Crikey’s gun columnist Hillary Bray is across the politics of Bali and Cunningham in this week’s column.
The Prime Miniature and Lex have been very careful in their choice of words during the last few days over what warnings they received over attacks on Indonesia and when.
Hillary understands that Cabinet discussed specific threats from Muslim extremists to American interests in Indonesia, including the Jakarta Embassy, at least a month ago.
Australia has six count em separate intelligence bodies. Are we expected to believe that all our boys and girls in Spooksville or the Cabinet were unable to extrapolate?
Whod be PM?
Hillary wouldnt be an MP for quids let alone the PM. The expectations are enormous.
On more than a few occasions last week, its appeared as if the Short Man hasnt been enjoying it, either. Its the first time in the six years hes had the job that Hillary can remember him looking that way.
True, hes faced enormous pressure but a good deal of this has been self generated. When you exploit the crudest populism, it can come back to bite you.
The Gong show
Woo-wee! Wollongong hasnt received so much attention since Aunty Jacks heyday. But before we look at the Cunningham by-election in any detail, a quick lesson if you dont mind.
What is the only industry that the Greens are not entirely hostile to? Hype.
Yup. The Greens specialise in hype hyperbole, to give it its full name, extravagant and exaggerated comments. Think of Greenpeaces myriad media stunts, the constant forecasts of apocalypse and you start to get the picture.
So, if youre all settled down, lets look at what Cunningham really means. Ready? It means sod all. Its very bad for Slimy Simey and the ALP, but theyre internal matters for Labor. Its crap for the Democrats, too. But for the country as a whole, for the broader scheme of things, forget it.
True, the first Green MHR has been elected, Michael Organ (all suggestions for a puerile nickname gratefully received) but that just means one vote against the Government in the Reps from one party has been replaced by one from another hostile party.
The result is a typical by-election protest vote. The only difference is that this time the protest has come at the expense of the opposition, not the Government.
Tammany on Sussex has got whats been coming to it in the Gong for a long, long time. The only problem is that theyre big enough and certainly ugly enough to ignore it and poor old Simes copped the full force of the blow.
Part of it was his fault. He shouldnt have let Steve Martin go so soon after an election and he shouldnt have let Sussex Street impose a candidate on the Gongs punters. That generated ill-will from the word go.
The talk during the week, reported in the Crikey Sealed Section, that Sussex Street would be prepared to admit the disgraced former Wollongong lord mayor George Harrison back in the party for the sake of his numbers demonstrated the respect Labors head office had for Gong, too so there is plenty of blame to go round.
Still, it was Sime who made this a test of his leadership and it is a catastrophic defeat by any means.
First, theres the historic angle as Cunningham is the first by-election in an opposition seat lost by an opposition in more than half a century. Then theres Cunninghams history as a Labor seat.
Iron Mark Latham should remember to take his medication (and apologise to Andrew Parker for saying under privilege that hes the author of this column) and might have the subtlety of a punch in the face, but he was spot on when he said that election of a Green would be an absolute disaster for the local economy.
The Greens hate the Gong. They hate the industries that created the towns of the Illawarra and remain key employers. The fact that the locals have elected a Green shows that they hate the ALP, their current jellybacked stances and the way they have treated them in the past even more.
And the Dems? Au Gratin summed it up nicely in the Sunday Age: The other big losers are the Democrats. In 1990 they nearly won this seat. Now they are nowhere. Expect a witch-hunt over who had the foolish idea of running at all. The culprit was the national executive – it now has one more thing for which to answer.
Perhaps theyd better sic the NCC on themselves.
Labors vote explained
Why is Labor in such a mess? Well, Hillary has found the perfect poster girl for the partys woes, Senator Penny Wong.
Pennys only been a Senator for three months now, but shes already come to epitomise everything thats wrong with the ALP. Take last Thursday, for example. There, on the opinion page of the Oz, surrounded by features on the Bali bomb, was an item by Penny on quotas. Penny, like Labor, and the Australian public, are talking about entirely different things.
Penny received a huge amount of publicity after the recent ALP special national conference. The Australian carried a story running the line that she had been instrumental in the deal making that eventually saw that key issue among the homeless in Australia 40/40/20 come to pass.
