Carmen goin’

A big day for federal election news, with Carmen Lawrence’s retirement announcement, Bob Debus’s confirmation that he will run in Macquarie, and Peter Andren’s unexpected decision to contest the Senate rather than Calare or Macquarie (the former now very likely to be won by the Nationals). Fremantle being the Poll Bludger’s home electorate, there will be a temptation for me to over-report the imminent preselection contest caused by Lawrence’s departure. A better idea would be to collate a thorough summary of all important preselection contests still in play, but most of the recent action in this area has happened under my radar. I therefore invite the assistance of the Poll Bludger brains trust, who are invited to share their knowledge of local party argybargy in comments.

Fremantle (WA, Labor 7.7%): All the talk so far has surrounded United Nations human rights lawyer Melissa Parke, who you can read about here. Parke has the backing of both Carmen Lawrence and Jim McGinty, Left faction chieftain and state member for Fremantle. It appears the party’s affirmative action policy dictates that the candidate be female.

Deakin (Victoria, Liberal 5.0%): The federal ALP was this week asked to adjudicate over a fraught preselection process that was supposed to be decided a month ago. This follows an appeal brought by local general practitioner Peter Lynch, the party’s candidate from 2004, against his three-vote defeat by Mike Symons of the Electrical Trades Union. A plebiscite of local party members reportedly gave Peter Lynch 64.8 per cent support compared with 35.2 per cent for Symons (Lynch claiming support from the Left, Pledge and Independents factions), but this accounts for only 50 per cent of the final vote. The rest is determined by the party’s tightly factionalised Public Office Selection Committee which met on February 28, but the counting of its votes was delayed pending investigation of a challenge to the eligibility of a POSC member who also sat on the party’s administrative committee. When the count gave victory to Symons on March 15, Lynch complained of further irregularities and launched an appeal. In an email to party members published in Andrew Landeryou’s The Other Cheek on March 1, Lynch complained of a deal between the Right and the Left sub-faction centred on Dean Mighell and the Electrical Trades Union, in which the former would back the ETU’s Mike Symons in exchange for the latter’s support for Peter McMullin in Corangamite (the Financial Review reported Symons also won the backing of the Left faction CFMEU). Also in The Other Cheek was a letter from Kathy Jackson, a figurehead of the Right faction Health Services Union, which accused her own faction’s leadership of misleading Lynch into believing he had their support while they marshalled forces for Symons.

Page (NSW, Nationals 4.2%): Sitting member Ian Causley is retiring. Nominees for Nationals preselection originally included former cabinet minister Larry Anthony, who lost his seat of Richmond in 2004. However, he announced his withdrawal on March 22, saying "the ambition’s there but the impact it would have had on the family would have been just too much for them". Others mentioned have included Clarence Valley councillor Chris Gulaptis, Kyogle Mayor Ernie Bennett and Lennox Head GP Sue Page (apparently not part of the Earle and Don Page clan).

Kalgoorlie (WA, Liberal 6.4%): Ed the Pseph write in comments that the Labor preselection is "a three-way go between Sharon Thiel, Jane Truscott and Paul Robson". The West Australian describes "high profile" former mayor Robson as the "standout". Thiel is an electorate officer to state front-bencher Jon Ford, a member for the upper house Mining & Pastoral region. Michael Gorey of the Kalgoorlie Miner reports that Truscott is a nurse at Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital who "moved to the Goldfields five months ago after spending 10 years in the United States".

WA Senate (Liberal): Despite being 70 years old, Senator Ross Lightfoot will seek another six-year term at a party preselection vote on April 28. He faces a strong challenge from the party’s much touted state senior vice-president, Mathias Cormann.

Queensland Senate: Nominees to fill the position created by Santo Santoro’s departure include Young Liberals president Mark Powell, disabled advocate and businesswoman Sue Boyce, former state party leader Bob Quinn and Brisbane councillor Jane Prentice. As Powell had already been preselected as the party’s number three candidate for the coming election behind Ian Macdonald and Santoro (Boyce was fourth), the party’s management committee had the option of elevating him to the vacancy without opening for nominations. Santoro’s faction usually wielded a majority on the committee with support from a "rainbow coalition" in the centre (associated with Ryan MHR Michael Johnson), but he was evidently unable to keep the latter on board in his present circumstances. There were also reports of efforts to circumvent the confrontation by recruiting an external star candidate – names mentioned included former Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove and rugby league player Shane Webcke, but all have ruled it out. If a report in Crikey’s "tips and rumours" section is to be believed, other names of interest include Michael Caltabiano, John Caris, Phil Blain and Steve Dixon.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

192 comments on “Carmen goin’”

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  1. I would be happier about affirmative action if it wasn’t used by male party faction leaders to plant their wives, ex-wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends into safe seats, regardless of talent. Being a gentleman I will name no names, but some of the worst logs in federal caucus got there as a result of such practices. (Is a female log a logge?)

