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Aug 28, 2017


A perverse benefit of the citizenship ballsup currently facing the Turnbull government is that it could increase the number of female MPs in the Coalition’s ranks. Well, by one senator, but given the miserable state of affairs that’s better than nothing.

If or when the High Court invalidates the 2016 election of Nationals senator Matt Canavan, it’s likely the LNP’s Joanna Lindgren, the next candidate on the Coalition’s Queensland senate ticket, will be duly elected. Similarly, the Liberals’ Hollie Hughes will replace Fiona Nash in NSW.

That would bring the number of women in the Turnbull government from a paltry 21 to a measly 22 (or 26%).

As the academic (and columnist/presenter) Peter van Onselen noted earlier this year: “There are fewer women in parliament on the conservative side now than for a generation.”

Put another way, the Coalition has the same number of women in its entire lower house team (13 MPs) as Labor has on its frontbench (not counting the opposition’s extended retinue of shadow parliamentary secretaries).

The Coalition’s seeming inability to treat its own women equitably has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with its factions, which are dominated by men. These men ensure that other men are preselected for safe seats, while the women are relegated to those with marginal prospects.

In the lead up to the 2016 federal election, Nicolle Flint was the only women preselected to replace 14 retiring Coalition MPs. The two retiring women, Sharman Stone and Teresa Gambaro were replaced by men, while another man managed to oust former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop from her safe seat.

Flint was subsequently elected but is now one of six women in the Coalition’s bakers’ dozen that hold marginal seats and who will be cast off in the likely swing against the government at the next election. Flint’s margin is 3.5%, but four of the others are on less than 1.3%.

This is all mentioned as context for an interesting snippet about female Coalition MPs that emerged late last week. According to the media report, Sarah Henderson, who is another of the Coalition’s most marginal seat holders (at 3.1%), has established a group for Coalition women on the instant messaging service WhatsApp. Four of the five women holding the other most marginal seats were listed as being members of the group.

The story implies the group is somehow “secret”, although the same media organisation carried a story 10 months ago noting WhatsApp was widely used by Coalition MPs and staffers. Not only were Malcolm Turnbull and his cabinet ministers reportedly using WhatsApp to “conduct confidential discussions” but private chat groups were also being used on the platform by “government chiefs of staff, ministerial media advisers, the frontline economic team”.

So, it hardly seems newsworthy that the messaging service is also being used for a group of Coalition women. However, according to the journo who received the “leaked” screenshot of the chat group in action, the leak “suggests an unhappiness with an emergence of so-called identity-based factions within the Coalition, rather than on traditional ideological lines like wet or dry”.

You can take that as code for at least one female conservative MP not being happy with the Coalition establishing anything that might resemble Emily’s List, Labor’s leading women’s spruiker.

The obvious response to that apparent concern is that ideologically-based factions clearly aren’t delivering equitable outcomes for Coalition women, so it’s well past time to try something else.

The irony is the last time an “identity-based” faction of this type was established within the Coalition, it was by arch-conservative Peta Credlin. Credlin created a network for female Coalition staffers reportedly in response to the lack of women who came to her defence following Clive Palmer’s appalling attack on the then chief of staff over Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme.

And yes, the keynote address at the network’s launch (to which the Coalition’s most senior woman, Julie Bishop, was not invited), was the Minister for Women himself, Tony Abbott.

If Credlin can see the merit in employing identify politics to astroturf her own support base, why not use it for an actually worthy cause — such as ensuring that Coalition women in parliament do not go the same way as the dodo.

To survive, let alone be part of an Australian government that can reflect the diversity of the nation it serves, female Liberal and National MPs are going to need more than an app for that purpose. They need a way to cut through the factional power that is being exercised by men to further the interests of other men.

Labor is no less exposed to this homogenisation risk, but the tendency has been moderated somewhat by the party’s quota system and an albeit inconsistent willingness by its leadership to step in to protect valued female MPs. The Don Farrell’s of this world continue to slip through, but it would be fair to say that Labor would not be where it is today without a quota to protect the interests of women.

Coalition women need more than an app — they need a quota.


Jul 12, 2017


Was Robert Menzies a liberal or a conservative? How is the Liberal Party liberal and conservative at the same time? What’s a liberal and a conservative anyway? What’s that strange creature, a “liberal conservative”, which Tony Abbott calls himself?

For most voters, this is an arcane debate. For many voters, it will be entirely meaningless; they won’t have the faintest idea who this Menzies bloke is, so the complaint that discussing your party’s ideological origins is mere “navelgazing” probably doesn’t have much substance — voters have to know that it’s a navel that’s being gazed at in the first place. More likely is the possibility — horrific as it might be to the government — that voters have simply tuned out.

Matter of fact, however, Turnbull’s reflections on the origins of his party, and more particularly the context — despite denials — of targeting Tony Abbott, are relevant. We keep banging on about it here, but it’s important: we’re at the most important ideological juncture in over 30 years. The neoliberal consensus has fractured, crushed under the weight of corporate self-indulgence and the reaction against globalisation. Politicians are scrambling to play catch-up with voters. Some on the right, like Turnbull or Theresa May, have been shunted to the left by the an experience of political mortality. Others, like the Republicans and even many Democrats in the US, think they can get away with business as usual — which in the US means facilitating ever more corporate avarice and economic war on the poor.

[Turnbull finishes the week with a trophy for his shift to the centre]

But confusing the issue is that none of this is a simple matter of “moving left”, even if that’s an accurate shorthand for what Turnbull has had to do this year. That’s based on the assumption that neoliberalism can be located perfectly on the “right” end of the ideological spectrum. Except some of its features cannot be. Globalisation has long been an aspiration of many parts of the left (using the “cultural” rather than industrial left), which support open borders and enabling refugees to move to wealthier countries. Large corporations love globalisation for exactly the same reasons — it helps drive wages down by constantly threatening workers in the developed world with competition from a vast pool of cheap labour. And neoliberalism is based on only one value — your economic value as a consumer and producer. Your identity is irrelevant. Your sexuality, race, gender, doesn’t matter. In fact, companies are only too happy to support, say, marriage equality — that “pink dollar” (yes, that’s an actual thing) is worth a trillion dollars.  Not to mention that while the left obsesses over identity politics, it’s distracted from the task of developing a coherent and effective critique of neoliberalism.

So on both open borders and on social values, neoliberalism is antithetical to the conservatives who can usually be found enthusiastically endorsing it.

