Dems insider Frank Fairy has emerged from the bottom of the garden to produce these two explanations of the current barney between Meg Lees and Princess Tash.

An article by Jill Singer in the Herald Sun last Thursday (28/6) offers some insights into the Dems internal brawl, many of which Frank already reported a few days ago. Jill does manage to get a few things wrong, though. She notes that the Princess is said to be “furious” about the leak and goes on to implicitly point the finger at Frank. Jill suggests that Princess Tash might have a little leaking fairy in her garden. She probably does, but they aren’t necessarily the one responsible for the letters, and Frank ain’t it.

For the record, Frank is not and has never been a staffer for the Princess or for any other Dem Senator. And Frank didn’t leak the letters (even if he wishes he’d gotten his hands on them) – the first Frank saw of them was their appearance on Crikey.

Jilly also says that Crikey has ruled out Lees and her camp as the leakers. Well, first, Crikey’s done no such thing – only said they didn’t come from Lees or Murray. And second, even if Crikey had, how would he know whoever did the leaking wasn’t in the Lees camp? In any case, that’s hardly the point – Darth and the Mystic One and Peter Davies would have known it would leak because thats what the Dems do – leak. It could have been a Nat Exec member, or someone in the Princesses Palace, but its just as likely to have come from the Death Star as from anywhere else.

Anyway. The Public Safety Committee won’t expel Mystic Meg. They’ve now realised doing this would be a strategic disaster in public policy terms – at a time where the Prime Miniature has a long list of rather nasty bits of legislation he needs to get through the Senate. Betcha he’s taken Mystic Meg to lunch again already. No need to even bother dutchessing Darth – he’s been a Liberal at heart from the beginning, and took over the WA division in what could charitably be described as highly irregular circumstances. (This is rumoured to be part of a takeover bid to prevent the Dems actually doing anything useful like blocking nasty legislation.)

The real question is whether the Death Star will decamp to the Coalition Cluster without any help at all from the Public Safety Committee. If they do, the Democrats – who have already managed to piss off their supporters on both the left and the right within a year and look erratic and unreliable in the process – will be increasingly irrelevant to the political landscape.

But then again, they should have been annihilated at the last four elections according to the pundits, so maybe they’ll pull through this latest crisis too.

Hugs and Kisses, Frank Fairy

Now let’s look at Frank’s earlier piece which was first published on Jun 25:

Analysis from beyond the toadstool

Well, Crikey has now (thanks to whoever is driving the solar-powered freight train laden with sensitive information directly to their door) revealed what has been obvious to Dem insiders all along – that Mystic Meg and Princess Tashy were taken off each others Xmas card lists some time ago.

Mystic Meg’s latest little outburst – apparantly actually written by Andrew Murray and Peter Davies – doesn’t pull any punches. Given the regular special deliveries to Crikey and the fact the Dems leak like a sieve anyway, it beggers belief that Lees, Murray and Davies didn’t expect their missive to become public. (Actually, they’re just as likely to have leaked it on purpose themselves, even if the timing tends to implicate a National Exec member.)

So lets have a look at the Lees rant. Its breathtaking in its attempts to point the finger at people other than herself for the party’s poor fortunes. Before Lees did the dirty deal on the GST, the Democrats subscribed to a somewhat quaint notion in politics – that you shouldn’t make committments and sign pledges, then turn around and break them after the election – and was able to do so with a degree of credibility. This, and explicit campaigning for the balance of power under banners like “keep the bastards honest”, is the source of what Lees calls their “Senate Bonus” (The Democrats typically polled as much as double their Reps vote in the Senate – people who vote for a major party used to take out “political insurance” by voting Dems in the senate).