  2. Adam, I naively thought that was only in NSW. I particularly like it when the logess, having got the seat, ditches the boyfriend / husband. There was a great case of this in Western Sydney about 10 years ago – no names obviously.

  3. Re Makin. Trish Draper definitely does have a personal vote, but incoming Liberal candidate Bob Day has a huge personal following. He oversaw the building of entire suburbs in the electorate, particularly around the Highbury, Tea Tree Gully, Hope Valley, Modbury areas of the seat. His following is substantial and he is using a chunk of his personal fortune to fund his campaign.

    In 2004 the seat would probably have swung in Draper’s favour had it not been for her travel rorting (she was lucky to survive). The swing to Labor was very soft back then due to the aforementioned rorts and I think the true margin that the ALP has to overcome is more in the region of 7% as opposed to 0.9%. The seat is likely beyond them.

  4. William

    Ozpolitics has the following post.

    The Poll Bludger should be pleased as this Act repealed section 350 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The old section 350 provided criminal penalties for defamation against electoral candidates. A candidate dissatisfied with the Poll Bludger’s (most excellent) electorate guide initiated a private prosecution against its author, William Bowe, for an alleged breach of section 350.

    What was that about, I’m intrigued sometimes with the info in some posts.

  5. As I type this, I’m listening to Andrew Robb on Compass, regurgitating the Work ‘Choices” line with a straight face. He is claiming that workers have a choice. As anyone who knows anything about the legislation knows, there is no choice for the workers. Tristar sacked a 35-year employee for speaking to the press. Others throughout the nation are being forced onto AWAs. There is no choice, and people realise this. It is particularly galling to me to hear Andrew Robb speak thus because he comes from a DLP family. It is extraordinary that anyone with a DLP background can end up in the Liberal Party.

    Work “Choices” is bad news for the government. I do not for moment believe the articles in The Australian about how the issue is difficult for Labor because business likes the new regime.

    I was at a friend’s birthday celebration today, with a number of former DLP officials (including five former state presidents) and supporters. The opposition to John Howard was an eye-opener. I still think he will lose.

  6. William

    Brian posted the answer, thanks.
    Good on you, would still have put you out of pocket a bit.
    As I said I was intrigued with the level of some comments on sites.
    As I read it legal actions were not pursued because of the difficulty in establishing jurisidiction and of intent.

  7. Andrew Robb sounded like he believed what he was saying. Extraordinary as this may seem, I think the Liberals do actually believe what they are saying. This means not only that they really are out of touch with the electorate but also that they are really out of touch with reality and thus less able to respond to the genuine concerns Australians have about their nineteenth century IR laws. If Labor pushes IR, with clear detail, it will win.

  8. I draw the attention of those bemused by the spectacular ignorance evinced by many ‘commentators’ to Norman Abjorensen in the Oz today.

    Apparently, Rob Borbidge came to power on the back of One Nation. I think he’d be a bit taken aback by that information, seeing as how Pauline Hanson entered Parliament after Borbidge became Premier.

  9. The ignorance attributed to Philip Coorey was also exhibited by Jim Middleton on ABC TV News the night of Peter Andren’s announcement. Middleton also said that Labor now needed 17 seats rather than 16. I’m gobsmacked that professional commentators can’t count!

  10. Do not be surprised by the ignorance of political commentators.

    Note the snide reference in The Age editorial: “remember those “red menace” television commercials, with darkening arrows descending on poor, innocent white Australia?” (“Dead party walking: the DLP staggers to its feet”, The Age, 14/12/2006). It is the use of the word “white” that makes this comment disgraceful, designed as it is to imply racism on the part of the DLP, when in fact, the DLP was the first party to argue for the abolition of the White Australia Policy.

