Apr 27, 2012

Matters for judgment for Labor MPs

Labor has increased the chances of an early election with its poor judgment over Andrew Wilkie.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

At some point over the course of the year, the ramifications of Labor's truly dire political position will sink in to those few remaining MPs who have succeeded so far in putting off deliberation about their fate next August. There'll be a Budget on 8 May, then four weeks of sittings, including Senate Estimates, then the winter recess. When parliament returns, it will be one year to go. One year to go to an election at which Labor will lose around 25 seats to a national swing of the kind on display on current polling. Needless to say, there won't be a uniform national swing. Queensland, currently, is a disaster area for Labor. Essential's polling, aggregated across several weeks, suggests Labor's primary vote in Queensland is around 28%. In WA (using a small sample size even in aggregation) it's 29%, with the Coalition on nearly 55%. In NSW Labor's vote is under 32%. The polling is bad enough to suggest the Coalition could take control of the Senate, although against that, the Greens only have three senate spots up for grabs and are polling well enough in Victoria, at over 12%, to be a strong chance of picking up an extra seat. Barry O'Farrell and Campbell Newman might also wear out their welcome with voters sufficiently by August next year to lift Labor vote off the floor in NSW and Queensland, but that's straw-grasping stuff. Much can happen between now and August 2013, of course. Just ask the Liberals about how things looked in November 2009. Much will need to change, for Labor. A very great deal indeed. But does Labor have until then? Notionally, the government solved that problem when it elevated Peter Slipper to the Speakership, giving itself extra insurance beyond that afforded by its agreements with the independents and the Greens. The defection of Slipper seemed to guarantee stability for the government until the election, even if it lost an MP along the way. But Julia Gillard cashed that particular insurance cheque in January, when she sent Andrew Wilkie packing, partly because of her concerns about the effect of the poker machine issue on her leadership. It was not, as the sporting types might put it, the percentage play. Not when everyone knew about Slipper, regardless of the conspiracy theories circulating about how he's been set up. The net effect was that Labor acquired the problem, well known to all, of Peter Slipper, and lost the support of Wilkie. A lose-lose. Now there's no insurance. Just a trail of allegations about the Speaker and one seriously p-ssed off Tasmanian. It brings the possibility of a successful vote of no-confidence closer again, and the resulting election -- because while Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie would be happy to support a Turnbull government, none of them are that keen on an Abbott government. Or Slipper might decide he's had enough and take his monumental parliamentary pension into retirement now rather than at next year's election, where he's guaranteed to lose. But we've been here before, haven't we? With questions about the Prime Minister's judgment, the one-step-forward-two-steps-back politics, the wondering when the government, which is commendably pursuing a sound reform agenda, will find some clear air or at least some workable tactics to get itself out of the hole it's in. We're in the prime pre-Budget season at the moment -- the dodgy "alternative Treasury" forecasts are starting to get their usual run in the papers -- and yet no one's talking about what will happen on 8 May. Instead, the press is forensically analysing Cabcharge vouchers, in the exact way they don't forensically analyse policy. Reforms are all very well, but if they don't stick they don't count. And much of Labor's legacy -- the NBN, the carbon price, the mining tax, FOFA -- is scheduled for demolition under the Coalition. It would be as if the Labor years never happened. All things for Labor MPs to reflect on as the cold closes in in Canberra over the coming months.

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103 thoughts on “Matters for judgment for Labor MPs

  1. Jenny Haines

    What can be said in comment Bernard. It is a bad situation, for Labor
    and I suspect the Greens, as , as you say, a Coalition Government
    will wipe away the progressive reform in this country of the last few
    years and it will be as though those years never happened. I can’t see
    any one event cutting through and changing the situation but it could
    be a long time to the next election if Labor can keep all the balls in the
    air, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, Andrew Wilkie, the rest of the Inde
    pendents. You do have to give the Gillard Government some credit for
    getting the juggling act called government this far. There may still be
    change of leaders on both sides before the next election. A week is a
    long time in politics much less a year! O’Farrell and Newman are
    obviously going to remind people pretty quickly how Coalition gov-
    ernments perform when in government, and it aint to look after
    ordinary working taxpayers. Then there may be some unforeseen
    events that may sway political opinion. I think Obama is going to win
    the American Presidency, a cautious progressive mood in the US
    which may infect Oz.

  2. Suzanne Blake

    Hi Bernard

    Its all over f0r dishonest Gillard. She has been given 30 days according to Richo, who would be in the know.

    There is NO WAY they will risk her at the next election.

    She is on her farewell tour overseas now and so is probably Swan.

    Good riddens

  3. David Allen

    Er, it’s ‘riddance’ Suzanne.

    This would be, what, the 403rd time you’ve proclaimed Gillard gone? I guess you’ll be right one day but I wouldn’t be contemplating taking up soothsaying professionally if I were you.

