Revenge of the nerds

If you believe Jason Koutsoukis of The Age, dumped Labor MP Gavan O’Connor is not only the unanimous inaugural winner of the Mal Colston Medal for Treachery, he is also doomed to certain defeat by Labor candidate Richard Marles in his bid to retain Corio as an independent. Koutsoukis writes matter-of-factly of the perks awaiting O’Connor “after he loses the election, which he surely will”. However, this was written before Glenn Milne of The Australian rocked Canberra* with his shock revelation* that “senior figures at the Melbourne (Liberal) campaign headquarters” were finalising arrangements to preference O’Connor ahead of Marles (* sarcasm alert), placing O’Connor “in the middle of the perfect election storm”.

To provide some historical perspective, I present the recent history of sitting members dumped at preselection who sought revenge at the ballot box. I do not doubt there are a number I have missed, particularly at state level, where the only one that immediately sprang to mind was Steven Pringle in Hawkesbury at the New South Wales election in March. Readers are encouraged to note any such omissions in comments and I will rectify them in due course.

Moore and Curtin (Federal 2006): The only examples on this list where the independents actually won the day were these two Perth seats at the 1996 election, in which sitting members Paul Filing and Allan Rocher respectively lost preselection to Paul Stevenage and Ken Court (brother of then-Premier Richard Court). These results were widely blamed on the machinations of controversial Liberal warlord Noel Crichton-Browne, although the reality was more complicated. The important thing was that they incurred the displeasure of John Howard. This led to the Liberal candidates’ campaigns being starved of resources, and an apparently accurate perception emerging that the independents retained the imprimatur of the party leader. In blue-ribbon Curtin, Rocher easily outpolled Labor 29.4 per cent to 19.8 per cent, proceeding to an easy victory over Court (39.2 per cent) on Labor preferences. Paul Filing won even more resoundingly in Moore, leading the primary vote with 34.1 per cent to Labor’s 28.4 per cent and the Liberals’ 27.3 per cent. The 1998 election saw both members defeated by less contentious Liberal candidates.

Wentworth (Federal 2004): Malcolm Turnbull’s well-funded move against one-term Liberal member Peter King succeeded by 88 preselection votes to 70, but King did not take his defeat lying down, announcing he would stand as an independent at a press conference on Bondi Beach in the first week of the campaign. Despite vigorous campaigning attended by intense publicity, King recorded only 18.0 per cent of the vote and finished well behind Labor’s David Patch on 26.3 per cent. While Turnbull’s 41.8 per cent was well down on the 52.1 per cent King recorded as Liberal candidate in 2001, it converted into an unembarrassing 2.3 per cent two-party swing after distribution of King’s preferences.

Dickson (Federal 1998): After one term as Liberal member, the political career of Tony Smith (most certainly not to be confused with the current member for Casey) imploded when he was questioned by police after leaving a building which housed a brothel. Smith forestalled preselection defeat by quitting the Liberal Party and declaring his intention to run as an independent (so arguably this one doesn’t count). By this time it had emerged that the Labor candidate for the coming election would be defecting Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot. Smith predictably failed to set the tally board alight, polling 9.0 per cent of the vote, and Kernot went on to win by 176 votes.

Hawkesbury (NSW 2007): Liberal member Steven Pringle was dumped after one term in favour of Ray Williams, who had the backing of the ascendant forces of the Right. It was reported that Pringle lost control after an influx of Lebanese Maronite Christians swelled membership of the Beaumont Hills branch from 17 members to 500; according to the Sydney Morning Herald, this included 120 members who transferred from a branch in Hornsby after leader Peter Debnam denied them an influence there by insisting its Left faction incumbent Judy Hopwood keep the seat. Pringle reacted to his defeat by quitting the party and reiterating the popular theme that it had become “controlled by an exclusive sect, an extremist right-wing group”, of which the “Godfather” was upper house MP David Clarke. This prompted a rebuke from the Prime Minister, who described him as a “hypocrite” and a “sore loser”. The former judgement was based on the manner of Pringle’s own preselection at the 2003 election, when he ousted Kevin Rozzoli with support from what Simon Benson of the Daily Telegraph described as “right-wing extremists as well as the left”. Pringle did succeed in getting ahead of the Labor candidate, whom he outpolled 27.1 per cent to 16.0 per cent, but Williams’ 45.6 per cent primary vote was enough to get him over the line by a 6.6 per cent margin. The margin would have been narrower but for the optional preferential voting system, which saw many Labor votes exhaust.