    Simple factual errors and unsubstantiated interpretations were quite common; e.g., “Geelong MP Elaine Carbines was also narrowly defeated by DLP candidate Peter Kavanagh in the seat of Western Victoria largely because of her party’s preferences to the DLP.” (Farrah Tomazin, “Christmas session to pass promises”, The Age, 15/12/2006) So a political journalist now thinks that a candidate whose preferences are counted because she is excluded could somehow come back into the race and win if her preferences went to a different candidate!

    A little knowledge of political history would be useful to those who read the inaccurate claims still made about the DLP (“DLP on verge of breaking 30-year drought”, The Australian, 6/12). Even leaving aside Nino Randazzo, whose election to the Italian Senate was not under the DLP label, the last DLP MP was Kevin Harrold, who sat in the NSW Parliament from 1973 to 1976.

    ‘Norman Abjorensen needs to reconsider some of his claims about the DLP and its return (“Santa’s spectre calls from the grave”, The Australian, 15/12).

    ‘The DLP did not contest only House of Representative seats in Victoria in an “impotent tantrum”. Billy Snedden had promised a joint DLP-LCP Senate ticket in 1974, but that promise was not kept. The Victorian DLP contested both Houses up until 1977.

    According to a political journalist, Victoria uses first-past-the-post to elect the Legislative Assembly (Ellen Whinnett, “Voters hit below the belt”, Herald Sun, 19/12/2006). She writes, “The winner is simply the one who receives the most votes.”

    As I said, basic errors abound, and not just in political coverage. During the Kennett years, the press showed an exceptional ignorance of educational issues as it acted as part of the government spin machine.

  11. I remember reading on the front page of either the SMH or the Oz, in all the media pap on the Centenary of Federation, that Australia was one of the successful long-standing federations of the world, along with the USA and Canada.

    Maybe the journo hadn’t heard of the word Confederation – I was amazed that a political journo hadn’t picked it up.

  12. Chris, that was a ruling on the federal corporations power… Australia might be become corporate unitary state! Now there’s a plot for the paranoid.

  13. William Bowe Says:

    April 1st, 2007 at 11:32 pm
    David, as you may have learned by now – yes, Powell has withdrawn and thrown his support behind Bob Quinn.

    Yes I got that bit. It’s just that the article seemed to imply that he was no longer contesting the federal election as the Libs#3 either. A potentially winnable position. But I gather that’s not the case.

    Thanks for fixing my post.

  14. Sacha – I thought confederation described a looser form of federation. The successionist American states dubbed themselves the Confederacy because of their emphasis on states’ rights.

    Why would this be an appropriate term for Australia, US or Canada given their strong central governments?

  15. My understanding was that when Canada first formed a national government in the mid 1800s, it was called Confederation (in the same way Australia went through Federation) but my limited knowledge of Canadian politics is that is no less centralised than Australia, although I do think that the provincial governments do have a role to play in the federal government that resembles Germany, a bit more than in Australia.

  16. A federation is an arrangement where the central govt has power to legislate on certain prescribed topics with the provinces legislating on all other topics.

    A confederation is where the provinces are explicitly given the power to legislate on certain topics with the central govt having the power to legislate on other topics.

    The US and Australia are federations, Canada is a confederation.

  17. Getting back on topic:

    Anne Davies says today that Mark Arbib “eyeing a spot on Labor’s Senate ticket”. Michelle Grattan reported the same thing yesterday.

    What to make of this? Ursula Stephens was top of the ticket in 2001, and is only in her first term. If she’s under threat, it’s gone entirely unreported in the mainstream press. Second spot goes to the Left, likely to be filled by Doug Cameron. That just leaves the marginal third spot. Is Arbib really going to settle for this less-than-secure place on the ticket?

  18. Simon Birmingham is the No 2 endorsed Liberal Senate candidate in SA. Presumably he will be appointed to the casual vacancy created by Ferris’s death.

    Debnam has resigned.

  19. My main problem with the ALP today is that it is a who-is-who of the Union movement, everyone who entered into the ALP seems to come from some Union. If you look at the 2004 election coverage. Almost 80% of ALP candidate served in a union.

    If all their learning comes from working in the union, they might be good at politics, they might know how to get the candidate from their faction elected. But where is their experience going to come from, when they need to balance the budget and run an economy, or provide services to people?

