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Carbon Tax Repealed, Hyperbole Revealed

Today the Abbott Government were, 10 months after their election, able to see the repeal of the former Labor Government’s carbon tax pass through the Senate. Finally the Coalition was able to deliver on their most solemn commitment to the Australian people in 2013. It has not been an easy road to this point for the Coalition, not just in the area of carbon pricing, but in general. Understandably then, the relief of today’s events among Coalition MP’s and Senators was palpable.

But not all political players were happy. The Greens led the way with the condemnation of the government and understandably so. It was at their insistence that the former Labor Government introduce a price on carbon in return for their support in minority government. The ALP also voiced their concerns with the events of today. Their position being that Australia needs an Emissions Trading Scheme.

As often happens when controversial things occur in politics, there was not much restraint shown in the language used to describe what happened in Canberra. Hyperbole got a real workout. Both politicians and social media indulged in making hyperbolic statements.

The trouble is, whatever your viewpoint on this, or any other issue, hyperbole does little to further your cause. It makes you look overly emotional and can turn people off your cause. Simple language without outlandish claims works best when trying to communicate serious points. Few people like feeling as if they are being preached to. It is better to feel you are part of a solution than it is that you are part of a problem.

By far the most overblown and indeed overused claim today was that the repeal of the carbon tax would doom the planet. It was said by many that our children and their children should be told it was Tony Abbott and his government who should be held responsible for the state of the planet in their lifetime. This is just plain wrong.

What one nation does in isolation will not curb or exacerbate global warming in any significant way. What the international community as a whole chooses to do, or at least the vast majority of countries, will have an impact.

What one nation does in reversing action on curbing emissions will, on the other hand, have a significant impact on their own natural environment and the health of their citizens.

This so far might sound like an endorsement for so-called ‘direct action’. It is not. That policy is incredibly expensive.

What Australia needs is an Emissions Trading Scheme, or ETS. We almost had one not all that long ago. It was not perfect, but it was a very good start. And it would have saved a lot of political trouble for multiple players in the years after it was dumped. And it would have been reducing emissions long before Labor’s carbon tax began operating.

The debate around climate change and how to tackle it will continue. And that leaves open the possibility that minds will change. The key is that emotion is largely taken out of the debate, while still being able to calmly discuss the potential consequences of global inaction.

Be Cynical About the Timing of Electoral Law Changes, Not What They Seek to Ensure

New electoral laws passed under the Gillard Government may well have a not insignificant impact on election results according to an examination of Newspoll surveys. Under the legislation, people who are not currently enrolled, but are, or become eligible to vote will automatically be placed on the electoral roll.

The new laws which would see approximately 1.5 million people, mostly new voters, added to the Australian Electoral Commission roll could change election results by up to 1.5%.

While 1.5% may not actually seem like a particularly large percentage, in politics it can mean the difference between a term or two, perhaps three in power. In close contests such a margin could easily mean the difference between seizing government and languishing on the opposition benches for three years.

Under these laws, those with the most to lose are the Liberal and National Party’s. It is a long-observed trend that young people generally vote for Labor, even the Greens. So of course, Liberal Party MP’s were yesterday quite concerned about the possible effects to their vote from automatic and compulsory electoral enrolment.

But is that discontent and anger justified in terms of the way the franchise is conducted in Australia?

In Australia, whether you believe in it or not, we have compulsory voting.

Every three years those of voting age are required to vote in the national poll. Most do vote, with a percentage casting informal votes. But all in all, most people vote and do so correctly. There is also a relatively small number of people who fail to turn up to their local polling place at all and a fine is imposed on them.

So, with this compulsory voting system there should be an understanding that you are automatically enrolled to vote.

Although in conflict with my generally liberal beliefs, I believe that everyone of adult age should be required to head to polling booths on election day to vote. I believe this because I see it as the best chance of electing a government that is generally representative of the people.

But of course I am firmly in favour of a secret ballot and if you are silly enough to use your opportunity to vote just to doodle all over the ballot paper or write silly names or words next to candidates, well, then, feel free to go ahead and act like child. In fact, bugger off.

