A new rule is emerging in Australian politics – never use the word ‘back’ in a policy. Fightback, rollback – they’re both disasters.

Kim Beazley has claimed that ‘rollback’ was market tested. So what? So was ‘incentivation’.

The Della Fella

So what’s the real fallout from THAT lunch?

There’s no doubt who the biggest loser is – Kim Beazley. Costello minders Mitch Fifield and Tony Smith are probably already busy scripting up the gags for Question Time.

Rollback was already looking fairly dodgy – and the Labor line of ‘we promise to change it but we won’t tell you now’ now looks even like a case of ‘we can’t tell you how’.

While Della Bosca’s comments have come as a huge blow to Beazley and his federal colleagues, the guilty man himself could prove to be a winner.

The New South Wales government has a reputation for competence. The New South Wales right prides itself on the way its ministries have conducted themselves since the days of Premier McKell. This isn’t entirely deserved. Carr and co have got it easy. The government would get stiffer opposition from Alvin and the Chipmunks than it cops from Chikka’s mob.

John Della Bosca, Special Minister of State, is one of the best examples of this state of things. He is a Mr Fixit who hasn’t fixed anything. Workers comp? Shooting galleries? Uh-uh.

Della Bosca is already stretched fairly thinly by his two existing portfolios, the portfolio he has taken on before the post-Olympic reshuffle and his job as a factional godfather. Taking on the national presidency of the ALP in the lead up to a federal election would have given him an impossible burden.

Della Bosca now has no choice but to get down, work hard and redeem himself through good deeds which – oh, blessed irony! – should leave him with some real achievements to point to.

The week’s affairs have only been a temporary respite for the Federal Government.

Yes, Labor has been battered – but it’s still a long way to the next election.

The Della disaster nicely overshadowed a row over the GST treatment of such things as meals on wheels being lead by high profile backbencher Ian Macfarlane, a former NFF head who knows the importance of staying on message.

This sort of thing is the real danger to the Government. For every quip Costello has, the Opposition will have a case of a struggling pensioner, parent, farmer, small business person or student – you name it – suffering under the GST.

There’s the question of just how widely known John Della Bosca is. While he’d probably hate to hear it himself, the name means very little outside the beltway and New South Wales. Labor’s GST ‘victims’ may well strike a stronger chord with punters than the line ‘your mate Della says’?. The Government will face enormous pressure for changes – rollbacks of their own.

It’s still early days for the GST – and the devil is in the detail. Della Bosca’s comments had a very simple message. The more exemptions in a GST, the less efficient and harder to comply with it will be.

Just wait until the first business activity statements are due. Then we’ll have a better idea who’s winning the GST wars.

Inspiration ?

They’re doing it tough on struggle street with the GST – but some shopkeepers are helping the battlers cope.

Jones the Grocer – the Woolhara one, darling, not the one under Jamie and Jodie’s place – has a display of GST free goods in its windows – everyday fare as imported French cheeses and various foodie requisites.

Perhaps we now know where Della Bosca got his ideas from…

Decline And Fall

Life must be sad for new Victorian Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane as he gazes out his window on Exhibition Street at the ruins of the glory that was Jeff.

The coalition has just been disbanded at the time of writing. There are 22 shadow ministers – 17 Libs and five Nats. Those close to Napthine and Howley are arguing that a Liberal shadow ministry should be 18. Ted Baileau, the tertiary education shadow, is rumoured to be in line for a promotion – despite the fact that he has only had two press releases in his nine months in the job.

Concerns regarding the performance of shadow Treasurer Louise Asher are being openly discussed in the parliamentary and administrative wings of the Party. Liberal strategists are trying to engineer a portfolio move for Asher that will get her out of Treasury and into a portfolio where she may have some impact and is befitting of a Deputy Leader.

Upper House Liberal Geoff Craige, a former Kennett government minister is said to want out of the shadow ministry, citing disenchantment.

Federal preselections are coming up over the next two months. Lou Leiberman plans to step down, and word is that Stewart ‘Herman Munster’ Macarthur is thinking about retiring from his seat of Coorangamite, opening up the chance of more bloody brawls in addition to the challenges already mooted.

In a sign of the bright future the Victorian Libs can look forward to, one Bayse Thomas – who speaks of herself as a future Federal Minister – is jockeying for Macarthur’s seat on the back of her track record as chair of the state strategy committee in the wildly successful 1999 state campaign.

Still Jocelyn For Positions

July 1 has come and gone and Jocelyn Newman is still in the Cabinet. So were the rumours of her impending retirement wrong?

The answer has to be ‘up to a point’. Hillary understands that Newman originally informed the PM she planned to resign in either July or at the end of the year. Soon afterwards, she took ill, and told staff visiting her in hospital that they should get their CVs ready. This broke in Crikey – much to the chagrin of the PM’s office – and was widely reported elsewhere.

