Blog Archives

What to Look Forward to in Australian Politics This Year

Okay, so for some the title of this post will perhaps be a bit of a misnomer. There will be some that are really looking forward to what 2013 means in terms of Australian politics, and there will be others that have greeted the start of 2013 with a sense of dread. Regardless, it’s going to be an epic year on the frontline of the political battle, with the coming months a winner takes all period in politics.

So why will some think of politics in 2013 with a sense of foreboding, and others with a feeling of political glee? In short, it’s because of an event, an 8 letter word starting with ‘e’. Give up? Of course you don’t. You’re thinking, well duh, he’s clearly talking about the federal election. And you would be 100% correct.

Coalition supporters and those swinging voters that have long switched off Labor are itching to have their say at the ballot box. On the other side, you have some Labor supporters that think the job can still be done, who are relishing the contest. Then you have others who feel the election is lost- and it almost certainly is.

The election year will bring something that was conspicuously absent in 2012 and that is serious policy announcements and refinement of existing policies. The politics of personality will still be played and pursued with the same level of vim and vigour as it was last year, but at least there will be a much more positive side to the political discourse as the election- likely sometime from August, approaches.

But with the good of an election year also comes the not so good. Promises will be made and most kept. However, some will inevitably be broken. In years gone by, we had ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ promises, but this has been replaced. We still have policies readily announced, to be implemented as soon as possible, but now in the political lexicon we have a little something called ‘aspirational’ policies. The latter are policies that are usually big commitments and worth implementing, but because of fiscal concerns will be flagged as something for the future. But like non-core promises, surely some will never, ever be introduced.

This election year, do not expect big-spending promises- well, at least not new ones anyway. Expect the Opposition, as they have since the early days of the Labor Government, to spend a significant amount of time focusing on the budget position. According to the polls, good economic management is something strongly associated with the right side of the political spectrum, so why wouldn’t the Coalition take every chance to prosecute this?

Election years also bring carefully targeted spending commitments from governments struggling to maintain their grasp on power and that will not be any different, despite the poll result appearing to be a fait accompli.

Aside from the budget, expect taxation, chiefly the carbon price and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, to continue to be a major feature in the political to-and-fro. According to the polls, the former is becoming less of an issue for the government, though still it still at this stage presents a problem.

Budget and taxation aside, the election campaign, which feels like it has already been going for some time will largely be a case of both sides of the spectrum trying to position themselves as stable and able to provide effective government.

Like any given year, whether there is an election pending or not, parliamentary sessions take place. Expect the commonwealth parliament to be a slightly different beast, but not altogether foreign to those of us who observed parliamentary politics in 2012. Undoubtedly there will be much more substance in the parliamentary debate this year, but the same noise and antics will be an ever-present feature, with the theatre that is parliament convening for the first time this year in early February. But of course, the election is all that just about anyone in the general public cares about.

It’s only early January and things are yet to heat up, apart from the weather. But do not let the relative silence fool you, because 2013 is set to be one frenetic year. The election is the event to look forward to this year. Then again, maybe not.

This Next Election Who Are You Dissatisfied With the Least?

Politics at the federal level in this country is at a low ebb, no doubt about that. That’s not to say that Australian politics has been or ever will be as popular as MasterChef. But politics under this 43rd parliament and the first minority government since wartime. These woes for politics certainly have a lot to do with broken promises and relentless aggression.

The lack of desire for the leaders of both sides of politics, despite the clear election winning position of the Abbott-led Coalition means, in terms of the Prime Ministership means it will not be the usual “who do you trust”, with trust so clearly lacking in politicians, but “who do you trust the most”.

More interestingly, in terms of party leadership it looks more and more certain every day that the equation will be “who are you dissatisfied with the least?”

Now of course in Australia we don’t elect our Prime Minister directly, the political party that takes government does that for us and as such, it doesn’t particularly matter what the electorate think so much of a leader, they’re almost always from a very safe seat for their own party. But when it’s close in the vote that’s a clearly different story with the leadership position all the more important. Ordinarily it can be expected that the choice of and performance of leader does have an impact of some repute on which party voters choose at the ballot box.

At the next election, it’s basically certain, pretty much lock it in Eddie, that the Coalition will win with Tony Abbott becoming the next Prime Minister of Australia and the Liberal and National Party coalition seizing the government benches.

In terms of voter dissatisfaction with the leaders, Newspoll has seen the Prime Minister languishing at levels of unhappiness with her performance in the Labor leadership at around 60% or thereabouts for many months.

The news regarding this same measure for Tony Abbott, despite being very competitive, even ahead at times in the preferred Prime Minister stakes is not a whole lot better with dissatisfaction in his performance as leader of the Coalition at levels consistently in the mid to high 50s on percentage terms.

