Houses in disorder

No Morgan poll this week, but the past week’s tide of political shenanigans and skulduggery can be held back no longer:

• The by-election for the Tasmanian upper house district for Pembroke will
be held tomorrow, which in partisan terms is the most interesting such contest for many a long year. Labor will not attempt to retain the seat being vacated by outgoing member Allison Ritchie – possibly a first in Australian electoral history – but two independents, James Crotty (who was expected to win the aborted Labor preselection) and Honey Bacon (the widow of former Premier Jim Bacon), are identifiable with the Labor cause in one way or another. Most interestingly, the field also includes a high-profile Liberal in Vanessa Goodwin, who performed impressively in both the state seat and federal seat of Franklin in 2006 and 2007 without quite bringing home the prize. This is the first time the Liberals have fielded an upper house candidate since 2000, when their poor performance reminded them why they are better off leaving the chamber to independents in most circumstances. This site will provide live coverage of the results tomorrow evening. Anybody wishing to discuss the election is invited to do so on the dedicated thread.

• The Northern Territory government is in turmoil, with Macdonnell MP and Indigenous Affairs Minister Alison Anderson threatening to quit the ALP and reports Chief Minister Paul Henderson faces a challenge from Karama MP Delia Lawrie. The government has been in a minority position since Arafura MP Marion Scrymgour quit the party early last month. Nick Calacouras of the Northern Territory News says Lawrie “avoided the media after Tuesday’s caucus meeting and snuck out the back with Transport Minister Gerry McCarthy (Barkly) and the three indigenous Labor ministers – Karl Hampton (Stuart), Malarndirri McCarthy (Arnhem) and Alison Anderson”. Darwin academic, former Labor MP and Club Troppo blogger Ken Parish is quoted saying Henderson “would be replaced by Christmas”. Anderson has been threatening to walk out over the government’s alleged failure to deliver on indigenous housing promised in a federal-territory program announced early last year. She is not ruling out joining the CLP, which would leave the fate of the government in the hands of independent Nelson MP Gerry Wood. Wood has generally been presumed to be of conservative sympathies, but he has expressed doubt as to whether “some of these new (CLP) members are ready to govern”. In any case, there seems reason to suspect Anderson’s defection threats are born of a desire to strengthen her hand as she seeks a better deal on indigenous housing (UPDATE 1/8/09): Paul Toohey of The Australian doesn’t quite see it that way, saying Anderson was in discussions late last year with the CLP about crossing the floor, and that she “will, sooner rather than later, destroy (Henderson’s) government. She has also raised the prospect of an quitting from politics altogether, which she says she will do in any case at the next election. However, Labor would probably be favoured to win an ensuing by-election, with Anderson’s electorate officer John Rawnsley having won her backing to succeed her for preselection.

• The Right faction of the New South Wales Liberal Party is being rent by a split between forces associated with state upper house MP David Clarke and his former protégé, youthful federal Mitchell MP Alex Hawke. The philosophical basis of the friction involves the Christian social conservatism of the former sub-faction (the “hard Right”) and the laissez-faire economic orientation of the latter (the “soft Right”), although there has also been talk of hard Right elements seeking a purge of Jesuit-educated Catholics. Principals of the Clarke group include state upper house MP Marie Ficarra and Epping MP Greg Smith, while the Hawke camp can claim state party president Nick Campbell. The dispute boiled over on Monday at the AGM of the Sydney University Liberal Club, which Clarke and Ficarra reportedly attempted without success to take control of (subject of a vibrant discussion at VexNews), and again at a Lane Cove Young Liberals meeting the following night. Phillip Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the split could deliver soft Right support to factional moderate Philip Ruddock in Berowra, who faces a challenge from Noel McCoy of the hard Right, and Scott Morrison in Cook. Coorey relates that Greg Smith is believed to be carrying the flag for the hard Right’s campaign against Ruddock, which most recently manifested itself in a confrontation during a branch meeting in Cheltenham:

On Sunday night in Berowra, Mr Ruddock and Mr Smith attended a meeting of the Cheltenham Branch in Mr Ruddock’s electorate. By six votes to one, the moderates blocked a bid by Mr Smith to admit three new members. The same majority admitted seven new members sympathetic to Mr Ruddock.

The dissension could result in the state party initiating its federal preselection process as soon as the draft boundaries are announced next Friday, rather than waiting as currently planned until they are finalised early next year. UPDATE (1/8/09): Imre Salusinszky of The Australian reports Noel McCoy saying: “Now that I have clearance from the state director to speak to the media, I can tell you that I am not contesting the seat of Berowra.” Meaning either that there was a lot of smoke without fire, or that recent events have caused him to revise his estimate of his chances.

Michelle Grattan of The Age reports that “wealthy Toorak businessman” Andrew Abercrombie has emerged as a contender for the Liberal Higgins preselection, in challenge to heir presumptive Kelly O’Dwyer. Nominations for both Higgins and Aston closed yesterday.