Lees notes the Democrats sagging electoral fortunes and the ascendancy of the Greens. While many Dems are gnashing teeth and asking where they went wrong, and Lees is pointing the finger at the current leadership, it’s not hard to see what happened. Lees got so overwhelmed that Howard was willing to take her to lunch that she rolled over, violating Dem policy and breaking key election promises in the process. This moved the Dems to the right. By itself, it might merely have alienated some on the left, gained some on the right, and carried on. But several Dem members decided to fight Lees sellout. Initially, they tried to persuade Lees and other Senators not to proceed using various methods. Lees arrogantly rebuffed her critics by saying “I am the Leader and I will decide”, and pointing out that members who didn’t like it could sign a petition to sack her. The dissident members responded by doing just that. 130-odd signatures from members were gathered on a petition to dispense with Lees services. This might not sound like a lot, but when you are talking about a party with only a couple of thousand eligible members to begin with, and the dissident members having to find each other in the dark, and the party having a reputation for being nice and non-confrontational, I can assure you that it is. (A members petition has only been used once before – to unseat Janet Powell – and then it had the resources of Senator’s offices and the party machine behind it). This petition was then delayed for several months by Lees and her supporters. By the time it was put to the vote, many of those who signed it had left the party.

All of this gave an impression not only of dishonesty and unreliability, and a shift to the right, but also of disunity and disarray (and therefore further unreliability).

In every election subsequent to this sell-out – in Victoria, WA, Queensland, and the Ryan by-election – the Liberals and Dems were lacklustre at best and absolutely thrashed at worst. Party strategists admitted they had little chance of re-electing any Senators other than Stott Despoja herself in SA.

The leadership change – and the public burning at the stake of Mystic Meg – surely saved the Dems from annihilation in 2001. To hold their vote after the GST disaster and in the climate presented is to Princess Tashy’s credit. Not speaking out on asylum seekers turned out to be a mistake – though Tashy did speak out on the issue when asked (“If they are genuine refugees, they can stay. If they are not, send them back – we have never argued against that”). The problem is that the leadership change was a shift back to the left, and a further impression of disunity and unreliability. The Dems alienated their left-leaning supporters, then a year later alienated their right-leaning supporters.

These disasters and ongoing brawling saw many long-serving members leave the party, and with them went most of the corporate memory. This put the party into disarray in fact as well as in appearance. In Victoria, the division downsized itself into a virtual reality organisation run out of Lyn Allison’s office. In SA, the Division has split into two camps that don’t speak to each other except to throw the occasional rock at a meeting, and in WA and NSW executive members sought advice on possible personal liability if the party were to go under financially, as several divisions were by this stage technically insolvent.

Mystic Meg accuses Tashy of a unilateral, autocratic style, but conveniently forgets that this is the same style she used when leader, sorry, Leader. Who could forget “I am the Leader, so I will decide”. She accuses Stott Despoja of keeping her out of the loop – probably true, but not unreasonable given that Lees told the members during the vote that they shouldn’t elect Natasha because she didn’t have the confidence of the party room (and, by implication, they wouldn’t work with her).

The fact of the matter is that Lees, Murray and Allison never accepted the verdict of the members and have been undermining Natasha ever since. They proclaimed that they wouldn’t work with Stott Despoja and then had the audacity to complain that she wouldn’t work with them.

It now falls to the National Compliance Committee (affectionately called the Public Safety Committee) to decide what is to be done about Lees. The word is they’re inclined to expel her, but even if they don’t, she might well decide she’s had enough, go all bitter and twisted and resign anyway. If she leaves the Party, she’s signed a pledge to also leave the Senate… oh, thats right though, Mystic Meg doesn’t believe in honouring pledges. This could radically change the numbers in the Senate, especially if Darth Murray leaves in sympathy with her. With the support of Harridine, Murphy, Harris and either Lees or Murray, the government could have the Telstra sale and god knows what else through the Senate.

If Lees leaves, she will take mad Sandy and half the SA division with her. If Darth Vader follows, WA would probably also split (again). If Lyn Allison joins in, the Victorian division will collapse. Anybody envy the Princess her job now?

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the Public Safety Committee.

Do ya best, Frank Fairy

Peter Fray

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