Crikey has been accused of being obsessed with Natsasha stott Despoja so we’ve published all of the sealed sections since October 1 that mention the Democrats and you can be the judge. We’re probably guilty but when the material just pours in you have to publish. Labor, Liberal and Green insiders simply did not leak in this manner.

MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE?

The Democrat’s squabbling continues and more e-mails have fallen off the back of their solar-powered campaign bicycle. To protect the innocent, we’d better just give you the gist but they concern the Dem how to vote card.

At the moment, Hillary understands that the card will feature photos but that’s about it. No particular slogan, no info in community languages. Dem dissidents fear the proposed how to vote will just be a guide for the party faithful, not a sales tool. They are worried it will be meaningless for people who recognise Natasha’s dial but don’t have a clue about what her party stands for.

As one message that has ended up in Hillary’s hands says “without a sales message, we are just a pretty face”.

OCTOBER 8

MEMORIAL SERVICE MEDIA

Natasha Stott-Despoja’s reputation for plentiful media availability gained some strength on Saturday with her presence at Saturday’s memorial ceremony for Australian World Trade Centre victim Andrew Knox was widely noticed.

Natasha knew him though the Adelaide junior pol network – and that gave her and a few gullible journalists a chance to make her one of the centrepieces of the service for Knox at Adelaide University’s Bonython Hall.

The real link has nothing to do with Natasha. The contact is one Kirsten Andrews, a former member of the Adelaide University “indie” faction and disciple of Natasha’s who, via the affections of Labor’s candidate for the seat of Adelaide, Tim Stanley, had a Cheryl-like conversion and now works for Kim Beazley, charged with the special brief of gagging Carmen Lawrence.

OCTOBER 15

DEEP INSIDE DEMOCRAT TERRITORY

This one came through from another disaffected Dem last night and Newspoll has the Dems support plunging to an 8 month low so Natasha and chief spin doctor Frank McGuire have their work cut out retaining 5 Senate seats on November 10.

“Remaining adult Democrat members are groaning at Stott Despoja’s reliance on former Lees adviser Stephen Swift’s 1998 strategy and lines re One Nation.

With One Nation not really on the electoral radar screen (certainly not like it was in 1998) the grown-ups are wondering just sort of young genii are running the Dem’s campaign this time. Stott Despoja’s recent speeches along with her utterances to Laurie (“I campaigned strongly for you, Nat – remember that!”) Oakes on Sunday have been all about the 1998 political landscape.

The slogan “Change Politics”, all dressed up in black, pink and NSD’s very beautiful face, has inspired precisely nobody. The question has been asked on the Adult Democrats Email Network (ADEN to the acronymically inclined – no reference to the other Dream-Teamer) is if Stott Despoja is so keen to change politics, how is that she used standard political knife-up techniques on her former leader?

The preoccupation Stott Despoja’s head on posters and other paraphernalia is also causing distress to those members who think that there is more to political strategy than their Dear Leader’s face on a power pole.

Many people, both Democrat supporters of Lees and general punters have been very complimentary about Lees’ performance on Australia Talks with Downer, Kate Lundy, Nigel Smart and Peter Sellars. The question on the ADEN network is why was Stott Despoja not invited to appear?

In fact, there is scuttlebut from the disaffected in Parliament House that Stott Despoja has not been accorded the respect supposedly due to her position by the PM. Howard was understood to be implacably opposed to almost everything Meg Lees stood for but he always treated her with respect and always invited her onto the leaders’ dais, along with Beazley. Since Stott Despoja was elevated to the position of leader, courteous invitations from the PM’s office have been conspicuous by their absence. Gentlemanliness can only go so far….

OCTOBER 18

DEMOCRATS ARE LEAKING LIKE SIEVES

One of our many disenchanted Democrat leakers writes as follows:

“There has been a rush of emails on the ADEN (Adult Democrats Email Network) – strange because it is not an overly large network and it usually takes a while for stuff to filter up this far.

Summary of emails today:

The polls are apparently down to 4% causing much hilarity on the ADEN. Apparently there was a party room meeting today – whereabouts, precisely, wasn’t said. Media were invited but only a couple turned up. Stott Despoja left in a huff. Other senatorial colleagues are said to be incredulous and a bit miffed that only Stott Despoja’s face is to be seen in the campaign. More agitation is about to bring back the former leader after the election though the current view seems to be that she’s enjoying her quieter life and is not inclined to rescue the party from itself twice. More complimentary calls and emails about Lees’ performance on Australia Talks.

People missing are Steven Swift as Campaign Supremo even though his work is still being plundered. People missing Shumann because he could write.People wishing that Senator Cherry was still a staffer where he was of much more use and influence.”

OCTOBER 22

DEMOCRATS RUNNING A HEROIN ADDICT

Someone has emailed claiming that the Democrats are standing someone who admits to being a regular heroin user. Obviously this needs to be checked out before we can run the name.

GREAT INSIGHTS INTO THE DEMOCRATS

Our best Democrats spy has pulled together this marvellous piece on all the dissent paralysing the party:

“Mattasha Price’s piece on Stott Despoja in the Weekend Oz has been the subject of much discussion and speculation (some of it prurient, but I forbear to pass it on). The widespread view is that Mattasha has been complicit in assisting Stott Despoja prepare everyone for an election result consistent with her falling polls.

Stott Despoja’s claim in the article that she hopes all the commentators realise she’s facing the most difficult electoral challenge in the history of the party earned responses ranging from horse-laughs to outright fury. Most people suggested that it was her predecessor who faced the most difficult set of circumstances a recently deserted leader, a mindless media preoccupation with Hanson, pundits unanimous in the view that the Democrats were finished and polls around 3% going into the election. In the face of all this Lees won an extra two seats.