Newcastle (NSW 2007): After holding the seat since 1991, Bryce Gaudry was contentiously dumped for preselection in 2006 following intervention by Labor’s national executive. As Damien Murphy of the Sydney Morning Herald describes it, Gaudry had been “regarded as a sincere plodder who made a nuisance of himself during the Carr era with a long-running critique of office-winning policies”, prompting his Left faction to sacrifice him by surrendering Newcastle to the Right in exchange for the Sydney seats of Londonderry and Toongabbie. The Right had initially hoped to recruit Newcastle lord mayor John Tate, who had not been part of the Labor grouping on council, had defeated the party’s incumbent lord mayor in 1999, and floated the possibility of running as an independent at the 2003 election. Tate claimed to have been told when approached that Gaudry was planning to retire, and got cold feet when it became apparent that this was not so, and that the Left-controlled local branches still backed Gaudry. Morris Iemma and Mark Arbib then surprised everybody by having the national executive intervene to support a new candidate, 37-year-old former television news reader and public relations consultant Jodi McKay. This the national executive agreed to do, splitting 13-7 in McKay’s favour on factional lines. The reaction in local party circles was typified by former federal Newcastle MP Allan Morris, who wrote first an open letter to Tate criticising his intention to run for Labor, and then a letter to then-federal leader Kim Beazley decrying the installation of McKay. Tate and Gaudry both declared their intention to run as independents, although Gaudry’s hoped dimmed when it emerged he had not told Morris Iemma of the explosive local rumours surrounding Swansea MP Milton Orkopoulos, a colleague of Gaudry in the party’s “soft Left” faction. Gaudry ended up finishing third behind McKay (31.2 per cent) and Tate (24.1 per cent), and his preferences narrowly failed to push Tate ahead of McKay.

Noosa (Queensland 2006): An unexpected beneficiary of the 2001 and 2004 Beattie landslides, Labor loose cannon Cate Molloy was disendorsed in the lead-up to the September 2006 election due to her public opposition to the government’s dam-building proposals, which extended to leading protest marches and threatening to introduce a private member’s bill. Molloy promptly announced that she would run as an independent, and held off until the campaign before delivering an angrily worded letter of resignation from the Labor Party (from which she was soon to be expelled in any case for running against an endorsed candidate). Molloy finished a fraction behind Labor on the primary vote, 23.7 per cent to 23.6 per cent, overtaking them with Greens preferences. However, Liberal candidate Glen Elmes’ 38.2 per cent primary vote was easily enough to deliver him the seat, with considerable aid from vote-splitting and exhaustion (Queensland also has optional preferential voting) between Molloy and Labor.

NOTE: Do not feel under any obligation to keep this thread on topic.

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.

284 comments on “Revenge of the nerds”

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  1. Noocat asked:

    Has this once reputable paper really sunk so low?

    You young whippersnapper, Noocat. I don’t know where this “reputable paper” moniker comes from.

    The Australian was always a rag. I remember how they crucified Whitlam from 1974 onwards.

    They have always been a right-wing mouthpiece.

  2. On the other hand, Hendo’s performance on Lateline was even more disgraceful. His insistence that “nono the polls are inconsistent” calls for a beating with a large bat labelled “margin of error”.

  3. It is a sad day indeed when a citizen of this country feels that he is being pressured and threatened by the Establishment for expressing his political views.