This isn’t a new problem created by the death rattles of neoliberalism, but embedded in it. That’s why Tony Abbott and his ilk, while demanding that the government move in a more economically “conservative” direction — by which they mean a more neoliberal direction, involving smaller government and less regulation, the usual pabulum — are also demanding that the government move in a more “left” direction by intervening in the energy market to build and operate coal-fired power stations, an outright socialist policy. How can a government-owned coal-fired power station be either “liberal” or “conservative”? The absence of a coherent answer to that question illustrates the incoherence of Abbott’s position (which is, in any event, about destabilising his enemy, not some quest for ideological purity) but also the problematic nature of defining what’s going on strictly in terms of where things fit on the left-right spectrum.

[Poll Bludger: the accidental overnight success of Cory Bernardi]

Abbott, similarly, has joined with the Hansonites and other racists in calling for a halt to immigration. Again, this is decidedly not neoliberalism. But one of the biggest failures of neoliberalism is its incapacity to address localism and tribalism, in its demand for open borders and its reduction of everyone on the planet to an economic value. Addressing the reaction to that has forced governments to shift to the right in closing borders — in the UK’s case, with Brexit; in the US, with Trump railing against free trade and threatening to “build a wall”; in Australia’s case, with a bipartisan crackdown in 457 visas under the mantra that Australians should have first go at jobs here.

The fact that the industrial left backs this doesn’t detract from the fact that it is essentially a right-wing reaction. If the 457 visa issue had been handled like many on the left want asylum seekers handled, Turnbull and Dutton would have done what their predecessors did: devoted themselves to leading the public on the issue, explaining the benefits of allowing large numbers of foreign workers in and showing how they are no threat to Australians. That’s how corporate Australia would like the issue to be handled. But it was not to be — especially when Labor began using the issue systematically against the Coalition in exactly the same way as the Coalition used asylum seekers against Labor.

Another version of what Turnbull said in London is that it was a frank admission that the Liberal Party has been deeply confused about what it actually is ever since neoliberalism triumphed. But for the moment, the end of neoliberalism isn’t helping to clarify things much either.

New South Wales

Oct 13, 2015


NSW Young Liberals with PM Malcolm Turnbull. (Source)

A motion to discipline a member of the New South Wales Young Liberals for disagreeing with Liberal policies on Facebook has blown open long-underlying resentments about the freedom of Liberal members in the state to speak openly about party policy and culture.

Crikey has spoken to numerous Young Liberal members in Sydney and elsewhere who have slammed the NSW division’s increasing control over the way its members interact on social media. Their resentment has most recently focused on a motion on the agenda for the next NSW Young Liberal Council, which calls on the Young Liberal executive to refer university student Kerrod Gream to the state executive for disciplinary action after comments he made on Facebook. Supporters of Gream have told Crikey his main crime was to robustly criticise the state government’s lock-out laws. The motion proposed puts things somewhat differently — it refers to his “online and personal abuse towards state and federal Liberal party parliamentarians” and criticisms of “the Liberal brand” and “internal party processes” as bringing the party into disrepute, thus putting him in contravention of the New South Wales media policy that covers party members.

The motion proposed on the agenda of the October 20 NSW Young Liberal Council meeting

Gream declined to comment to Crikey. It’s not clear who proposed the motion, which has no mover on the agenda paper. Our attempts to reach NSW Young Liberal president Alex Dore were unsuccessful.

But Crikey understands the motion has provoked a great deal of concern in Liberal circles in NSW and across the country. Member for Hornsby Matt Kean, one of the politicians Gream criticised on social media, is understood to have signalled his opposition to moves to discipline the Young Liberal. Other state Young Liberal bodies have also signalled their distaste for the motion, as has national Young Liberal president Simon Breheny.

“It’s antithetical to the Liberal Party,” said one NSW Young Liberal member who asked to remain anonymous. “Frankly it’s embarrassing,” said a Young Liberal from outside New South Wales. All those Crikey spoke to said the NSW Liberal Party had a tradition, now increasingly enforced for social media comments, of policing what members say in their personal capacity. It’s frequently used as a political tool — referring factional enemies for a slap-down from head office over policy disagreements is not something that would happen in other states, where media policies normally only police those who have explicit spokesperson roles within the Liberal Party.

It isn’t only Young Liberals who frequently fall foul of the media policies. Over the weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Patricia Shields, who was elected to the NSW Women’s Council last week, had resigned from both the Council and the party after Fairfax asked questions about anti-Muslim and far-right material on her Facebook page. After Fairfax started asking questions about Shields of Tony Nutt, the NSW Liberal Party state director (and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “director of transition“), the outlet was told an hour later she’d resigned.

Meanwhile John Ruddick — a high-profile advocate of direct election of the federal Liberal leader by rank-and-file members, and candidate for the Liberal Party presidency in 2014, resigned from the party two weeks ago — after penning an opinion piece in The Guardian about the need for party reform.

One of those who has spoken most publicly in opposition to the motion proposed at the NSW Young Liberal council is Alex Butterworth, a former president of the Australian Liberal Students Federation and the Western Australian Young Liberals. Now living in New South Wales, he resigned from the NSW Liberal Division last August, after he received a reprimand from Nutt. The call was prompted by a piece Butterworth wrote on right-wing blog Menzies House about why Julie Bishop wouldn’t make a good prime minister (because she has no stated policy positions of her own, he argued).

Butterworth tells Crikey his conversation with Nutt went something like this: “[Nutt] said to me that he had the ability to suspend me. In this case he wasn’t going to as long as I gave an undertaking not to criticise any state or federal MPs on social media platforms while a member of the NSW division.” Butterworth wasn’t willing to agree to this, so he resigned his membership of the NSW division. He’s still a member of the WA division of the Liberal Party, which he says has far more palatable rules around free speech.

Now somewhat more free to speak out publicly than most, Butterworth wrote another post on Menzies House yesterday slamming the attempts to silence Gream:

“It is symptomatic of a culture that seeks to silence robust policy debate. It is a culture that seemingly only exists in the New South Wales Liberal Party, while other states and territories actively encourage rigorous policy debate both inside and outside party forums …

“While other state and territory divisions of the party relish the challenge of policy debate, there is a chilling effect that occurs in New South Wales because of the media policy. The ‘tall poppies’ who express a view are torn down. Others don’t dare to say anything for fear of a similar fate. Those who fight the culture are sidelined and pushed out, no matter how distinguished their past service to the party has been.”

