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. I think George Williams would be better in the Senate. It is disappointing he isn’t in there already considering that Rudd (and Whitlam) wanted him on the NSW Senate ticket last time.

  2. I am amused by the concept of “hard right” and “soft right” factions in NSW Liberals, with the Jesuit catholics presumably being too “soft” for the hard right. ROTFL 😀

    Those guys will be as electorally popular as Dick Cheney at the Sydney Mardi- Gras.

    I wonder what beliefs and policies characterise “soft right”? No capital punushment for fine defaulters? I can’t help wondering if such factions merely adopt positions as a fig leaf of ideology to gloss over what is simply a naked power struggle.

  3. Ah, I note that Socrates made a similar point.

    [I can’t help wondering if such factions merely adopt positions as a fig leaf of ideology to gloss over what is simply a naked power struggle.]

    No need to wonder.

  4. LOL! The Australian starts THE ESSAY WARS:
    [The attack comes in Mr Turnbull’s response to an essay of more than 6000 words written by Mr Rudd and published in full by the Fairfax newspapers.

    In a more streamlined 2000-word effort, published in The Weekend Australian today, Mr Turnbull savages Mr Rudd as a spin-driven rewriter of history with little intellectual consistency and a tendency to change his messages to suit whatever he believes people want to hear. ]
    I’m sure since Turnbull’s essay is “streamlined” and only 2000 words means it will automatically be better than anything Rudd has written.,25197,25865132-601,00.html


    [MALCOLM Turnbull has ridiculed Kevin Rudd as a would-be philosopher-king foolishly and recklessly gambling public money while rewriting political history to accord with his own political fantasy world.]

    Malcolm Turnbull: full of surprises.

    (see link above)

  6. Just clocked on to read the sad news about Judith.

    Judith used PB as an outlet for her grief, despair and frustration. But, despite the inherently dark aspect to the fundemantals of her posts, she somehow managed to lift us all with her decency and humanity.

    Vale Judith. We are all better people for knowing of you and your struggle.

  7. Re: Judith Barnes, no mother should have to go through what she did, yet she never gave up the fight to bring her son’s murderers to justice.

    She’s been missed here at PB.

    RIP Judith.

  8. [Adelaide Now have just posted an article on Judith – alas it’s true]

    RIP Judith as:

    We are all a poor wayfaring stranger
    Just traveling thru this world of woe
    Yet there’s no sickness, toil or danger
    in that bright world to which I go

    I’m going there to see my mother
    I’m going there no more to roam
    I’m only going over Jordan
    I’m only going over home

  9. Peter Hartcher (SMH) on the Rudd-Obama friendship Truly, madly, deeply in love, but surely it can’t last forever comparing it to (pass the chunder bucket -quick) Dubya’s & Howard’s

    Politically, Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama are both new leaders from the progressive side of the politics.

    Geopolitically, they are in agreement on the big issues of our time – winding back the effort in Iraq, intensifying the campaign in Afghanistan, responding to the global economic crisis, dealing with climate change, searching for a new modus vivendi with China. Personally, they are younger-generation leaders, Rudd turning 52 next month and Obama celebrating his 42nd next week, just as Howard, now 70, and George Bush, 63, were of the same generation.

    And, what Hartcher missed that may also explain why Kev & Barak do get on well: both chose similar women: vivacious, independent, brilliant, highly successful “my life, my choices (inc clothes)” women; both long-term active participants in programmes helping the disadvantaged overcome barriers.

    What I found odd about Hartcher’s piece, however, was the implication in:

    If all this sounds a bit hyperbolic, or even euphoric, let’s try a reality check. If Obama is so close to Rudd, if the US is so committed to the relationship with Australia, then why is the Obama Administration going ahead with a decision that is likely to damage Australia’s $2.7 billion a year dairy export trade? …

    …The Administration announced in May that it will resume paying government subsidies on American dairy exports. This will give its products an artificial price advantage.

    It threatens to cut Australian dairy incomes in two ways. First, it’s likely to bring down the world price for dairy products. Second, it could squeeze Australian products out of other countries’ markets.

    Since when did genuine friendship also imply leverage?

    their own “my life, my choices (inc of clothes) attitudes.

  10. Frank @11

    Thanks for the link. As an infrequent poster on PB I did not know her like the other PBs.
    However as a parent having just read her story I am quiet saddened and can now understand how upset the PBs are who knew her better than I. She is certainly deserves to be so dearly regarded here on PB. Thanks again Frank.

  11. It looks The Ruddster has a new little best mate:

    [BARACK OBAMA has a new best friend among world leaders. His name is Kevin Rudd.

