Guest Post: Labor gone by November?

August 24th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Craig Watson:

My wife and I moved to Canberra, from New Zealand a month ago for work. Always the political geek, I decided to make the most of my rostered day off (yay for the nine day fortnight!) and attend todays sitting of the Federal Parliament.

For those of you not up to date all is interesting in the land of the Labor led 43rd Australian Parliament. I guess it has been this way since the independents and greens played off Tony and Julia after the election. I am sure most of you will remember that Tony Abbot’s Coalition had the better numbers but Julia and the Labor team were happy to offer more sweeteners and after many many days, nights and special news bulletins the Welsh-Australian playmaker wrangled in the Independents (ironically ‘country’ and possibly more right than central left) to pull together a majority that holds the balance of power by….one.

So for three main reasons (though there are many more) Julia faces her biggest challenge, not leadership like Phil back home, but in the balance of power. I would like to elaborate my view on these three points. I should say I am no political insider, nor do I hold a political degree, I am just an observer with a right leaning tendency.

(1)  The Union Sex scandal. Possibly the biggest threat in actual terms in this majority of one seat is an MP from NSW. I will not elaborate on Craig Thomson’s misgivings, here is a link , it seems the biggest factor is not what Craig has done (I think Union’s taking the financial piss is less that shocking, aye Matt McCarten??) but that Julia is sticking by her man. The reality is that if she does not then the marginal seat may well swing right and cause a snap election with the dissolution of the majority to hold parliament together. So really Osama Bin Laden as a Labor MP would have her support right now if it kept her in the thrones of power.

(2)  The Convoy of No Confidence. Okay so this one lacked the balls the opposition was hoping for (far less trucks and supporters), but the reality is that there is a real undercurrent of disillusionment with the current administration and the general public is well and truly over it. The fact the a non-political group hailing from all over the country felt the need to drive for over a week to make their feelings heard is a pretty credible sign of discontent.

(3)  K-Rudd…… need I say more?

So back to my original statement of ‘Labor gone by November’. The rumour going around is that Craig Thomson will be forced to stand down. This will force a by-election in his seat and early polls suggest that it will not remain a Labor seat. Labor will lose it’s mandate to govern and hence….. gone by November?


17 Responses to “Guest Post: Labor gone by November?”

  1. Nostradamus (5,206 comments) says:

    An interesting post, Craig, and I’ll be interested to read comments from other Australia-based commenters. From my observation of media coverage, I’d say Tony Abbott is stirring the pot but, in reality, he’s reaping the benefit of a public backlash against the Gillard Government – not presenting a coordinated alternative government.

    And don’t forget the greens in the Senate… Bob Brown was practically wetting his pants with delight when their numbers swelled recently.

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  2. tvb (5,510 comments) says:

    None of the above will see gillard gone unless one of the independents pull the plug. Helen Clark showed how a government can survive a scandal hit mp. The union has withheld 200k in entitlements to cover the unauthorized spending. The crinimal law process will take at least 12 months to run it’s course. Meanwhile Thompson will not resign. The odds are against the independents doing anything as they will never again hold such power. Gillard stays for now.

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  3. gravedodger (1,703 comments) says:

    Adolf at No Minister gave this an airing a couple of times a week or so ago and the basic problem forTthompson goes back two years.
    The problem is basically using Union money he could access for whores and election funding but the source of the purloined cash is the union and the Police want a complaint before they act.
    Alas for the bilious bitch mark 2 that may be about to change.

    Hence Adolf’s mantra

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  4. backster (2,507 comments) says:

    The Shadow Attorney General has laid a 17 page complaint with the Police. The Police are following the Howard Broad approach of holding an inquiry to consider whether they need to become involved. (ABC news last night.)

