Straight shooting. Whatever else you may like to say about the Shooters Party in New South Wales, you have to admit that they shoot straight. They exist in politics as a pressure group and are not afraid to admit it. With them there is no pretending. They are in the business of blackmailing a government to further their cause — none of that nonsense that  the Greens go on with about treating every issue on its own merits and refusing to cross trade on issues.

Currently, the Shooters have an issue they care about and, on a separate issue that the Labor Government cares about, they find themselves in the happy position of having the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Just the time to act tough.

The government’s desire is to get repealed a provision, mischievously slipped in to legislation by the Opposition Liberal and National parties with broad third-party support, which imposes a $55,000 fine on any newspaper that publishes tables based on Australia-wide standard tests comparing school performance. In return for doing so, the Shooters Party demands that the Labor Party support legislation it wants, which would allow the hunting of feral animals in national parks and the creation of a game park in NSW.

There are many in the Labor Party’s ranks who are prepared to do just that but Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt and Education Minister Verity Firth fear their inner-Sydney seats would be under severe electoral threat should the government do the deal. The Greens are close enough to toppling them anyway without sending them more lefties disillusioned by grubby dealing with the gun lobby. Fearful of losing the support of the two ministers in his own battle to keep the job as Premier, Nathan Rees has so far said “no deal” although his minions have been desperately searching for a compromise.

Shooters Party members Robert Smith and Roy Brown are having none of that compromise business, which would still prevent the establishment of their desired game-park shooting gallery. “As far as I’m concerned there will be no deal until the Government takes on the entire Bill,” Mr Smith told the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday. “As far as we are concerned, it’s not a deal. My legislation is based on the Government’s own reviews of their own legislation. They are running scared of the Greens and they are playing political stunts. I have made it clear that we won’t be supporting their Bills.”

Meanwhile, the parents will have to wait and see whether newspapers consider $55,000 too much to pay to provide their readers with information about their children’s schools.

No team player. I’m not sure exactly what game Tony Abbott is playing of late but it’s certainly not a team sport. The Shadow Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, wants to speak with the freedom of the leader of the Opposition without having the responsibility of being one.

Nice work if you can get away with it, I suppose, but you normally can’t. Real leaders of political parties don’t allow it. If you want to be a front bencher you do what shadow ministers are meant to do — shadow a particular minister and be the spokesperson for the party on a particular subject. Abbott seems to know no such discipline. If Malcolm Turnbull continues to allow him to be an oracle about everything and everyone, it will surely end in tears.

A premier’s first anniversary. Just four more sleeps and Nathan Rees will have made it to his first anniversary as Premier of New South Wales. It was 5 September 2008 that he was plucked from obscurity to succeed Morris Iemma and not long afterwards that plotting to replace him began as well. Probably 7 September 2008 actually, for that was the day that new Premier Rees decided not to have the former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor, in his Cabinet.In the words of the Daily Telegraph at the time, the dumped minister “dropped a bucket on new Premier Nathan Rees, saying his Government was still captive to factional interests.” By 9 September the Tele’s political writer Simon Benson was warming to the task of writing challenge stories with that day’s headline being Rees fails his first test as Premier.

The sniping against Nathan Rees has continued ever since and the last month of August gives the flavour well enough and gives us all the evidence needed to draw the conclusion that most of the predictions made by political journalists about what is going to happen are best ignored.

So here we go with a summary taken from the daily Crikey Breakfast Wrap:

7 August 2009:

  • Ready to rumble – John Della Bosca is expected to challenge Nathan Rees’s leadership — possibly within weeks — after it emerged that the Health Minister was working to secure himself a lower house seat to enable him to become premier — Sydney Morning Herald
  • John Della Bosca plots to oust NSW Premier Nathan ReesSydney Daily Telegraph

8 August 2009:

9 August 2009:

  • Nathan Rees targets Della Bosca — Besieged Premier Nathan Rees will take disciplinary action against MPs trying to remove him from the leadership, with a ministerial reshuffle on the cards. Talks are being held this weekend between Mr Rees and ALP officials to determine what measures will be taken against those involved in the latest plotto sabotage his leadership. — Sydney Sunday Telegraph
  • Rees only has himself to blame — The Premier should take a look at his own performance before casting about for scapegoats, writes Lisa Carty in the Sydney Sun Herald