In contrast, and with the assistance of star-struck journos like Mattasha Price, Stott Despoja’s rhetoric is about preparing everyone for a poor result. She has started laying blame at everyone’s doorstep except her own. There is a wide body of opinion that if the Dems do have a poor result, the blame will be sheeted home to Lees. The strategic rhetoric is already underway.

One military-minded Democrat was heard to say that “, 05mostly, it’s much easier to defend a position than it is to take a new one, 05”. He said that “, 05it looks like Stott Despoja is already conceding a loss of seats and laying the blame elsewhere even before the battle is over, 05”. Brilliant leadership!

Democrats have always stated that it is up to Democrat voters to whom they give their preferences not the party. Hence the standard Democrat fare of a split-ticket. This has always been Stott Despoja’s view, reiterated strongly a few days ago when she was reported in the media saying “, 05the Democrats are not a preference machine for the major parties, 05”.

It is true that in the past, preference deals have been done but, Democrat historians stress, only in a very few seats and only in dire circumstances. Well, in this election deals have been done in a veritable multitude of seats. If you look at the polls and Dear Leader’s positioning of herself, the circumstances must be very dire indeed.

It is wondered just how many fearless journalists will have the guts to point this out and the fact that Stott Despoja, very obviously, lied on Sunday Sunrise when she said she had no knowledge of any preference deals with anyone other than the Greens. Whingeing Bob Brown knew about it on Saturday morning and it was only when the ALP came out early Sunday afternoon, claiming to be very pleased with the result of the preference deals with the Dems, that the Dems came out and ‘fessed up.

Most of the preference deals have been done to advantage the ALP in marginal seats, especially in NSW and Victoria, and the Libs are said to be white-hot with fury. How Dear Leader could not know about what is a very significant about-face on such important issue to members and Democrat supporters beggars belief.

Some of the theorists who believed that Nine’s Laurie Oakes, The Bulletin’s Tony Wright, (a la Crikey the other day) as well as Nick Bolkus and a host of others conspired to have Stott Despoja elected to assist the ALP might not be so readily laughed out of court.

Emails on the ADEN from those who were at the campaign launch in Adelaide indicated that those immune to the Cult of Natasha were hard-put to keep their lunches down. Apparently, it must have cost a bomb. Even the Adelaide Division of the Stott Despoja Cheer Squad was not trusted to get it right. Cheering was much rehearsed prior to the music and an orchestrated, and late, grand entrance from Her Highness. Attendees not under the Stott Despoja spell are said to have puked up their morning lattes in the car park next to the Adelaide Convention Centre. The media, of course, with a few brave exceptions, will lap it up and duly present it as a major triumph.

The Mayo saga continues. Stott Despoja, with no other option, was forced to launch candidate John McLaren’s campaign last week. Then, in a stunning display of media savvy, no doubt orchestrated by the failed ABC broadcaster Alison Rodgers, Stott Despoja had to rush off early for a photo opportunity with Tina Arena. (Fairly obviously, no-one in the Stott Despoja camp reads either the Age Opinion Page or Crikey.) Mayo campaigners and others were said to be “rather disappointed” with Dear Leader’s attempt to upstage the media for the Mayo launch.

ACT election results, still not in, have already been claimed by Stott Despoja as vindication of herself and her pop-starlet leadership style. A number of ACT members were heard muttering to each other, and into mobile phones, that the Dems in the ACT were already polling at 9% under Lees and this was well after the GST deal.

The ACT result is seen by those in the know to be more a vindication for the hard work of former AFP policeman, Wade Sievers and his team. Anti-Lees campaigner, Jane Errey, is not much of a hope as counting continues. It seems that despite all the behind-the-scenes work by the Prince of Pornography, Eros Foundation’s John Davies and despite signing up many ACT members on his own credit-card, a known Lees supporter is ahead in the count at the time of writing. Davies was overheard threatening successful Democrat candidates not aligned with himself, Errey and Stott Despoja, with more tasteless Eros outings.

OCTOBER 23

HOT PANTS DESPOJA

Liar, liar! Pants on fire! Yes Natasha must have a real hot bot after her comments on preferences on Sunday.

Bob Brown as always cried wolf, but for once there was some substance to his claims.

The Dems have preferenced Labor in a swag of key marginals: Dobell, held by Labor by 1.6 percent; Richmond, Government, 0.77 per cent; Eden Monaro, Government, 0.18 per cent; Patterson, notionally Government, 0.4 per cent; Parramatta, notionally Labor, 2.3 per cent; Petrie, Government, 0.75 per cent; Longman, Government, 0.92 per cent; Herbert, Government, 0.10 per cent: Hinkler, Government, 0.34; Moreton, Government, 0.57 and that’s just some of the them.

If the election is tight, the Dem preferences could have a real impact.

Natasha used the Sargent Schultz defence when questioned on the deals at the Dems official launch, saying she knew nothing but then the Democrats national campaign director Jack Evans was forced to make the embarrassing admission they had struck preference deals with the Labor and Liberal parties.

Evans said Natasha had no knowledge of the arrangement. Come off it. Surely the leader of the party would have to sign off on any preference deal unless she’s purely there to look pretty. Come to think of it, 05

DEMS INSIDER ON THE PREFERENCE DEALS

“Dear Crikey Team

Thanks for your well sourced election commentary. It has been a daily source of amusement for me to read of the many clowns involved in this election campaign.

As a former Democrat, I have some detailed background but for obvious reasons chose not to get involved in this campaign at all. I would like to offer this one brief comment about the present Democrats team and their farce of a campaign.

This time around those twits in the Democrats have indeed done a preference deal with both major parties. Across the 150 electorates, the Democrats will abandon their traditional split ticket in 30 marginal seats. We have never ever done anything like this before. In 15 of these, they will directly preference the ALP and in the other 15, they will directly preference the Coalition candidate. The logic to this? Your guess is as good as mine.

