Hillary Bray = great columnist. Nuff said.

Let’s start with Part I. What was behind Emerson’s claim on Wednesday that the Prime Miniature “just doesn’t like Asians”?

Well, yes, it was a desperate bid for attention from a low profile frontbencher who thinks he deserves more focus – but the timing and content of his comments meant they deserve closer examination.

Sime’s office moved quickly to distance him from the remarks, saying Emerson had not cleared them with Labor’s towering leader. That’s interesting, because up till now Emerson has been number three or four in the shadow ministry pecking order and one of Sime’s closest confidants.

True, he’s made no impact in his trade portfolio and is seldom seen in his electorate, but in Sime’s Labor Party that doesn’t matter. Instead, Emerson – that’s Doctor Emerson to you, by the way – played a key role shaping the Shadow Ministry and has been behind many of Sime’s greatest successes to date.

In private, Dr Emerson has told his mates he intends to be PM one day and has even said what portfolios they can expect. That means he feels quite unloved when all the talk about the Labor leadership centres on Iron Mark and Kruddy and Swan and even old Fart Boy Slim and he never gets a run.

Ever the good opportunist, Dr Emerson seems to have decided that Sime is a lame duck who will be replaced as soon as practicable – hence his attempt to put himself forward and efforts at product differentiation. At the same time, he’s fired off a salvo at another leadership contender, foreign affairs guru Kruddy, by trespassing on his portfolio.

His actions speak volumes about the sad state the Federal ALP is in. When a loyal lieutenant jumps ship like this, something is on. The Government will be able to sit back, relax and watch the fireworks – or the Newspolls.

And Part II, the unfortunately leaked discussion paper on the future of the ALP that turned up in the Oz the following day? See above.

The crazy-brave option

Another Tuesday, another Newspoll – and more nasty red stains on the Reps green carpet outside the Opposition Leader’s suite in Parliament House.

Forty-four percent of Labor voters, we learnt last week, would like Fart Boy Slim back in the top job. Only 26 per cent want Sime. Seven percent would stick Iron Mark there, while four percent go for Wayne Swan and Kruddy.

Swan has been tipped for great things. Kruddy seems out of the running for now. Parliament House would need a fifth wing built just to accommodate his ego if he ever became leader. But what about the crazy brave option?

Ask a punter who Swan or Kruddy is and they’ll probably shrug. Ask them if the know the name of Lithium Latham and chances are you’ll come up trumps. They might say that he’s a mad bastard – but they’ll know who he is. And, unlike Sime, they’ll know he stands for something – even if it is only bashing Tories over the head with a hunk of two-by-four.

Iron Mark, you see, has one of the greatest gifts that can ever grace a member of an opposition – profile. People know him as a back-to-basics, no-nonsense Labor man. God, he’s even thumped some sort of woggy cab driver. That doesn’t hurt in this time of national emergency.

His colleagues are beginning to realise this. They also know that he’s managed to shut the Mad Monk up – think about it, he’s a lot quieter these days – and his shouted threats across the floor of the chamber have kept Monk wannabe (and subject of much lurid gos) Ross Cameron in his box. Backbench muttering shows the Government has realised this, too.

While he may rail against wedge politics, Iron Mark is one of its great practitioners. You are either for his cause, for the empowering of ordinary Australians – or part of the elites who seek to control and censor debate in this country. Sound familiar?

More and more Labor figures are beginning to think about giving it a go. After all, it’s not as if they’ve got anything to lose.

Fear and loathing in Victorian Labor

Why did Steve Bracks dash to a poll with such unseemly haste? Paranoia, pure and simple. The Victorian ALP is positively paranoia plagued.

First, they’re worried about the RARA seats they won last time. They think the punters out there are bread to vote for the Coalition. They find it almost physically impossible to support the ALP, and some are probably still in intensive care from last time. While they might stay loyal to an independent, Labor’s not at all sure it can count on their votes this time.

Bracks needs to win six seats to govern in his own right. If the RARAs return to the fold, that means he will need to pick up eight, nine or even 10 seats in the big smoke. The Labor Party thinks that might be a big ask. Times are good, so they think people will stick with their local member. Their local Liberal member, to be precise. Labor is terrified the status quo will work against it.

Top that off with the fear that the Libs will be able to run a half-decent campaign on economic management, and you’ll see why Bracks and the bruvvers would have liked to have gone to the polls, oh, a couple of weeks after Benalla.

The Cadaver’s latest trick

News out of Villawood Dentention Centre suggests the egregious Cadaver has a new way of tormenting its inmates.

