Hillary Bray = great columnist. Nuff said.

Carmen Lawrence has got the kicking she deserves. As an opponent of mandatory detention, she could have resigned again while still Premier of Western Australian after capitulating to a racist shockjock’s anti-Aboriginal campaign. Instead she brought in mandatory sentencing in a vain attempt to hang onto her job.

Then, when she made it to Canberra, surely her conscience should have prevented her from taking a frontbench spot in a government that backed mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

Indeed, when you look back at all the embarrassment she has caused Labor since she came to Canberra, it may have been better if she’d had her attack of conscience years before.

She should have left politics altogether when an innocent woman killed herself when details of her divorce were trotted out in the Western Australian Parliament in the hopes of helping Lawrence’s government.

Still, Lawrence has hung round. Before Thursday, she was dead wood. Now, after a dummy spit that has done so much damage to her leader, she’s got to be dead meat.

Mad Macks

Ah! There’s no pundit like dear old Malcolm Mackerras. On November 8 he wrote in the Oz: “Bracks will win but the Liberal Party will congratulate itself upon denying him a smashing victory. Afterwards the Liberals will say something like: ‘We only lost five seats. Robert Doyle was a very good choice for leader.’ And Doyle will become premier in December 2006.”

So was it the same Mad Macks who said in the Oz after the election: “Nothing unusual there. Victorian lower house elections do not differ significantly from those in Queensland and New South Wales.”?

Victorian Labor’s secret power grab

The Victorian ALP has got its hands on the Legislative Council for only the second time in history – and this time the party wants to make sure its grip on power lasts more than a few days.

Crikey understands that factional heavies have already met to discuss a plan to rig the Council.

The bruvvers have read their history, as the plan is a carbon copy of that used by Arthur Calwell in 1948 for the Senate when proportional representation was introduced into that chamber.

The Senators elected in 1946 under the majority preferential system and due to retire in 1953 were 15 ALP, two Liberal and one Country Party. All the three opposition Senators came from Queensland. Labor had 18 out of 18 Senators elected in 1943. There was a probability, with bank nationalisation and communist led coal strikes and power shortages that Labor would be wiped out in 1949 – as happened in the Reps – but by introducing the new voting system for the Senate, Labor still had control of the upper house after 1949 until a frustrated Menzies was able to win control after the 1951 double dissolution.

The new proposal is identical. The new Legislative Councillors (a majority of whom are Labor) will not go to the polls next election, although it is ALP policy to elect Legislative Councillors for only one term of four years. Instead, proportional representation will be introduced for the remaining half of the Legislative Council to be elected next time. Labor did very badly in the Legislative Council election in 1999, and could easily lose control if the present boundaries remain. The half of the Legislative Council to be elected next time will only go one term, and under the plan the entire Legislative Council will be up for elected in possibly 2010. A rort.

Labor is guaranteed control of the Legislative council for the next eight years. That begs the question why the party won’t keep to its policy and allow all of the Legislative Council to be elected by a fairer voting system next time.

The answer is easy. The Labor factions are power hungry. The Legislative Council is a good place to park factional hacks – and many were elected in a freak win and want to serve the full eight years so they will get their pension.

There is one fast fading hope for the Opposition. If Labor gets 23 seats the vote of the President of the chamber will be tested in court. Constitutional reform requires a statutory majority, and the voting rights of the President in such circumstances would be looked at closely by the Liberal Party’s learned friends. The Victorian Labor Party may have to wait until the High Court has spoken before it can implement its plans.

However, the line coming out of Labor spindoctors is that the factional heavies may not have any joy and the whole Council will got to the polls in 2006.

Pedants corner

And the youngest ever Victorian minister is… Alfred Deakin, back in 1883, at the age of 26.

A big apology to Jacinta Allen, but the Bracks spin machine really should check its facts.

Peace breaks out in the Victorian Liberal Party

It’s strange – but true. Over the last 48 hours it seems that the Victorian Liberal Party have realised that they’re left with so little there’s no point fighting over it.

True, former party president Joy Howley, would be leader Louise Asher and a tiny band of desperadoes have deserted for the Dandies, from where they plan to wage guerilla war – but everyone else seems very keen to be co-operative.

The Victorian Liberal Party admin committee is moving quickly to prevent financial haemorrhage in the wake of Saturday’s disaster.

They are looking at selling the secretariat at 104 Exhibition Street and moving to cheaper facilities in the burbs – all of which makes Peter “The Three-Million Dollar Man” Clarke’s already controversial renovations even more pointless.

Happy families

There was no love lost between the Victorian Libs and their conservative colleagues in the National Party during the state election campaign. Now, Hillary hears that in one key Nat seat the country cousins happily paid for the ALP to reprint their how-to-vote cards, just to make sure they put the Liberals last.

Melissa Salata courts controversy

As if the frogs weren’t enough, Darebin Councillor Melissa Salata has courted controversy once again.

Readers will recall that Gaetano Greco, a former assistant to an Elvis impersonator and unsuccessful Darebin Council candidate, took legal again against Salata for failing to disclose that she was a member of the ALP when she stood for election.

Now, in the wake of her performance handing out Labor how-to-votes in the seat of Thomastown last Saturday, people are wondering just how much she knows about the various permutations of the electoral laws.