I gather that in NSW, there will be six marginals in which the Dems will directly preference the ALP. I don’t have a complete list but I gather they include Dobell, Eden-Monaro and Parramatta. A direct Democrat preference flow to the ALP in these electorates could be a significant factor.

I gather that in exchange for these six electorates, the ALP has agreed to preference flow the Dems Candidate in the Senate, Vicki Bourne, so that she would benefit from the ALP surplus in the Senate. But the reality is that the contest between the final sixth spot in the Senate will be between the Dems and the ALP third candidate so guess what? The ALP won’t have any Senate surplus votes to distribute to the Dems. The conclusion? The Dems have just given the ALP a huge hand up in six marginals in NSW in exchange for nothing in the Senate. What a hoot. Their preference negotiator in NSW is one Peter Furness, a total Natasha acolyte and councillor on South Sydney Council. He is a complete novice at the game who was well and truly out of his depth.

So that the Coalition isn’t too upset, the Dems have also allocated direct preference flows to Coalition candidates in five NSW marginals including Wentworth and Farrer. I am not sure that either of these were overly vulnerable but there you go.

ADVERTISER SUCKING UP TO DEMOCRATS

When visiting Adelaide for the News Corp AGM recently, Crikey was amazed to see that Adelaide Advertiser editor Mel Mansell had given the Democrats an entire page in their election coverage.

Lo and behold they did it again yesterday so check out this piece of pro-Democrat coverage in the Tizer. Seems that any party that treats Adelaide like it matters gets the Rolls Royce treatment from the local monopoly tabloid.

STAR OF THE PARTY LOOKING TO BREAK HOUSE BARRIER

By Political reporter Susie O’Brien, (Pg7 Advertiser, 22/10/01)

As streamers rained down the audience rose to their feet, cheering with fervent gusto.

Yesterday’s national launch of the Australian Democrats’ campaign in Adelaide has all the pizazz of a typical US Democratic party convention.

The star was party leader Natasha Stott Despoja, who received a standing ovation, and whose every utterance was met with riotous clapping and hooting.

Party national president Mathew Baird (who before the launch was offering cheering tops to the crowd such as: “We want 300% energy levels, OK?”) had done his job with aplomb.

Unveiling the party’s television commercial showing Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition leader Kim Beazley as two dogs barking at each other, Senator Stott Despoja said her party offered a break from the “two-dog style of politics”.

“We are running 150 candidates for the House of Representatives at this election,” she said.

“We may finally have the momentum to finally break the House Barrier. It will probably happen here in our heartland, South Australia.”

One day the Democrats could hold the balance of power not only in the senate but in the Lower house as well, she said. Bit in the list of party achievement she detailed, signing a deal with the Coalition to bring in the GST was a notable omission.

Throughout the hour-long event at the Adelaide Convention centre, the tune Moving on up by M-People blasted from speakers and candidates waved placards bearing their own image.

Even party founder Don Chipp- who offered a recorded message because of illness- was getting into the grove, declearing: “They said we wouldn’t last, like rock’n’roll.” Senator Stott Despoya was his “beautiful second daughter’, he said.

The labour party state secretary said the Democrats campaign there was “part of the party conning people they are different when they do all the same deals”.

A liberal Party spokesman said the Democrats were risking “getting fleas” from one of the barking dogs.

OCTOBER 24

DOES THE ADEN REALLY EXIST?

A Crikey subscriber emailed Natasha supporter, Senator Andrew Bartlett, with the following:

“I’ve heard of the Adult Democrat Email Network (ADEN), how can I subscribe?”

And the good senator replied as follows:

“Hello – I don’t know anything about this list, other than having heard it exists through Crikey. Mind you, virtually everything else I read through there about the Democrats is wildly wrong, so maybe that list is too.

Andrew Bartlett

IT’S NOT JUST US, OZ DAMNS DEMS

Somehow we missed the Australian’s editorial on Monday that really stuck it to Natasha. It’s a good read, so take a look:

IF the Australian Democrats wanted to berate “the old parties” and “change politics”, you’d hardly have expected them to be rolling out old ALP Left policies and engaging in old-style politicking for preferences. And even if they did, you’d expect their leader to know about it.

The problem with voting Democrat is you don’t really know what that means. You know it’s risky to have small parties holding the balance of power in uncertain times. You know there is a cloud over Democrat leader Senator Stott Despoja’s willingness to be flexible in passing crucial legislation, given she rose to the leadership by berating Meg Lees for doing that on the GST.

You also know Senator Stott Despoja has tried to make the Democrats look fresh and different from either Labor or the Coalition. But while Senator Stott Despoja wants to “keep the bastards honest”, we now also know that her party does backroom preference deals with the bastards. These arrangements are designed to protect not only Democrat backsides but also Labor and Liberal ones. And in a tight contest, they could even get Kim Beazley into the Lodge.

The deals mean the ALP would direct preferences to the Democrats in the Senate in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, while sharing preferences between the Democrats and the Greens in Tasmania and Western Australia. In return, the Democrats would direct preferences to the ALP in 17 key lower house marginal seats. The Democrats also would get Liberal preferences in the Senate in return for directing preferences to the Coalition in seven of its marginal lower house seats.

The deals were negotiated in secret and, according to the Democrats’ national campaign director, without Senator Stott Despoja’s knowledge. That’s hard to believe. Still, she looked bemused when asked about them yesterday morning, and then said later she was happy with the decisions.

But Senator Stott Despoja has every reason to feel shaky. Only last week she was saying, “I am not going to stand here as the leader of a party that operates as a preference distributor to the other parties.” She also claimed she and her colleagues prided themselves “on being politicians of conviction and when I say something I mean it”.