Whatever credence you choose to give to that line, one story about Senator Wong that may not have come out can now be revealed for Crikey readers. Immediately after Kirners Cohort struck a blow for people on hospital waiting lists everywhere by getting a guarantee that 40 per cent of candidates in winnable seats would be women, they moved outside to celebrate and get photographed. One of the women in the group is disabled and gets about in a wheelchair. So keen was the good Senator to get her mug in the photo that she pushed the wheelchair and its purple T-shirted occupant out of the way. Great work Penny publicity before purple solidarity!
At the same time, if you listen to the fury sweeping through the Left women (and presumably those women in the right who are really switched onto the working class values that the ALP holds dear and spent their time organising 40/40/20), Penny screwed up big time. Its a little technical, but it goes like this: 40/40/20 replaced 35/35/30. 35/35/30 was enforceable and the deadline had passed. In the changeover, there was no requirement for 35/35/30 to be enforced as they moved onto 40/40/20. That doesnt sound that bad until you realise that for most likely the next two rounds of preselection, no-one will take any notice of 40/40/20 let alone 35/35/30 and well be able to avoid a flood of Joans babies for another two rounds.
The sisterhood are taking this so seriously and are so irate off that some are suggesting that Penny should be punished by being forced to write Carmen Lawrence should resign 100 times.
Lets hope that by the time Labor reaches the 40% women deadline in 2012, women make up more than the 38% of the party that they make up now and Penny and Co have discovered some issues with a little resonance.
Deirdre Grusovins unlikely fan
Deirdre Grusovin lost her spot on the New South Wales Labor frontbench when she joined Franca Arena in indulging in a little bit of Salem witchhunts style hysteria which makes us take this report with a pinch of salt but
Hillary hears that during her recent preselection battle, Grusovin received a letter of support from witchhunt victim John Marsden. Why was he writing? Well, as a good Catholic lad, Marsden didnt like the ultra-conservative Opus Dei affiliations of Grusovins rival, Kath Keneally.
Is God dead? Well, he will be if Grusovins loyal little brother Laurie Brereton has his way. After he wrote a letter to preselectors supporting Keneally, the Botany Boy has sworn to get E G Wanker.
Moving the goalposts in the West
In the wake of Western Australian Supreme Court ruling in favour of One Nation, the Nats and the Liberal Party and a few other fans of the feudal system in their action opposing the scrapping of the states rural malapportionment, the Gallop Labor Government upped and moved the goalposts in the Legislative Council last week.
The Council President will now have a deliberate vote giving 18 votes to Labor and the Greens that will get around the issues on the one vote, one value legislation that prompted the legal challenge. Changing the vote of the President does not require a constitutional majority of 18, while the change of electoral laws did.
When the Council was reformed in 1989, the deliberative vote proposal was put up within the Liberal Party to cope with the even split of numbers in the Chamber. The crusty old Council President Clive Criffiths wouldnt have a bar of any newfangled change, so the current situation with the President only having a casting vote has continued.
The move is not a particularly radical step. Even numbers in the Senate was recognised as a problem from the start with the Commonwealth Constitution, and the Senate President has always had a deliberative vote. Despite this, however, the Western Australian Greens seem to be unable to work out what to do.
Shrubhugging MLC Christine Sharp has indicated that it could take weeks before they come to a decision on a resubmitted reform package.
Yesterdays events have done wonders for the Greens reputation for ratbaggery. Quite why the votes of people who live in the country should count for more than those who live in the metropolitan area let alone why a party that constantly talks of justice should support it is beyond most Sandgropers.
More wacky Greens
Why not drop by the Victorian Greens election site here and check out the Legislative Council candidate running in Chelsea Province. Dont get too big a shock.
Queenslands somnolent Senate selection
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. If youre looking for a knife edge contest with thrills n spills a-plenty, stay away from the Queensland Liberal Senate race.
Santo Santoro remains odds on favourite to replace John Herron. Indeed, the only interesting thing about the race is the number of moderates who say theyre supporting him when his campaign pitch to the right is all about how hes going to join forces with Ho Chi Minchin and drive every last moderate from the party.
Still, the Queensland Libs being the Queensland Libs, the shenanigans dont stop.
The various candidates have been flogging their wares to the various party electorate committees. Trouble is several of these have had to reconvene meetings to choose their delegates to the preselection again as their initial meetings were unconstitutional.