    My case in example is NSW, where we have use up our budget surplus, and have no money to spend on infrastructure. But the government is so good at “spin” ie politics, that they get re-elected (plus the opposition leader was a lemon, Rob Debus was very good to the ALP)

    In fact this seem to be a problem facing every labor government elected over the last 20 years, Hawke, Keating (he put sales tax on everything imaginable and raise the rates of sales tax multiple times, some would call that the GST), Beattie, Carr, Iemma, Bracks and WA, they always runs out of money to spend.

    I really think that for the ALP to be able to govern properly, it needs to put a freeze on union official entering the ALP for the next 10 year. Or even if they win the next federal election, they will get thrown out because they will overspend and stuff up the economy (again). But maybe “Spin” can keep them in government (See Keating and GST)

    “Spin” is good at keeping people in power, but not very good in giving us transport, hospital, police, water, roads etc which is what is good for the people of Australia.

  20. Everyone’s talking about the influence of the unions in the ALP, what about the appointment of Paul Gibson to the NSW Ministry? This was because his backers, the NUW, pulled out all stops and threatened to break affiliation with the party if he didn’t get on the front bench. It seems like a lot of political capital- not to mention, sheer thuggery- to expend to get Gibson off the seat on the backbench he’s been keeping warm for almost 20 years. Now with Gibson under police investigation, there’s a lot of questions to be answered as to how this was allowed to happen, and how the NUW was allowed to ride rough-shod over Iemma, who should have been able to stamp more authority on his ministerial appointments. This would have to have ramifications for how far the NUW can stretch the friendship in demanding their people get positions in the ALP, including preselections in key marginals.

  21. Sacha

    all government spin, but the goal is still for the Federal government to provide good economies, security to make sure Australia has money and the state to provide services.

    Spin like Paul Keating’s recommendation of introducing a GST in 1985, being rejected by the Labor caucus and then levying “sales tax” on everything, and running a campaign against the GST is irresponsible

    Spin like Iemma’s job cuts (5,000) and counting, 1 week after winning an election on (20,000) job cuts for the opposition just leave a bad taste in the mouth of NSW people, no wonder people get disenchanted with governments.

    You can win election with spin, but when you get so complacent that you do not care about delivering service and try to just win by spin is good enough for unions but not good enough for a country.

    FYI I am not 100% happy with the Federal Liberal government either, I think they are paying lip service to the environment, and they can do more with attracting skilled people into Australia (lowering top tax rates)

  22. Re: Greenway

    I have moved from the seat of Macquarie to the seat of Greenway thanks to these redistributions. My first thoughts regarding Greenway is that Markus, as depressing as it is, will be returned with a healthy margin.

    The seat now largely covers the northern parts of the greater west who are naturally conservative in the truest sense of the word, hence why they are willing to return a liberal fed member (Bartlett) and a labor state member (Aquilina).

    Then again, I believe its constituents have the ability to smell a change in the wind and vote accordingly. If labor maintains its current polling (of course not!) then Labor could make it interesting.

    On another note (my greens triangle is no where to be seen for the moment), Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson lives in the Hawkesbury, can anyone convince him to run for Labor?

  23. To Ben Raue

    Canada’s provincal governments especially Quebec’s are pretty powerful, they can levy their own sales and income taxes. I’m sort of heretical in giving more powers to state and local governments. Specifically more taxation powers to the states and powers over urban planning to local governments.

  24. Doubt it. Why would you run against a shoo-in when you have a powerful position?

    Boulevard kid, which key Federal marginals were the NUW aiming at?

  25. If not for trade union affiliation to the ALP there would be even fewer people in parliament who had any life experience as manual workers or in routine service jobs. Union affiliation doesn’t get enough of these people into parliament but it gets some. Organising workers to join a union and to negotiate an enterprise bargain in the current climate is hard work and requires good people skills.

  26. I think a better way of ensuring blue collar representation in Parliament would be to safeguard the sanctity of local preselections, Geoff.

    Suitable protections against branch stacking and an abolition of N20 (or whatever it’s called) would do wonders for diversity in the Parliamentary Labor Party. As for the Libs – I care not if they keep their heads in the sand.