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  5. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    Thomson isn’t likely to go any time soon, although Abbott and co are playing it very well so far. They have only pushed for resignation from portfolio (well, committee chair), not from parliament as yet. But they’re applying pressure bit by bit. The advantages are that they don’t have to go all out for a resignation and maybe lose that, and also that it drags on as they wear it down piece by piece, and with his chair resignation, they’re painting a picture every day of winning the battles.

    Even if Thomson resigned, there was a by-election, and Gillard lost, she could actually still govern. Or, to put it another way, Abbott probably couldn’t govern, he is unlikely to pull the independents into a government when he’d almost cretainly go to an early election and therefore have a good shot at taking their seats off them. Turkeys and early christmas. Most likely outcome is limping along for a short while, then a fresh election, which the coalition should win, but are capable of losing.

    Abbott has played a masterful hand, but I wonder whether like Brash in the last NZ election but one, he can bring the party back to the brink, but not quite over the top. I actually like Abbott, but he has bad history and bad PR, and I’m not sure he can overcome it. Only Gillard’s incompetence and intense dislike in the electorate is keeping Abbott’s head above water.

    What all this is doing is gumming up the wheels of government. In some cases this is good – they will have difficulty locking in the carbon tax and mining tax for example. In other areas, it’s bad – the NBN rollout continues, the govt is spraying money around like $400M to buy off the greens in Tasmania, and the economy continues to fall apart other than the resource driven sectors – which isn’t entirely the govt’s fault, but the union-friendly IR legislation is hammering productivity, the carbon tax creating uncertainty, and both are impacting on the manufacturing base. Things like the sight of the unions attempting to destroy Qantas rather than accept job losses are unedifying.

    Certainly it will be interesting times for the next 12 months.

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  6. gravedodger (1,703 comments) says:

    @ paulL, does your summation give grist to the call for” recall” with safe guards, as a part of a functioning democracy or in the case of the Australian Federal Parliament a disfunctioning one.
    Say a petition of 15/20% of an electorate.
    There must be more than a few furrowed brows with what you describe above.

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  7. coge (211 comments) says:

    Gillard’s as cunning as a sewer rat. She’ll have a host of contingencies at hand. But she is not as secure as Clark was. If things don’t improve for her party’s fortunes by this time next year, much of her support will be sweating. That’s probably her biggest threat.

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  8. Ed Snack (2,792 comments) says:

    I think after the last election Labor actually had a very slight advantage in terms of the 2PP vote over the coalition, and yes, she certainly seemed to offer more to the independents. But as the larger party (even if by the merest fraction) she had convention on her side to have the first shot at forming a government.

    Abbott certainly has bad “PR”, the specialty of the “left” parties is personal abuse and personal denigration, and Abbott has certainly taken a fair pasting from that section of the MSM in Australia that is in Labor’s pocket, like the ABC and the Fairfax group papers. Whether that’s justified is a little hard to see from here but from my reading of it Abbott would be fine, he would find it hard after all, to be worse than the last two PMs, Rudd and Gillard.

    Thompson though, it would seem pretty clear from the evidence that is publicly available that he has seriously rorted the Union and probably broken the electoral funding law as well. His public explanation that someone else used his card and presumably phone looks unsustainable given the other calls made on the phone on the same days as the call girl incidents, so he’s a public liar as well. However I don’t think the police in Aus have the balls to tackle this one, they’ll conclude that it isn’t in the public interest to prosecute and there’s no way the Union will complain. I’d say that unless there’s some kind of lucky break for the coalition that Thompson will remain in parliament.

    Which is pretty sad, the man’s a slimeball of the first water, stealing Union funds for his own “entertainment” (and from a Union that represents a pretty low paid slice of the Australian workforce too), and then deliberately making false statements in public about the matter; totally unworthy to be an MP; although actually pretty mainstream behaviour for an MP actually.

    There’s one bright spot though, as pointed out elsewhere this does at least show that at least ONE MP demonstrated that he COULD organize a an orgy in a brothel.