The preference deals have struck at the heart of her biggest selling point, trust. Saying now that “voters can control their own preferences” cannot hide the hypocrisy that comes from claiming independence on policy and the moral high ground, then encouraging voters to direct preferences to opponents in return for protection against defeat. It’s like Labor’s Wayne Swan paying the Democrats money in 1996 and Ms Stott Despoja failing to disclose her use of an unpaid PR consultant during her leadership campaign.

If these preference deals threaten voter trust for Senator Stott Despoja, then she will have to sell her points of difference with the ALP on boatpeople and the war against terrorism. If that doesn’t work, then she will have to sell Democrat policy. The problem there is that the party wants to wind back competition reform, reduce the flexibility of universities to supply better teaching, freeze trade liberalisation, block reforms that would help small business and spend surpluses rather than preserve them in times of need.

The Democrats are looking more like the middle-class left wing of the ALP, willing to betray their rhetoric through shoddy policy and preference deals. If that’s what Senator Stott Despoja wants, then let the voters judge her. But let’s not pretend that somehow the Democrats are a distinct alternative to the “two-dogs-barking” style of politics.

OCTOBER 30

NATASHA’S DREAM RUN IN THE TIZER

The Adelaide Advertiser continues to give Natasha’s democrats a big run. Could this in part be because political reporter Susie O’Brien is the same Susie O’Brien who was part of NSD’s “Independents” faction during her National Union of Students days by any chance would it.

And we should not forget that Natasha’s mother Shirley Stott Despoja remains on the Advertiser despite successive hothead editors Piers Akerman and Peter Blunden trying to give her the boot in the early 90s.

NATASHA CRITICS LEAKING LIKE SIEVES

This is a combination of material coming through from disaffected Dems:

“19 Democrat policy statements have been produced as glossy documents. Fully 15 of the 19 are replete with glossy colour pictures of Princess Tashy who seems to have an insatiable appetite for seeing her image reflected back at her. (Crikey readers are asked to recall the full-colour billboard of Princess Tashy’s head being trucked through the streets of Aston. That was the by-election when most of the media fell for Tashy’s spin regarding the ‘brilliant’ results. Having spent $25,000 in a seat the Democrats couldn’t hope to win, the vote increased by a huge 0.5% – or about 300 votes.)

Adelaide is said to be awash in Tashy’s Change Politics posters. After using used every dirty political trick in the book to unseat Meg Lees and having delivered preferences to the ALP in key Coalition marginals, Princess now wants to change the rules so she can use the Democrats as the promotional vehicle to carry her to the next station in her brilliant career without fear of being tipped off the perch.

It is interesting to note that Princess didn’t choose to have her glorious face associated with Indigenous Deaths in Custody, Pre-schools, Accountability and Transport.

Rumour has it that Lyn Allison, not a huge Princess Tashy fan, insisted that her photo be on the policy document, rather than Tashy’s. Not an unreasonable request as Senator Allison is up for election too. (Not that anyone would know. Really, if people didn’t know any better, you’d think that the only Democrat senator up for election is Stott Despoja.)

NSW Senator Vicki Bourne has been allowed to have her photo on page 2 of the ABC policy paper. No sign of Andrew Murray or even the Princess’ Private Secretary, Andrew Bartlett. (Maybe Tashy thinks that 500,00 postcards of a Goth Bartlett nursing a chook is publicity enough.) New boy John Cherry has been allowed to appear on the Charities policy document. He must really be in the good books.

So who is responsible for all of this. Could Smiffy and Gavin Anderson be in there or is it chief spindoctor Frank McGuire, brother of Eddie. Anyone got any clues?

OCTOBER 31

NATASHA’S DREAM RUN IN THE TIZER

Others are now commenting on the role that The Adelaide Advertiser’s political reporter Susan O’Brien is playing for the Democrats. Susan was part of NSD’s “Independents” faction at university and is also very close to another Democrats candidate in Haroon Hassan.

Tizer editor Mel Mansell really needs to stop all these easy pro-Democrats stories or people will start wondering if NSD’s mum Shirley has taken over his job for the campaign.

NOVEMBER 1

NATASHA ACOLYTES REPORTING ON NATASHA

There has been more feedback on pro-Natasha Adelaide Advertiser reporter Susie O’Brien.

Someone from the Queensland bureau filed the following:

“If you knew Susie like Queensland readers know Susie from a brief stint she had on The Courier-Mail a couple of years back, you might not be surprised. Susie was to be the poor person’s Emma Tom – making her a tedious try hard to the factor of 10 to adopt Media Watch’s Richard Ackland unkind observation about Ms Tom. It was all so much trash talk, ostentatious sluttyness and superficial feminism for beginners that even the Courier got jack of it after a while. Apparently it was designed to pull in the demographic the Courier is still chasing – 18 to 30 year old women. Anyway, should it be true that Ms O’Brien has been soft on Princess Tashy, that would not surprise: they are from the same inner-city, Doc wearing, young babes on the make, with attitude tribe. Although it must be said, there are more than enough nearly dead grumpy white males treading the political rounds, so the ‘Tiser should be congratulated for breaking out of that mould. The rest is up to Susie.

And an Adelaide subscriber who was an university with them both sent through the following:

“Re the traumatizeer and Ah Satan, I seem to recall Suzie O’Brien followed Natasha into uni politics with the election slogan “Think Booze, Think Flooze, vote Suz”

Need we say any more?

MORE SOFT MEDIA FOR NATASHA

ABC drive with Kevin Naughton and David Bland did a soft piece on NSD last night. Lots of giggling and chortling which is not surprising given that the previous drive presenter is now NSD’s press secretary.

And what about her decision to go and launch a Mambo tee-shirt in Sydney’s Oxford Street. Talk about priorities.