Anyway, back to the crux of the issue at hand.

While the new AEC laws are not that dramatic in terms of enfranchising all that should be voting, there is an argument that could be sensibly made about the timing of the amendment.

The new clause comes in at a time when the ALP is struggling electorally. The Labor Party have been behind in the polls for a prolonged period of time and still, despite some narrowing in the margin, look set to lose.

So of course, there is scope, in that sense, for some cynicism.

The law should have been the same way from the beginning of the commonwealth, or at the very least, if Labor were so worried about people missing out on the vote, from the start of their administration which began in late 2007.  But no, full voter enrolment is apparently a newfound thing for the ALP.

Anger about the laws themselves is misguided unless the Liberal Party supports changing the electoral rules to allow for voluntary voting. It’s not “rorting” the system when the system is compulsory voting, it’s ensuring that all people of voting age will have the opportunity to vote.

Feel free, however, to be cynical about the timing. Ask yourself the following questions: Why now? Why not from the beginning of the federation? Why not from the beginning of this Labor Government?

Councillor Quirk Will Be Elected Lord Mayor and the LNP Will Keep Chamber Majority

It’s election time again tomorrow across Queensland, not for a re-run of the state election so emphatically won by Campbell Newman and the LNP, but for the race to control council chambers and mayoral positions in all urban and regional councils across the state. Most eyes tomorrow will be on the mayoral race in Brisbane with the incumbent Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, seeking to be elected by the public for the first time up against Labor candidate Ray Smith. Polls this week indicate that the results will go much the same way as those in the state election.

This week a poll conducted by research company ReachTEL showed that the contest for the position of Lord Mayor is well and truly over with the current serving Mayor attracting 58% of the polling vote compared to ALP rival Ray Smith who according to the results will be unable to crack 30% of the vote at 25.4%

Even further back in the race in third place is the Greens candidate, former Australian Democrat Andrew Bartlett who has only managed to attract 14.1% of the vote if the results of this poll are borne out on Saturday. The other two candidates, Chris Carson and Rory Killen would poll only 2.6% of the vote for mayor between them according to the ReachTEL survey with a sample size of 1085 participants.

The strong result for Councillor Graham Quirk in the position of Lord Mayor also points to a continuation of the majority held by the LNP, a result achieved by the now Premier, Campbell Newman during the last vote for City Hall positions.

A further polling question in the survey asked respondents whether the recent state election result for the LNP made it more or less likely they would vote for the LNP in the race to control Brisbane. The results show that 66.5% of those who participated in the survey were either ‘more likely’ to vote for the LNP (31.1%) or their position since the landslide LNP win remained ‘unchanged’ (35.4%).

These results point to another unpleasant night for the Queensland ALP machine, the second in just a month and will reinforce the need for soul-searching and renewal within party circles.

Queensland Votes: ALP Ministers and Their Chances

This  coming Saturday Queensland will go to the polls with a landslide victory for the LNP a certainty after polls have failed to budge for a significant period of time. Pundits say that the ALP, on the latest polling could see their number of seats in the Queensland Parliament reduced to as little as 12 seats.

Aside from the fact that this would mean a substantial number of backbenchers and new candidates in ALP incumbent seats losing their position or not gaining a spot in the parliament, the polls indicate that a number of Bligh Government ministers are also at risk of losing their seats come Saturday night after polls close.

So just what are the chances of those ministers who will be continuing with their political career at least until after this election has run its course?

ANDREW FRASER

Andrew Fraser, if he loses the seat of Mount Coot-tha would be the biggest scalp that the LNP could claim in what is expected to be one of the biggest election victories for a political party in the history of the state of Queensland. Mr Fraser is the current Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for State Development and Trade, the highest profile candidate in real danger of losing his seat to Saxon Rice of the LNP.

The Deputy Premier and Treasurer holds the electorate of Mount Coot-tha by a margin which is just 0.7% above the swing needed for the LNP to take the reins of government from the ALP.

This is certainly winnable for Saxon Rice and the LNP who have been ahead in the polls there since last year, recently polling 56.1% to the ALP’s 43.9 2-party-preferred in a poll conducted by ReachTel.