Would-be refugees from Iraq – yes, the country we’re virtually at war with but still happily send people trying to flee its regime back to despite minor risks like torture and execution – are reporting that they are being offered “voluntary repatriation agreements”, not to Iraq, but to Syria.

Everyone knows the place is a hellhole. Syria’s not much better. Why is the Cadaver so maniacally determined not to let people seeking to flee a regime we would like to see replaced stay in this country?

Latent warfare

So all the fighting in the Australian Democrats is over? Er… Fresh off the solar powered unicycle, here’s an e-mail from Andrew Murray to the party’s national fundraising officer, Brian Haddy, that sorta speaks for itself:

—–Original Message—–
From: Murray, Andrew (Senator)
Sent: Thursday, 7 November 2002 10:24 AM
To: ‘Brian Haddy’; John Cherry; Brian Greig; BARTLETTA, Redirection; Lyn Allison; Andrew Murray; Aden Ridgeway; Natasha Stott Despoja
Subject: RE: 2003 CPP Update and program from last May

Dear Brian

I recognise the hard work you are doing, but regrettably the reality of our political situation intrudes on your positive efforts.

On the 28th July 2002 I issued a statement that said: ” The National Executive has lost my support and confidence. The President should resign.” That remains my view.

You might also refer to my submission to the NE Review for my fuller views, and to the submission of Senators and former Senators Allison, Cherry, Ridgeway, Bourne and Woodley.

The consequences of the dominant radical faction’s actions over the last couple of years and months, their idiotic and unfortunately successful determination to drive Senator Lees (and others) out of the Party, (and their aggressive opposition to the majority of our Senate team), has predictably brought the Party undone. There has not even been a hint of an apology or of them taking responsibility for their disastrous actions.

What was and is required are a number of resignations, including the President, and urgent radical reform of the Constitution and Organisation.

At least on the parliamentary front, Senator Bartlett to date has been introducing sensible management. There is no other sign that essential change is under way.

My state of pessimism therefore continues. I could not with any honesty present myself to a national conference CPP [Corporate Partnership Program, the Democrat schmooze to the top end of town, for first timers], run under the auspices of this NE, and talk positively about the future. Especially when probable/possible attendees at the CPP will themselves hold a negative view as to the future of the unreformed Democrats.

I regret that I must advise you that I will not be attending the CPP.

Kind regards

Andrew Murray

And did you all notice just how emphatic the praise for the new leader was?

Cupboard is bare for the SA Libs

The costs haven’t yet been awarded in the wake of the South Australian Liberal Party’s failed Court of Disputed Returns action against state Speaker Peter Lewis – the action the Prime Miniature warned them not to take – but the organisational heavies are already looking for small change down the back of the chairs in reception, such is their financial plight.

After months of telling the executive everything is fine, state director Graeme Jeschke and president Rosemary Craddock have admitted that the cupboard is bare – and that the party will need to find $600,000 to pay bills due before Christmas. Not that they’ve fessed up together. Instead, they’ve been knocking on doors around town blaming each other for the disaster.

Hope is at hand, however – the party plans to get a $350,000 overdraft at 12 per cent interest so they are not deemed insolvent. Cheap at half the price.

Leadership joint effort?

Staying with the South Australian Libs, Crikey readers may remember all the coverage the inner-city Kings Park branch received a couple of years back when it was discovered that a huge number of its members came from Echuca in country Victoria.

The branch has shrunk since then, but colourful former SA Liberal MP Stan “The Viking” Evans has been ringing lapsed members on behalf of the incumbent, Mark Brindle.

Oddly enough, young Mark and Stan’s son Ian, who inherited his seat, fancy themselves as future top dogs of the South Australian party. Are we seeing the beginnings of a joint effort to challenge leader Rob Kerin?

What do Greens say about cloning?

Melbourne student trot Ruth Braham is ruthlessly milking her 15 minutes in the wake of last week’s flag burning protest, turning up on talkback all over the place.

And her most memorable appearance so far? Nothing could trump the interview on Sydney radio with fellow trot and fruitloop Green MLC Lee Rhiannon. A punter rang in afterwards and asked if Lee was her mum.

He knows where you live

Our old friend Michael “Khemlani” Johnson is clearly feeling unloved at the moment, telling the Liberal faithful at a meeting of his Ryan electorate committee last week that he is sick and tired of reading his name in Crikey.

He started nicely enough by saying that if anyone had a problem with him then they should just pick up the phone and have a chat or perhaps they could have a cup of tea and sort things out that way. Then he added something like “Ryan is a small community and we know who are and what you are doing”.

