Wayne Swan. Consequently economics will continue to be the focus of the day in Question Time and the energy of our politicians will be at an almost anxious high as they try to get attention on their programs for Australia and the Opposition throw everything at the Gillard Government in trying to hold them to account.
The focus of the Opposition will continue to be on the two or three key areas that the Coalition have pursued for some time now in their Question Time and broader political strategy. The two main focal points of the Abbott-led Opposition questions today will continue to be both the carbon tax and the mining tax which have had varying degrees of focus since both have been announced. They have both now been passed by the government and the Coalition will continue to pursue them as they come into force and for any negative impacts they have.
The Coalition also may ask some questions of the ALP Government about Fair Work Australia and its investigation into Craig Thomson, a long-running affair which has provided much political and parliamentary material for the Liberal and National Party Coalition.
The Opposition is likely to also ask questions of the government about the deal announced today to keep Holden producing cars in Australia for the next 10 years at least.
The government, as has been its strategy all parliamentary year will be to focus on their big programs, at the moment the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and how the revenue from it is projected to benefit the community, including low income individuals and small and big business. Some Dorothy Dixer’s, as has been the case this week may be devoted to other topical or even less discussed policies, like the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which received questions in the House of Representatives yesterday.
The Gillard Government will certainly use some Dorothy Dixer’s to ask ministers associated with the car industry about the deal with Holden to keep car production in Australia for at least 10 years and to highlight the benefits of this for the local and national economy.
The usage of the motion to suspend Standing Orders is another eventuality that cannot be discounted, particularly as we head toward a grand total of 50 of them for this the 43rd parliament of Australia. The motion however is less likely to occur as the topics discussed have been the focus of the motion in the past.What may work in favour of a suspension of Standing Orders is another topical issue presenting itself before Question Time today, likely not the Holden issue, or the fact that it is the last session of Question Time until the parliamentary week beginning the 8th of May.
Look for fireworks and restless pollies slanging remarks across the chamber today in the Lower and Upper House. Expect to see a high number of ejections from both sides and even Ministers sat down by the Speaker for not being “directly relevant” to questions asked by the Coalition and even their own side as they attempt to use Dixer’s for having a go at Coalition policy rather than explaining their own. Get your last fix for over a month from 2pm AEDT today
Tonight was the second last night of competition in the pool at the Australian Swimming Championships from Adelaide. This means that there are now even fewer opportunities to make the Paralympic and Olympic teams for the London 2012 Games.
WOMEN’S 100m BUTTERFLY
1Amanda Fowler S14 1:11.56
2 Prue Watt S13 1:08.39
3 Sarah Rose S6 1:34.70
4 Teigan Van Roosmalen S13 1:08.89
5 Ellie Cole S9 1:11.48
6 Katherine Downie S10 1:12.64
7 Madeleine Scott S9 1:13.23
8 Maddi Elliott S8 1:20.06
MEN’S 100m BUTTERFLY
1 Timothy Antalfy S13 54.92
2 Mitchell Kilduff S14 1:01.18
3 Matthew Cowdrey S9 1:00.76
4 Daniel Fox S14 1:02.09
5 Brendan Hall S9 1:01.58
6 Aaron Rhind S6 1:14.19
7 Sam Bramham S9 1:02.24
8 Andrew Pasterfield S10 1:00.05