    A senior official in the Obama Administration said the President had bonded more closely with Mr Rudd than with any other leader.

    Indeed, the two have taken up where John Howard and George Bush left off, according to the State Department official responsible for US policy in the Asia-Pacific, Kurt Campbell.]

    While the poor Malcolm looks like he aint got his little best mate and sounding a bit jealous, for the Ruddster has dressed so fine. Malcolm, we hardly know yer:

    [Mr Rudd ‘‘likes to style himself as a philosopher-king issuing edicts from on high about how the world should be better governed. The fact is this Prime Minister is as poll-driven as any politician in living memory. He is forever adapting his message to suit the mood of the day. He changes with the seasons,’’ Mr Turnbull writes.

    In 2007 Mr Rudd was an economic conservative; by late 2008 he was a democratic socialist again. ‘‘And now, as we have seen in his essay last weekend, he is moving back towards the centre, warning about the dangers of excessive levels of government debt and the need to return budgets to surplus. Not so much a Prime Minister as a political fashionista.’’]

  12. [In 2007 Mr Rudd was an economic conservative; by late 2008 he was a democratic socialist again.]

    Keynesian Mr Turnbull, Keynesian. We wouldn’t call Menzies-era Liberals socialists, would we?

    But I get your wider point.

  13. And James Packer (also in SMH) makes very intelligent points about medical research – hopefully a hint of things to come:

    It seems to me that Australia still thinks of research as a spender of capital, not a generator.

    The fact is that research can make money. It doesn’t just build knowledge for a nation; it doesn’t just save lives; it also builds wealth for those countries prepared to invest in it. If we can increase our public investment it would encourage greater efforts by the private sector to engage in pre-clinical research …

    We have the fundamentals – bright people, a high-quality though small research sector and governments willing to review and improve the current arrangements. The question is whether we can make some critical changes to our medical research policy.

    although (as I said a couple of threads ago) I believe we need to create a national research culture & innovation that spreads well beyond medicine. It requires a strong government lead, in conjunction with the media (esp AV & electronic), Australia Post and the sort of recognition we give to sports stars. Winning a Nobel Prize or other prestigious international award is at least the equivalent of an Olympic gold medal, and worth far more in revenue & international kudos generated; but does it deserve an immediate OzPost stamp?

    PS: Check the lists on to identify how many of these distinguished Aussies you know.

  14. Bizarre “essay” by Turnbull (And oh so obvious as a v fairfax deal as well). Not a scrap of policy except a line or 2 about “small business”.

    Not one reason to vote for him.

    A complete waste of space.

  15. Ah yes, The Finns, MalContent does sound seriously miffed that this child of a Qld share-farmer (dairy) should have achieved not only the office he covets, but has the gall to marry a girl with the capacity to make millions – probably (potentially) as many as Malcy himself. He should have been a Nat, FGS, and been, at best, a member of the junior party in Malcy’s Coalition government. And he shouldn’t be from Queensland. Not since Fisher 90+ years ago someone from the Deep North taken a job that rightfully belongs to Victorians, NSWelshmen, with a sprinkling from lesser states.

    Kev’s got a rich wife but is too lousy to buy his own campaign ute? Or does it miff Malcy that the “poor kid made good” who stole the Lib’s birthright was happy with a 2nd hand ute from a mate, while the public discovers that Malcy gets 4-5 figure cheques worth? Or is he narky that Rudd & Obama are mates? Does he hate an intellectual PM when he’s had such pretensions himself? Is he simply not coping emotionally with bad polls & the fool he made of himself over utegate?

    Mind you, as is typical of the Fed Libs, the SMH essay isn’t as exclusive as claimed. TheOz has

    a more streamlined 2000-word effort, published in The Weekend Australian today, Mr Turnbull savages Mr Rudd as a spin-driven rewriter of history with little intellectual consistency and a tendency to change his messages to suit whatever he believes people want to hear.,25197,25865132-601,00.html

  16. [I did a word count of it on Word – it came in at 3068 words…]

    As far as I could judge only 28 of the words were on LIberal Party policy (or 0.91%). Here they are:

    [Drawing on what we have learned, we have proposed a number of measures: tax loss carrybacks, fairer insolvency rules, better incentives for hiring apprentices and an assault on bureaucratically imposed regulation and compliance costs.]

  17. Grog

    Funnily enough, he used the word “debt” 27 times as well. I couldn’t get past the firs paragraph, and he writes really short paragraphs.

  18. That’s a good article Socrates – key sentences:
    [Overall the results are neither the unalloyed tale of success described in Mr Rudd’s Mid-Term Report nor the litany of broken promises the Opposition claims has characterised the Government.