    Frankly, for all the abhorance I feel for everything John Howard and his party represent, I have never believed they were capable of intimidation or abuse of power against the individual (except of course in exceptional cases such as Habib, Haneef and Hicks where there was the excuse, if not the justification, of national security issues).

    Gusface’s posts have always appeared to me to be rational and considered, albeit like many of us he has expressed his frustration at the goverment and his desire to see it removed from office through the electoral box.

    His are not the writings of an unbalance mind.

    That people such as Gusface express their fears of retribution, and are silenced as a result, is the greatest tragedy that has befallen our society.

  4. [I was just watching the Lateline piece from last night. According to Andrew Bolt, telephone phone-in polls are harder to rig than the worm-poll.

    It’s not just Piers who’s been huffing the News Corp liquid paper supplies, clearly.]

    AS I said in an earlier thread, Phone polls are VERY easily rigged if yhou have enough phones programmed to redial the approprioate number repeatedly. Also you can hide your nuber by blocking the Call number display, unless they polling people employ overriding technologies like ISPs did for dialup to stop multiple connections.

  5. Good move by Rudd.

    Federal Labor has outlined the next plank of its plans to boost the quality of child care in Australia.
    A Rudd Labor Government will introduce tough quality standards for child care centres to give parents peace of mind.
    This will include a new five category quality improvement system to provide parents with a simple, clear and independently assessed system of child care.
    This is about providing parents with information so they can make an informed choice about where they send their children.
    In addition, a Rudd Labor Government will invest $77 million to boost the quality of training and educational financial support for about 19,500 child care workers. ]

  6. Noocat, I have always found it tragically ironic that The Australian – a paper that spouts “New Right” economic rationalism as its underlying ethos – would be rendered totally insolvent if it were forced to exist in the open market without its much needed heavy subsidies from the parent corporation.

    And I agree about its audience, I would suggest that the majority of its readership are University educated people, the bulk of which are increasingly inclined to vote Labor. There might be a few ‘sophisticated’ (ie, non redneck) conservatives who may read it, but me thinks the vast majority of conservatives either buy the Tele (or the Hun) or the Financial Review. I speak for myself because I tend to buy the Australian if for no other reason than it tells me what the enemy is thinking.

  7. {Indeed history will look back on the Howard years as the “Wasted Years”.}

    Strangely enough, when I did economics at university a number of years ago now, there were quite a few economics textbooks that had chapters in them similar to this. “The Fraser years, the 7 wasted years”.

    Guess who was Treasurer for those 7 years. Generations of economics students will have the dubious pleasure of analysing Howard’s influence on the Australian economy twice.

    What a legacy!

  8. RSVP Willam. Thank you.

    David Hicks.

    Wedge, Whistle, WHOOMPH! as Howard orders, from the bunker, the blowing apart of any cobwebs which may have formed in the minds of the angered over ‘the treatment’, simultaneously bringing the discredited ADF to front of, along with dirty dealings per GWB and the real President.

    Didn’t ‘That Poll’ show Howard was slipping on National Security? Wonder why that is?

    Another own goal from the Meisterslingers.

    I heard a talkback deludette, claiming swinging voter status, saying this morning she had voted agin Howard over the Hicks debacle. But that is now fixed. But was going to vote for Team Far Side this time, to keep the winners on their toes. Wonder what she thinks now.

    Probably barracked for Port Power, too. And took a Quinella on Malvidian and Eskimo Queen.

  9. It seems the infamous earwax video was shown on the Today Show, which Rudd was a guest and apparently handled the situation well.

    Was talking to a former WA ALP upper housemember who was depressed over seeing the footage, and I assured her that this will have no effect on the vote.

    Typical Lib smear job though.

  10. Frank Calabrese Says: @ 254,

    The classic one for me Frank, was the one run by the Morning Bulletin at Rockhampton earlier in the year re the Council Amalgamation issue.

    They got suspicious about the results of a phone survey they ran and investigated it.

    They found that all 880 responses were made on just two mobile phones belonging to two Livingstone Shire Councillors.