James Massola of The Canberra Times reports on movement at the station in Canberra ALP branches, with Bob McMullan having announced the next election will be his last and expectations Annette Ellis might follow. This would make available both Fraser and Canberra to those aspiring for a safe seat. Massola says that “depending on who you talk to, constitutional scholar George Williams, former Julia Gillard adviser Jamie Snashall, former Mark Latham adviser Michael Cooney and Rudd’s masterful chief of staff Alister Jordan are all in the box seat for one or other of these prize seats”.

Moonee Valley Community News reports Moonee Valley councillor Rose Iser has confirmed she will run for Greens preselection in the state seat of Melbourne, which the party narrowly failed to win in 2002 and 2006. Also in the field are “former Liberty Victoria president Brian Walters SC, former candidate Jen Alden, and first-timer Bruce Poon”.

• Les Twentyman, youth worker and independent candidate at last year’s Kororoit by-election, has announced he has decided against taking the field at next year’s state election.

• On behalf of The Poll Bludger and all who sail in her, heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of valued comments contributor Judy Barnes, who has died at the age of 71.

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.

531 comments on “Houses in disorder”

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  1. [ALP in power is happy to be boringPhillip
    August 3, 2009 .

    Gazing wistfully at last week’s national outpouring of unity by the ALP was the Opposition. It is in such woeful shape that it would be hard-pressed to organise a manure fight in a barn.

    This week offers more joy, with Utegate to be given another airing. The ABC’s blurb for tonight’s episode of Australian Story invites viewers to: ‘‘Join Australian Story inside the office of the Opposition Leader as Utegate implodes.’’

    As this column reported recently, an ABC crew had been trailing Malcolm Turnbull for some time and just happened to be in his Parliament House the day Utegate backfired.

    One scene believed to have been included concerns the moment a Turnbull staffer, Tony Barry, reads on the internet that the federal police have raided Godwin Grech’s home and believe the email linking Rudd to favours for a mate was concocted.

    His brain snap-frozen with fear, Barry Googles ‘‘concocted’’ just to make sure it meant what he thought it meant.]

  2. [His brain snap-frozen with fear, Barry Googles ‘‘concocted’’ just to make sure it meant what he thought it meant.]

    That’s hilarious! 😀

  3. The article in SA’s Sunday Mail re Mia Handshin is a completely tenuous link. My partner was working and attended the workshop run by Mia, and it was on public speaking, not on company direction. As I understand Christopher Pyne is hawking a dirt sheet on Mia, of which the fact that she ran a workshop there appearing prominantly. Also the detail of her husbands role there are inaccurate and misleading. Pyne is very desperate and I personally are hoping the public starts to see this.


    [FEDERAL Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says he doesn’t expect to be mentioned in an auditor-general’s report into the Utegate affair.

    This week, the auditor-general is expected to release a report into claims the Rudd government gave special assistance to Queensland car dealer John Grant, who was trying to secure car industry finance.

    Mr Grant provided Mr Rudd, his friend and neighbour in Brisbane, with a free ute to use as a mobile electorate office.

    Mr Turnbull said he had not seen the report and the auditor-general had not spoken to him.

    “The auditor-general has never spoken to me, so I assume I don’t feature in his report, and nor should I,” Mr Turnbull said. ]

  5. crikey whitey,

    [I emailed William with another email address you could contact me on.]

    Yeah, got it. Thanks Crikey and William.


    I would much appreciate it if you could e-mail that address to William to pass on to me if you could. Thanks very much for your thoughts.

  6. D.D. here we come!
    [KEVIN Rudd has quietly assembled at least nine potential early-election triggers and is about to rain them upon Malcolm Turnbull to undermine his rival’s already brittle leadership.

    When parliament resumes next week, the Prime Minister will demand the opposition back legislation across a range of areas it has previously rejected, knowing he could use a second rejection to trigger an early election. ],25197,25873103-5013404,00.html


    [The slowdown in manufacturing activity continued to ease in July as low interest rates and fiscal stimulus gave the sector some encouragement and businesses ran down inventories.

    The Australian Industry Group/PricewaterhouseCoopers performance of manufacturing index (PMI) was a seasonally adjusted 44.5 points July, after rising by six index points from June, and at its highest level in 10 months.]

  8. Vera & Dario – just read the ‘concocted’ bit and cracked up. A liberal staffer had to look up the meaning of the word!! Hilarious but says it all about them really, doesn’t it.

  9. I think the only thing the AFP report will mention is a meeting between Grech and a “senior Liberal” prior to his testimony, which has been confirmed as Turnbull. Boring and wont change anything

    Wasnt there some mention that the email wont be investigated because it is a fake???

  10. Andrew

    Don’t forget that the report out soon is the AG one, which evidently doesn’t mention Truffles or the fake email. The AFP one may be quite different.

  11. [Wasnt there some mention that the email wont be investigated because it is a fake???]

