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Palaszczuk Looks Set to be Leading the Queensland ALP, For Now

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.

Queensland Voted: An Overview of the Destruction

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 http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2012/

ALP- 8 predicted according to http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2012/

Katter’s Australian Party- 2 predicted according to http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2012/

Independent MPs- 2 predicted according to http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2012/

THE SWING

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.

Question Time, Suspension of Standing Orders, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

A new Speaker is in the chair and by Thursday will have completed three weeks in the big chair of the House of Representatives this coming Thursday. This Speaker, Peter Slipper has brought in some small, but welcome changes, shorter questions and shorter answers, the scope for more supplementary questions and a shorter Question Time for those whose health is at risk from too much exposure to the stressful event which takes up just over an hour of the political day. However, Ministers still struggle to be “directly relevant” to any question, even Dorothy Dixer’s involve a major focus on the Opposition. The motion to suspend Standing Orders to censure has also become a bit of a joke, being used too often and knowingly to no avail.

The parliamentary reforms of the Slipper Speakership add to those agreed to between the Gillard Government, the Opposition and the rural Independent MPs. They were an improvement on business as usual, seeing questions limited to 45 seconds and answers to 4 minutes, rather than being unlimited as they were prior to this minority government.

Questions under the new Speaker are limited to 30 seconds, a fifteen second drop on the previous agreement and answers to 3 minutes, a further one minute drop on the original reforms, but still the bullshit that turns people off continues.

The new Speaker has done a fair job of attempting to bring Ministers into line, to try and at least get them in the same postcode of “direct relevance” to the question, short of jumping out of the chair and strangling offenders. Many Ministers continue to be in defiance of these rules and today the Prime Minister was sat down for being irrelevant to the question asked, a very positive development indeed.

Answers also continue to be full of vitriolic rubbish attacking Coalition policy more than outlining why their policy is the preferred option, maybe because they aren’t so confident of directly defending their own.

Wayne Swan is one of the main offenders, reprimanded for making the same old, unoriginal and flat “jokes” about the Coalition economic team being the “three stooges”. Perhaps if he quit with the nonsense, people would not have been advocating today for his removal from the Treasury portfolio because of an inability to sell the economic message of the government.

The sad but true fact is that people would probably have the time of day for Question Time if the stupidity was dispensed with and the government focused on selling their policies, sans hyperbole and without so much name-calling and stuff that primary school kids would be envious of. Along with that goes the shouting across the chamber during answers of contention , though that has been a fixture for as long as the parliament has existed and would always occur to some extent.

But that is not all that is grating and making Question Time become redundant and in the interest of fairness, the suspension of standing orders to debate why a censure motion is essential, is becoming a too regular occurrence.

It is not becoming ridiculous because the Abbott led Opposition are using it to try and highlight the failures of this government and the discord and disunity that has been rife since mid 2010.

The censure motion is becoming ridiculous because of the amount of times it is being used to pursue the ALP Government, who are admittedly failing badly at being relevant at most times and making Question Time an almost redundant farce.

There is one real reason why it is a pointless exercise and that is because two of the rural Independents, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor are so wedded to this Labor Government, along with the Greens MP Adam Bandt, that it would probably take a Government MP committing murder before they were willing to consider supporting the need for a censure motion. Unlikely…

S0 can we please dispense with all the rubbish in Canberra, our health has suffered enough as mere observers of the Canberra zoo. I would like to be able to increase my “Bio-Age” again. My government must be held to account in the strictest of ways, with the Speaker continuing to be strong and building on that. Ministers and their counterparts must also take it upon themselves to dispense with some of the theatrics, thinking less about getting on the news for 15 seconds and more about trying to develop and sell good policy and while I understand the merits of suspension motions,  let’s cool it on this.

Question Time Ahead of Time

The second Question Time of the political year is only hours away and if the short affair yesterday is any indication then it will certainly be another rowdy affair. Yesterday questions were dominated by the topic of the ec0nomy, albeit from different angles from either side of politics. Nevertheless the Craig Thomson affair was broached as was a dental scheme in Medicare by the Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt.

The Coalition does look set to continue to focus on the economy in their questioning of the Gillard Government in relation to spending and therefore the NBN as well as taxation, read the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and the carbon tax. The investigation of Craig Thomson by Fair Work Australia (FWA) should also be featured, likely more than yesterday. Whether or not the questions are about the Gillard Government having faith in the MP or the body conducting the investigation is another story, though for my mind it is likely both would be canvassed, even in the same individual question.

The Government as they did yesterday will also likely focus on the economy as it has been foreshadowed as the issue of focus in recent weeks, the Government conceiving it as a comparative strength. Questions will likely focus on what benefits people will get from the spending and taxation the government has undertaken or has legislated to undertake. The ALP Government through its Prime Minister and Treasurer will also likely focus on the Australian economy with other economies, particularly European ones.

One unpredictable factor is the issues that will be canvassed by whichever Independent MP/s will be given the opportunity to answer a question, though you can be sure that if it is one of the rural and regional MPs, the questions will either be on further regional assistance or a “half-dixer” on issues the Gillard Government agreed to support them on in return for helping deliver the ALP minority government.

Another factor in the boisterous affair that is Question Time, as far as the House of Representatives is concerned will be robed Speaker Peter Slipper who has brought new rules to bear in the conduct of Question Time. From yesterday on, the Speaker indicated that there will be no warning of MPs who are too disorderly, the dreaded 94a now at risk of being used on a more regular basis.

The Speaker also flagged further changes to Question Time in relation to the time length of both questions and answers. This is a very positive development and with a reduction in time out goes some of the mindless rubbish and confected anger that all too often invades Question Time.

The scene is set, the participants in Canberra are ready for the main event that is Question Time in just under 4 hours from time of writing. Will my predictions play out, unlike my Coalition predictions yesterday? Will I be blindsided again, predicting the wrong parliamentary tactics? Be watching or listening at 2pm AEDT to find out.

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