NOVEMBER 2

THE NATASHA SHOW

A subscriber writes:

This week we’ve had Natasha in flippers, goggles and Factor 15

Natasha and Don Birk laying it on with a garden trowel….

Natasha kissing a baby….

Natasha showing off perky little two dogs in a t-shirt..

. Natasha shedding the Doc Marten’s for a toe-dip in a pristine mountain stream…

Puhleeeze!

Change Politics? Or Change Outfits?

What’s next? Women’s Weekly cover?

NOVEMBER 6

SATAN’S STUNNINGLY STUPID SPIN

A doozy of a document has fallen off the back of the Democrats’ solar powered bicycle, this time a clarification document after Satan’s stunning statement that women in Afghanistan enjoyed better maternity leave provisions than in Australia. Most amazing is its assertion “the fact remains that under previous regimes, Afghanistan adopted the ILO standard of paid maternity leave for women in paid work – years before Australia”.

Satan and her worshippers may be a bit too young to remember this, but Afghanistan has been in a miserable and tragic state of civil war since the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1980. How could it have reasonably met these ILO standards, given these circumstances.

Older readers might recall the grandiose claims the old Soviet Union used to make about the levels of production and standard of living in its socialist wonderland. They also might recall the wonderful figures produced in the “democratic” elections held in Albania in the days of Enver Hoxha, when Communists would receive 99.9999 per cent of the vote.

Today, China still regularly reminds us that human rights is an “internal affair” and none of our business. Totalitarian regimes have and continue to abuse international treaties on all kinds of issues. Only idiots – and Natasha Stott-Despoja and the bright young things on her staff – seem not to realise this. Read on – and remember that this is the sort of sloppy sh*t the person who wants to hold the balance of power in our Federal Parliament produces.

THE DEMOCRAT WOMEN’S POLICY

The media follow-up to Natasha’s statements regarding maternity leave and women in Afghanistan has been heavy today, mainly on talkback radio. Our intention has been misunderstood and an explanation is as follows:

The Democrats have announced a practical scheme of paid maternity leave for Australian women. Our scheme provides 12 weeks leave, paid by the Commonwealth, at the minimum federal wage of $420/week, topped up by local enterprise bargaining.

The news that Australian maternity leave arrangements are far behind those in so many other countries has been met with simple disbelief in some quarters over recent days. The fact that much of Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines and many other countries have paid leave for women who have babies is a shock for some. But it is true.

Of course many established rights like access to paid maternity leave have been over-ridden by the fundamentalist regime that has maintained effective control of government in Kabul in recent years.

Afghani women have much to worry about under the Taliban: there is now a complete ban on paid work outside the home except for a few female doctors and nurses, and women cannot study in school or university. In this circumstance, rights like paid maternity leave – and many other basic human rights – cannot be exercised. But the fact remains that under previous regimes, Afghanistan adopted the ILO standard of paid maternity leave for women in paid work – years before Australia.

While the Coalition offers only minimal, tax based benefits for women who ave their first babies – highly skewed in favour of wealthy families – other countries have acted. Over 120 other countries offer paid maternity leave to their citizens.

It is time for us to catch up.

NOVEMBER 7

CRIKEY’S NATASHA OBSESSION CONTINUES

A reader writes:

“Dear Hillary,

I note that Satan stated emphatically on ‘The Glass House’ on ABC last Friday night that, although she was entitled to travel business class, she flew economy class.

Nice sentiment. Shame about the truth.

She might like to explain how it was that she managed to travel on EIGHT business class flights in the month of October alone.

I’m with Robert Ray on this one: Rorting your entitlements is one thing, but being a sanctimonious, hypocritical git is much worse.

Why hasn’t any journo asked her about this statement? Surely one of them must have seen her flying ‘up front’?

Regards, Anonymous”

SATAN WANTS MORE DEPTH

Check this one from AAP yesterday:

Australian Democrats Leader NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA says the campaign performances of Prime Minister JOHN HOWARD and Opposition Leader KIM BEAZLEY have lacked depth on longer term domestic issues.

She says international issues and the refugee situation are important but there’s been a lack of debate on domestic issues vital to Australia’s long-term future.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA describes the debate between the two major parties as particularly lacklustre, and lacking depth and significance.

She says they haven’t bothered with a number of policies — especially one on employment to create more jobs.

And she says issues like genetic discrimination and privacy, which were on the agenda in the US Presidential elections, have been absent from the Australian campaign.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA says the Democrats are looking to the future and have been focused on the next electoral term.

Ends

CRIKEY: And this from the woman who does Mambo shirt stunts and goes snorkelling for the cameras.

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

Charles Cameron Kingston reports from Adelaide:

Shouts and pleas from a despairing voice have interrupted the Tibetan nose flute music at the Stirling organic markets in the very heart of the seat of Mayo this morning: “Vot hav I done?”, the voice cries. “I hav created ein monster! Ein abomination! Good Gott, pliz save my soul!”

So who is the poor crazed man uttering these tragic words? None other than John Coulter, mild-mannered former leader of the Australian Democrats. He tried to serve humankind, but created a monster, only to see it rampage from one first night to another, one luvvie do to another and one superficial photo op to another. He has seen it do dodgy preference deals, re-write history when it doesn’t fit the image and foster a cult of personality that would even embarrass the North Korean Communist Party.

Yes – Natasha Stott-Despoja is Coulter’s creation. She worked on his staff, and his resignation was timed to let her fill the casual vacancy just nicely ahead of the 1996 election as Coulter’s anointed successor.

Coulter has told ABC radio this morning Stott Despoja and other “senior people” were subverting the party’s principles: “The senator and senior people are making statements in the name of the party which are quite contrary in some respects to policy”. “I’m quite devastated, I’ve spent 21 years in this party working damned hard to make sure that it maintains its democratic roots but I clearly have failed and I cannot any longer support a party that has moved away from those fundamental principles on which it was formed.”