    Apparently they did a tour of the local pubs and passed the mobiles around all day within the clientele.

    A recent poll in the Australian got 100% for my postcode on one question in a 6 question poll.

    Anyone, especially journalists who take any notice of these type of polls should have their head examined promptly.

  11. “Noocat, I have always found it tragically ironic that The Australian – a paper that spouts “New Right” economic rationalism as its underlying ethos – would be rendered totally insolvent if it were forced to exist in the open market without its much needed heavy subsidies from the parent corporation.”

    Good point! But I doubt that this little fact has been considered by those who run The Australian… hypocrisy and double standards are common elements in a lot of their political analyses.

  12. {It seems the infamous earwax video was shown on the Today Show,}

    This will probably start a new fad. The Libs should stay as far away from this as possible.

    Rudd is “Teflon”, nothing sticks, everything remotely just gathers more support.

    The Libs and their media supporters probably won’t be satisfied until all the seats above 20% are in Rudd’s pocket too!

  13. “You young whippersnapper, Noocat. I don’t know where this “reputable paper” moniker comes from.”

    Well, you got me there. I was born in 1974, so wouldn’t know about what happened between The Australian and the Whitlam government!

    Still, I was reading the paper ten years ago, and it seemed lot better than it does today. Perhaps it has gone from less then reputable to truly woeful???

  14. Anyone who wants to see previous “gusface” posts on the many web sites he has been visiting, can do a quick “windows live search” by highlighting on gusface, and they will be able to visit 1270 posts by him/her.

    If any financial or legal assistance is required, gusface, please get someone to advise on this and other sites and I am sure it will be forthcoming in spades.

  15. More Bad News for Howard.

    [In an interview with The Bulletin, Mr Keelty said he warned the DPP the evidence against the Indian national was thin.

    “I was as surprised as anybody when the DPP advised that Haneef could be charged. Because I didn’t think the evidence was strong enough,” Mr Keelty told the magazine, to be published tomorrow.

    Asked if he had told the DPP of his concerns, Mr Keelty replied: “Oh, yes.”

    However, that was why the DPP existed, Mr Keelty said – to be independent of police in pursuing prosecutions.

    “Mine was an opinion that I expressed to the DPP, but I understood all the time that the prosecutor was independent of me and independent of the investigation and needed to come up with a view for himself.”],21598,22636499-5005361,00.html

  16. Scorpio 265

    That’s a spooky exercise! How bugged or tracked or transparent are we, then?

    Innately suspicious in latter years.

  17. gusface

    If you need a hand let me know, I don’t have to care about the future. But I do have 30 years worth of media contacts and Dep Sec contacts in most Depts.

    Search my posts my gmail is there.

  18. ASIO’s software, courtesy of the CIA, probably picks up any reference to “te**ori*t, Haniff, Higgs, etc.

    Probably as many Lib posters use these key words at some time or another, so will also be on the watch list.

    The country is going to the dogs. I am sure my computer has had a spyware or cookie installed as a number of posts have suddenly disappeared just as I try to submit them.

    Keep your spyware up to date, use it often and delete cookies and history often.

    Our so-called security services are a joke and make Maxwell Smart look like a genius. They wouldn’t know a t**rio*ist if they fell over one.

    A huge round-up of lefty bloggers might be Howard’s rabbit in the hat. lol

  19. Thanks, Scorpio. I was tempted to do a shore to ship at Tampa time, but refrained on grounds of inappropriateness and concern that Gov may be listening. And it turned out, correctly. Did call place other though, which itself was overwhelmed with calls.

    Did not prior to the decade, entertain serious suspicion at a personal level.

    Things often ‘happen’ with my phone, which is a bothersome mystery.

  20. I am sure my computer has had a spyware or cookie installed as a number
    of posts have suddenly disappeared just as I try to submit them.

    Far be it from me to disparage a good conspiracy theory, but I’d suggest
    the competency of a particular criminal monopoly be the first suspect
    in these particular circumstances.