Speaking to Crikey, Butterworth said he had no issues with the Liberal Party aiming to keep those who represented it explicitly in line with the party line. But he said the media policy in New South Wales was being used against rank-and-file party members, preventing them from speaking in a personal capacity. Butterworth is a lawyer, and he says he can see situations where such a policy would prevent him or others from acting in a professional capacity in their representations of others. He also says the media policy is not applied uniformly. “Usually it comes down to your ability to pull strings behind the scenes.

“While I have a lot of friends in WA, I don’t have as many here in New South Wales. So the rules came down on me. And they’re coming down on Kerrod [Gream] because he’s a young, passionate person.”

“And there is a pattern of this. It’s not an isolated incident. And it’s not just grumpy young Libs — it has been happening for a long time across all members of the party, and different parts of the party, from moderate to conservative. And it’s really stifling healthy debate.”

Western Australia

Aug 28, 2015


With three weeks to go until the most important byelection in recent history, both sides are preparing the groundwork to spin the result, whatever it might prove to be.

Labor’s tactics ahead of the Canning poll on September 19 are easy enough to understand. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten reportedly put it to caucus a fortnight ago that a swing to Labor of a mere 2.5% was the benchmark by which his performance should be judged, based on the supposed record of byelections brought on by the deaths of sitting members.

Should the result fall short of expectations for Labor, Shorten at least will clearly have his lines rehearsed.

The Prime Minister, however, took a less intuitive tack on Tuesday when he told reporters that if they were in the market for a gauge of his government’s standing in the electorate, the Canning byelection would be “real in a sense that other indicators aren’t”.

Facing what is being hyped as a test of his immediate job security, it seems more than a little odd that Abbott should risk setting himself up for a fall in this way.

One all-too-possible explanation is that a tough line of questioning about yet another bad opinion poll had him grasping at whatever straw happened to be available.

If so, one need only look to the historic relationship between polling and byelection results to get a sense of the danger of such an approach.

Based on observation of 45 federal and state byelections over the past 25 years that were contested by both major parties, a government can ordinarily expect an adverse swing of 2.3%, even if polling suggests no change on the previous election result. On top of this, an extra 1.4% can be anticipated for every percentage point of swing indicated by the polls conducted at the time.

Given that most of the federal poll aggregators currently in business find the Abbott government staring down the barrel of a swing of around 7%, the implied swing for the Canning byelection is around 12% — almost exactly equal to the late Don Randall’s winning margin in 2013.

It should be noted that this model only explains about 46% of the variability in the observed results, leaving plenty of room for byelections to be influenced by their own unique circumstances.

The 26.1% swing that buffeted Barry O’Farrell’s government in New South Wales at the Miranda byelection of October 2013 was fully 14% higher than what the model would have predicted, while the slight swing in the Abbott government’s favour last February when Kevin Rudd pulled the plug in his Brisbane seat of Griffith went 9.5% the other way.

These results might respectively reflect the self-indulgent manner in which Miranda MP Graham Annesley pulled the plug on his political career to take up a job as chief executive of the Gold Coast Titans NRL club (and perhaps also the inspired campaign tactics of emergency services unions), and the dissipation of Kevin Rudd’s strong personal vote.

A parallel for the latter circumstance has been widely noted in Canning, with Senate and state election results suggesting that Don Randall was punching above the Liberal Party’s weight to the tune of around 6%.

Countering this is Bill Shorten’s point about the distinctiveness of byelections caused by the deaths of sitting members, which was presumably informed by the weak 3.7% swing to Labor in the Melbourne seat of Aston in July 2001, triggered by the death of Liberal MP Peter Nugent. The Libs held the seat, providing a welcome morale boost for the Howard government after the 9.7% swing that cost it the Brisbane seat of Ryan the previous February.

Long-range analysis by psephologist Kevin Bonham fails to find much evidence for such an effect, but changes in politicians’ career patterns in recent decades mean there are precious few modern examples to go on.

A more direct measure of the state in play in Canning has been provided by three polls that have emerged over the past fortnight, each of which appears to show the result going down to the wire.

The most recent was a ReachTEL poll conducted for the United Voice union and published in The West Australian on Tuesday, which credited Labor with a razor-thin lead of 50.1-49.9 on two-party preferred.

Most media outlets were happy to run with the headline two-party figure, a close game being a good game from a journalistic perspective. However, the primary vote numbers from the poll had the Liberals with a formidable lead of 14%, which Labor was able to close due to an 85% share of all minor party and independent preferences — not something you should ever expect to see replicated in a real-world election.

If Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie can indeed score the 47.3% primary vote the ReachTEL poll credited him with, Tony Abbott will be breathing a very deep sigh of relief come the evening of September 19. And if the Liberal Party’s internal polling is giving him cause to think such a result might be plausible, his eagerness to be judged by the byelection rather than Newspoll becomes a lot easier to understand.


Aug 17, 2015


Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Independent MP Cathy McGowan hug Coalition MP Warren Entsch following the introduction of the same-sex marriage bill

Tony Abbott is being alternately praised and cursed for shunting the same-sex marriage issue to a public vote — whether referendum or plebiscite. The jubilation on the part of those who want it delayed at all costs would seem to be wishful thinking. The bizarre suspension of whatever the vote would be until next term simply emphasises the growing public apprehension of this government — that it is deceitful, sly and holds the intelligence of the public in contempt.

That is, of course, Mr Tony’s doing. The man is not merely willing to play fast and loose to get what he wants, he is addicted to it. He leaks against his own cabinet on issues such as removing citizenship, he stacks against his own party room on an issue like same-sex marriage. There is a strong sense that he can’t help himself but do these things. Conservative Catholicism, and especially the seminary, has given him two things: a belief that the Christian order is being threatened by nihilistic secularism, and a confidence that the doctrine of Original Sin gives you carte blanche to lie and scheme in the service of a higher cause.

Genuine liberals in the Coalition appear willing to be dragged along this path, even though Abbott now offers no advantage with the voters — and indeed, may be less popular than any post-spill leader would be, memories of Rudd/Gillard or no. Well, rather you than us. At some point, circumspection becomes simple cowardice, and that is not a good way to go out backwards, as seems increasingly likely.