Salata turned up to the Merrilands Secondary College booth, wearing her council nametag, and boldly strode into the foyer of the voting area and started to distribute cards – only to be quickly stopped by the Returning Officer who told her it was against the rules and made her go outside with the rest of the poor political plebs.

Green hype

If the Greens are all about integrity, then they’d better start asking themselves when hype finishes and lies begin.

Alan Ramsey threw a well deserved bucket over the party in the Herald on Wednesday:

“The other two-thirds went to the Greens, who still polled less than one in 10 of Victoria’s 2.6 million votes (and 100,000 fewer than the ‘third of a million’ aggregate the Greens were trumpeting on polling night). And the Greens’ national leader, Bob Brown, might like to remember that while Green preferences gave Bracks his massive majority, the party didn’t get within cooee of wining a lower house seat, despite the loud boasting before and after the result.

“The Greens are now doing for state Labor what the Democrats did for federal Labor in 1990, the year the Democrats polled 1.1 million votes but still couldn’t win a lower house seat, either. Some people have now twigged the preference system works for Labor the way it worked in the 1950s and ’60s for the Liberals with DLP preferences. They’re 12 to 15 years late. The Greens have simply taken over from the (now-discredited) Democrats in the ’80s and ’90s.

“We’ll see what they can do for Bob Carr next March.”

The Greens won Cunningham because there was no Liberal candidate. Matters will be more complicated in the New South Wales state election because of Nifty’s naughty little move all those years ago to do away with compulsory preferential voting.

Not only does that mean that the Greens may be less likely to win a seat. Unless they can persuade voters to slavishly follower their how to votes, they may not even be able to masquerade as kingmakers.

The week’s good news

No more Midnight Oil! No more doggerel on this year’s fashionable cause yelled out over an entirely pedestrian rawk ‘n’ rawl accompaniment.

Will Peter Garrett now go for a political career with the Greens? He was number one on the ticket when he made his unsuccessful run for the Senate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party back in 1984 – but the Greens seem to have only one frontman, and his name’s Bob Brown.

Strife in Barlett’s backyard

So all is now well in the Australian Democrats? Not in leader Andrew Bartlett’s backyard, it ain’t.

Marianne Dickie, the tact-challenged power behind the Bartlett throne, has gone a tantrum too far and resigned as Queensland Democrat campaign director.

Dickie’s resignation message says the move has come because of “actions of the Qld Management Committee” that she would prefer not to put in writing – but they are believed to be their refusal to rebuff an attack on her personal style.

The general view is that the Queensland division will do very well without her, thank you – and that anything that minimises conflict in the Dems is A Good Thing.

The state secretary, Damian Dewar, has gone as well.

Naturally, the letter has ended up at Crikey – and what a doozey it is, with lines like “there is a strong culture of bullying and intimidation within the party” and “the Strategic Review is simply a lot of hot air if the party cannot act at a national level to implement a long term, unifying strategy that motivates membership”.

It all begs the question. Andrew Murray et al are all waiting for the results of the review before they make their next move – but will there still be a party left even by then?

Campaign scandal?

Dark rumours seep out of Queensland of a secret report into the alleged misuse of campaign funds by a federal MP at the last election.

Party powerbrokers are said to be working to defuse the issue before it prematurely ends the career of one MP and brings down his right hand man, who has political ambitions of his own.

How things change

A lot of attention was paid to Helen Coonan’s recent history last week – but what about her more distant past.

Coonan the Barbarian’s vote against stem cell support amazed those who remember the days when she used to go round New South Wales helping set up abortion clinics.

A diplomatic incident avoided

Much attention was paid last week to the Prime Miniature’s belligerent little faux pas, when he failed to realise how other countries might be offended if Australian troops suddenly started taking action on their sovereign territory – then bad acoustics in the Senate threatened to escalate matters further after an interjection by Erica Betz.

Luckily, Hillary is understanding and quite prepared to accept Erica’s explanation that he was not seeking to stir up war between Australia and Malaysia:

Senate Hansard, 5 December 2002, Personal Explanations: Abetz, Sen Eric (Special Minister of State, LP, Tasmania, Government)

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania–Special Minister of State) (9.30 a.m.) –Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

Senator ABETZ –Yesterday in question time my attention was drawn to an inclusion in Hansard attributed to me. This has since been repeated in the media. I have checked the Hansard. It is alleged that I said, `Is that Prime Minister Muppeteer?’ That term, of course, has no meaning and makes no sense. More importantly, I did not say the word `Muppeteer’; I said `Mahathir’. I understand that the words sound very similar, and in the – to put it politely – active participation of many senators at that stage of question time it is quite understandable how Hansard would have made such a mistake or simply misheard. I have requested Hansard to ensure that their record reports what I actually said. I thank the Senate.

Hillary’s mailbag

There are two interesting – and remarkably similar letters this week.

One reads:

“Dear Hillary

“Have you or any of your readers noticed the similarity between the former deputy leader of the Australian Democrats, Aden Ridgeway, and new Queensland Liberal Senator Santo Santoro?

“Could they in any way be related?”

The second reads

“Dear Hillary

“Have you or any of your readers noticed the similarity between the recently returned Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, and Hymie, the Control robot, as featured in Get Smart?

“Could they in any way be related?”

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]