Consistent Nielsen poll results show very high levels (over 50%) of voter dissatisfaction with the performance of both leaders. The last four Nielsen poll results show Prime Minister Gillard not having moved from a level of dissatisfaction in her performance of 59-60%. Again, that’s more than half saying they are not happy with the way things have gone.

Again in the Nielsen poll results over the same period Tony Abbott enjoys (though that’s quite the oxymoron because the results are still extremely poor) a lower level of unhappiness with his performance than that which the Prime Minister has experienced. For those same four Nielsen polls, Mr Abbott has seen a dissatisfaction level which has moved between the low 50s to the mid-to-high 50s, that’s again over 50% who aren’t too pleased with his performance as leader of the Opposition.

We are likely to see these trends continue until the next election with voters not particularly liking either leader in terms of their performance. But after all, in our two party system we ultimately pick between two political parties and at the next election, the voter disdain at the performance of the Opposition Leader will not count for much when such a large swing is on the cards. All in all it will surely be a case of who do you despise the least.

The ALP Might Think the G20 Has an Electoral Benefit, But Tell ’em They’re Dreaming

Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally announced today in Queensland that Brisbane had won the right to host the G20 summit in the year 2014. This was greeted with much appreciation and even gloating from Queensland politicians at different levels of government. Brisbane beat all other cities that put in a submission to be able to host this potentially very lucrative meeting of the world’s 19 biggest nations and the European Union. The event will have some definite positives for the Queensland economy when it is held in November 2014.

Brisbane won the event over the much bigger cities of Sydney and Melbourne, with politicians from both states and including Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle sticking the boot into the Gillard Government over the awarding to Brisbane of the summit.

Both states think that their cities have better facilities and they certainly do, with sizeable airports and convention centre facilities, not to mention terrific accommodation available.

That’s not to say that Brisbane doesn’t, it certainly does and the city has been working hard to develop world class facilities and attempting to grow a reputation worldwide as a true “world city”. The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre facilities are not to be sneezed at and are well and truly capable of hosting such a large and important meeting of world leaders.

Politicians from both NSW and Victoria and many in the media immediately upon hearing of Brisbane being made the host of the G20 immediately put the announcement down to politics. The ALP Government are finished in Queensland in particular and will be, on recent poll results, all but wiped out if an election were held in the near future.

So, of course it follows that speculation would immediately turn to the move by federal Labor being a so-called “vote-buying” initiative before the next federal election due to be held some time around mid-to late 2013.

But is it really reasonable to assume that Brisbane playing host to world leaders for the summit in 2014 would actually win votes? The answer is almost certainly not.

The event will likely have economic benefits for the economy of the city of Brisbane, bringing in what is estimated to be $50 million for the local economy over the course of the visit by international delegations. Though at the same time, much of the city would probably be in lockdown for such high-level visits so benefits, particularly to retail might not be so high.

On the other hand, hotels will be rubbing their collective hands together with glee at today’s announcement, particularly with tourism, a usually strong performer in the state of Queensland having been hit so bad because of the floods and the Global Financial Crisis

Brisbane having world leaders, including the US President visiting will also possibly have some impact on the broader tourism market, spurring confidence that things in Queensland have returned to a more stable position, but this is less certain and probably of much less benefit than many have been quick to assume today.

The potential too for world leaders discussing possible future business investment in and trade with the Queensland and Australian economy is a very important long-term prospect.

But all this will count for very little when it comes to the ballot box. International meetings of world leaders, though great in their own special way have never actually stayed with the thoughts of voters as potential election winners, or at the very least as the ALP was probably hoping against all hope, vote buyers of some face-saving repute.

There will never be a time when the exit polls say that a summit was any kind of factor in the electoral success of a political party.

Bounce, Bounce, Come On Bounce

The latest Newspoll continues to outline the grim and growing reality facing the Australian Labor Party, that barring a major fiasco tainting the Opposition, their hopes for winning the next election, due in 2013 are sinking further and further past the already toxic level it appears they have reached. The commentariat, including those that often are sympathetic toward an ALP Government seem to have roundly deserted praising and supporting the party in the press. This has been particularly the case since the events of the weekend when Craig Thomson and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper, both facing allegations of wrongdoing, were encouraged to appear to ostracise themselves.

The primary vote for the Coalition in the latest Newspoll has hit over 50% of the votes on offer if the polls are to be believed to indicate and mirror electoral reality exactly, now sitting at 51%. The Labor primary vote in the Newspoll released overnight now sits on 27%, close to half that of the Abbott-led Coalition and well into the electoral “death zone”.