But should Mr Tony stay, what then for same-sex marriage? From those campaigning for it, there was initial frustration that a parliamentary vote had been forestalled. But over the weekend, it started to become clear to people that this was a gift, not a problem. If there really is a solid majority for same-sex marriage out there, then a plebiscite would give it a legitimacy that could not be questioned.

Abbott’s move to a plebiscite had more than one purpose, but one was to jam up the pro-gay marriage movement, based on the last triumph — that of Ireland, where same-sex marriage was achieved by a referendum on a constitutional amendment. That referendum was a plebiscite as well, a straight majority win on a “yes” or “no” question. The support given to it by the pro-gay marriage movement across the world — as the first popular achievement of same-sex marriage — had a patronising touch about it, at times. Priest-ridden old Ireland, lookatem, etc, etc, became plucky old Ireland, a modern people staring down the old establishment. So to disregard a plebiscite here is not a good look, no matter how it came about.

In fact the pro-gay marriage movement should not only get behind a plebiscite, they should demand one in this term of Parliament. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be done in November — organising one isn’t rocket science, and the question to put would be straightforward. But if not November, March would be the go. Of course, to actually have a plebiscite requires a majority in Parliament, which isn’t there. But Abbott has opened the gate for the campaign for same-sex marriage to become a campaign for a plebiscite.

This would appear to be a massive own goal for the conservative right. For years, their insistence has been that the same-sex marriage push is a cause manufactured by the elites to be foisted on the wider population. Leaks from the 191-hour party room meeting suggested that some cultural rightists, such as Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, argued that polling showing 72% support for same-sex marriage was soft and disguised a silent majority. That’s been rubbished by people such as political strategist and pollster Mark Textor. And they’d have to be not merely soft but marshmallow to disguise a secret trad-marriage majority. In such calls one hears the same wistful thinking as was present in the 2012 US election — that the polls were skewed, and Obama could not possibly have a majority. It is the old world painfully adjusting to the new reality.

Now things have been reversed. The conservative right are trying to delay and frustrate the verdict of the people. The pro-gay marriage campaign has become a democratic campaign. Introducing the entirely new element of a plebiscite — presumably with a view to turning it into referendum, to be defeated by Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania — has given the pro-gay marriage campaign an opportunity to make a final fusion of their cause with the mainstream. It’s a gift and should be regarded as such.

There now isn’t any good reason for the pro-gay marriage campaign not to get behind a “Plebiscite Now” push. Yes, the easier path would be a conscience vote by all parties. But the rationale for the conscience vote underlines the rationale for a plebiscite. The issue of marriage is an “incommensurable” one — it doesn’t map onto any simple left-right, or even liberal-conservative division. Cute phrases like “marriage equality” don’t disguise the fact that redefining the essence of marriage is a major cultural event. Marriage predates the state and just about everything else in cultures.

For those who see same-sex marriage as the flagship of progressivism, a plebiscite in a country like Australia would be a major milestone. Ireland is a country where religious and secular forces have fought themselves to a draw; abortion remains near-totally illegal, divorce is difficult, the Church retains substantial control over education. There was no other path to same-sex marriage but a popular vote. In Australia, a secular irreligious country, it is not politically necessary — and, in that respect, it would serve as an extra gazumping to the conservative forces. The “silent majority” model would be instantly dispelled; a victory would entirely re-situate cultural politics in this country.

Personally, I’ve got no dog in this fight. I don’t think same-sex marriage — as opposed to fully equal civil unions — means anything much, least of all a genuinely progressive or radical cause. But one is always interested to see the conservative forces suffer a fresh blow. It might also force some of them to dig out some better arguments than the people-will-group-marry-fuschias sort of thing, and to make clear some of the notions that would underpin a conservative case for marriage.

The difficulty for them is that once you’ve talked about traditional marriage in material terms — that, focused on procreation, it is the means by which cultures anchor themselves in nature, and put the miracle of life at their centre — you’re halfway down the road towards abolishing it. Indeed, once same-sex marriage becomes thinkable by a proportion of the population, it is halfway on the way to being won.

So what do the pro-gay marriage crowd have to fear? I suspect many understand that the right are well organised at their grassroots, while the pro-gay marriage movement has been far more sporadic. Much of the initial push, years ago, was done by the Democratic Socialist Party, the most cultural-social-movement of the Trot groups, and organised old-skool, i.e. with people willing to work hard to make change. Without a core force to push this forward during a campaign, the right could well steal a surprise victory, in a vote in which getting the turnout would be as vital as making the argument.

Of course, the easiest solution would be a new Labor government and a free vote in the house. But a “Plebiscite Now” campaign would assist that too, especially as the Abbott government will use what remains of the credibility of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption to paint Labor as a bunch of gangsters which, heh, of course they aren’t, I was never there, heard nothing. Having a constant reminder of Abbott’s duplicity in the lead-up to the election would add a few points to the splendidly developing loathing of him that is currently underway. Whether conceived as an offensive or defensive strategy, there really isn’t any alternative but to demand a plebiscite, now.


Aug 13, 2015


A case of potable beer to Josh Taylor, Crikey’s own decryption device, who yesterday sifted for sense through the logical debris left on the floor of the Coalition party room after its debate-slash-Mel-Gibson-fanclub-summit. Taylor patiently recounts the “arguments” that would oppose same-sex marriage legislation and a conscience vote on such, and we can only imagine that this necessary labour was about as rewarding as a full-price session of The Passion of the Christ.  Which, incidentally, is a supremely homoerotic film. There has never been a hotter, more naked Jesus.

And rarely in the history of the Coalition has there been greater effort made to dress scorching hostility in the cool garb of reason. As Taylor points out, the concealment of this hot, naked hate for homosexual practice failed on Tuesday night. Argument like “we don’t want to upset our constituents” just doesn’t work when surveys on support for same-sex marriage dependably work their way up to unanimity. Argument like “gay people don’t want to get married, anyhow” just doesn’t work because when, after all, has a Coalition government ever given a solitary fuck for what queer people want? There has, to my fair knowledge of gay lib history, never been a single piece of legislation advanced by a Coalition government on behalf of homosexual citizens. The Coalition never moved to decriminalise homosexuality. The Coalition never thought to change visa laws for same-sex partner immigration. Labor can lay claim to passing all the most significant, and even the least significant, reforms on the matter. And, while we’re hard at the political past, Liberal Philip Ruddock can be always remembered as the guy who failed to pass a recommended suite of legislative changes during his term as attorney-general and he who introduced the “Marriage is Between a Mel and a Woman” amendment to the Marriage Act in 2004. I urge all homosexual flight attendants to withhold Ruddock’s warm nuts the very next time he takes a subsidised flight to Perth.