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  9. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    Ed: I’m not sure that Labour was the largest party, unless you’re dividing the coalition into constituent parts (i.e. Libs v’s National). Australians usually see them as a single party.

    Gravedodger: recall, maybe. It’s been misused in the US a fair bit to delay and distract people that a vocal minority don’t like. Once someone’s elected, they should really be left alone unless they’re breaking the law. If we could tie it down to geniune exceptions, then I think recall makes some sense, but if we force politicians to be in permanent election mode, they can never actually govern.

    As for recall in this particular situation – you wouldn’t get enough people petitioning for a recall for the federal govt, and not sure you’d get to 20% for Thomson either in his electorate. People don’t like him, but most people in Aus seem to think both sides are as bad as the other, and what they’d really like is to not have to hear about it or see it. Another election sounds like pain and work for everyone in Australia (remembering compulsary voting). Not everyone is as politically tragic as we are…..

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  10. Ed Snack (2,792 comments) says:

    PaulL, it does depend on quite hgow you measure it. The usual measure given the voting system in Australia is the 2 Party Preferred vote (2PP) as I used above, Using that the reults were Labor 6,216,445, 50.12% of the vote and 72 seats; and the Coaltion received 6,185,918, 49.88%, and 72 seats. That’s a margin of around 30,500 votes. If you take just the primary vote, the picture is quite a bit different, Labour 4,711,363 and the coalition 5,365,529. Labor obviously gets a lot more preferences from the number 3 grouping, which is the Greens who got around 1,100,000 primary votes.

    Since its the 2PP measure that decides who gets the seats, I’d say that it is correct to say that Labor achieved more votes than the coalition and had by convention the first chance to form a government.

    I’d disagree about Thompson, although he’s in a safe seat, what polling has been done suggests that he’d lose it by a fair margin. No one really cares that he visits “escorts”although no doubt some do, but most would object to him spending the Union’s money on doing so, and even more so that he should give himself $100K cash advances on the card, also union money. I think it tops it off that he can’t even come clean about it and makes up transparently obvious lies and repeats them on air. I reckon if he does resign the seat’s probably a win to the coalition; Australians may not be really in favour of Abbott, but a fair majority simply can’t stand the Gillard/Brown government.

    Interesting point, is the Labor party so utterly bankrupt as to re-elect Rudd as their leader ? The party caucus is believed to dislike him intensely, but he possibly has a better public face than Gillard. He is the very lucky recipient of the near universal MSM bias, if he was treated in the same way that Abbott is I doubt that Rudd would survive as he is a pretty nasty, dishonest, self-serving piece of work; but haven’t I just described most politicians ?

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  11. RightNow (7,328 comments) says:

    The HSU have referred the Thomson matter to the police:

    A FORMAL criminal investigation into Labor MP Craig Thomson appears likely after the Health Services Union’s national executive today resolved to refer allegations of union credit card misuse against him to the NSW Police.

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  12. Ed Snack (2,792 comments) says:

    Well, colour really surprised. Well done that union, theft is theft and good on them for laying a complaint. I am forced to revise my opinion of that union at least.

    Now interesting things will happen, what will Labor do. One suggestion is to withdraw the speaker and allowing the deputy ( a Liberal with a few clouds hanging over him as well) take over, thus retaining a 1 vote margin. Of course that relies on suborning that person as I doubt that the Liberals would let that happen, withdraw their man as well and then what happens ? And what Lib would be mad enough to defect to Labor now ?

    The Libs won’t be able to form a stable administration, so I guess yet another election. On the latest polling that would deliver a huge Liberal majority.

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  13. Ed Snack (2,792 comments) says:

    I need to take some of that praise back. It seems that there is a pry reporting requirement applying to unions under Fair Work Australia (FWA) such that any special benefits supplied to officers of a union have to be disclosed. That is a duty laid on the Unions, so these credit card bills fall under that reporting regime ( or some do anyway) and for two years the union has not reported them. Now that the spending is public knowledge the choice is report the spending as theft or be prosecuted for not reporting, and Thompson plus the union would have tax problems as well.

