Light holiday reading:
Carlton’s lone classical liberal, Andrew Norton, weighs in on Liberal hyperbole over third party political campaigns. New Mayo MP Jamie Briggs reckons these to be a cancer in our democracy due to the efforts of GetUp! and the ACTU at the last election. Briggs argues that Australians are entitled to know who is behind the campaigns, how much is being spent and where the money is coming from, evidently having failed to notice that such groups are indeed required to provide annual disclosure of receipts, expenditure and debts. However, in an interesting discussion at Larvatus Prodeo, Norton also argues that lowering the donation disclosure threshold from $10,000 to $1000 (as proposed by a bill currently before a Senate committee due to report on June 30) could theoretically catch independent political blogs in a massive compliance net thanks to a loose definition of persons or organisations expressing views by any means on candidates or election issues. Elsewhere, The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen tugs at the heart strings by complaining the disclosure amendments are designed to cut donations to the Liberal Party (from which you can readily infer why the Howard government used its Senate majority to jack the threshold up from $1500 to $10,000 in the first place). More substantially, she argues that the nature of third-party campaigns in Australia is such that if we ban or cap donations (except by individuals) and allow third-party campaigns by unions to continue unabated, the political field is skewed against one side: the conservatives particularly in light of government plans to scrap tax deductibility of party donations while maintaining it for union dues and levies.
Dotcom millionaire Evan Thornley has made himself popular in Labor circles by pulling the plug on his political career on the eve of his anticipated promotion to the Victorian state cabinet. The talk around Thornley was that he viewed his state political career as a stepping stone to federal politics via Simon Crean’s seat of Hotham, beyond which his ambitions were apparently without limit. His entirely unheralded decision to pursue opportunities outside of political life has inevitably fuelled all manner of speculation, most of it involving his financial wellbeing. It has also created a vacancy for his upper house seat for the Southern Metropolitan region. The Age reports that the new upper house system instituted at the last election has created an anomaly for Labor, as party rules do not specify how preselection for an upper house vacancy should be conducted:
Party sources said the anomoly was expected to be tackled by rule makers in May 2009 before preselections began in earnest for the 2010 election. But Mr Thornley’s shock departure which sources from both major factions of Victorian Labor described as the most bizarre incident they had ever witnessed in politics could force the anomaly to be dealt with sooner. While some within Labor believe the rules offer no guidance over preselection, others say the spirit of preselection processes in the lower house should also be adopted for the upper house. Under that scenario, Mr Thornley’s replacement in the Southern Metropolitan electorate would be decided 50:50 by a ballot of ALP branch members and a central selection panel. Many expect Labor’s national executive to ultimately choose his replacement but all agreed it was too early to speculate on the names of likely candidates.
A commenter at Andrew Landeryou’s VexNews writes:
The Left were promised Thornley’s spot but they agreed not to insist as Thornley was then non aligned. Thornley then joined Labor Unity. They left will claim they are entitled to fill Thornley’s vacancy. Labor Unity will most likely want it and there will be an internal facional brawl like Kororoit. Then Mr Dearricott’s non-aligned group will claim their right to the vacancy. A strong tip tonight is that (former Brimbank mayor) Natalie Suleyman is a favourite for the position.
Another hopeful is said to be Dick Gross, former Municipal Association of Victoria president and Port Phillip councillor defeated in recent elections in a resident revolt over his support for the St Kilda triangle development. There is also the question of the political future of Theo Theophanous, charged on Christmas Eve with rape. An end to Theophanous’s political career would create another upper house vacancy in Northern Metropolitan. In lieu of Evan Thornley, Theophanous’s position as Industry and Trade Minister has been filled by Martin Pakula, previously best known for his failed preselection bid against Simon Crean in Hotham ahead of the last federal election.
Michelle Grattan of The Age reports that the Victorian Liberals are set to reluctantly give the Nationals the number two spot on a joint Senate ticket for the 2010 election. This would continue an agreement initiated after the 1987 double dissolution election giving the Nationals the unwinnable fourth and safe second seats at alternating elections. The party’s seat in the Senate has been held since 1993 by Julian McGauran, who quit the party for the Liberals in January 2006. One possible explanation for the move was that he did not expect the Liberals would continue with the existing joint ticket arrangement, which as Grattan explains is widely opposed within the party. It had long been thought that the Nationals had been able to negotiate the joint ticket partly because the McGauran family helped delivered it preferences from the Democratic Labor Party, whom they had assisted in legal action to prevent its deregistration. The Nationals’ apparent success in keeping the arrangement going might suggest otherwise. However, another possibility is that McGauran thought his prospects of winning Liberal preselection less unlikely than those of keeping his place with the Nationals. McGauran had an uncomfortably narrow preselection win ahead of the 2004 election over Darren Chester, now the member for Gippsland, and his family’s clout might have been further weakened since by brother Peter’s departure from politics.
Labor’s Mark Dreyfus, chairman of the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, says he hopes the government will soon announce a non-binding plebiscite to test opinion on a republic before the federal election.
Robert Taylor of The West Australian has an interesting overview of the new entrants to the WA state parliament.
UPDATE (3/1/09): Malcolm Mackerras reviews the Queensland state redistribution and offers his prediction for the election to be held some time this year, namely an 11 seat Labor majority from an even split on two-party preferred.