It is not surprising that the Mels and women of the Liberal and National parties who have been for so long so formally opposed to homosexual practice should continue to argue against it. Equally, though, it’s not surprising that the arguments they use to maintain this antique opposition sound stupid, even to them. The arguments sound bad because, unlike a National, a Liberal cannot, in the current era, truly believe them. Even if Liberal parliamentarians hate the idea of homosexuality, they are ideologically bound to hate the idea of rights violations much, much more.

Sure, you can be a Liberal and be repulsed by the idea of two blokes going at it hammer-and-tongs with a blessing from the state. But you can’t ultimately be an electable Liberal and reject the idea of neutrality before the law with so many people shouting “equal love!” at your party, to which a mythic legal equality is fundamental.

It is absolutely crucial for a functioning Liberal to uphold the fairytale of equality as a solely legal matter. A Liberal must be able to not only say but believe that a program like WorkChoices is about choice and equal opportunity. You have the “right” to be screwed by your employer and there is no legal hurdle in your way. A Liberal must be able to say, with a straight face, that the fact of many individuals struggling financially is an individual fault. You have the “right” to make piles of money and there is nothing in our just and neutral law that prevents it. Our law contains no immediately visible trace of discrimination and so, if the public machinery can’t be held to blame for the shit you’re in, it must be your private fault. Why don’t you just buy a house? Loser.

The idea of the fair state that legislates chiefly to erase impediments to freedom is Liberal 101. It’s bullshit, of course, to believe that discrimination can only be meaningfully managed by government through legal means. Discrimination, in my basic fuck-the-Liberals view, is best managed in a liberal democracy by astute programs of wealth redistribution. Affording equal legal status to all does not create or even promote equal social or economic status and, if you don’t believe me, return to 1967 and come report back on how much life for Aboriginal Australians statistically improved. Spoiler: it didn’t.

This is not to support a constitutional clause explicitly exempting government from giving a shit. It is, however, to say, as a zillion critics of rights-based governance have, that the law is no guarantor of justice. In fact, the implementation of legal rights can, and often does, perform the opposite function. If the state can say it has removed all legal barriers to equality, your actual lack of it is all your fault. Why doesn’t your gender collect more superannuation? Loser.

It is difficult to remember that a rights-based approach that prizes individual liberty and says “we are all equal before the law” is malarkey. Or that legal equality was seen as antagonistic by leftist thinkers since ever there were leftist thinkers. Nowadays, even those who claim in their social media bios that they are further to the left than a fish fork love the idea of rights in law.

People really, truly think neutrality in law will make an important difference, and they recently gave praise to the US Supreme Court in rainbow colours. That they performed this liberty paint-job in the same week the Supreme Court upheld the “right” of the state to administer lethal injections and the “right” of corporations to fart their waste into the air didn’t matter. That they were celebrating the loss of domestic partnership employee entitlements to those same-sex couples who elect not to wed didn’t matter, either. That locals were rejoicing in the “freedom” of US lives that are, even for persons in homosexual relationships, far less functionally free than Australian lives was, somehow, irrelevant. Because FREEDOM.

For all the tedious rhetoric about finally being able to visit one’s critically ill same-sex partner in hospital, few Australians seemed to remember that (a) we can do that here anyhow and (b) about 37 wealthy Americans can currently afford to die in hospital. Of course, if you can’t afford to die in hospital, it is all your fault. Why don’t you sell that house you foolishly bought and get some insurance? Loser.

This is not to actually oppose amendment to the Marriage Act, and it is not even to feign confusion at its popular support. Just a few minutes on YouTube looking at videos of healthy, happy, handsome, lily-white gay men crying with connubial joy makes the whole “equality” thing easy to understand. Certainly, such legislation would make some people happy, and possibly, it will create a mini-boom in sale of those same-sex cake toppers I sincerely hope the copy editor doesn’t use to illustrate this fucking story. I even occasionally find myself wishing marriage laws would change so that we can all see, for the Nth time since the Enlightenment, that people don’t become more equal just because the state makes equality legally possible. Otherwise, I don’t give a crap.

But the people who should give a crap are those 80,000 sufficiently deluded and/or aspirational to join the Liberal Party. If these twits are to prosper or even to retain power, they simply must board the rainbow train. They must not permit the moral prejudices of a previous age to impede their speed toward neoliberal evil. If they allow the illusion of legal equality to shatter, they’ll find no mirror to lie to them about their ideological beauty.

There are, as I count them, three reasons to campaign for marriage equality. I list them in ascending order of ugliness.

First, there’s the curious urge to have one’s most intimate relationship ratified by the state. And again, a rubber stamp is all that marriage will provide. Thanks to the work of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby and the good sense of the Rudd government, all Commonwealth acts were emptied of material and legal discrimination toward same-sex couples in 2008.

Second, there’s the need les bourgeoises have to inject their dull lives with a spark every now and then. Just as well-to-do white people like to bring hip hop music written in parts of Los Angeles they would never visit to their Audi sound systems, well-to-do straight people like to bring charitable tolerance for transgression to their dinner table.

Finally, there’s the need neoliberalism has to seem, above all, fair and equal. If there ever were a Liberal cause, this is it. Which is to say, it’s a legal pantomime whose widow wonders where “justice” has gone while her faithful audience screams “it’s right behind you!”. This cheap and crowd-pleasing promise of absolutely nothing dressed up to look like equality is the electoral boost Abbott needs. For the sake of true equality, let’s hope his numb hate continues to thwart his public ambition. And his private defeat will be all his fault. Loser.


Aug 3, 2015


Liberalism, as a philosophy, argues that the individual is before the collective, and that the bedrock of meaning and morality is that said individual is autonomous and responsible for their own decisions. Under this doctrine, the poor are blamed for being “leaners, not lifters”, people campaigning against racism are urged not to play the victim, and so on and on.

But when Liberal parties are threatened, that all goes out the window. The former speaker Bronwyn Bishop, finally deposed following revelations that she took a $6000 plane trip from Sydney to Nowra — imagine wanting to get to Nowra quicker! — was not at fault, her friend and ally Tony Abbott said. It was the system what was to blame.