In two-party-preferred terms the results could barely get any worse for the Gillard Government, with the 2PP vote now being 59% for the Liberal and National Party Opposition compared to 41% for the government, a result in itself which barely sees the government outside the zone for electoral disaster on two-party terms.

Even in the measure where the Prime Minister could draw at least some form of optimism if not for the hopes of the party, but for her leadership as compared with that of Tony Abott for the Liberal Party provides less cause for optimism. In the preferred Prime Minister stakes, Prime Minister Gillard has dropped 3% to sit on 36%  as opposed to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who now sits on 41%, a 5 percentage point lead.

Surely the ALP will be saying internally to the polls to “bounce, bounce, come on bounce”, particularly after the budget is delivered on May 8th and after the announcement yesterday that the NDIS, which is projected to help over 400,000 families will commence a year earlier at 4 “launch sites” across Autralia, initially helping 10,000 Australians, but with a “tough budget” supposed to occur, that will likely not turn into a political reality.

The Hide and Seek Poll

This Saturday the 28th of April the people of Queensland will go to the polls again. No, not in a run-off election to decide for certain which side won the recent state election, we already had that burnt on our retinas. No, it’s not to decide the President in a second round election which has been a popular occurrence recently, with East Timor going to a run-off poll and France headed that way next month. Give up? You could almost be forgiven, even if you’re a Queensland local for doing so. This Saturday marks the running of the Brisbane and other city and regional council election’s. As elections go, these local government polls have been part of a barely seen and just as rarely heard campaign.

The vote this weekend will see the people of Queensland return to the polls just over a month after the state sent the most brutal of messages to a long-term ALP Government so on the nose that barely a shadow of the former Queensland parliamentary Australian Labor Party remains in the parliament and even this situation could be bettered this weekend for the LNP with the by-election for the state seat of South Brisbane, vacated by former Premier Anna Bligh well within reach for a buoyant LNP machine that has felled almost all before it.

But the main game this weekend will be the council elections to be held for every council across the state this weekend. The local government elections have lacked in the visibility that the state government election did, with outsiders drawn in to comment and dissect the extraordinary 5 weeks of the historic campaign and the very short election night wait for the result, which was almost not even required, a waste of broadcast time almost.

Advertising for the council election seems to have been almost non-existent, with television campaigns only really ramping up in recent weeks with the two main mayoral candidates, the incumbent LNP Councillor Graham Quirk, the serving Lord Mayor and the ALP mayoralty hopeful, Ray Smith the focus of television commercials.

On the letterbox drop side of the advertising coin there has also been limited material to digest, though “digest” may be the wrong way to characterise what people generally do with political propaganda that finds its way into our letterboxes, forest-by-forest during a political campaign. This may well be a good thing as limited letterbox drops equal less spending on material most people don’t read.

Another feature found to be lacking during the council election campaigns has been the “boots on the ground” campaigning in the ‘burbs by party volunteers and operatives sitting close to the signage of their party’s candidate so as to not breach electoral law. These people appear to have been nowhere near as visible as they were during the recent state campaign nor any other in recent electoral history in Queensland.

Even speeches by the two major players, Lord Mayor Quirk and Ray Smith seem to have been few and far between, although, judging by media releases of announcements by the candidates, perhaps  they have been a victim of a weariness toward political lobbying for votes so recently after the endurance race that was Queensland Votes 2012. Though local media did host one of these events today, just 5 days out from voting day.

These circumstances combined scream out that the population of Queensland are weary of elections, that having one so soon after the state voted to oust the ALP Government, people for the most part just will not care for having more politics thrown at them after having en masse delivered the ALP in Queensland absolute mass devastation.

The lack of seriously vigorous and visible campaigning also points to the result not being a good one again for the Labor Party in Queensland. There just doesn’t appear to be that energy for change in City Hall, that thirst for delivering the reins of council to an alternative power.

Surely too, the recent electoral tsunami across the state has had a strong role in dissuading a struggling Labor brand to commit to fighting a very hard, energetic and tangible campaign.

Party finances so soon too after a highly publicised campaign in the state election have also led to the party coffers for both sides of politics to be drained sufficiently to render any real media blitz severely dehydrated.

Though it may be easy, given the lack of attention, don’t forget to vote in this hide and seek poll in reverse where the winner will be the one that didn’t end up hiding very well from the spotlight. Oh, it could also be the incumbent in situations like this.

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.

Where to Next for the Member for Griffith?

Kevin Rudd has now resigned as Foreign Minister to become again the Member for Griffith but the story is far from a conclusion and his resignation speech left more questions than answers. Basically his speech left open two possibilities, a challenge from the back bench in the near future or his complete resignation from the parliament.