Natasha says “I don’t think his criticisms, as I understand it, are specific to my leadership” – or in other words, he’s also p*ssed off with Meg Lees and the GST deal. The Democrat’s founder Don Chipp says the move is “devastating”, but he is backing Stott-Despoja. Just how much weight he carries nowadays with rank and file members is debatable – particularly after getting into bed with Michael Kroger and Andrew Peacock for his tilt at the Lord Mayor of Melbourne job.

Three days out from an election, the Democrats are tearing themselves apart. They did it back in 1987, too. And all this stems from an interview with Coulter over the campaign in Mayo by a local rag. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine the Dems getting that seat in the Reps they’ve wanted for so long.

Coulter wanted Natasha to announce she would repeal the GST but when she failed to deliver he went troppo. The decision to screen his calls during the campaign also did not help much.

Coulter should not be given too much credence. Natasha joined his staff and smothered him with attention knowing that he was soon to retire and she would have the pole position to take his place. But now he feels used and abused.

However, don’t forget that Coulter was leader when the Democrats returned their worst ever election result back in 1993 when only 2 senators were elected. Could Natasha match this?

DEMOCRAT EMAIL

This is an email complaint sent into the Democrats recently:

“However did you lot get that airhead Natasha for a leader?

I mean to say – I have just re-read the transcript of her interview with Kerry O/Brien – and it is really embarrassing stuff. (even O’Brien looked embarrassed for her on the interview).

A charitable soul might say she is ingenuous – but she is too much of a smarty-pants for that.

Defence – abandon ties with USA and do a defence deal with New Zealand? The same New Zealand which just disposed of its airforce?

Refugees – again she has the answer – just let them in – process them and send away those who are not qualified for refugees status.

Simplistic and stupid.

And that commercial in which respected politicians Beazley and Howard are presented as two barking dogs – only makes the public aware that no dog-fight is complete without one yapping bitch…

Does she really need a bloody Fan Club, when she is so clearly her own greatest stand-out fan?

Women need to practice politics with care – there a few good politicians and there are fewer female politicians overall, so they have to good ones. We already have Pauline Hanson turning her party into a personality cult – does Natasha really intend to follow her line? Looks like it to me.

Stage a coup, please.

Immediately.”

NOVEMBER 9

CHANGE POLITICS AT WORK

A journo picked up Crikey’s item on Natasha Stott-Despoja’s travel porkies on Wednesday, and it ended up on the ABC’s World Today program:

“Reporter: On an internet gossip site today, is the news that Senator Stott Despoja travelled business class eight times last year, even though she proclaims the fact that she travels economy. Standing before the Aboriginal flag that the Redfern Dance Centre, she was asked about her travel habits.

“NSD: This is a joke isn’t it? You are really,… two days to go in election campaign. We’ve launched one of the key policies,… I’m on record a number of times as saying that I’m one of the few Federal politicians that tends to fly economy, I book economy flights wherever I can… because I’m sure this is the news of the day, have a chat with Howard, Beazley and any other Federal Senator and see how they fly, economy or business. I can’t believe the fact that I save taxpayer dollars by tending to fly economy is actually going to be a scandalous issue.”

Our original whistleblower has added his two bobs worth:

“Satan seems to have missed the point. The point is not that Howard and Beazley fly business. They do. What they do not do is deny that they fly business class in front of key audiences.

“The point is, Satan, you are prepared to brazenly lie about small things, and if you are prepared to do that, then how far can anybody trust you on the big issues?

“Let us be clear about this matter. She was asked on ‘The Glass House’ whether she flew Business Class during the election campaign, and she replied that she flew economy. Not “I sometimes fly business” or “most of the time I fly economy” – she said that although she was eligible to fly business class, she flew economy class, no qualifiers. And that was eight business class flights in the last MONTH, not the last year. Did she forget the free grog and canape51s?

“Now I can understand that she wants to take some of that purist void filled by Peter Andren. But if you want to be the prophet, Satan, then you’ve got to don the hair shirt!

“The simple fact is that she said something which she knew full well to be untrue, just to try go make her appear a caring, thrifty, self-less politician for the demographic that watches the show – in other words she lied to get political advantage at the election.

“So much for ‘Change Politics’!”

INTENSIVE ADVISE FOR NATASHA

And in news just to hand we’ve heard that PR man about town Ian Smith, the chief executive of spindoctoring outfit Gavin Anderson, has been advising Natasha in recent months. The former Kennett staffer is said be some observers to have found it a pretty hair-raising experience that at times has involved some intensive one on one sessions for the suave Smiffy.

NOVEMBER 12

THE DEMOCRAT WASH-UP

The Adult Democrat Email Network (ADEN) has been working overtime since the election and whilst emails have been pouring in, this is a snapshot of what is being said:

“ADENers largely, though not entirely, of the view that the Dem result was very, very ordinary, especially in the light of promises made by Missy about winning Boothby, extra senate seats in SA and Tasmania – and winning Mayo which, as we were assured by Princess, was not in any way dependent on Shumann running. In Mayo, Coulter’s new protege Bill Spragg was spectacularly successful

Most ADENERs not surprised – and a few very annoyed – that Princess Tashy did what everyone expected to her to do – blame Lees and the GST. Yeah right. The Coalition introduced and put in place the GST – its vote increased. The ALP screamed long and loud about the GST – its vote decreased.

There is a view from older hands that Tashy’s defensive (“Oh, it’s going to be so hard to hold our vote….”) was a stupid strategy and turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why didn’t she take the two majors on asylum-seekers with passion and commitment like Brown did? Why didn’t she stake a claim for the balance of power and proceed from there? Why did she run such a pop-star photo-op oriented campaign?