  21. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

    1. The Not Leaders Debate.

    Smirk knows only how to smirk, shout/pout, or do his gravitas bit. One is nauseating, the other unattractive, the third sonambulistic or conducive to me too ism.

    I have seen considerable recent research proving that worms are readily susceptible to hypnosis. Tax and bracket detail? What thrills could be in store!

    I suspect He of the Never Never PM will despatch to Labor any wavering innocent who chances by the TV set. Even we are at risk of glazing over, particularly if the debate exceeds ten minutes.

    Maybe he could give Milne the nod to pull the feed when it looks grim.

    Johnny would be too honourable to do it for him, I expect.

    2. Andrew Robb. World Yesterday. Fire in belly? Pain in arse.

  22. Regarding The Oz,

    Weren’t they the only paper in the country to support the “Joh for PM” campaign? Or was the Courier Mail involved as well?

  23. Vale gusface

    David Marr wrote on the silencing of critics by Howard,

    “Since 1996, Howard has cowed his critics, muffled the press, intimidated the ABC, gagged scientists, silenced non-government organisations, neutered Canberra’s mandarins, curtailed parliamentary scrutiny, censored the arts, banned books, criminalised protest and prosecuted whistleblowers.”

    “The Paris watchdog, the Canberra press gallery, the Australian branch of the Commonwealth Press Union and the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, all concur: the Government is squeezing public debate. As evidence, they most frequently cite four cases:

    ¡The long pursuit of journalists Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey for refusing to divulge the source of a story which leaves them [as this essay went to press] awaiting sentencing for contempt of court.

    ¡The chilling effect of bans on reporting contained in federal anti-terrorism laws passed since 11 September 2001, particularly the five-year prison sentences for reporting the detention without trial of suspects and witnesses.

    ¡Difficulties placed in the way of reporting on refugees and asylum seekers who reach Australia by boat.

    ¡The failure of freedom of information laws, which the High Court last year confirmed gives federal ministers virtually a free hand to withhold documents from the public. Calls for reform of the FoI laws by the press, NGOs, lawyers’ groups and the Commonwealth Ombudsman have all been ignored.”

    A public servant had to go to the High Court to defend his right to voice his opinion on government policy, after the government lost the case Howard prepared legislation to make it an offence for a oublic servant to speak out on ANY government policy.

    There are countless stories of staff being sacked because they stood up for fellow workers or criticised policy of businesses.

    There was also the recent story of Aid Watch, a charity that monitored government foreign aid. When it revealed that Howard and co had overstated foregin aid by 25% it had its charitable staus immediatley revoked for getting “political”. No such revocation for the “Exclusive Brethren” or Pell when they get political in supporting Howard’s policies, instead they get $175 million in funding to put more priests in their schools.

  24. Arbie Jay

    Stories we know only too well. Howard started early by increasing fees to go to the High Court. I have looked for back up info lately on this, but no luck. Felt anything but relaxed and comfortable at the time.

  25. Crikey

    Howard did increase fees for the High Court, said too many frivoulous cases going there.

    The Bennet case was about the right to speak out
    “directed Mr Bennett to cease talking to the media. When Mr Bennett continued to do so, charges were laid and his salary reduced.”

    “refused to allow him to speak to the media about this penalty or the charges.”.

    “Mr Bennett complained to HREOC alleging interference with legitimate trade union activities and denial of his right to express opinions on political matters. HREOC declined to investigate”.

    Bennet won his High Court case on the “frivolous” matter of a persons right to free speech without fear of prosecution, but Howard has drafted legislation to take away this right.

  26. Given Stevenage’s management as President of the Murdoch University Student Guild in 1991 it is hardly surprising that Filing won as an independent. Heck, iirc he even had to be banned from his own office by the Vice Chancellor.

  27. Re my post # 258 ….drawn to my attention by interested post reader.

    Extreme unfortunate typo. At ADF. Meant AFP. Apologies unintended offence, to any.

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