Governor-General Quentin Bryce and the election:

Lawyer Gregory Harris writes: Re. “Does GG Quentin Bryce have a conflict of interest?” (yesterday, item 4). In 1975 then High Court Chief Justice Garfield Barwick advised Governor-General John Kerr that the Prime Minister required the confidence of both Houses — whilst such advice was not necessarily justiciable (there was debate around Canberra that a number of then High Court Judges did not agree with Barwick and some were furious that he had even advised Kerr) because Supply has to  pass both the Reps and the Senate.

The only other precedent of a Chief Justice advising the GG was back in the 1910s and the PM consented to the GG getting such advice. Kerr sought Barwick out behind  Gough Whitlam’s back in 1975.

The point is the GG when exercising Reserve powers may follow conventions which are NOT legal precedents (and are not codified) and frankly the GG can appoint anyone  s/he chooses to be PM — the only proviso being that the PM  gets a seat in either house of Parliament within three months and who is to say the PM doesn’t get reappointed. Gorton was appointed PM in 1967 whilst a Senator, resigned from the Senate, hence then not a  member of Parliament whilst PM but successfully won deceased PM Holt’s seat in the subsequent bi election.

The point is there are no hard and fast rules — nothing in the Constitution, nothing in legislation and no case law — to date the High Court has not had to consider the GG’s reserve powers. This may be an opportunity for the Country to move in that direction.

Mungo MacCallum writes: Let’s kill the argument about the role of Governor-General Quentin Bryce before it takes off, and it has nothing to do with her in-laws. Julia Gillard remains prime minister until she loses her majority in the House of Representatives.

If she does not advise the GG to the contrary, she will be invited to form a government. If she then loses a vote of confidence in the house, the GG will send for Tony Abbott and ask him if he can command a majority. If he says yes he will be commissioned and will become Prime Minister until he too loses a vote of confidence.

Only if and when it is clear that neither side has the numbers will the GG call a new election.

Of course, either leader or both may come to this conclusion at any time and advise Quentin Bryce accordingly. But in practice she has no real options: it is only if the Senate causes an impasse between the houses, as happened in 1975, that her own discretion will come into play.

The Greens:

Andrew Bartlett, Greens candidate for the seat of Brisbane, writes: Re. “Where the battle was lost: even Labor stars relinquished the suburbs” (yesterday, item 15). In describing some of the electoral swings to the Greens, Luke Williams stated that “Along with Melbourne, the biggest swings were in the block of electorates crossing inner-city areas in Brisbane.”

Whilst I am the last person in the country who would want to downplay the swing to the Greens in Brisbane, it is worth noting that the seat with the biggest swing to the Greens in Queensland was not in the city of Brisbane at all, but rather on the Sunshine Coast. The swing to the Greens in the seat of Fisher was over 10 per cent.

After the seats of Brisbane (20.9%) and Ryan (19.1%) (which are mostly inner-urban, although part of Ryan stretches into areas quite a distance from the city centre), the next two strongest Greens seats were both Sunshine Coast based with Fairfax polling 18.1% and Fisher 16.1%. Inner urban areas do produce good results for the Greens, but there are also other areas where the party’s vote is growing strongly.

The election:

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re. “Power is within reach for Abbott — if he stops thinking it’s his right” (yesterday, item 1). Nothing Right, Nothing Left. The People have spoken. Neither Party has been held sufficiently worthy to govern.  It might well be said that the vote has been against government, but it does seem to me very much more against an outmoded party political system which has like great mill stones ground the political process very very small.

It has over the years become all too clear that instead of the Party serving the country, the country serves the Party. And it has probably not occurred to either Gillard or Abbott that they might do something really daring, and full of evolutionary fatefulness, and start talking to each other.

Whence for the first time a group of elected people, can be straightforward and honest, with their electorate and the country at stake, and not the Party. Such a small step, and all that follows from it, would represent a giant leap forward for Democracy and a true representation.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Labor needs fundamental change, not a line blaming leaks” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane thinks the rolling of Kevin Rudd by Labor MPs “may have exacerbated their problems”. “May have”?

Abbott is on the verge of government because of the collapse in Labor’s vote in Queensland. This was not replicated elsewhere, even in NSW, where Maxine McKew was the only sitting MP to lose her seat. How can anyone explain this anomaly? I do not believe the Queensland government is more unpopular than the NSW one!

Keane’s comparison of the election result with the opinion polls that led to Rudd’s downfall is misleading.  The election result came after a campaign. Gillard was running to stand still. Finally, for all the justified criticism of the NSW Labor Right machine, the fact is they do know how to win elections. Just ask Peter Debnam. And for all the talk about “powerbrokers”, it was the Federal Caucus who unseated their own Prime Minister.

This is not to say that sticking with Rudd wasn’t a problem, but getting rid of him was worse.

John Carmody writes: Kate Mathews Hunt (yesterday, comments) is perfectly correct. The standard of political reporting in Australia is appallingly low. This is partly through laziness and a disposition to a “pack mentality”. It is also because reporters are sent to Canberra far too young: when I was a student, the Canberra journalists were 40 or more years old.