Newman hasn’t left yet – but the jostling for positions looks set to continue.

re: Shuffling Off

How seriously can last week’s John Herron story be taken? Herron will be nudging 70 by the time of the next federal election. Will he really want to stay?

Herron is said to have spoken to the PM a number of times before lodging his letter last week – and the poor little fella appears to be quite worried by events in the sunshine state.

Why is Queensland so sensitive? Well, Queensland is an incredibly vulnerable area for the Federal Government.

The Nats are on the warpath after the decision to run a three cornered contest in the state seat of Cunningham. Local heavy Santo Santoro is said to have thrown his weight behind the Costello camp. Internecine fighting continues between the factions. There is branch stacking – and heaps and heaps of federal marginal seats.

Hillary wishes them luck. They’ll need it.

PS When the Queensland Lib executive met last week, Senator Ian MacDonald thanked the meeting for ensuring that federal preselection ran smoothly. Funnily enough, Hillary has heard that issues involving MacDonald and delegate entitlements didn’t exactly speed the process of filling the Senate vacancy created by Warwick Parer’s retirement. .

Study Tour ?

Adelaide’s leading madam, Stormy Summers, is an unlikely Liberal Party activist – but that’s exactly what she is. On election days, she is hard to miss amongst the blue-rinsers handing out Liberal how to votes.

Stormy was signed up by state minister Mark Brindal, a long standing advocate of prostitution law reform. The Adelaide Advertiser reports that Brindal is off on an overseas trip to look at ‘desalination plants in Israel and Amsterdam’.

Surely Stormy could give him a few pointers on how to get more value out of his time in the latter destination?

People In Glass Houses ?

Hillary is tempted to open a book. With Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Booth QC leading a case against mandatory sentencing in Geneva, how long will it be before Territory Chief Minister Dennis Burke says something along the lines of ‘she can come here and tell us how to run the place when her own pissed kids are off the street’.

Career Change

One off the e-mail. The Sydney Star Observer reports that a Melbourne performance artist is suing the embattled pink float the Satellite Group and STA travel for the ‘unauthorised use of his photo in an advertisement in a Satellite Media publication’.

The ad depicts ‘Gavin Brown, whose stage name is Hot Coco, as “Tracey Tarmack, age 32, performer, party traveler’. Brown’s legal representative is one Neil Brown QC – who might be finding this a far cry from his work as John Howard’s loyal deputy back in the eighties.

Dear Leader

Singapore is not known for its open political debate- let alone free and fearless media – as people who have disagreed with Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew over the years have learned.

This has resulted in phony politics and a muzzled media – which now seems to be extending its uncritical reporting to other heads of government.

On Friday, readers of the Straits Times were treated to the following piece on our Dear Leader’s recent jaunt to the mother country:

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister John Howard, accompanied by four past prime ministers and several state premiers, has just returned from an official visit to London.

The visit was designed to mark the centenary of the British Act of Parliament that on Jan 1, 1901 brought into being the Commonwealth nation of Australia.

This would seem to be a very good reason for visiting one of Australia’s main trading partners; one, moreover, with whom the history of the country is so closely linked.

But it came as no surprise when sections of the Australian media, led — as always — by the ABC and, on this occasion, by the SBS channel, took the opportunity to attack the Prime Minister.

They expressed indignation that he had gone to London at all, that he had stayed at a quality hotel there, participated in the ceremonies marking the centenary and, in general, indulged in what was presented as being a taxpayer-funded luxury holiday while the nation was groaning under the imposition of the newly-introduced General Sales Tax (sic) (GST).

In truth, the GST had nothing to do with it.

Virtually the entire media establishment supported the republican campaign in last year’s referendum and few, if any, accepted the democratic decision of the Australian people to reject the excuse for the proposal.

They have now seized upon Mr Howard’s London visit as an excuse for re-opening the republican debate.

It was suggested that, by going to Britain, he had betrayed Australia.

It was pointed out that Opposition leader Kim Beazley had declined an invitation to attend.

Mr Beazley did, indeed, decline but his reasons for doing so had nothing to do with the centenary and everything to do with the GST.

This consumption tax was introduced on July 1. Labour (sic), under Mr Beazley’s leadership, has invested huge amounts of political capital in attempts, so far unsuccessful, to discredit both the tax and the government.

He stayed, not because he opposed the London visit but because he hoped that, in the Prime Minster’s absence, he might obtain some political mileage from the catastrophe that the tax, according to his repeated predictions, was supposed to visit upon the Australian economy.

Like all public figures, the Prime Minister is used to criticism. Seldom, however, can it have been as mindless as on this occasion ?

Gosh! Christopher Pearson couldn’t have done better. Will we soon hear comments from the little bloke in praise of ‘Asian values ‘.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off