The unknown factor is whether a high Greens vote for Adam Stone will see the incumbent over the line.

MY PICK: Saxon Rice.

GEOFF WILSON

The Minister for Health and Member for Ferny Grove has been embattled for some time, struggling to deal with entrenched problems at Queensland Health including waiting lists, a pay debacle and a fake Tahitian prince who allegedly defrauded the department of millions of dollars. This led to an announcement by Premier Anna Blight that the department would be split into two separate bodies, one covering frontline services and the other corporate affairs.

Geoff Wilson holds the seat of Ferny Grove on a slender margin of 4.5%, that is 0.1% below the swing required for an LNP Government. Mr Wilson will face Dale Shuttleworth of the LNP who looks almost certain to win, save for a very good showing by the Greens.

MY PICK: Dale Shuttleworth.

CRAIG WALLACE

Craig Wallace is the Minister for Main Roads, Fisheries, and Marine Infrastructure and the member for Thuringowa, an electorate based around Townsville in Far North Queensland.

Mr Wallace has consistently been rated as one of the poorest performers in the Bligh Government. He sits in a safe Labor seat with a margin of 8.5% but his position still could be lost to the LNP candidate Sam Cox, particularly after the swing at the last election if that is any indication of the prospects of this under-performing minister. The seat also entirely envelops the federal electorate of Herbert which is held by Ewen Jones of the LNP.

MY PICK: Sam Cox.

CAMERON DICK

Cameron Dick is the Minister for Education and Industrial Relations in the Queensland Parliament and the MLA for the seat of Greenslopes, an inner suburban electorate.

Mr Dick holds this seat by a margin of 6.9% and is more than under threat of losing it at the election, facing defeat at the hands of long-term policeman and LNP candidate Ian Kaye who received a 4.5% to him when contesting this seat at the 2009 election when Anna Bligh and the ALP were returned.

MY PICK: Ian Kaye.

TIM MULHERIN

Tim Mulherin is the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies and the sitting member for the seat of Mackay. Mr Mulherin holds this seat by a margin of 16.7%, making Mackay a very safe Labor seat.

Mr Mulherin faces LNP candidate John Kerslake who is likely to erode some of the margin of the incumbent ALP minister.

MY PICK: Tim Mulherin with a much reduced margin.

STIRLING HINCHLIFFE

Stirling Hinchliffe is the Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining in the Bligh Government and the current MLA for the electorate of Stafford near Brisbane. Mr Hinchliffe holds this safe Labor seat by a margin of 7.3% but there will certainly be a major contest for this seat between Mr Hinchliffe and his LNP opponent, Chris Davis.

The electorate of Stafford shares its constituency between the federal Labor held electorate of Lilley and the LNP held seat of Brisbane.

MY PICK: Despite the margin, Chris Davis may well pick this one up, a suburban Brisbane seat that has changed in complexion but it will be a very close contest.

RACHEL NOLAN

Rachel Nolan is the Minister for Finance, Natural Resources and the Arts and the member for the seat of Ipswich, near Brisbane. This electorate is a  very safe Labor seat with a margin of 16.7%.

This seat, regardless of the immense margin required to clinch it by the LNP candidate Ian Berry will be one to watch because of the massive upset that a poll conducted by ReachTel seems to predict. This poll shows that the LNP candidate Mr Berry would win, polling 59.4% to 40.6% for Rachel Nolan. The sample size however is small so may not be so indicative of voting intentions.

MY PICK: Ian Berry in a marginal victory.

ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK

Annastacia Palaszczuk is the current Minister for Transport and Multicultural Affairs and MLA for the electorate of Inala, a working class suburb that the electorate is named after and based upon.

The minister and MLA for Inala holds this seat by a margin of 21.5% which even in a complete electoral massacre will not be eclipsed. Her LNP opponent is Joanna Lindgren.

MY PICK: Annastacia Palaszczuk by a significant though reduced margin.

PHIL REEVES

Phil Reeves is the current Minister for Child Safety and Sport and the incumbent for the seat of Mansfield in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. Mr Reeves holds this seat on a slender margin of 4.4% and has been running an intensely local campaign with almost no mention of the Labor brand save for some red signs around the electorate which bear the party name but not the logo.