People were surprised to hear Princess concede NSW and the possibility of other senate losses on ‘Sunday’ this morning. Cooler heads suggested that it is far from over – especially as the below-the-line senate vote usually favours the Dems and other minor parties. It is understood that Jack Evans, campaign manager, gave Missy a right bollocking over that little gaffe.

ADENers, however diverse in their views and their loyalites, are all agreed that Princess’s claim that she had increased membership by over 50% is yet another of her lies and does not sit well with the fact that Democrats handing out were reported to be very thin on the ground (especially in SA and NSW) from reports in so far.

In SA, the Dems paid a sporting club to hand out in the seat of Adelaide and a number of Boothby booths were not staffed. An SA ADENer from the Boothby branch said that Natasha’s pride, Jo, promised 200 booth workers. However, on last Sunday Ms Pride admitted she could rustle up only 20 or so. If the membership is so much larger and enthused, where were they yesterday?

The bottom line is that the Dems remain deeply divided and might (hopefully not) lose seats in the Senate. All this for a .2% rise while the Greens almost doubled their vote. Maybe it’s true, as Oakes said this morning, Lees would have run a different sort of campaign with more accent on strategy and policy and less on photo ops. ADENers certainly agree that the best media performance put in by a Democrat in the campaign was by Lees on Australia Talks from the Barossa Valley.”

DEMOCRATS THIN ON THE GROUND IN ADELAIDE

G’day Stephen and friends!

On Saturday I had the great fortune of being one of the many green fools out their handing out HTV cards to people in the Adelaide electorate. Working all day I went to about 5 booths and not once had the pleasure of meeting any democrats handing out HTV’s! What they usually had was a box with a small message saying that they are sorry they couldn’t staff the booth and would you please take one – . needless to say only people who were going to vote Democrat anyway would make the effort to find the damn things!

Compare this to at least two and often three labour blokes, one or two liberals and even a couple of One Nation guys out there, it really is a poor showing. Now we greens had someone at around 2/3 of the metro booths for most of the day, as well as some people at the larger regional booths, and that’s with only 200 card carrying members in SA, so if there are lots of Democrats members out there they weren’t anywhere to be seen on Saturday!

Just a point of interest about the increased green vote: I did a bit of volunteering at the office during the past month and I can tell you that the increase was all small “l” liberals and old labour lefties that swelled our vote to its present size. And these people were damn persistent; the greens in SA are in the phone book under “Australian Greens” which means that people usually spend a good hour ringing up the AEC or Canberra trying to find the office number. They then speak to us for 10 minutes telling us how they’ve have never voted anything but ____ all their lives, and they won’t vote for those bleeps in the other party, so they’re were going to vote green. Crazy stuff! But if we crazies in the Greens wanna keep these people then we are going to have to not be drawn back into the crazy environmental focus we have had in tha past and focus more on social issues. Otherwise we will go back to our usual level of insignificance in the future.

Take care of yourselves!

Ben

NOVEMBER 13

DEMOCRATS PAY CASH TO THEIR BOOTH WORKERS

Stephen,

The Democrats at the booth I worked on in Mackellar on Saturday were represented by a uni student from Bathurst who freely admitted handing out HTVs was a cash in hand job for him. Certainly the views he was (privately) expressing were not Democrats key messages.

On the issue of the politics of handing out how to vote material – I hear the husband of the Labor candidate in Warringah (Candidate was Julie Heraghty, husband is Michael Heraghty, President of the Manly branch of the ALP) came to blows with a voter at the Manly West booth on Saturday. I wonder if it was with a Peter MacDonald supporter or an Abbott suporter? Peter Mac and the Heraghtys used to be the best of mates in the days of the Residents and Friends of Manly – Michael was #2 on the ticket for the ’88 Council election, ABC arts reporter Anne-Marie Nicholson (Mark Westfield’s wife) was #3 Heraghty was #4 but they don’t break bread together any more.

Regards, Anon

NOVEMBER 15

GAVIN ANDERSON, NATASHA AND ANSETT

The role of PR outfit Gavin Anderson in the Ansett saga has raised a few eyebrows. GA has been working for the Democrats during the campaign yet they had a specific brief from the Ansett administrator to communicate with the Federal Government, which now certainly has its nose out of place after last Thursday’s stunt.

Interestingly, GA acted for Singapore Airlines when they tried to buy into Ansett a couple of years back and then also acted for Virgin Blue when they set up in Australia.

But wait, there’s more. GA were also appointed to do the media for the Federal Government on the sale of Sydney Airport. How many different aviation-related clients can you juggle before there is a conflict of interest?

Meanwhile, GA’s charming CEO Ian Smith is still closely advising Natasha and is said to have spent Friday night in Adelaide providing some personal counsel to the Princess about how to handle events on polling day.

And wasn’t that an amusing piece in The Daily Telegraph yesterday where Natasha’s ex, Channel Nine star Hugh Riminton, complained to a friend that she fobbed him off to her press secretary.

To quote from it directly:

“In the email, sent to us (The Tele) by a trouble-making third party, Riminton admits he “loved” and “still misses” the Democrats leader but “an interstate relationship between an ambitious politician and a travelling reporter is not an easy life. There was a lot of time spent apart,” the journo tell his friend.

“And when the only way to contact your lover is through her press secretary, it’s probably time to move on.”

DEMOCRAT CHAT ROOMS

Dear Stephen

Crikey may not be aware but there is a Democrat chatroom called ADnet (very distinct from the ADEN). Participants, until now, have been entirely devoted to Natasha, in part I suspect because her mother, Shirley, is a major contributor. ADEN was set up, in part, as an alternative to ADnet which is widely accepted by the few sensible people left in the organisation as the province of chattering children and people whose opinions are not matched by their literary and intellectual capability.