    Grech is a reasonably senior public servant who it is alleged has been passing information to the Libs for some considerable time. This must be investigated whether the information passed on is true or not or trivial or not. The man’s future employment hangs in the balance.

  12. I agree with Tom H here – Grech’s contact wityh the Libs has to be investigated.

    I think PBers have previously mentioned that Turnbull may have shifted money around a few days prior to the Bank guarantees being made public. He obviously had insider info because he was spouting about guarantees prior to Swan’s announcement of them.

    If Turnbull did shift money within those few days prior to the guarantees and the info came from someone inside Treasury then that is a major problem for the Govt. and Treasury.

    I wonder if the AFP are delving that far.

  13. The Qld ALP has just released a list of all businesses that have paid to attend ALP functions.

    The LNP are being asked to do the same – bet they won’t. 😉

  14. [The LNP are being asked to do the same – bet they won’t.]
    It would just be a document noting that Clive Palmer owns the LNP.

  15. [The LNP are being asked to do the same – bet they won’t. ]

    I bet they won’t too. And I reckon the Libs are furious with Turnbull for suggesting that all business and union donations be stopped. It will hurt them more than Labor.

  16. Excellent piece in Crikey daily mail:

    18 . The gay love affair with Kevin is over
    Executive Producer/Presenter for Joy FM Doug Pollard writes:

    The honeymoon with Labor is now officially over. Thousands of people thronged the streets of Melbourne calling for equality, but Labor simply applied a thin coat of pinkwash over existing failed policy. No equality from any Rudd government.

    We voted them in because anything was an improvement on Howard. We accepted their gay policies were less than perfect, knowing that they didn’t want to frighten the fundies. But we hoped they would cast off those shackles once elected.

    Instead they stuck strictly to their policy. Disappointing, but at the party conference, we thought, they’ll commit to something more workable. The omens were good.

    After all, the hospital system isn’t working, so Rudd says he’ll take it off the states and deal with it federally. Since it’s clear that his “nationally consistent state-based relationship recognition system” is equally unworkable, the expectation was that he’d step in and fix that too. But he’s refused.

    The irony is, Rudd himself made the idea unworkable. He crippled the ACTs Civil Unions legislation, and put his sticky fingers all over the Victorian scheme too, rendering it not very much more than a token gesture.

    Victoria passed the legislation anyway because, lacking anything resembling an opposition, Brumby could probably pass a law mandating pink plastic flamingos on everyone’s roof and still get re-elected. But elsewhere Labors grip is weak.

    So the other the states decided that if they couldn’t legislate what they judged their voters would wear, they weren’t going to legislate at all. If Rudd was going to foist something on their voters, let him take the heat for it, too. But on Saturday Rudd refused, and community anger ensued.

    Before the election we accepted that his policy had to be minimalist, so as not to frighten the fundies, but most of us assumed that once elected, he would do the right thing. Now we’re angry and disappointed because he gave us only what he promised — and made the older and more vulnerable of us pay for it, lest anyone accuse him of “pandering” to the gay movement.

    Now they’re angry at us for being ungrateful, and asking why should they bother if we’re not going to stick with them. To which I say, mindless loyalty is for footy teams, not political parties. You’re only as good as your last policy, yours isn’t good enough. So where do we go from here?

    First off, demand a conscience vote on Sarah Hanson-Youngs Marriage Equality Amendment Bill in both houses.

    Second, if you’re rusted on Labor, or you live in a solid Labor constituency, join the party, join Rainbow Labor and argue from within.

    Third, if you live in a seat where the Greens can probably unseat the sitting member — whatever party — join and campaign for them. Give Labor a fright and the Greens the balance of power.

    And if you work in retail, join the Shopworkers Union, form a Rainbow Shoppies pressure group, and overturn the leadership, because at every Labor conference in living memory they have voted down every pro-gay measure, and they have the biggest bloc of votes. Plus you get to hook up with all those cute boys from David Jones.

    And me? Well I won’t deny I wouldn’t mind being parachuted into a nice safe Senate seat — I could do with a paying gig and a generous pension plan. But for those who want me join Labor, I have two very rude words:

    Peter Garrett.

  17. [The honeymoon with Labor is now officially over.]

    So Doug Pollard joins a very long list of people who have claimed that the Rudd honeymoon is over.

    Ho hum.

  18. What does Pollard want?

    The Federal Govt. does not have the power to change the common law definition of marriage.

    Civil Unions are a State issue.

    I note the snide quip “and made the older and more vulnerable of us pay for it” if this refers to Centrelink payments – tough luck. 😉

  19. Latest Essential Research’s TPP: 59-41. Last week: 56-44.

    Gonna be another bad day & night for Malcolm with the Australia Story tonight.

  20. 59-41 and the AFP report hasn’t yet been released. I hope Turnbull is a good downhill skier as that’s the only direction he’s heading this winter.

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