He did not say under what system it is reasonable to take a $5000 helicopter flight that shaves 10 minutes off a journey to Geelong — imagine wanting to get to … oh, I’ve done that one — or how Bishop became a passive victim of its processes. Playing the victim card had been the last ditch defence last week, when Bishop appeared for a second presser on the matter, standing among the journos, rather than pontificating regally from a podium.

The pearls were gone and so was the north shore swagger — all she needed to complete the no-doubt planned pose of Confused Old Lady Having Difficulties With Eftpos was a floral print shopping jeep. Boo Labor, attacking a Poor Old Lady. Didn’t work. By the time the Nowra flight was revealed, she had entered Imelda Marcos territory. Whatever political capital Abbott might have salvaged by getting her to go this weekend has been depleted by the claim of victimhood. The poor are welfare-dependent and must be “breached” regularly; the rich and powerful can’t help themselves.

The other part of Abbott’s victimhood argument is that the entitlements system needs reform. Which it does. Clive Palmer and Andrew Wilkie are saying that the process of choosing a speaker needs reform. Which it does. The voting process for the Senate needs reform. The constitution needs reform as regards race powers and recognition, people say. The state/territory/federal system needs reform. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

The plain fact is that the whole of Australian governance needs reform. More than reform. Reflection, debate and democratic transformation as a whole rather than a series of parts. Currently, we are putting patches on the patches that have been put on a 19th-century system, designed for a commonwealth dominion within a white-skin empire, our major cities connected by several days’ sailing. Two governments in the past quarter-century have ruled with a minority of the votes, abrogating to themselves the elected dictatorship powers over executive action, domestic regulation and foreign policy that a government enjoys. That result arose from an archaic single-member electorate system, a democratic adaptation of the English squirearchy.

In 1949 we acquired a democratic Senate by accident, when a modified Hare-Clark system was introduced. In 1984, with the addition of a one-tick above-the-line voting process, we set it up to be a political casino, a possibility finally acted on in 2013, with the election of a Keystone Krossbench. Our donations system is a free-for-all, which privileges invisible corporate and union blocs.

Our lower house “triple lock” — compulsory voting, exhaustive preferential single-member voting and public funding matched to vote tally — entrenches the two major parties as quasi-state apparatuses, ceaselessly and effortlessly reproducing themselves, another illiberalism that the Liberal Party doesn’t have much of a problem with. With such assured process, the ranks of such parties are overly filled with organisation men and women looking for sinecures, and eventual access to an industry lobbying gig — second-raters smart enough to have an early awareness of their own mediocrity.

Despite the constitutional crisis of the 1975 coup, we still have not resolved the question of where executive authority lies, patching it with a Senate commitment to pass core budget-and-supply bills — which removes a valuable Senate sanction against governments that try to enact whole programs they have not gained a mandate for. Every Senate vote in New South Wales is worth about a sixth of one in Tasmania — and the only way to honour Northern Territorians’ right to statehood representation would be by reducing a NSW vote to one-tenth.

There aren’t enough Band-Aids in the world to make this system work in a genuinely democratic fashion. We need not a few “reforms”, but a five to 10-year process of inquiries, hearings and conventions by which a transformation of Australian government could occur, through prolonged debate, in what is now a polycultural, non-industrial, hybrid economy whose capital cities are five hours’ flight from one another. We won’t get it, one suspects, but raising the issue at least makes clear how ramshackle, corrupted and broken the current system is.

In the meantime, put out more patches. And what odds that Bishop, that fierce believer in “liberalism”, will trot out some sort of addiction model … couldn’t help it … lost my judgement … etc, should she try to contest Mackellar once more? And who will be surprised if Labor, the other side of this vast machine that runs government, now go very quiet about any wider-ranging reform arising from the Last Ride of the Fraukerei?


Jul 30, 2015


Whether it was the ALP’s conference declaration on female MPs or a staffer who just couldn’t stand the sight of another party room Pirelli calendar, something gendered happened this week in the Liberal Party. Federal MP Sharman Stone called on her party, whose lady-presence has dwindled in the Senate, to positively preselect female candidates and uttered the dirty word “quota”. Christopher Pyne, who kick-started this round of public conversation, echoed the sentiments of the PM and of every other neoconservative when he said that he “did not believe” in quotas. He does, of course, believe in the principle of merit, which holds that equality in all things, including parliamentary representation, is there for the taking. In other words, women face no obstacles other than themselves en route to power, and Pyne suggests “other measures” for equal participation.

What these “measures” might include — perhaps deportment class for interested ladies? — is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that it is not intrinsically Liberal for Stone to suggest, as she did, that it is always a “miracle” when women manage to grab a little power. She’s correct, of course. In the Liberal Party and many other professional and political realms, most women must miraculously dispose of obstacles that do not appear before most men. You’ve got to work twice as hard to get half as far, etc. But to concede that the social has any real impact in the face of Personal Striving should be just as much of an impediment to Liberal Party success as actually being a woman.

Stone may be factually correct, but that doesn’t mean she’s right, and it certainly doesn’t mean that she, a member of a party to which the idea of a prevailing “natural” equality is foundational, gets to have it both ways. If she believes that the struggle of women for equal economic and political participation is not something that is up to the individual lady but should instead be the focus of institutional reform, she might want to think about switching parties. Pyne, whose belief that the possibility of upward mobility is located exclusively in the individual, is the one holding true to Liberal values here.

The member for Murray needs to shut it if she cares for her party at all. This kind of thinking, after all, is a slippery leftist slope. It starts with urging an institutional response to one social problem, and it never ends. If we concede that working women need even more than indexed allowance for childcare in those “precious few first months of a baby’s life” (like the following 200 months have less financial value) in order to achieve equality, what next? We may be forced to admit that the unemployed are not undeserving and that Aboriginal Australians are not entirely responsible for the theft of their own land.

Popular feminist analyses currently have it that Stone and those who join her in the bid for quotas are doing the just thing. Which is as may be, but for a card-carrying Liberal, it’s also absolutely potty. And I say this not just because I personally oppose any growth to a poisonous party of stump-dumb ideologues whose history has been as inimical to my gender as it has been to all socially marginalised groups save for Jesuits. I say this because you don’t get to buy a hate cake and cram your pie-hole with it, too.