In the past, ADnetters have bashed up anyone who has dared to suggested that Her Highness is not absolutely perfect and represents the salvation of western civilsation as we know it. However, as you can see from the attached, the worm is turning. The author of this contribution is well known to have undermined the previous regime from his screen for years. But lo! Even the blind may see! This gem crossed no man’s land to reach the ADEN. Read on…..

“I think that getting only a smidgin more than the number of votes we got in 1998 is a disaster for us in relative terms. At the time of writing it seems that we are likely to go from having nine Senators and outright balance of power to seven Senators and sharing balance of power with the Greens.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say “Oh well, we did pretty well because it has been a ‘khaki’ election and that has caused voters to support the Government” when the Greens, who were opposed to the Government’s stand on sending troops to Afghanistan, the asylum seekers, the GST, old growth forests and carbon taxes, doubled their vote from last time, securing their best ever national result in terms of votes and likely Senate representation.

Saying we are not in competition with the Greens is see-through spin. In all states we were in direct competition with the Greens for Senate seats. Bob Brown won his seat at the expense of our lead Tasmanian Senate candidate, Andrew Murray and Lyn Allison look like they may well be replaced by a Green and Vicki Bourne might win her seat at the expense of a Green. So let’s be honest and not talk about the Greens as if they are not competing with us for parliamentary representation.

Does everyone remember that according to a poll posted to this list only a few months ago, we were polling about 14% in each state, except for SA where we were showing something like 22%? I have thought a lot about why we didn’t achieve that sort of percentage yesterday and I think it was because people were giving Natasha a “honeymoon” when that poll was taken and therefore such high voting intentions were very soft. When the election came many voters who flirted with the idea of voting for us could see that we hadn’t changed our position on the GST nor had we done anything of significance to reconstruct ourselves from the visionless times we had under Meg Lees’ leadership.

As I suggested to Natasha by email and to Andrew B face-to-face and by email over the last twelve months, we should have pulled some stunts to draw the electors attention to our environmental policies by promoting Democrat legislation for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and abolishing land clearing of native vegetation. Labor and the Greens pulled the stunts instead — Labor promised ratification of the Kyoto protocol and land clearing measures and the Greens looked as though they pushed Labor into making these promises for their preferences. (Mind you, I think the Greens’ approach to deciding how they go about suggesting preferences on HTVs and registered preference tickets for the old parties is better than ours — they sought concessions for the environment and we sought concessions for Senate seats.)

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how we wash-up financially as a result of the election. If the local Murdoch press is correct in saying we spent $3million on our campaign, then by my calculations we needed to average of more than 9% in the Senate to break even with our public funding and this seems unlikely. (I have assumed 12,000,000 voters, 5.4% in the lower house and $1.77 public funding for a primary vote.)

Next election we should try to win votes by our virtuous substance and not by fresh-faced froth and bubble. This time we barked about the two big barking dogs but it was the Greens who dramatically improved their credentials for becoming the main progressive party in Australian politics.”

NATASHA REMOVED BOAT PEOPLE SUPPORT LINES

Dear Stephen

This is a gem doing the ADEN rounds. Details have been removed to protect the innocent and the brave but what it demonstrates is that Stott Despoja and her advisers clearly and deliberately toned down the Democrat response to Tampa and asylum seekers in a desperate attempt not to lose votes. Clearly, this email was sent by someone with some courage and principle to an office led and staffed by pragmatists and opportunists.

Usually ADENers laugh but many people are really angry about this and fail to see how this disclosure fits in with the exhortation to ‘Change Politics’. There are a growing number of people who are thinking rather than ‘Change Politics’, the Democrats should ‘Change Leaders”. If she is ever challenged about this, ADENers think that, like every other poor decision taken, Princess Tashy will claim not to have known about it. It will be fascinating to see if the love-struck media will tackle her about it:

Email Subject: An important factor to be considered

I feel it is important to point out something which otherwise will be overlooked in the assessment of how the campaign went.

It seems to be generally acknowledged that part of the reason why the Greens have done so well and we have just held our vote was the relative strength of Bob Brown on the Tampa issue. We simply were not strong enough.

In New South Wales we were not provided with sufficient funds to run a worthwhile electronic media campaign. In the light of this we chose to run a direct mail based campaign. We sent out 2 leaflets during the campaign to 650,000 people in our best areas in each of 36 electorates. These were the people most likely to vote Democrat.

The first leaflet contained a message about our values and principles from Natasha. The second contained more specific policy material and a how to vote on the back.

The first leaflet carried a very specific line about refugees. ***** was told by Natasha’s office to remove this line. **** believed this to be a serious mistake but respected the decision that was made.

The line that was to be struck out read:

“We are working to show compassion to those fleeing torture and persecution in an increasingly unstable world.”

Knowing that I would have difficulties getting the line approved it was crafted to be as soft as possible. Apparently it was not soft enough. **** was also told to remove a reference to equality for same sex couples in superannuation.

Consequently **** did not put in anything in about these issues in the more specific policy information in the second leaflet.

I think this decision (though of course there were other factors) will have contributed to the Greens getting more credibility on this issue – and consequently a greater share of the Tampa related vote – than us.

Name Withheld

DEMOCRATS SAVED BY ONE NATION IN THREE STATES

“Luke Harris in his letter said that the Greens get One Nation Preferences.

The Greens were put above The Democrats in one Senate seat by One Nation, that was NSW. In every other State and Territory, The Greens were put behind the old parties and Democrats.

Thought I should point it out.

Great site by the way, good luck.

Dinesh Mathew

National Campaign Coordinator

The Australian Greens

End of obsession evidence.

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