Phil Reeves faces lawyer Ian Walker of the LNP and looks set to lose this seat after lacklustre performance after poor performance since becoming the MLA for Mansfield.

The margin of 4.4% is 0.2% lower than the absolute minimum swing required by the LNP to form government which will certainly be eclipsed by a substantial margin statewide.

MY PICK: Ian Walker in a canter.

KAREN STRUTHERS

Karen Struthers is the Minister for Community Services, Housing and Minister for Women and the MLA for the seat of Algester, based on the suburb that gives the electorate its name.

The LNP candidate for the electorate is Anthony Shorten who faces a task of eclipsing a margin of 9.2%.

The 8.6% swing that the LNP achieved at the last election in Algester in 2009 will give heart to the LNP candidate that he is in with a shot of taking the seat.

MY PICK: Karen Struthers to retain but by a fairly narrow margin.

JAN JARRATT

Jan Jarratt is the current Minister for Tourism, Manufacturing and Small Business and the MLA for the electorate of Whitsunday. The member for Whitsunday holds this seat with a slender margin of 3.2%.

Jan Jarratt is up against Jason Costigan of the LNP.

MY PICK: Jason Costigan should win this easily.

SIMON FINN

Simon Finn is the current Minister for Government Services, Building Industry and Information and Communication Technology and the MLA for Yeerongpilly. This electorate has a margin of 8.7%.

Simon Finn is up against the LNP candidate Carl Judge.

MY PICK: Simon Finn is considered by many to be an invisible member in his electorate and though the margin is safe for Labor this will probably go down to the wire on Saturday night. Either candidate by a small margin.

CURTIS PITT

Curtis Pitt is the current Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. Mr Pitt is the sitting MLA for Mulgrave, holding the safe Labor seat with a margin of 8.1%.

Polls have the LNP candidate Robyn Quick ahead of the sitting ALP MLA but also have the Katter’s Australian Party candidate, Damian Byrnes polling well which could impact significantly on the result in this electorate.

MY PICK: Curtis Pitt to hold on with a possible surprise packet in the KAP candidate.

VICKY DARLING

Vicky Darling is the current Minister for the Environment and the sitting member in the electorate of Sandgate, a seaside part of Queensland, less than an hour from Brisbane.

This seat is consider very safe Labor with a margin of 12.4%. Vicky Darling is up against Kerry Millard of the LNP.

MY PICK: Vicky Darling to win but with a much reduced margin.

The Sunday Sandwich (That’s a Wrap)

The hostilities in the battle that is Australian politics have ceased for the week as our politicians rest and recuperate for the last sitting week until the May budget begins next week. It was a frantic week in Australian politics with plenty of vigorous and often over the top debate. Parliament this week welcomed (well mostly), Senator Bob Carr, the new Gillard Government Minister for Foreign Affairs, a former NSW Premier and more recently private citizen who brought some public commentary baggage to the role and created controversy with comments this week on Papua New Guinea. Our politicians, particularly Coalition, ALP and the Greens were engaged in fierce debate over tax cuts to big and small business related to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) before the Senate. There was also debate over the appointment of a new Future Fund chairperson and for a time, debate on customs and border protection.

Sadly, Saturday saw the passing of Margaret Whitlam, wife of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the age of 92 not long after a fall which saw her hospitalised. Gough and Margaret Whitlam shared an enduring partnership, a testament to their undying love for each other which lasted almost 70 years.

Parliament House in Canberra saw the arrival of a person who Labor seem to be resting an amount of their hopes on, Senator and new Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. The Senator sat on the back-bench for his first day of parliament after being officially welcomed as a member of the Senate on the first sitting day of the week. Later that day Senator Carr was sworn in by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce as a minister and member of the Executive Council.

It didn’t take long for the newly sworn minister to create controversy with comments threatening to impose sanctions on the PNG Government if their political woes are not resolved. This quickly drew rebuke from the government in Papua New Guinea and just as swiftly led to a political backdown of sorts with the Senator saying his comments were taken out of context.