    Mr Rudd has achieved or exceeded his targets for eight of the 16 benchmarks and is on track with another three. But at the 18-month point, five of the benchmarks have not been achieved.]

  19. Even though Rudd’s was essay contained 3x more words I expect it was a long way behind Turnbull’s in abuse and vitriol. I hope that someone in the MSM points this out.

    Turnbull is an ideas free zone.

  20. [and he writes really short paragraphs.]

    Noticed that as well – attempting to be journalisticy I guess (bad journalism that is).

    A long paragraph requires development of a thought, so it’s not surprising I guess that he wasn’t up to the task.

  21. Gee I wish it was possible to edit my posts within say 1 minute of submitting it. Some sites offer that feature and it makes for much clearer reading.

  22. I just learnt that Judy Barnes also was a frequent poster on other sites too. I saw her on AdelaideNow and OO sites where she blogged under the name “swamprat of the lagoon”.

  23. [Mr Rudd has achieved or exceeded his targets for eight of the 16 benchmarks and is on track with another three. But at the 18-month point, five of the benchmarks have not been achieved.]

    Interesting thought, coming from a newspaper that just a few days ago editorialized that Rudd had done nothing since elected and that there was no excuse for that, not the GFC, not Senate obstructionism, not anything.

  24. BB, Mark Davis’s article seemed to me to be p1 of a longer one. It spends quite a few paras on Rudd & benchmarking – as if he has to defend that (Hey Mark, we’re reading SMH, not the Terrorgraph) – then mentions policies (but not with the detail given to “benchmarking) then just finishes at batts in the ceiling. No real policy analysis, no conclusion. It was so unfinished that I reloaded to see if my browser had downloaded the lot.

    Maybe he’s sort of blogging the ALP conference.

  25. Now, this is real journalism.

    [SCENE: We are somewhere in Strathfield, roughly halfway between the seats of Cook (held by Scott Morrison, for the Liberal Party) and Berowra (held by Philip Ruddock, ditto). Marching towards the latter are a dozen members of the Sydney University Liberal Club – students of differing shapes, sizes and spottiness, armed with pointed sticks. In front of them march two hooded monks, singing psalms and each swinging a censer. In the lead is the great Gonzor, Lord of the Troons, with whom regular readers will be familiar. Around his waist Gonzor has tied the dried and shrunken heads of …]

  26. Turnbull seems to want to attack the man, while Rudd attacks policy. I don’t think attacking the man is going to help the Liberals develop policy, but who knows.

    Back in the USA again, tried to develop a positive outlook before leaving, being asked for money by beggers in a rich country with a poor safety net sucks, but I am still trying to be positive. Boy has the media got weird here. Fox news is now so feral it truly is unwatchable, Australians really need to keep quite about Rupert’s birth place, he is not one of our better exports. CNN is banging on about birth certificates. USA today had a full page add complaining that Obama was a socialist and the financial crisis was all his fault. The argument was longer than 6000 words, unfortunately the cleaning lady cleared away the paper so I can’t report on the logic required to reach the conclusion.

  27. [Turnbull seems to want to attack the man, while Rudd attacks policy.]

    You’ve got to be kidding. Are you sticking your head under rocks when Rudd goes on the attack against Turnbull?

  28. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Turnbull’s failure to break through and to gain some credibility within the electorate and as reflected in the polls.

    The conclusion I have reached is that he has relied on trying to damage Rudd’s credibility and standing and it has failed and is continuing to fail.

    There is more than reason for this, but the main one is that to accomplish a project such as this successfully, you must firstly becoming from a position of strength yourself. ie. Unless you yourself are held at a reasonable level of trust and acceptability by the electorate, then any credibility that you think you have to bring down your opponent is nothing but wishful thinking.

    Turnbull is fooling himself into believing that he has that level of credibility and that with the concentrated assistance of the MSM, he will be able to gradually eat away at Rudd’s approval figures and enhance his own.

    The major effects that I can observe so far are that Turnbull’s credibility is either permanently stalled, or is going backwards and that the players in the MSM who are poring enormous energy and resources into supporting Turnbull’s aims, are in a worse position of loosing some of the last vestiges of credibility that remained among the public still relying on the media to be reliably informed of what is happening in the world outside their front door.

    Today’s media is full of such material and it is now getting beyond boring or funny. It’s similar to watching a tragedy unfold right in front of your eyes every day!

  29. [Turnbull seems to want to attack the man, while Rudd attacks policy.]
    That about sums up the Liberal Party and Murdoch news for the past few years. It has been persistent campaign trying to denigrate Rudd’s character.