    So I’d say it must be close to all over for Thompson. Foolish of Gillard to have supported him so strongly as now she has to be tarred a bit with the association. Unless of course it can be found to be not in the public interest to take this any further. That might be too cynical for the general public to swallow.

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  14. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    Ed: OK, 2PP. I thought you were counting seats, and yes, they were even.

    On Thomson, he’s not in a safe seat, and it will fall. My comment related to recall – I doubt you’d find 20% of votes in the seat who coudl be arsed with a by-election. Maybe.

    My point was that even if Labour lose that seat, they can still govern if Katter or someone gives support. They can limp along. Abbott is very unlikely to pull enough independents to his side, nor would he want to.

    Late breaking news today is that the union are laying a complaint. Which changes things somewhat – Abbott may be about to win this one. Will drag on for 6 months though, and then by-election…..may as well just go to fresh election. As Mumble (Australian blog) says, Gillard won’t want to have a by-election and let Abbott go to the polls as Prime Minister, she’ll call an early election instead.

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  15. Craig in Canberra (3 comments) says:

    Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for commenting on my post, it has been great to read all the posts and also what has been going on in the Canberra Times website.
    I agree with many points made. The last few posts have been more on track. The Union are not being great, they are in recovery mode. The Fair Work Australia Act is biting them in the butt! People are unhappy with the administration and while yes complacency sets in there has been angst since day one.
    I look forward to seeing what occurs in coming moaths and talking to those in the know I have already met.
    Happy to write again if people are interested


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  16. Ed Snack (2,792 comments) says:

    Paul, quite agree on equal seats, and you may be right about a recall. And (there’s a fair bit of agreeing going on here) I think you’re right about there needing to be a new election. I very much doubt that either independent would switch now, although who knows, rats, sinking ship, and all that. Would Abbott want a shaky coalition when a general election right now would surely deliver him a serious majority.

    I don’t think the other two independents currently not in the government are likely to be tempted, this government is sufficiently unpopular I think no independent would take the risk now. So if Thompson goes, absent some cunning maneuvers around the speaker where Jenkins resigns and Labor refuse to appoint another and Slipper gets drawn into remaining as speaker (and I think he’d have to go independent for that), then my guess is a new election gets called as late as Gillard can stretch it out. Right now she’s in a dreadful position, personally unpopular, party unpopular by a large margin, about to lose her majority one suspects in unpleasant circumstances…turning this one around absent a spectacular implosion by the coalition, is going to be beyond her I suspect.

    Won’t shed any tears myself over it mind you…

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  17. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    Yeah, I have to say I’ve been disappointed by both Gillard and Abbott. When it was coming down the pipes, I was telling everyone it was just want I wanted from politics – two conviction politicians who knew what they stood for, and were prepared to get up and argue (Gillard from the lefty view – but at least she believes it, Abbott a strong supporter of small govt and right wing views).

    But what we got wasn’t that at all. Leaving me feeling disillusioned. We got Gillard tacking to the middle to shore up support, and looking weak as she argued for policies she didn’t believe in (against gay marriage, in favour of cracking down on boat people etc). And Abbott playing small target and attack – so not out there convincing people that the right have the answers, just convincing people that Gillard is a goose, and that anything must be better than her, without really putting a positive case.

    I started off kinda liking Gillard – not her politics, but her principles at least. And thinking Abbott had the right politics, but not so likeable. Gillard now annoys me so much I turn the TV off if she comes on, and Abbott has become more likeable, but less convincing. Weird.

    I agree, slow motion implosion, early election, with Gillard dragging out that day of reckoning as long as possible, and thereby ruining Labour’s chances for at least two terms as they look desperate and incompetent. In a work sense, that’s very very bad for business. In a politics sense, all good news from where I’m sitting.

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