Crikey’s moles are now dreading a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

PS Further comedy relief was provided at the meeting by Queensland newest Senator, Santo Santoro, who bought the house down with the line “I have never said a bad word about a Liberal to the media”.

The WA Libs gird the loins

The Western Australian Liberal Party are getting ready to go into battle. Not against Labor, of course. No, they’re getting ready for some hard-fought campaigns as the Legislative Council preselections roll around.

The contest will be even harder fought this time, as Lower House preselections have been delayed. The Liberal Party – along with strange bedfellows like One Nation and the Feudalist Society (I may have made that last one up) – are still battling the Gallop Government’s plans to introduce one vote, one value and end a rural malproportionment that makes RARA electorates in the West significantly smaller than their city equivalents. While they remain up in the air, the Council preselections are the only game in town.

The city seats look as if they will be the bloodiest battlegrounds. In the North Metro Region, incumbents Alan Cadby and Ray Halligan seem to be the most in danger. Cadby was installed by Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. They’re never the brightest bunch – but realise that Cadby is scarcely a shining light, even by their standards. Halligan voting record makes him a one man broad church, however, and if the factions polarise he may fall through the gap.

Their challengers are Peter Collier and Andre Shannon. Twenty six year old, Shannon, who is big in body and even bigger in ambition, is a staffer in Senator Johnston’s offices who spends his days doing numbers for his boss and shoring up his preselection. What else do Senators staff do?

Collier, a politics teacher at Scotch College (where else have we heard about teachers recently?), is likely to be the more significant opponent for the incumbents. Apart from having sewn up crucial Curtin votes up, he is a good operator who has exorcised Voldemort’s influence from the western suburbs and installed moderates into key positions. He also will get the support of Perth Division, as it is run by Chris Ellison and Ian Campbell numbers and both Senators owe Collier more than a few favours.

South Metro should be fun and games. Local divisions like Tangney, Fremantle and Brand have been eagerly stacked by the Death Eaters. Swan Division is blue ribbon Centre Right territory. In recent weeks, the Centre Right has begun a half-baked counter attack but there have been no obvious successes.

The two incumbent members are Simon O’Brien and Barbara Scott. O’Brien has very smoothly shifted from the Centre Right to the Right and will likely be safe. Scott is an old fashioned wet and is set for the high jump. The Centre Right and Moderates will attempt to defend her position but probably with little success, as she is simply not a big enough player to warrant a defence simply in her honour. However, she may be the collateral beneficiary of attempts to wrest Tangney back to moderate control, defend Dazzler and ensure that Dodgy Doug Shave or Graham Keirath are not returned to Parliament.

Shave, who speaks openly of taking Scott’s seat, would probably lose preselection at State Council level. He is widely blamed for the size of the Court Government’s defeat, and sending him back to the Parliament could very well be the difference between the Libs winning or lose in 2004.

With the Centre Right and Moderates controlling the preselection timetable, the actual date it is held on will be crucial. If it occurs now, Voldemort will win. If takes place late next year, the Centre Right could have the whip hand.

East Metropolitan’s two sitting MLCs are Peter Foss and Derrick Tomlinson. Foss, a former Attorney General, is yet another one of these folks who joined the party three days before winning preselection. Tomlinson, an old fashioned WA Lib, is retiring after an undistinguished career napping on the red leather.

His place is likely to be taken by Nick Bruining, the current President of Hasluck Division, a former radio presenter, financial journo and prominent Perth accountant.

Mining and Pastoral is Voldemort heartland and the home of Norman Moore, the NCBers top man in State Parliament. Moore whiles away his days representing the good burghers of the Rocks and Sheep and Not Much Else division and despite the dreams of the Centre Right will be virtually impossible to budge.

Former Mining and Pastoral MLC, Voldemort’s pet hyena and flogging and hanging proponent, Greg Smith, is hoping to make a comeback after his defeat last year by One Nation. The general view is that there’s no point for the locals to elect him if a One Nation MP is already there.

No-one knows or cares what the results in the Agricultural Region will be as people only vote for the Nats out there.

The most notable thing to say about the South West Region Liberal MPs is that they may well end up making Strom Thurmond look like a spring chicken. They’re all in their seventies, and change is anathema to the rural rump of the WA Libs.

Separated at birth?

Does John Della Bosca have an evil twin who has just been elected Governor of Wyoming? Check this link and decide.

Feedback to [email protected]

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey