A couple of things

Three, actually:

• Malcolm Mackerras has told the Heidelberg and Diamond Valley Weekly he expects the Federal Court to order a by-election when it hears the McEwen appeal on March 20 (hat tip to commenter Unicorn). Mackerras states: “The ALP does not need to prove fraud, just that enough voters were disenfranchised by no fault of their own. The court is unlikely to simply kick Fran Bailey out though. A byelection is much more likely.” Which to my mind at least raises the question: if there has to be one by-election, why not several?

• The Rudd government has earned itself some Poll Bludger brownie points with its move to cut the threshold for public disclosure of political donations to $1000. The 2005 increase in this threshold from $1500 to $10,000 was as good a demonstration as any that the Howard government had run its course. The Prime Minister has also floated the possibility of a cap on donations, although I suspect he might lose his enthusiasm for this one in the fullness of time. I have been too busy to give these matters the attention they deserve, but Michelle Grattan provided an excellent overview in Saturday’s Age.

• A Galaxy poll in Sunday’s News Limited tabloids painted a depressingly familiar picture for Brendan Nelson, who was favoured as Liberal leader by just 9 per cent of the 400 respondents, against 24 per cent for Malcolm Turnbull, 19 per cent for Peter Costello, 11 per cent for Julie Bishop and 9 per cent for Joe Hockey.

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.

266 comments on “A couple of things”

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  1. I was somewhat disappointed though to see that Labor are intending to only reduce the “printing allowance” from $150,000 per year to $100,000 per year.

    I did note though that they were intending to eliminate the “roll-over” provision, which to my mind was an absolute scandal and misuse of taxpayers funds.

  2. Point One. It will be of huge interest how the Court deals with this. I believe I heard this discussed on the National Interest. The several elections, simultaneous or not, will be most interesting. At this point I think the Opposition, so ill prepared, cannot, even should two at least of their people agree, attempt by elections before the Budget. Even as they may think, riding the wave of their absurd contentions regarding carers.

    Alternatively, they may be a little more prepared by the time the Budget is delivered, in which case their absurd case will be even more exposed.

    Point Two. As I have a certain faith in Kevin, I must disagree. It is only disclosure, after all.

    Point Three. Yes. Depressing for Brendan Nelson, depressing for the Liberal Party. More depressing, for them. Brendan’s move to incorporate the Nationals. More disturbing for Brendan, Christopher Pyne’s response.

    “I would be very opposed to the Liberal Party changing its name, for example, or its character,” Opposition justice spokesman Chris Pyne said on ABC radio. “If the National Party merges with the Liberal Party, then there would be a fair chance that another country party would spring up behind it and you’d have a third party anyway.”

    Christopher Pyne will have hopes, if not expectations. Time is on his side.

  3. Scorpio – Two things stand out in the reduction of printing allowances for me. Firstly, with 150 MPs and 70-odd Senators, cutting the allowance of each by $50k adds up to $10mil – not a bad sum. True, they still have $20mil/year between them, but better 20 than 30. Baby steps, as they say 🙂

    Though, reading a news report on ABC site, Faulkner reckons it’ll save about $22mil a year. Don’t know how he gets that figure.

    Anyway, the second thing, and this is the better part to my mind, is that they’re proposing to stop MPs carrying the leftover allowance over from year to year, to prevent them splurging it all at election time. Great idea, this, and I really hope they go through with it.

    Here’s the story I was reading on the ABC website. Most recent one I’ve found.

  4. Scorpio and Peter.

    The reduction of the ‘allowance’ and its concomitant rule, no carry over of ‘left over’ funds is a good, if littlish thing.

    I have kept, for years, the elaborate, expensive clearly, Anzac Day glossy specials, sentiment dripping, invitation to donate monies, courtesy the local MP, as an object lesson in fiscal irresponsibilty, seeking to hide its political appeal.

    These well, almost booklets, are so glossy and slick, I can only assume they were delivered to every household in Australia. Year after year.

  5. Peter,

    Yeah, the Libs will be filthy about having the roll-over provision axed.

    It will hopefully prevent similar incidents such as what happened in Queensland where surplus funds were used for “State” candidates in the 2006 election.

    I think they were very fortunate that the former PM had such a good “working” relationship with the FP Commissioner.

    I wouldn’t be unhappy to see that issue revisited. Even a Senate enquiry would cause some degree of discomfort.

  6. there’s nothing quite like seeing your local liberal member, michael johnson, depicted in glossy, high quality print, personally leading a bayonet charge on the beach at gallipolli and single handedly winning wwi every anzac day. i tell you it never gets old…

  7. Mine are printed in misty greys.

    Do not depict the local member leading the charge, well, s’pose not. Andrew Southcott.

  8. Before I go to sleep, that is immediately, what about rolling back and out the information gathering equipage?

    Whereby every call to an electorate office is collated. The identity of the caller, their intent, their political persuasion.

    The information garnered used to specifically tailor and target the elector, in subsequent communications.

    This is not only about money, it is about privacy, it is about deception.

  9. I’d expect there would be some backlash against the ALP for forcing McEwen back to the polls, but that would be overwhelmed by the shocking performance of the Libs post-November, plus I have my doubts Fran Bailey would run again.

    More broadly, we’ve only speculated on the possibility of former senior ministers resigning, what about those who are bored in opposition and never got to the high ranks but have had enough. I always have my suspicions about Pat Farmer, considering that he has moved to Mosman since the election and the local Libs have already promised to roll him in 2010 (something Pat Farmer probably wouldn’t mind) but maybe because of his close margin Brendan will prevail on him to hang around.

    And Peter Lindsay has said he didn’t expect to be re-elected and may well quit. If there’s five or six former senior ministers calling it quits, whose to say there’s not as many again who are also fading away but just aren’t as prominent?

  10. I don’t think the government can legislate to direct the behaviour of parties in that way, but the privacy laws currently do not cover parliamentary offices. We should all be able to see the files on Electrac and/or Feedback held by the major parties on each of us.

  11. And on Tomorrow’s News, The Australian declares on a ‘stunning reversal’ by Kev, on the ‘backdown’ over carers money.

  12. “Gam – age doesn’t wither or the years condemn?”

    zoom – bloody oath he should be condemned…

    crikey whitey – good to see i’m not the only one picking up on the shithouse media beat up over carers’ pensions. first they tried to spook ministers into giving away the budget, then fell back on rudd ripping their money away, continently ignoring the fact that coalition were going to rip it away (there are un-forwarded lump sum payments all over the coalition budget, one off election bribes never to be repeated). clearly in the absence of anyone other than irrelevant ex-ministers feeding our kennel of media attack poodles, they have to run around and beat stories up. remember kevin’s first 100 days? the govt. had to literally hand the media a press release because reporters are too stupid and/or lazy to ferret out stories themselves. the howard tit (god forgive for the visual) pops out of their mouths and they don’t know what to do.

    where are the stories on rudd’s shake up of the labor party? why can’t anyone do a story other than wog-girl makes good on penny wong? (i still have no idea exactly what it is she does, neither does the media, which means it must be important) ditto gillard, two portfolios, neither of them treasurer, what’s the go? instead we get subjected to meaningless rubbish and idle twaddle. it has become evident our media think journalism equals having lunch with downer. the sooner they quit trying to re-elect the pathetic liberal rump and get about actually digging into the govt. the happier i’ll be.

    that turned into quite a rant didn’t it?

  13. Tony Jones did his absolute best to make a fool of himself with Penny Wong, and Tony, if you’re reading, grow the F up!
    As usual TJ was on the hunt for a headline with the usual bait and switch question technique where everyone knows the answer he’s after and everyone also knows the questionee would be an absolute fool to answer directly.
    Much the same as the ‘Lump Sum’ carers questions asked in parliament today.
    High school or even primary school playground stuff.
    TJ is seriously underestimating his audience if he thinks people are watching political content after 10:30 to see him try to make a fool of someone.

    On Williams topics – the cap on donations is a tough one – if people want to donate I reckon they’ll find a way. The Brethren have already found ways that are very difficult to counter and are likely outside disclosure and cap measures anyway. Better that the principle of transparency be made easier, not harder?

    11% for Julie Bishop…because she represents…? The LP might as well represent themselves as the ‘no-change’ party because I reckon that’s the main motivator of positive respondents. I notice Abbott pulled out another Howard reference today when referring to Rudd. Keep living in the past Tony – it’s where you belong.

    Here’s one that relates Federal, State and Local government. I was told tonight that we became official Kyoto members today – 90 days after our interim membership, which means there are some fundamental changes a few systems as a result. I’m no expert on this so I’ll keep it brief, but as part of our ratification obligations there are a number of local and state water and energy matters that now MUST be managed federally. Apparently this has gone largely unnoticed, despite it being a rather fundamental change to responsibilities.
    Anyone who know more – feel free to chip in.

  14. For those who think Carbon capture for coal is a pipe dream:

    See New Scientist Mag 23/2/08: Crystal sponges capture CO2 that could capture emissions from power stations and cars. They can suck up 83 times their own weight in CO2.

    zeolitic imidazolate frameworks – when fully loaded the CO2 can be released by a drop in pressure.

    “We are optimistic that within a year or two these materials will be ready for testing in power stations” a member of the UCLA team. In testing they withstood temperatures of 400 degrees C.

    So it is quite conceivable that technology will have at least some significant use in capturing the CO2 from coal, lets hope so.

    Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1152516

  15. Crikey Whitey @ 15: It seems that the murdoch press, the ABC and the Liberal party have colluded on this carers thing, being such a weak beat up as it is.

    Trying to save the Liberal party from oblivion? Some elections coming up soon?

  16. It looks like Janet Albrechtsen’s love affair with John Howard is such that she is never likely to let go of that warm inner glow that she feels at the mere mention of his name.

    She is determined that between the two of them, his legacy and legend will remain immortal and everlasting.


    I wonder what Mrs Howard thinks about this obsession.

  17. I’m inclined to think there was some basis to the story about the scrapping of lump sum payments to carers and pensioners. It has taken too long for the government to kill the story off by giving the guarantee which everyone wanted to hear last week. It seems that the right decision has finally been reached though. The hacks have gone to town on this one because the government let them by fubaring big time.

    In a broader sense, if the opposition wants to put pressure on the government over social welfare issues then that is not a bad thing.

  18. OMG, so nauseating to see the mad monk during question time ranting and salivating about social justice issues, this from the rodent-loving right wing loony who was so ‘compassionate’ to poor Bernie.

    TW @ 22, I have no doubt there was truth to the story, it was always the intention of the Gov to convert the ridiculous lump sums to regular benefits. They were a cynical exercise in vote buying from a man who had contempt for the less fortunate in society. The real question is “who is the leaker?”, there must still be a lot of traitorous rats left in the PS. Never mind, each of these exercises in high farce is just making the Libs look more and more irrelevant!

  19. TurningWorm Says:
    March 12th, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Why do we have to go over old ground? The lump sum was always going to be scrapped, it was never in forward estimates. The big lie in this story is that ‘it was an assured yearly payment’. As for the BS about the ALP scaring the disabled and pensioner, it was the Libs and the MSM that were frightening them and are continuing to. The MSM includes the talk back radio, all of them, I have not heard one of them telling it as it is or was. That is, that the Coalition if they wanted it a permanent lump sum they would have legislated into LAW.

  20. That’s your defence and your sticking to it right Muskienp? 🙂

    It was convenient for the Labor and Liberal parties to not make a big deal about the issue in the lead up to the election last year but one side or the other was going to have to justify it to the electorate eventually. That eventuality has been reached and the right decision has been made.

  21. The reduction in political donation disclosure can only work if coupled with a prohibition on organisations (businesses and others) making political donations. Only natural persons can make political donations.

    The ABC generally critiques government. That is why I wasn’t against any major reforms of the ABC during the previous government – they’re tough on all governments and see that as a key role. ABC colluding with News Limited? Read that sentence again and appreciate the foolishness of the statement.

    Someone else wants to ban political party databases. So constituents tell parliamentarians what issues are important to them, and parliamentarians are allowed to record them? Let’s hope they have good memories, because otherwise it will be very difficult to focus on issues important to the electorate.

    What a few (and by few, I mean nearly everybody) people on here need to do is throw some cold water on their fire-hot hatred of the Liberal Party and look at the facts in the cold light of day.

  22. 26 TurningWorm – well eventually, due to economic circumstances, one side or the other, according to Liberal policy, will have to scrap it.

  23. 31 steve – This is just more evidence of how much influence Howard had over the party. He goes and the party dumps his policies. Was he the only one committed to these policies? Were the others that blind?

  24. Scorpio @ 21

    I’m no conspiracy theorist but are you sure that Janet and Janette are not the same woman? I can’t recall ever seeing them in the same room together that’s all …

    And on last night’s Penny Wong interview: aggressive, predictable and childishly leading questioning from journalists such as TJ* tends to put interviewees on the defensive, thereby causing them to be less forthcoming. Granted, a purely soft and charming approach doesn’t always make the pollies yield but surely a blend of severe and subtle is more productive than the kind of word wrangle that was on display last night.

    * The worst offender would have to be Chris Uhlman IMO, who’s style is borderline hostile at times.

  25. 33 [Were the others that blind?]

    It seemed that way on four Corners recently when they were stunned to find that Workchoices made people worse off.

  26. 34 Inner Westie
    Applying a simplistic interviewing style to an obviously complex issue is just wasting everybody’s time.
    I generally agree with you on Uhlmann, but I haven’t heard him recently. My last memory was that he had mellowed a little post election.

    When is a journalist going to ask this question:
    “Given that the developing world, India and China, has little choice in that they will not be able to follow the same development path as the west, are you concerned that, like several post war countries, they will find and implement shortcuts to a better standard of living that will leave the west choking in their own established and wastefull sytems?”
    Seriously, when TJ suggested we impose a Marshall style plan on developing countries I almost, almost, threw the remote.
    Short sighted self-important git.

  27. “As for the BS about the ALP scaring the disabled and pensioner, it was the Libs and the MSM that were frightening them and are continuing to.”

    Or… the government itself leaked the possibility of scrapping the payments so that the Libs had something to sink their teeth into.

    Think about it. The government’s chances of recording a swing to it in the next election are only enhanced by having Nelson as opposition leader – he is unelectable as PM. But with the PPM ratings for Nelson languishing in the single digits, Labor knows that it would only be a matter of time before Nelson is replaced with Turnbull, not that Turnbull is a huge threat, but he would certainly score more votes than Nelson and therefore give the government more to worry about.

    So, they had to give Nelson a little victory in order to get his numbers up a little.

    This is why Rudd was so coy about whether the government would scrap the payment and whether it would be replaced with something else. To allow the payments issue to drag on for so long is not something that Rudd would ordinarily do – he is usually quick to quash any potentially damaging issue.

    And today, Nelson has his victory. Rudd has done an about-turn and is pledging to retain the one-off payments.

    Now watch Nelson’s PPM rating climb – just a little, but enough to end leadership speculation, at least for now. Newspoll will be polling this weekend.

  28. Gb @ 26, so it seems, the pecking order will be social welfare before middle class welfare or defence. Liberal policy and Labor policy would seem to be indistinguishable. It’s great to have the Labor party back in power.

  29. Muskiemp @ 24

    Andrew Barlett noted as much in the Senate this morning, also noting the concerted media campaign against the government misrepresenting the truth, so much so that he said he would need to repeat himself to avoid the danger of being misrepresented by the MSM. Yes fairly obvious a work together between the ABC, The Liberal Party and The Australian Liberal.

    And it is easy to see why. Nelson is having no luck in raising the party out of the bin and with elections coming up for a few of them there is the risk of losing more seats.

    Media should indeed hold governments to account – but account to the truth of the issue.

  30. Noocat @ 37: That is perverse but if true quite clever, maybe.

    The only reason I might agree with you is that the Rudd machine would normally be all over a brush fire when it starts. This time around it was very slow.

  31. I think the fact that Rudd was out of the country didn’t help. I notice Nelson still isn’t satisfied. This bugger will overplay his hand. They always do. Costello made an art form out of it.

  32. The idiot tutbull is at it again. The next big hoodoo is the ACTU’s ambit claim at the “Fair” Pay Commission. He was asked what a reasonable claim would be. He refused to answer saying that he first wanted to see what the government was going to put forward. Oh, and there is no skills shortage otherwise there would have been a wages breakout. Goose.

  33. Turnbull’s piece in the papers today says that Swan should increase cash surpluses to 3.7% of GDP And no doubt put it all under the bed. Obviously Turnbull doesnt believe money should be spent on education, infrastructure, water etc.

  34. Gary, I think the Libs are just trying to prove their new found compassionate conservatism. It’s all they have left now that they have abandoned Howard’s neo-con agenda.

  35. 42

    Swan has ‘warmed’ to now being on top. I’m beginning to now see the politician in him. His sound grabs are concise and biting:

    From ABC news:

    Mr Swan says Mr Turnbull is out of touch.

    “Malcolm Turnbull has got his head in the sand,” he said.

    “I don’t know what planet he is living on, if he doesn’t think there are skills shortages right across Australia … he is simply, completely and hopelessly out of touch.”

  36. Wayne Swan still needs to lift his game in QT. stop looking at your own side; it looks like he is seeking reassurance from them. Tip and coconut used to do the same but in their case it was more “look at me, look at me, aren’t I clever!”

  37. A week is a long time in politics for up til the past few weeks I would have had the ALP winning a McEwen by-election easily maybe on the primary alone.

    But with the lastest Interest rate rise and more importantly the handling of the Carer bonus has put the Government onto the backfoot.

    While I would favor the ALP to win a by-election I would think the ALP would prefer it to take place before the budget, regardless of your view of the Carer bonus issue, I do feel the Government as shown for the first time an overly administrative approach to responding to issues this over time may hurt the government but only if the Liberal Party could get it’s act together.

  38. 45 Steve K – I agree. I heard Swan being interviewed by Mitchell (not Labor’s friend) on AW and Swan came across as confident and decisive and didn’t waffle anywhere near the way Turnbull had done yesterday when being interviewed on the same program. In fact Mitchell was unimpressed with Turnbull and said so.
    I think Swan, like Garrett, is growing into the job.

  39. 41
    Gary Bruce

    I will be sitting back and watching what the Libs will attempt to pull off next time Rudd is out of the country.

    I expect a few more cheap shots before budget night.

    Just imagine the response will be like from the singing nightwatchman…if indeed he still is at the crease.

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