SA Senate and Greens preferences

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon writes: Re. “Bob Brown on Greens Senate preferences” (yesterday). Throughout the 2013 election campaign, Bob Brown made a series of claims about where preferences from the Nick Xenophon group would go to and where the Greens would send theirs. The Greens even went as far as taking out full-page newspaper ads, with the hysterical headline “Vote Xenophon, get Abbott” to spread their misinformation to the public. The Greens group voting ticket indicated something very different. Rather than giving preferences to the Nick Xenophon group as they claimed, my running mate Stirling Griff was given preference number 63 on the Greens group voting ticket — that’s just ahead of the Rise Up Australia Party, the Liberals and Stop the Greens but far behind Family First, mining magnate Clive Palmer’s party and even more incredibly — the No Carbon Climate Sceptics party. It seems Bob Brown is still in denial, yesterday saying: “Hanson-Young preferenced Xenophon but Xenophon didn’t preference her.”

I said at the time that I would rather lose an election than to have to lie to win. While Sarah Hanson-Young complained that I had done the wrong thing in not directing preferences her way when in fact I lodged two group voting tickets, but my preferences went exactly where I said they would — to my running mate.

I baulked at engaging with the Greens over preference deals because I became aware they were intending to shaft my friend and colleague, Tasmanian independent, Andrew Wilkie, by preferencing Labor ahead of him, despite his voting record being closely aligned with the Greens. For the Greens to claim any moral high ground in this issue is just incredulous.

Outgoing ALP Senator Don Farrell got it right at the declaration of the poll this week when he said: “If Sarah Hanson Young can get elected on the votes of Clive Palmer then I think we have to reconsider the way in which we do our preference arrangements.”  While he was referring specifically to future strategy for the Labor party, he touched a national nerve. Senate reform is urgently needed, and anything that will remove the influence and reach of these murky back-room deals will be good for our democracy.

That’s why I’ll be introducing legislation into the Senate for optional preferential voting above and below the line. Getting rid of group voting tickets will give the power back to the voters.

No surprises in ASIC’s selective blindness

John Richardson writes: Re. “Crikey says: ASIC should investigate itself” (yesterday). So, bribery, corruption and cover-ups in Leighton Holdings’ international construction empire were rife and known to top company executives and directors. So what? Who cares? This is Australia and “we’re open for business” — to every kind of crooked racket that money can buy. If our supposed corporate regulator, doesn’t give a toss about the bribery and corruption reaching to the most senior levels of the nation’s central bank, why would it care about the activities of a two-bit construction company? In the face of these latest allegations, the best ASIC can do is to claim that “it’s not our problem”, while the Australian Federal Police wring their hands and say they don’t have enough resources to investigate; meanwhile squandering tens of millions of dollars pursuing Peter Slipper to the ends of the earth!

ATO bumps up its surveillance activities

Peter Matters writes: Re. “The tax man is watching: new surveillance force for ATO” (yesterday). Since the days of Al Capone, it has been known that it is easier to catch the fruit of ill-gotten gains rather than the crimes themselves. This principle no doubt could well be applied to the current bikie gangs. However, there is little doubt that the vast majority of super rich pay a much smaller ratio of their earnings as tax than wage slaves. Most of this is due to perfectly legal tax evasion based on grossly outdated regulations — as no doubt indicated in the Henry Tax Review. Seeing that the previous government failed to take steps to remedy the situation, nobody would be fool enough to expect the current government to collect their proper dues amounting to quite a few billions of dollars from their mates.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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