  27. Geoff R

    The problem is that many of the ones selected by the trade union are as far from blue collar as possible, if you look at the bios. There resume normally say either B LAW, B Comm HR, join U*** at age of 21, worked for **** from the U*** as advisor

    They would not have any idea on what blue collar work is

  28. A NSW Labor Party rule that takes pre-selection away from the branches and hands it to a committee formed by some local branch members and members of the Administrative committee. I understand this is standard procedure in some states. Attempts to make it standard in NSW have always been blocked at the state conference. It is suppossed to be used only in extraordinary circumstances (a need for a quick endorsement or gross branch stacking) but it is used willy-nilly.Newcastle at the last state election is a good example with the result that a solid Labor seat has suddenly become very marginal.

  29. Correction. N40 was not used in Newcastle – if it had been the result would have been different. That preselection was referred to the National Executive who installed the premier’s preferred candidate (Gaudry contested and the Nat Exec vote split on factional lines).

    N40s were used to instal women candidates at the last state election.

  30. Prior to the Split, the Victorian ALP selected its candidates by ballot of members of the party and members of affiliated unions in the relevant electorate. After the Split, the enemies of democracy who controlled the Central Executive took the power of pre-selection into their own hands. It is now 50-50 between a local ballot and the Public Office Selection Committee, but in reality anyone can be imposed on any electorate in the country through the affirmative action rule or the desire for celebrity candidates or whatever suits whoever has the numbers on the national executive. Personally, I would like to go back to the pre-Split system and give members of affiliated unions a vote in lower house pre-selections. I would weight the vote to reflect the fact that they are not full members of the ALP.

  31. Yes, this attachment to democratic process is admirable, but it doesn’t always lead to quality candidates. Part of the reason that Newcastle is in such a state re the ALP is because they have been left alone to choose their own candidates. Now, for such a strong Labor area, you’d think that a large number of party leaders and front benchers would hail from Newkie, but in fact the opposite is the case – timeserving male backbenchers in the main. I challenge other blogsters to name me, say, three figures of substance to come from Newcastle. (I’m not picking on the Hunter especially, just using it as an example). The N40 rule is way to get around moribund party structures and get candidates who might appeal to the other 98% of the population. Of course, it should be used sparingly, but to think that ALP members (or those of any other party) will always get it right is rather naive.

  32. At any rate, more important things to blather about. Newspoll today puts Rudd and the ALP still way in front, though slightly closer than before. Is this the end of the honeymoon, or just a statistical correction?

    I’m hearing more and more (from people whose opinions I respect) that the election is now Labor’s to lose, that Mr & Mrs Swing have already made up their minds. The ALP is of the future, while Howard represents the past.

  33. No-one seems to have made any mention of the WA Lib Senate contest. First let me say I’m talking off the top of my head and haven’t given this much thought or been paying much attention… that said:
    It seems quite possible that Ross Lightfoot will get shunted so far down the ticket as to be pointless. To this piece of news I say ‘hurray and about time’. The guy’s been an embarrassment since he entered State politics – then it just got worse when he went to the Senate.
    More interesting is the possibility that Matthias Corman with his remarkable ambition might leap-frog Alan Eggleston for the second spot. This one has produced some mixed feelings – Dr Eggleston is actually a commendable politician in many ways but hasn’t really made much of a dent in his term in office…
    At the moment it is probably safe to say that you need to be in 1 or 2 to be comfortable – position 3 will have some work ahead of them.

  34. The problem with local members being allowed to choose candidates is that many, many fewer people join political parties now than did so 50 years ago. This is true of all parties and in most countries with long democratic traditions. As a result local branches are made up of small cliques of factional fanatics, elderly nostalgics and people with no life. (Which category do I fall into? Decide for yourselves.) The results of local-selection are frequently very poor candidates who finish up losing the seat. The sustem also breeds branch-stacking, personation and other evils.

    The Victorian ALP system improves this by giving a say to a panel of head-office factional fanatics, who at least have a slightly broader view. The Liberals have a different system: their candidates are chosen by Michael Kroger, which seems to work as well as any other method.

    I am in favour of the US primary system, where voters register as Labor, Liberal, National, Green, etc, and then get to vote for their party’s candidate in their electorate.

  35. Alan Eggleston was one the very few Liberals I met in Canberra I had any respect for. His speech on the RU486 bill was the best speech against the bill I heard in either House, even though I didn’t agree with it. How he ever got picked by the WA Libs, who are as mad as tree-full of galahs, is a mystery.

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