    But they have no choice. The liberal party has no chance of developing coherent policies and the Murdoch news has little to attack what has turned out to be relatively competent and successful Rudd govt. All they have left is their bitter attacks on Rudd.

    I would like to see Limited News identify itself closely with Turnbull, the loser’s newspapers.

  30. Thanks, Scorpio, Chris Henning certainly has a future. Is Crikey looking for a new PolSatire blogger?

    @41 I could blame Brendan Nelson’s antics on his having picked Tom Switzer – they had that “straight out of the GOP’s ‘pander to the wingnuts’ philosophy” style … Here let us praise whomever that Dr N was gone before the GOP thought up the Tea Party stunts … but who /what could possibly be making a dog’s breakfast of Turnbull’s shambles? A King Canute v the Tide fantasy?

    At least when Bruce & Menzies were turfed, they could still pen/ type intelligent, coherent rational (if a tad rhetorical) articles & papers of the sort that causes the reader to reflect, “At least we were being led by intelligent men.” Never a Tory voter, I still relish Menzies’ measured prose (esp in “Central Power …” – still a fave fix), even if I’m snarling at what he wrote. Perhaps it came from inner conviction, a vision of the nation’s future & ability to develop (or morph existing) policy to achieve it, that most senior Oz pollies of all persuasions (even Country/Nat) were able to capture people’s aspirations & support.

    Current Libs seem unable to articulate anything but whinging, spite and hyperbolic beat-ups.

    Tom Hawkins @ 33 Very strongly agree! Currently, as the latest weird TIA takes a lot longer than usual to prove it’s transient & the print is zoomed a hellava way in (so I can sorta see it) I doubt I’ve managed an error-proof post. Bug#er.

  31. [Labor says it is looking for a new candidate to run for the marginal South Australian federal seat of Sturt to try to unseat Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne.

    Mia Handshin ran at the last federal election and slashed Mr Pyne’s margin to less than 1 per cent but she has now chosen not to re-contest due to personal reasons.

    South Australian Senator Don Farrell had been quoted saying Ms Handshin was the party’s only choice.

    But Senator Farrell says that is not the case and Labor will be opening its pre-selection processes in October.]

    Certainly one I’d be happy to see gone (harmless though he is). And I have to admit it would reduce the level of unintentional comedy in Question Time…

  32. [You’ve got to be kidding. Are you sticking your head under rocks when Rudd goes on the attack against Turnbull?]
    Ah yes, but the difference is that Rudd takes well-aimed swipes at Turnbull in between his Policy Wonk stuff, while Turnbull swings the ball and chain wildly and inaccurately as an alternative to doing any policy work at all.

  33. I don’t think many people would bother sitting down and reading Turnbull’s essay, (nor Kev’s for that matter)
    If anything they’ll say he’s just trying to copy Rudd but he wasn’t smart enough to do one as long as Kev’s 😉
    It sure isn’t going to win him any praise or votes IMO.

  34. I am saddened to learn of the death of Judy Barnes. Best wishes to her family who have one more obstacle to contend with on their life’s journey. Judith gave a lot of her time and thoughts to this site and we are all the richer for her contributions.

  35. [Turnbull seems to want to attack the man…]

    … as do they all.

    It’s the “Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree” theory: if you can establish in the minds of the public that the man has no credibility, is “all spin, no substance”, is a phoney, a preening self-promoter, toxic bore etc. etc. then you don’t have to do the hard work of criticising his policies one by one. Anything that eminates from a phoney is phoney. Any fruit from the poisonous tree is poisonous. It’s a lazy strategy.

    And then, as Scorpio accurately points out, you have to have credibility yourself to put this over. If you have no credibility then your attacks fall victim to the very logic you’re trying to use against the other fella. Liberal anger is not enough to convince the punters – who see success everywhere as a result of Labor governance which is in turn a result of their voting Labor into office.

    Now that News Ltd. has lost it (they fell for Rudd’s trap) and have resorted to “all negative, all the time”, the Libs don’t even have a mouthpiece that’s of much practical use to them. The more the Libs go down the lazy path of just being angry, shouting louder when things don’t go their way, the worse it will be for them. It’s insulting to ask the public to elect a party to office that has virtually no policies (and incredibly uses the argument that “we are not in government” to defend that position) and proven weak leadership. The public has given its verdict on Turnbull. Everyone knows he’s only there because there’s no-one else to fill his shoes. Yet the Libs persist in claiming that shouting louder will do the trick.

    They really do need another boot in the ar$e to make them realise it wasn’t a bad dream. They need to be told a second time before they have any hope of realising the love affair is over. By then I think Turnbull will have already spat the dummy and killed the cat. He won’t stick around to be humiliated a second time.

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