You can say all you wish that anything that “advances” the “cause” for women is good. And, publications like The Guardian do so routinely. The argument goes that success for one woman is success for all women and that to diminish the pleadings of, say, Peta Credlin for a less hostile environment is un-feminist. Even if one woman, the chief of staff, advises a man who upchucks hideously myopic and sexist policy that impacts a majority of women

Of course, it is true that Credlin is subject, as Speaker Bronwyn Bishop has recently been subject, to a gendered kind of critique. And of course it is true that both women must face an antique, if mannerly, brand of sexism within their party. Call the whaambulance and administer 10 CCs of “you’re a flagrant hypocrite” immediately. You don’t get to sob about sexism in a party whose only means of policy address to women is to help them have babies. It’s like suing the company that made the “Cookies and Lard” ice cream you ate two litres of for making you feel ill. All the warning you needed was on the label.

Equality feminists will drone on and on about how every individual success for women somehow translates to a win for all women. Neocon women will absurdly continue to demand equal representation in organisations openly committed to quashing the possibility of economic equality. The individual will continue to flourish at the centre of all public discourse and somehow, “women” will remain the sole locus for very mild conversation about how social complexes can sometimes, you know, just a bit, impact individual life. Nothing will change in these discursive terms, and we will all be forced to hear “You Go Girl” as another argument is begun and ended in a world that agrees, even if it chooses not to admit it, with the merit principle of Christopher Pyne.


Jun 9, 2015


A good deal has been written in recent years about the malaise of established political parties throughout the Western world.

In Australia, alienation with major party politics received its most vivid expression at the Senate election in 2013, when nearly a third of the electorate took its business elsewhere.

While many of the forces behind these developments have been sociological, and thus largely beyond the parties’ control, it can hardly be doubted that moribund party structures are desperately in need of reform. But such is the strength of the vested interests involved that doing so is never a straightforward task.

Nonetheless, moves are afoot in both the Labor and the Liberal parties to shift the balance of power, however modestly, away from factional powerbrokers and towards the rank and file.

In the case of the Liberal Party, the scene of the action is the New South Wales branch — perhaps surprisingly, given that it would seem to have been on a bit of a roll lately. At state level, the party emphatically succeeded at an election held just months after its counterparts north and south of the border fell by the wayside, while its federal polling numbers have provided the engine of the Abbott government’s recent recovery.

However, it’s clear enough that much of this is to do with the fact that state branch of the ALP is in an even worse hole. Indeed, it’s the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party whose internal affairs most frequently bring the Labor Party to mind, and all that is thought to ail it.

Turf wars between the party’s various factions have often brought large-scale infusions of new members, often of the same ethnicity, to strategically important branches.

While the contours of the factions aren’t always as neatly defined as journalistic shorthand might suggest, it’s clear enough that a balance exists between moderates and a right divided between various powerbrokers.

The chief principals of the latter have long been state upper house MP David Clarke, who was noted for his success in marshalling the party’s religious conservative tendency, and his estranged former protege Alex Hawke, the member for the federal seat of Mitchell. More recently, the situation has been complicated by the emergence of new players, particularly among the “religious right”.

These rivalries are complicating moves to give effect to a review of preselection processes conducted in the wake of the 2013 federal election, which was overseen by no less an eminence than former prime minister John Howard.

The review was motivated by some striking failures for the state branch at the 2010 and 2013 federal elections, including defeats in the crucial Central Coast seat of Robertson on the former occasion, and in the eminently winnable western Sydney seat of Greenway both times out.

The report recommended that candidates should be elected directly by the party membership, in place of an existing system that divides the vote between the central party and delegates of the branches. It also proposed that the state executive’s power to intervene in the process should be reduced.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported last week that support for the current reform push is dividing along factional lines, with the “centre right” and moderates standing in opposition.

Not coincidentally, an alliance between these groupings presently has control of a state executive that stands to have its wings clipped.

The fine balance of support and opposition would appear to leave the issue hinging upon the man of the moment, NSW Premier Mike Baird, who has provided in-principle support to preselection plebiscites but is otherwise hedging his bets.

On the other side of the fence, Labor’s triennial national conference next month will consider granting voting rights to members of affiliated unions, and allowing the rank-and-file to participate in Senate preselections, which are presently the domain of the heavily factionalised state conferences.

A trail has been blazed in the latter respect by the party’s Queensland branch, which last year reformed its rules to put 50% of the vote in the hands of the party membership.

As with the Liberals, these proceedings are coloured, to at least some extent, by the factions and their attendant self-interest.

Such are the inclinations of the type of person who still feels motivated to join the ALP that membership ballots are typically good news for the left. The reform in Queensland at least partly reflects the Left’s ascendancy in that state, having secured a majority at the state conference last year for the first time.

All three of the left faction candidates in the election currently under way for the party’s national presidency are unequivocal in their view that such a measure to apply in all states, both for the Senate and state upper houses. The candidate of the Right, Tim Hammond, offers the slightly more equivocal position that the “trial” in Queensland should provide a “model for the broader party”.

Whatever arguments might be marshalled against democratisation have to be weighed up against formidable evidence that the party membership has been re-energised since the 2013 election defeat, which can undoubtedly be attributed to rank-and-file ballots for the party leadership.

Last month, The Australian reported that Bill Shorten’s otherwise uninspiring tenure as leader had seen an increase in ALP membership from around 44,000 to 54,000 — with the biggest proportional increase being a rise of over 50% in Queensland.


Feb 2, 2015


The 2013-14 political donations data confirms a long trend in Australian politics, with the ALP still fundamentally reliant on the union movement and the Liberal Party in the thrall of big business, rent-seekers and a few wealthy families.

It shouldn’t take until almost halfway through Tony Abbott’s first term in office to be told who funded the campaign that dislodged Kevin Rudd, but the figures were only released by the Australian Electoral Commission at 9am today.

There are dozens of interesting stories in the deluge of data, but perhaps of most interest is the breakdown of donors to the federal Liberals in 2013-14. The election was held on September 14, 2013, and most major donations tend to happen in the weeks leading up to polling day.

Under Australia’s anything goes system of campaign finance, there are no legal restrictions on who can give money to federally registered parties. Ivan Milat, Sir Prince Philip, Vladimir Putin, the Hells Angels … no problems, step right up.

Even businesses that are directly licensed or funded by Canberra have an unfettered right to provide unlimited amounts of cash.

And that’s what you see across the 10 pages of donors disclosed by the federal Liberals who gave more than $12,400. This is hardly comprehensive, but here’s a summary of those who contributed more than $50,000 to the Abbott campaign to unseat Kevin Rudd:

Adani Mining, $49,500: Indian conglomerate developing the giant Galilee coal fields in Queensland.