These days the reporters seem barely out of university: they have no experience or memory and are obsessed by images. Of course their reporting will be uninformed by history, will be trivial and jejune. Furthermore, too many of them do not understand the distinction between reporting and opinion; too many want to be political participants, rather than reporters.

Journalism is not a place for self-described “King-makers”. Sadly, it’s an exaggerated reflection of the state of all of the Australian media. The three greatest German papers — also, I believe, the three greatest papers in the world [the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) and Die Zeit] are entirely different in these respects.

It is deeply regrettable that so few in Australia (journalists or readers) know so little of those great papers: they set a standard which our press should be emulating.

Debora Campbell writes: I totally agree with Kate Hunt Matthews: “After what can only be described as a dismal and disturbing five weeks, it is surprising to me that the media has so far failed to engage in a little self-analysis, to explore its role in what I call, the first media-corrupted federal election campaign.”

If the media, including Crikey, can’t accept significant responsibility for the corruption of this campaign we are all doomed to continue in this farcical manner for eternity.

Why has Crikey not demanded and published one on one interviews with Bill Shorten and Mark Arbib — they are the ones who turned this election into a sham in the first place. And as for speculation that people voted informal because of Latham — come on — many of us have doing it since Tampa — since a vote from the Greens in the lower house meant an extra vote for cowardly Labor — the suggestion that Latham’s rantings influenced anyone except the media themselves is a joke.

The media need to get their sh-t together: we the voters are all energised and commenting among ourselves leaving you jokers to wallow in your own self-deluding mire … we have left you behind.

It might be that fact, rather than any technological innovation, which helps to kill traditional media.

John Arthur Daley writes: I think that Crikey should hang its head in shame at the biased coverage of this election. Bernard Keane as well as MacCallum have been so Labor slanted that they lacked objectivity as they spewed out their hatred and ill informed comments on Tony Abbott.

As a subscriber I am personally examining my subscription in the light of this election outcome. The whole press establishment has jumped on  the ALP bandwagon with the relish of French revolutionaries taking aristocrats to the guillotine.

They and you have not served us well during the whole of this campaign because you did not confine yourselves to your real role as objective commentators.

Bruce Graham writes: Andrew Haughton (yesterday, comments) wrote: “Australia badly needs a longer fixed term Federal Government of at least four and preferably five years”.

Like NSW perhaps? So that the public could watch the rotten corpse of a former friend twist on its own noose,  becoming ever more foetid in the heat, without the knife with which to cut it down and give it a burial?

Of course, in Australia, the public only get hold of that knife when given, by the corpse, so the analogy is weak.

Fixed terms need to be balanced by some mechanism for recall.

If you want one, you want both.

Barry Everingham writes: Re. “McKew: ‘I don’t regret a minute of it’” (yesterday, item 11). Maxine McKew shouldn’t be too disappointed; she did a  great service to Australia by relegating John Howard to the scrap heap of history.

Who can forget the look of unbridled joy on Peter Costello’s face on that election night when it was obvious that Maxine had won Bennelong?

Abbott’s eulogising of the former Prime Minister was misplaced — the country didn’t want Howard , his own electorate tossed him out and now even the Cricket Board won’t wear him.

Rod Metcalfe writes: My First Dog on the Moon Calendar (bought at great expense and printed last year) puts Christopher Pyne on Thursday 26 August exclaiming: “And Now let the Wild Rumpus Start….”. What does FDOTM know and when did he know it?

Australia Defence Association:

Guy Rundle writes: Neil James (yesterday, comments) observes the rule of the front group, as suggested by the late great Willi Münzenberg, (whose chief Australian admirer appears to be Peter Coleman): always deny any link to the parent group, no matter how ludicrous. The suggestion that the National Civic Council had no role in developing the (ungrammatically named) Australia Defence Association is laughable.

The ADA was formed in Perth in 1975. In 1977, Michael O’Connor a Victorian NCC office-bearer became ADA Victorian secretary, and his NCC salary was transferred to the ADA as its operating subsidy.

In 1980 O’Connor wrote an options paper for the ADA, suggesting five future scenarios. As noted by Paul Ormonde (author of Santamaria: The Politics of Fear) in that crypto-Soviet journal Quadrant, Option One in that paper was “ADA is separated from the NCC. The subsidy factor is lost and the organization will decline in activity and influence…”, while option four stated “ADA separates from the NCC and raises sufficient money to replace the subsidy–about $10,000 or 50 company memberships…”.

The ADA did separate — when O’Connor left the NCC. In his words (also in Quadrant):

“Less than three years later in 1980, I departed from the NCC, taking with me all of ADA’s records and funds because they belonged to ADA. As far as I am aware, apart from my somewhat meagre salary, the NCC has never put any money into ADA. Santamaria’s response was to instruct all NCC members of ADA to quit. Most did; some did not. Since then, ADA and the NCC have had no contact.

Following the NCC’s abandonment of any involvement in ADA, much of the latter’s structure collapsed but that was no real problem because ADA could never be effective as an NCC-style operation.”

So the ADA was an NCC funded organisation, its records and funds managed within the NCC offices (for where else was O’Connor taking them from?) which nearly collapsed when its NCC cadres left. Yeah, Neil, no formal or informal connection, no front group there. Crikey readers should scrutinise Mr James’s future communiqués on Afghanistan etc with this dissembling in mind.