  4. rinaldo hernando

    do you think wilkie might be playing the “upper hand” card, so to speak? with the gov in such a precarious position he can afford a bit of bluster to get his reforms through, even though as you say the likelihood he’ll support an abbott led coalition government is low. also noticing abbott pushing for 457 visa’s this morning, wonder how that will look to the thousands of victorians who are now out of work, rather than find them a job (including re skilling) abbott’s saying he’d rather see cheap overseas labour in favour of business increasing their bottom line. i guess it won’t matter, they probably don’t vote coalition anyway….

  5. Pedantic, Balwyn

    @Jenny Victoria doesn’t have to wait any longer to find out how a Coalition government will operate. Even the Murdoch press (yes, truly) is throwing barbs over the complete lack of vision, action and general lethargy of the Bailleau Govenment.

    The saga of broken or half baked promises, ministerial incompetance and seeming dis-interest in economic policy goes on and on. The Nationals in the Coalition appear to be running the show; reversing any past policy for sustaining the environment and moving decision making-such as it is – in favour of the rich and greedy.

    The Federal Coalition is well matched to the current Bailleau model; full of populist promises, economically inept (can’t count), and a front bench lacking both wit and wisdom.

    An Abbott Government will no doubt mirror its Victorian counterpart. Beware

  6. JMNO

    In terms of what is actually important, that is, governing the country, Labor seems to be doing a pretty competent job, better than Howard really, given he was in power at a time when rivers of money were flowing and he could distribute largesse to keep voters happy. Yet their performance doesn’t seem to cut through and most of the media don’t seem particularly interested in reporting on it. Also some kind of ‘Who Weekly’ crisis seems to get confected each time the Government introduces a significant policy reform and the media predictably go off chasing the gossip and ignore the policy. Why have these Peter Slipper accusations surfaced now when it appears he has been sailing close to the wind for years? OK so he is Speaker, but the abuse of transport suspicions have been around for years. Are these gossip crises being orchestrated? Not a conspiracy theorist but just a bit suspicious.

  7. David Hand

    The other period that must be navigated between now and the election is the December killing season. For Labor to have any hope at all in 2013, Gillard will call a press conference and announce that for the good of the party and the government, with no outside influencing or shoulder tapping at all, she has decided to step down as leader.

    Shorten will then be welcomed to the leadership by acclaimation and have about 15 months to create a new brand. If she doesn’t do this, I expect the knives to come out in December.

  8. Suzanne Blake

    @ David Hand

    The knives will not wait until December, will be this Winter.

    30 days according to Richo, who seems on the mark quite often.

  9. Liz45

    I have a question or two? What if the dockets released by Peter Slipper are proved to be as he says – proof that he DID the right thing, then why doesn’t anyone not ask the obvious question. Is this another Liberal set up? Why did Peter Slipper wait until AFTER he became Speaker to botch his dockets? Strange! And why did the accusations re alleged sexual harassment happen AFTER he became Speaker? And why isn’t anyone casting aspersions against the accuser who allegedly has ‘form’ himself? Interesting isn’t it?

    What if we’re looking at a repeat performance of the Gridich affair? Only this time they think they’ve got a water tight case? Where was Senator Heffernan when all this was going on? Uhm? Remember the High Court Judge? Remember how those accusations went pear shape? Whose butt was kicked over that lot? Heffernan was kicked upstairs for a while or three, and then, back in glorious living colour once more?

    The Libs have heaps of form re playing dirty. All the little sanctimonious people are making me ill, both via Crikey, the airwaves and the print media! Pontificating pompous little p**s ants with dirt all over their grubbly little hands! If only Howard had such high standards when he was PM? He’d have lost a third or so of his front bench.

    Incidentally, what role did the Murdoch rags play in the Grenich affair? As opposed to now? Interesting isn’t it?

    I don’t sanction dishonesty or sexual harassment by anyone toward anyone for any reason. But, I really object to people taking the high moral ground on their opponents while having very slippery standards themselves. I hope someone has pointed out to Abbott, that if he DOES become PM(yuk yuk) then we’ll all be watching very, very closely! I give him no more than 6 months before something hits the fan!

    I predict that Abbott will make Worstchoices look like a stroll in the park by comparison. He’ll state that he has a mandate for almost everything! And, of course, like O’Farrell in NSW, Newman in Qld, and the Bailleau in Victoria, he won’t tell us what he’s going to do. There’ll be no maternity scheme anywhere remotely like he’s spruiking now; or payment for Nannies; or any other social justice programs that are happening now, such as the support for education/eradication of DV and sole parents, mainly women will feel the full force of his misogynist attitudes!

    @JMNO – My understanding of the accusations against Peter Slipper in the past proved to be BASELESS! I’m no supporter or non-supporter of Peter Slipper, I just have a queasy feeling about this lot! I wouldn’t trust Abbott out of sight in a blackout. By his own words, he’d do just about anything to live in the Lodge – including the sale of his a**e! Or so he said!

  10. Liz45

    Sorry, I think his name is Grinich? Or similar!

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