In Moreton, things have got a little heated with federal minister Gary Wombat Hardgrave decided to put himself up for the job. Wombat is saying that he wont automatically support Santo if elected but as everyone gives Santo the credit for getting him into the ministry to begin with, very few people think hed turn his back on his old friend.
Indeed, its been pointed out to Wombat that in putting himself up as a preselection delegate, hes thumbing his nose at the Prime Miniature, who has told MPs that they should not get involved. Still, as Wombat occupies the most junior position in the ministerial pecking order, he cant be demoted unless hes dumped on the backbench.
The Blair FEC has indulged in a novel move to ensure it has the minimum number of 100 branch members to select its 10 delegates to the preselection. Despite the presence of a Liberal Federal member, the dynamic Cameron Thompson, Blairs numbers were languishing in the eighties about 15 short of the minimum required.
Ever willing to sacrifice himself for the Liberal Party, would be Senator Dr Russell Trood, his wife and a number of associates from Ryan selflessly transferred their membership to the Lockyer Valley branch in Blair about 80 kilometres from where they live in suburban comfort in Brisbane. Maybe Dr Trood, a Griffith University academic, will be telling preselectors that he has a rural background, thus making him a senator for all Queenslanders.
And while the world remains agog with indifference over the selection of a replacement for John Herron, there are still some curious happenings afoot. On Thursday, Santo was seen lunching at the recently-refurbished Regatta Hotel in Toowong in the heart of the leafy western suburbs with our old friend Michael Khemlani Johnson. It can only be assumed that Santoro was seeking Khemlanis assistance in ensuring a compliant slate of delegates is chosen from Ryan.
This must be climbing further and further up the nostrils of George Washington Brandis who, though he shamelessly used Johnsons stacked Centenary branch to support his own successful bid for the Senate in 2000, is now backing Trood. The fact that Brandis and Santoro developed a close relationship in the early 1990s seems to have been ignored.
Trood, it could be said, is somewhat lacking in the charisma stakes, and Washington and his colleague, Brett Mr Bean Mason, are championing his cause because they know that the arrival of Santo in Canberra would end their careers as self-important power brokers. Even more importantly, Washington knows that Santo, because of his knowledge of the Queensland Division, would blow the cover on his double life as a leading moderate in his early days and a fully paid up member of the rabid right in recent years.
Roll on next Sunday.
What gives in One Nation?
Things have been even odder than usual in One Nation since Graeme Campbell and his fellow wackos from the West kidnapped Paulines baby and it seems that theyre staying that way.
A Crikey operative enjoyed watching One Nation Oberfuhrer Frank Hough engrossed in what looked like a very complicated discussion with some of WAs finest and the landlord during an attempt to change the locks on their Perth bunker one afternoon last week. Quite who was behind the move looked like anyones guess.
Welcome to the Liberal Party
Fear and loathing in the Western Australian Liberal Party means life can be interesting for new members. Anyone not signed up by an officially sanctioned stackee can expect to be phoned and questioned at length about who recruited them and if they paid their own membership dues and, often enough, then learn their application has been rejected.
Murray motion quashed
News trickled out from the Democrat stockade last week that the ballot to ask members if Andrew Murray acted against the interests of the party would not go ahead although the yes case quickly appeared on the ADnet.
Murray had demanded that new leader Andrew Bartlett stop the vote, and he appears to have been doing some very serious and very non-Democrat arm-twisting behind the scenes. Britney fans have been kicking up a ruckus on the ADnet on the matter for days.
So, does this mean its all peace and harmony now for the Dems? Uh-uh. The fundis are furious and the general view is that even if Bartlett lets Murray sit at the top of the table during meetings, the Western Australian is going to walk. They have decided that October 31, for some strange reason, will be a very significant date.
Touchy-feely but not in that sense
Meanwhile, the South Australian Democrat journal reports on an outbreak of a different kind of touchy-feely behaviour in the party:
The Australian Democrats are an organisation where we want people to feel comfortable coming to meetings – some of which may be held in member’s homes, in all situations we expect that societal norms will be observed.
This includes behaving within the law. It is not okay for any member to make sexual overtures to another member when someone makes it clear they are not interested.
Please do not suffer in silence if a member has made inappropriate advances to you. Please do not withdraw from Democrat activities! This type of behaviour must not be ignored, and will not be tolerated. I would appreciate any member who has experienced such an incident contacting me – we can discuss the situation and decide on appropriate action.
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