10 August 2009:

  • Cabinet reshuffle will punish Rees unfaithful — NSW Premier, Nathan Rees, will punish his enemies and reward supporters in a cabinet reshuffle, with the Minister for Police, Tony Kelly, and the Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, to be demoted or dumped — Sydney Morning Herald

11 August 2009:

  • Nathan Rees sharpening the axe — Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan is tipped to become the new police minister as Nathan Rees and his backroom masters try to save his premiership — Sydney Daily Telegraph

12 August 2009:

  • Premier’s polling to silence his rivals — Nathan Rees and senior Labor Party officials were last night desperately trying to head off a challenge to the NSW Premier by revealing they had used damning internal polling to ”kill off” leadership contenders. — Sydney Morning Herald

13 August 2009:

  • Rees in hands of Joe the gymnast — The future of the Premier, Nathan Rees, rests largely in the hands of the state’s most reviled politician, Joe Tripodi, whom senior Labor sources suspect is showing signs of shifting his support, giving further weight to the push to get rid of Mr Rees — Sydney Morning Herald

14 August 2009:

  • Right-wing hardmen too soft to save Rees — Powerful Labor insiders say Nathan Rees is “hopelessly exposed” because his two biggest supporters are struggling to retain their own influence within the party’s NSW parliamentary wing — Sydney Daily Telegraph

16 August 2009:

  • Nathan Rees: It’s not me, it’s you — Premier Nathan Rees says Sydney’s biggest problem is not his government, it’s people constantly talking the city down — Sydney Daily Telegraph

17 August 2009:

  • Rees riding on one wheel — Adam Walters writes in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that despite what Rees’ critics say about his ability to run the state, few could doubt his capacity to deal with conspiracies. He’s no stranger to them, even if he was to most of us just 12 months ago
  • Rees stuck as Shooters refuse to give an inch — Shooters Party MP Roy Smith is as emphatic as he is resolute. The Premier’s chief of staff, Graeme Wedderburn, and the Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, have been schmoozing him and his colleague Robert Brown in recent weeks to try to get them back on the Government’s side in voting in the upper house, all to no avail. The Shooters Party insists that the Government must agree to its bill, which would allow shooting in national parks, or face the the Shooters opposing many government bills — a situation that led to bizarre scenes two months ago when the upper house was shut down unadjourned after the Government lost control of it — Sydney Morning Herald

19 August 2009

20 August 2009:

22 August 2009:

  • Nathan Rees to call leadership ballot — NSW could have a new Premier by the end of next week with revelations embattled Nathan Rees may bring the NSW leadership crisis to a head as early as next Friday — Sydney Daily Telegraph

24 August 2009 –

25 August 2009:

  • Amid all the chaos, Nathan Rees goes on holidays — Premier Nathan Rees has taken a snap holiday in the middle of the leadership crisis, leaving the running of the state to the woman tipped to take his job in a spill — Sydney Daily Telegraph

26 August 2009:

  • Has anyone seen Premier Nathan Rees? — The Sydney Daily Telegraph reports that Nathan Rees’ Rees’ own staff yesterday made the stunning admission they don’t know where he is, as a key Labor powerboker told the embattled Premier his leadership is over.
  • Electorate waits to punish NSW Labor’s incompetence — Mark Coultan writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Rees Government’s insistence on a metro rail line to Rozelle is probably the greatest white elephant of recent times, easily dethroing that other pachyderm, a desalination plant no one wants and we do not need. That was a mere $1.9 billion down the drain. The Rozelle metro will cost $5.3 billion.

27 August 2009:

28 August 2009:

29 August 2009:

  • Nathan Rees plotting his revenge, enemies need TNT to blast him out of Premier job — Sydney Daily Telegraph
  • We need Rees like a hole in the head writes Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald. Rees’s only qualification for the job, according to one of many detractors in his party, is that he was a “westie” and not a “wog”.

30 August 2009:

  • Premier drowns sorrows with a lite on the hill — Premier Nathan Rees has gone in search of a little inspiration in Labor’s spiritual heartland. Yesterday, the leader downed a lite beer, or two, at the Coronation Hotel in Portland, near Bathurst — a district rich in ALP folklore — Sydney Sun Herald

Peter Fray

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