Ross Adler, $50,000: former CEO of Santos, whom Libs appointed to the Telstra board. Made plenty as chair of Dominos Pizza.

ANZ Bank, $150,000: easily Australia’s largest financier of carbon-intensive energy sector and most politically generous of the big four banks. Now chaired by David Gonski.

Lord Michael Ashcroft, $250,000: controversial British business and conservative political figure who gave Libs a record $1 million donation back in John Howard’s day.

Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association, $250,000: responded generously when Liberals promised to overturn Kevin Rudd’s clampdown on tax breaks for packaged salaries. McMillan Shakespeare is the largest industry player.

ASX Ltd, $110,000: gave the same to both sides and was clearly relieved when Bill Shorten was persuaded not to introduce competition into its monopoly-clearing business.

Balmoral Pastoral, $400,000: As Bernard Keane reported, this outfit also gave $200,000 to the federal Libs in 2012-13. Is owned by billionaire Bob Oatley, who made his fortune selling Rosemount to Southcorp for $1.5 billion and now focuses on Hamilton Island and winning Sydney-to-Hobart races.

Joseph Brender, $100,000: wealthy businessman who made his fortune in textiles and retail and lives near Malcolm Turnbull in Point Piper.

Brickworks, $150,000: controlled by Rich Lister Robert Millner, who oversees a conglomerate of intertwined listed companies, which have now given more than $2 million of shareholder funds to the Liberals and very little to Labor. Was mentioned in dispatches at the Independent Commission Against Corruption after working with Peta Credlin to fight the carbon tax.

Century Plaza, $220,000: the private company of retail billionaire Solomon Lew, who has lobbied hard for a higher GST on online purchases.

Chevron Australia, $47,300: one of the 10 biggest global oil super-majors with major investments off Western Australia.

Clubs Australia, $180,000: not-for-profit pokies lobby, which was relieved when Liberals helped fight off the Gillard-Wilkie pokies pledge on mandatory pre-commitment.

Coca-Cola Amatil, $55,000: controlled by Atlanta, chaired by David Gonski and a long-time litigant and lobbyist against container deposit schemes globally.

Coles Group, $55,000: part of Wesfarmers and Australia’s grocery duopoly along with Woolworths. Exposed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and political intervention due to enormous market power over suppliers.

Coogee Chemicals, $50,000: manufacturer exposed to carbon tax. Controlled by Rich Lister Gordon Martin, the inaugural president of the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Western Australian chapter and former chancellor of Curtin University in Perth.

CST Mining Group, $50,000: Hong Kong-based miner, which owns the Lady Annie copper mine in Queensland.

Dow Chemical, $55,000: US-based chemical giant. Exposed to carbon tax.

Peter Edwards, $100,000: the most politically generous member of the Smorgon family.

Jon Fogarty, $100,000: former WA footballer who made the media with some controversies over contracts running public hospitals.

Sir Michael Hintze, $75,000: made his fortune running hedge fund CQS.

Hong Kong Kingson Investment: $500,000: prolific donor which gave a range of parties a total of $761,000 as far back as 2007-08, as The Australian reported at the time. Also gave federal ALP $600,000 last year through its associated Kingold division.

Jiebo Huang, $200,000: lists a Mosman address, little known publically.

IPGL Ltd, $50,000: London firm controlled by former Tory treasurer Michael Spencer.

Jefferson Investments, $55,000: Sydney-based outfit, which has given more than $250,000 over the years, including some to ALP.

Linc Energy, $100,000: another of the Queensland-based gas outfits that has so outraged Alan Jones for their alleged capture of the LNP ahead of its traditional agricultural constituency.

Lion Ltd, $55,000: dairy and beer giant now controlled by Japanese firm Kirin, which has Sir Rod Eddington on the board. Contribution probably involved free beer at fund raisers.

Manildra Group, $124,000: continues Rich Lister Dick Honan’s long practice of seeking regulatory support for products such as ethanol through donations.

Paul Marks, $750,000: based in Waterfront Place in the Brisbane CBD and fronts Nimrod Resources, which has mining aspirations near Bourke in outback NSW.

Harold Mitchell, $100,000: advertising heavyweight and Rich Lister who tends to support both sides.

Alf Moufarrige, $40,000: Rich Lister who controls global serviced office firm Servcorp and has donated more than $500,000 to the Liberals over the years.

New Hope Coal, $250,000: controlled by Millner family through Soul Pattinson and Brickworks structure. Made famous by Alan Jones over controversial Acland project on the Darling Downs.

Parakeelia Pty Ltd, $411,276: software company serving the Liberals, which incensed David Marr back in 2007, given Ron Walker connection.

Peabody Energy, $50,000: world’s biggest coal miner, based in the US with big interests in NSW and Queensland.

Philip Morris, $45,000: US tobacco giant now banned from giving to the Liberals in a move that Tony Abbott’s successor is not obliged to maintain.

Punusi Pty Ltd, $100,000: a previous player  in the NSW agriculture and development space but current interests unclear.

SixMileBridge Pty Ltd, $50,000: business operating out of Double Bay in Sydney.

Sonic Healthcare, $200,000: listed healthcare player very dependent on ongoing federal funding.

Gandel Group, $150,000: Melbourne billionaire John Gandel, who has huge property interests like Chadstone in Melbourne and is one of the five richest property moguls in Australia.

Sean Tomlinson, $100,000: Gold Coast entrepreneur who made it onto Young Rich List through iPad point-of-sale business Revel Systems.

Village Roadshow, $200,000: Graham Burke and the Kirby family have been long-time Liberal supporters, with overall donations now approaching $3 million.

Walker Group, $100,000: billionaire Sydney property developer Lang Walker has used Graham Richardson for lobbying but favoured the Liberals more over the years.

Westfield, $150,000: the Lowy family have directed more than $10 million to politicians and parties globally over the years.

Woodside Energy, $129,500: the biggest ASX listed player in the oil and gas space, now breaking free from Shell.

Zafcan Pty Ltd, $100,000: Melbourne registered firm at 1 Spring Street, which donates a similar amount to the Liberals most years.

Zip Heaters, $100,000: appliance and tap manufacturer controlled by wealthy 82-year-old Sydney businessman Michael Crouch.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Robert Millner’s companies had donated $2 billion to the Liberal Party. The correct figure is $2 million.