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax, or MRRT for short again took a central role in the political debate of the nation, a part that it has played since the Gillard Government re-negotiated and re-framed. The MRRT, before the Senate has caused the Greens and the Coalition, according to the Labor Party at least agree that higher taxes for big business are the go, even though the Coalition have clearly stated that they oppose the tax and therefore the tax cuts associated with the package. The tax will go to a Senate vote next week.

The Future Fund has received a big focus this week through the Gillard Government selection for the role, businessman and recent education review chief David Gonski getting the gong. A government nomination for a public board is usually a political appointment so there is nothing new from this angle on the appointment of Mr Gonski.

What is different though about this is the utterly shambolic process entered into by the government and the fact that the ALP Government did not listen to the recommendation of the board. David Gonski was appointed to search for a replacement to the outgoing head of the Future Fund and to  consult with other members of the board for their thoughts. The board wanted current member, Peter Costello, the former Treasurer and creator of the fund and the government then went ahead this week and announced that the man who was to search for the replacement, Mr Gonski himself would be appointed to the role, ruffling feathers.

Customs and border security earned a place in Question Time and political debate in Canberra this week and in the NSW Parliament after an Australia Post licensee in the Sydney suburb of Sylvania Waters was charged with importing and selling 150 Glock firearms since August 23 last year police allege. Both Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell linked this crime to customs and border security.

Parliament returns again next week for the final sitting week before the budget is handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan in May and looks set to continue to be a fiery affair. The Minerals Resource Rent Tax will face a vote this coming week in the Senate and looks set to be the focus of most debate in both chambers for the week and undoubtedly outside of the parliament. The Fair Work Investigation into Craig Thomson will surely share some of the focus at least as fair as the Coalition strategy goes. The only question remaining is what unknown issues will take up the remaining attention of our parliamentarians as they race toward the major fiscal announcement in May?

Question Time Ahead of Time

The day is Thursday, the last day in a sitting week in the Parliament of Australia in Canberra and that usually means fireworks as parliamentary politics winds down for the week. Yesterday it was the unexpected topic of customs and their role in gun control which stole the show in Question Time in the House of Representatives. Today the proverbial battle lines should be much clearer with the Fair Work Australia investigation into the Victorian branch which has just concluded the sure focus of Coalition questions to the Gillard Government.

The Fair Work Australia Investigation into Victoria Number 1 branch has reached a conclusion and was reported yesterday and will see 3 former officials from the union seeking possibly pecuniary penalties as a result of their alleged actions in the Federal Court of Australia. The officials will not be subjected to criminal prosecution.

At the same time the Commonwealth Ombudsman has commenced an investigation into the actions of the General Manager of Fair Work Australia, Bernadette O’Neill over the 3 years of the investigation into the Health Services Union. The complaint seeks an imminent end to the investigations into the Member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, in addition to answers over the snail-like pace of the overall investigation into the union

The Coalition, likely led in the questioning by Tony Abbott and key front-bencher’s like Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop will continue to pursue the government over the issue focusing on the length of the investigation and seeking help to draw the remaining examinations to a close in the very near future.

The Opposition may follow up with a few questions following on from yesterday where it launched an attack on the Government over the importation of firearms and government cuts to customs.

The ALP Government will certainly continue to highlight the spending that is associated with its mining tax, the MRRT in particular, but also the carbon tax. The government is also likely to draw attention to the Coalition and the Greens blocking the big business tax cuts, albeit for different reasons with the Greens blocking it because big business in their mind shouldn’t receive cuts and the Coalition, because the cuts are associated with the mining tax which they say they will rescind.

There is a high likelihood that the tensions which have been exhibited all week, including yesterday when more than a handful of Coalition MPs were booted for an hour under Standing Order 94a will continue today. This would likely see a comparative number of MPs booted, again heavily expected to be from the Coalition side.

A motion to suspend Standing Orders is also a high possibility, likely in relation to the Fair Work Australia investigation into the HSU and Craig Thomson, a focus of Opposition questions for some time now.

All will be revealed and debated with nothing held back from 2pm AEDT

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.

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