In his speech from Washington the outgoing Foreign Minister said that he would be consulting his family upon his return to Brisbane sometime on Friday. This statement leaves open the possibility that he may quit the parliament, forcing a by-election. As I said in a post earlier today, this could see Griffith go to the Liberal Party in a by election, making political life all the more tenuous for Labor, like it was just a few short months ago.

In that very same sentence in the speech from Kevin Rudd, he also indicated that he would consult his parliamentary colleagues in the coming days as to his future as well. This could mean one of two things: one that he is seeking to mount a challenge or challenges from the back bench where he will be even more free to cause discontent within the party or, as I just outlined, these consultations may lead to him deciding to quit the parliament. If he did decide to quit parliament, this would be extraordinary from someone whom many see as having an insurmountable amount of ego.

There was one final element of the speech pointing to a possible challenge, when Mr Rudd spoke about the party needing to decide who was best placed to defeat Tony Abbott at the next election. Tellingly, the person best placed to defeat Tony Abbott at the next election, according to polls for a long time, is one K Rudd.

The only sure thing is that this saga will continue until at least Monday or Tuesday, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday turning out to be must watch days in Australian politics. However, my money is on the fun not being over yet and I wouldn’t mind betting a Keating style tilt at the leadership being a possibility now. Only time will tell.

The Campaign That’s Almost Over Before it Has Begun Has Now Begun

Ladies and gentlemen of voting age that time once every three years where we rock up to a school or a community centre hoping to get a park and wishing not to be stuck in a cue for half an hour is now here. That’s right, Queensland Votes 2012 has now officially been launched with the Premier paying the Governor of Queensland a visit today to ask that the parliament that copped an earful this week now be dissolved. From this begins the most promising official campaign period for the LNP in many years.

If the last week is anything to go by, the campaign will certainly top the list of dirtiest campaigns in the history of the state and perhaps up there with the dirtiest Australia has seen. This year the attack ads hit many weeks ago, a lot earlier than usual which is clearly an indication of the magnitude of the task for Labor though it seems it would take more than a handful of Olympic sized swimming pools of mud flung to get even close to a reaction that would warrant another 3 year term for Labor. Not only that it goes further to prove that the Bligh Labor Government is tired and has put character assassination above policy creation.

On the policy front it appears from the length of the campaign so far and from the state of the budget, that there may not be too many policies to be revealed during the campaign itself. Rather, there will likely be more detail added to recently launched policies from both sides and perhaps one or two big announcements likewise. This is where other parties, like Katter’s Australian Party and the Greens will find more of their policies being examined as has seemingly occurred, particularly those of Katter’s Australian Party.

This campaign also does have, along with the strong leadership and policy focus an “It’s Time” factor about it which it seemed was the case near the last election, but will almost certainly play out that way this time around.

The leaders will undoubtedly be targetting the marginal seats, including Ashgrove, which while at a margin of over 7% is by the nature of the contest involved a “marginal” seat a and must win for a Campbell Newman LNP Government. The LNP will need to focus on winning many inner and outer suburban Brisbane seats and taking back many of the regional city seats held by MPs of the Bligh Government.

Another focus for the LNP will surely be targetting those seats where defectors have either become Independent MPs  or Katter’s Australian Party MPs and candidates for the party at the March 24 election.

For the Bligh Government the election campaign will almost certainly be about loss limitation, particularly in the key seats around Brisbane and regional cities where even margins considered safe look able to be easily surpassed in many cases if the polls are near an accurate indication of statewide voting intentions.

Now to the party that is getting a lot of attention from the media but probably will not live up to the hype surrounding it and certainly not up to the expectations of its leaders. Yes, I am talking about Katter’s Australian Party.

Bob Katter and his new party are clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur as has been borne out by all polls in recent weeks and months showing the party lucky to achieve single digit poll results. As the campaign bubbles along this may hit closer to 10% but that would be the absolute plateau for voter numbers.

Katter’s Australian Party may cause an upset or two in regional seats, the only real area where they would possibly gain any seats, but the likelihood of a Katter’s Australian Party Government or even a major force are completely and utterly non-existent.

It is the Greens that are likely to end up in third place at the end of this 5 week election campaign with a vote hovering around double digits and it will be interesting to see how this translates into individual seats, but again, like the Katter’s Australian Party, is unlikely to convert into seats.

So the campaign has begun and over the next five weeks we be door-knocked, come across many street stalls and many and various party members waving signs hoping we honk to acknowledge our vote for their candidate. The campaign will be robust and it will be widely reported. The only question left is how exactly will it play out and for that, we have to wait with baited breath until March 24th, somewhere after 8pm one would think.

%d bloggers like this: