Andren (Independent) bid for NSW Senate

2 April, 2007

Andren bid for Senate

Federal Independent Member for Calare Peter Andren has announced he will stand for the Senate at the next federal election.

“After lengthy consideration of my options, I have decided I can best use my parliamentary skills to represent the whole state as a Senator for NSW,” Mr Andren said.

“Almost 12 months ago, long before the recent redistribution of electoral boundaries, I discussed with the Clerks of both Houses of Parliament the process involved in running for the Senate.

“I have thought long and hard about contesting a Senate seat since the 2004 election delivered control of both houses to the government. I believe our democracy is best served by a Senate that is a true house of review, whichever party forms government in the House of Representatives.

“Since the last election I have been contacted by many voters who want to see a truly proportionally represented Senate which can act as a balance of responsibility on the excesses of government of either political persuasion.

“We had that between 1980 and 2004 with the good work of minor parties and independents such as Senator Harradine on complex issues such as the GST, native title and workplace reforms.

“I believe the electorate strongly wants that close examination and amendment of legislation to be restored.

“This has not been an easy decision, but the effective abolition of the seat of Calare with its splitting into two has made that decision easier. I can now try to continue to represent all my current constituents as well as the rest of the state.

“I will not be actively campaigning for any Senate election until my duties cease as the Member for Calare on the dissolution of the current parliament. Until then, my staff and I will continue to serve the people of Calare right up until the next election,” Mr Andren said.

This guy is one of the few honest men left in politics, I’ve had dealings with him in the past and I wish him the best – and that I lived in NSW so I could vote for him.


The votes are in – Fourth term for QLD Labor

9 September, 2006

As Beattie continues into a fourth term in a victory most commentators are describing as a two-term, questions are being asked within the Coalition camp as to how it all went so wrong.

Conventional wisdom held that this election should have been that with trouble in key portfolios such as health and water, Labor would have been on the nose. They had lost three seats in by-elections (the Brisbane seats of Chatsworth and Redcliffe and the Gold Coast seat of Gaven) held in August 2005 and April 2006, suggesting widespread discontent with the ALP. The Bundaberg hospital scandal, where overseas-trained surgeon Dr Jayant Patel had been found by a public inquiry to be guilty of gross incompetence and responsible for the deaths of 13 patients, also significantly damaged the Government’s public perception, while a recent referendum result in Toowoomba and public anger in Gympie and Noosa suggested the Government’s water plans were in trouble.

However, a series of missteps and gaffes plagued the Liberal/National coalition’s campaign. Problems within the coalition itself – including uncertainty as to the precise coalition arrangements and the ousting of the popular Liberal leader a week before the campaign was declared did not help their attempts to promote themselves as an effective alternative government.

Early in the count, the ABC rather enthusiastically declared several candidates as the minor rural and hospital booths reported their results.

In the end result, it appears Labor have reversed their by-election losses, and made gains in unexpected areas. Most commentators are predicting that Labor have won between 59 and 61 seats out of 89 in the single-house parliament. They have only lost the Sunshine Coast seat of Kawana at this stage, and are ahead on counting in inner-urban Clayfield, a seat divided between wealthy and working-class areas not unlike the Perth federal seat of Swan.

Independents haven’t done too well this time around. Former Labor MP Cate Molloy in Noosa, and ex-One Nation two-term MP Elisa Roberts in Gympie (whose notable contribution to this campaign was changing her mind repeatedly as to whether to run or not) lost their seats to the Nationals, while Dolly Pratt in inner-rural Nanango narrowly fought off a challenge from John Bjelke-Petersen (son of Joh) in his home town. Only One Nation’s Rosa Lee Long in the (Atherton) Tablelands seat picked up a swing.

Meanwhile, two possible ALP seat gains must carry the sweet taste of revenge – Gladstone, held by Independent Liz Cunningham who in 1996 handed government to the Nationals’ Rob Borbidge, and Robina, until this election held by former Liberal leader Bob Quinn, who had retired.

Both Lawrence Springborg, the Opposition Leader, and Bruce Flegg, the Liberal leader, offered concession speeches. Figures within the Liberal and National parties told ABC radio that there will be considerable soul-searching in the following week as to why the Nationals failed to pick up the protest vote. Elisa Roberts’ speech was both shorter and less political in tone – openly acknowledging she wasn’t wanted by the voters and announcing her intention to write a book which would “make The Latham Diaries look like Play School”. Peter Beattie was gracious in victory, acknowledging that it probably wasn’t so much an endorsement of his government as a decisive last chance to fix Queensland’s problems.

The ABC election computer, as with most state campaigns, was excessively referred to in ABC coverage, a fact not lost on the South Australian blogger behind Adam’s Diary, providing a fitting and amusing graphic to wrap up this bizarre 26-day campaign.

(Originally written for perthnorg)

Sources: Poll Bludger, ABC, ECQ

Queensland Election

2 September, 2006

I think it’s fair to say anyone who predicts a Coalition win for this one has rocks in their head. ABC News and the Poll Bludger website have great coverage and background information, which I’ll happily refer you to rather than present ongoing analysis from my inexpert perspective on all matters Queensland. EDIT: Also noticed another site Currumbin 2 Cook which seems to have quite good coverage also.

My observations though are one where the government, despite its issues, has proven broadly capable, while the opposition have proved otherwise. Strong leadership seems to always have been a key element in Queensland voting patterns – at federal level people in many areas vote for the incumbent regardless of ideology.

The opposition are disorganised. The Liberals like in most parts of the country are factionalised, and have just deposed their long-time leader (at one stage the only member of the party in office) and replaced him with a well-meaning, inept and essentially an unknown who has bumbled through this campaign. Getting thrown out of a shopping centre for unauthorised campaigning is what I’d consider to be fairly indicative of their level of planning.

Most commentators agree that in metropolitan Brisbane as well as the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, where about half the seats are to be found, voters who fit the Liberal demographic prefer the Liberals to the ALP, but the ALP to the Nationals (this is largely due to the ghost of Sir Joh – see this article at Larvatus Prodeo) and are afraid that voting Coalition at state level means voting for the Nationals by proxy. Furthermore, Beattie does not seem to be particularly unacceptable to such people as he isn’t from the ALP Left. Hence, “Beattie Liberals”. He is up against an alternative premier who is young, has generally done a good job of staying in the public eye and keeping his nose clean (at least from what I can gather from national news reports), but is from the Darling Downs area which doesn’t seem to be a plus in the eyes of urban voters.

I have provided a map of the Brisbane region as it voted in 2004, which pretty much says it all. In the three by-elections, there was no chance the Beattie government would fall due to their huge majority. The state election, however, is not likely to be much different to the last except in size – some seats will change hands, but the basic result will be the same.

Brisbane electoral map 2004

(Note this map was made by me – if you want to use it, no worries, but please link back here. Thanks :))

RIP Don Chipp (1925-2006) and an analysis of the Democrats’ future

29 August, 2006

RIP Don Chipp
Don Chipp, founder of the Australian Democrats, died yesterday in Melbourne aged 81. His legacy is the creation of a space for minor parties in the Australian political system unprecedented until the rise of the Australian Democrats as the “third force” in Australian politics. I agree with Kim Beazley’s assessment that the country is poorer for his passing – he was relentless to the very end in promoting the values of democracy in this country. He brought into the Australian idiom the phrase “keeping the bastards honest”, one which resonates clearly today. The need for this is no more clearly demonstrated than in the Howard Government’s moves to undermine democracy through Senate committee processes now that it has gained control of the Senate.

The Democrats – What on earth happened?
It is beyond doubt among even the most optimistic observers that the Australian Democrats are no longer a political force in Australia. Nobody is quite sure why and everybody has something to point the finger at, but all we do know is that at the 2004 election, in every state and territory, support for the Democrats plunged to between 1 and 3% from a variety of levels, and this has been repeated in every State election held since that election in which the Democrats have taken part. My own thoughts are that after the departure of Don Chipp and Janine Haines (another person for whom I have tremendous respect, who sadly passed away last year) from the parliamentary party, the party struggled to find an identity for itself, and collapsed in a factional mire that had been a ticking timebomb for many years.

The two explanations heard most often from the commentariat, depending on political affiliation, are either:

  • that Lees’ support of the GST – seen as a compromise taken too far by left-wing commentators – or;
  • the party’s perceived drift to the left under Stott-Despoja and others – an odd criticism given that the party has always been socially liberal and environmentally conscious.

While it’s difficult to read the minds of 600,000 voters, and the fact that when the AD vote dissipated, it didn’t go anywhere in particular, my own reading of it is that the party had shifted all over the place up until Kernot’s leadership, that Kernot’s defection to the ALP had a deep psychological impact upon the remaining Democrat members and the right wing gained ascendancy and took the party places that its voting public never wanted it to go, but the ascendancy of Stott-Despoja halted the vote slide as she presented well, was intelligent and coherent, and people regained confidence in a return to the party’s old values (particularly given Chipp’s strong support of her). However Stott-Despoja was in a minority within the parliamentary party and the public slanging made them look like the very parties they were supposed to be keeping honest. The voters Stott-Despoja had convinced to vote Democrat in 2001 after the GST shock were then lost, as were an additional large number of less ideologically committed voters who were tired of the public spectacle and thought the Democrats had lost their vision and their right to represent them. My conclusions in this paragraph come from talking to about 50 ex-Democrat voters from four states, as well as extensively studying AEC and state electoral statistics from all states and territories except Victoria (no reason why the exclusion – just haven’t got to it yet)

Where to from here?
Now the interesting bit follows – Stott-Despoja was not up for election in 2004. In fact, in SA, her former colleague Meg Lees had quit the party and ran on the “Australian Progressive Alliance” ticket, receiving about 2% of the vote in the Adelaide Hills and negligible everywhere else, while a non-incumbent tried to win the Democrat vote. Next time will not be a split ticket and voters may well cast a personal vote for Stott-Despoja. I’ll be very interested to see if this happens – especially after the shock Xenophon result in the 2006 State election which demonstrates that SA voters are happy to reward independently minded candidates with a perceived genuine focus on issues over politics. My prediction is that she will be the last Democrats MP in Australia and could even do a Harradine, carving out a niche vote every 6 years. However, this depends on whether people see the name or the party. Should she not win it, the chances of Family First getting the seat in the only state where they have a serious chance in 2007 (Victoria was a freak result) are quite real.
I think it’s inevitable that Bartlett and Murray will lose their seats in 2007 in a vote largely consistent with 2004 when their colleagues met the same fate. It’s been my observation that in states with a significant Green vote, the Democrat has been replaced with a Green, while in others they’ve been replaced by a major party representative (usually a Liberal). SA and NSW both elected three of each, while Queensland elected three Liberals and a National in what I see as a one off – the Hanson and One Nation votes were still reasonably high in Queensland (~4% each) and directed towards the Coalition, while the Democrat vote collapsed, creating a vacuum. Queensland is the hardest to predict in 2007 – all the others are all but certain based on past voting history unless a massive swing occurs to the ALP or one of the larger minor parties besides the Greens preferences Labor (however, there are very few of these left).


Update: Judi Moylan wins preselection vote

21 August, 2006

ABC News reports this morning that Judi Moylan last night survived the preselection challenge in her outer Perth seat of Pearce from former One Nation and Liberal Merredin candidate Jamie Falls, as I predicted a couple of weeks ago. No word on the third candidate named in reports at the time. The result still has to be ratified by the Liberal Party’s state council, but I doubt that that will be any major issue.
One interesting point here. This poll was not conducted publicly – we know by press release from the victor and at some point from the party what the outcome was. This reminds me of the rolling of Birney on 24 March, specifically this part:

The meeting lasted for a little over half an hour.

“The party room meeting has decided, those figures would not be divulged,” Mr Halligan said.

This allowed speculation by the losing faction on ABC and other media outlets subsequently about the role of the deputy leader Troy Buswell in securing the result. Was the result really that close, or not? There is a strong argument to apply the same level of democracy to internal party matters as to elections – after all, the people ultimately are offered the team these contests produce as the party’s only representative. It is probably not necessary to go the way of the Americans and have party-affiliated voters choose the leader at a primary, but certainly with preselections for seat representation, there is far more room for democracy.

Parties have been accused at various times of either trying to unseat uncooperative members or “parachute in” desirable high-profile candidates through the preselection process. The preselections for the 1996 contests in Curtin and Moore – safe Liberal seats in Perth’s coastal region – were dominated by power plays by the so-called Noel Crichton-Browne faction which, in part, led to the Liberals’ loss of both seats to their sitting member standing as an Independent. In October 2004, the Sydney blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth had a similar contest between sitting member Peter King and party-endorsed Malcolm Turnbull. In several contests in NSW, there has been allegations that a radical faction of the party is trying to take over and promote its own candidates.

There was clearly some dispute in all cases as to whether the unelected Liberal Party preselectors and the public within that electorate’s borders disagreed on the choice of candidate. The spectre of branch-stacking that has haunted both major parties adds to this situation. So many questions – did all the members who could vote, vote? Did people move into the area in anticipation of a vote to take advantage of the relatively low absolute numbers required to win such a contest (usually less than 100)? Why aren’t the results made public? Should the AEC or WAEC be running the preselection contest? If it’s good enough for most unions and quite a few corporate boards, it should be good enough for a party fielding public representatives. In the present situation, with a large number of safe seats, the parties operate almost like a dictatorship, choosing the next MP for the area, not just a “candidate” as they are guaranteed to win.

One solution may be the French method with an Australian twist, by which the party endorses a candidate but has the option of running several. The twist would be the preferential system which limits the vote-splitting which can occur by this procedure. My belief has always been that corruption arises when a system invites it or offers reward for engaging in it – i.e. if there is no benefit in engaging in corrupt conduct, then the cost-benefit analysis weighs towards working within the system instead. The French system offers no reward for branch-stackers as the people make the decision who will represent them instead of a group of party members.
There’s going to be a lot more of these contests, especially as both major parties are failing to attract members and both branch-stacking and shock results become more possible or likely, and public debate about factions and branch-stacking continues despite the parties’ attempts to suppress it. It is about time that they responded with a coherent strategy that allows democracy to take its course.

Preselection woes for sitting Liberals in the West

4 August, 2006

It seems that sitting federal Pearce MP, Judi Moylan, is being challenged for preselection, as is sitting Tangney MP Dennis Jensen. News is slow but the “Perth Now” website appears to have the most complete story at this stage, while ABC Radio has been covering it during the day.

The upshot of this story is that it is a storm in a teacup. Pearce is an extremely unusual seat which wraps around the north and east of Perth while taking in its outermost suburbs – both Gingin and Narrogin are in this seat, as is the eastern fringe of Midland and the Clarkson-Quinns connurbation. As far as I can see by comparing 20 years of Federal and State statistics:

  • Clarkson-Yanchep (far northern suburbs) – a mortgage-belt vote which tends Labor, but votes for Judi Moylan. Reasonably strong Labor at state level.
  • Eastern Hills (Greenmount-Mundaring-Chidlow) – a solid Lib-Green vote as can also be seen in parts of Alexander Downer’s Mayo electorate along the South East Freeway. The Green (13-18%) preferences in this part of Pearce, however, lean heavily towards Moylan. At state level it is marginal and fluctuates, at present Labor holds the entire region with Green preferences.
  • East Midland (Midvale-Swan View) – solidly Labor although Swan View and Stratton have voted Liberal for the past two Federal elections. Adjustments by the AEC to this seat may see Bellevue enter from the southwest.
  • North rural (Gingin, Muchea) – Strong One Nation territory.
  • East rural (Toodyay, Northam, York, Narrogin
  • – While safe National at state level, Northam and York have comparatively high Labor votes and there is one ultra-safe Labor booth in Northam, possibly aided by a high Aboriginal population.

Surely the Liberals would have learned something from the Georgiou situation that a “liberal” Liberal is, from their point of view and no matter how troublesome for them, better than a Labor person? I’ve dealt with her in the past and she’s a very strong representative for her area, even considering how ridiculously diverse the AEC have made it for her.

The news is now suggesting that failed Merredin candidate (One Nation 2001 byelection; Liberal 2005) Jamie Falls, the mayor of Dalwallinu, which is quite a distance within Wilson Tuckey’s O’Connor electorate, is the challenger. Tuckey is denying any involvement but Falls appears to be on first name terms with him. I doubt that the increasingly suburban nature of this seat would tolerate a candidate with views compatible with One Nation, and I think this will be reflected at branch level. Georgiou had an opponent who would have carried the seat, and his seat was less at risk, but the local branches strongly backed him.

The challenge to Dennis Jensen is in Perth’s safest southern suburbs Liberal seat, taking in an ethnically diverse area which includes Ferndale, Willetton, Bull Creek, Leeming, Applecross and parts of Melville. There is no risk to the Liberals here no matter what happens, but I doubt that they will favour a challenge to a sitting member as it presents a picture of disunity.

(Thanks to Antony Green for the leads for this article.)

Victoria Park By-Election – the heat is on

11 March, 2006

The debate on Tuesday night at Bentley Baptist Church went very well for me, not so well for the major party candidate. Rather than summarise myself, it seems poll bludger is onto it: I got to ask a question on 6PR off the major candidates which got answered by none, and I was on last week’s Page 2 and this week’s Page 3 in the local paper for the southern third, the Canning Examiner. If I don’t win (which is to be honest likely, as a “good” polling figure in my case is 10%+) I intend to use the profile I’ve built up to try and get these local issues fixed and addressed – especially the local services, public transport and health.

The result will be on this link probably around 7pm or 7:30pm WST – the actual voting stops at 6pm. I’ll be in the tally room and 6PR and ABC are both running election coverage (I’m presuming ABC 720 rather than the TV, but not sure.)

Hmm… 4:50am and just about to leave for the booths. I had lunch with some seniors yesterday and even got to play carpet bowls – was a lot of fun – then spent all yesterday running around the city with Dad collecting signs and how-to-votes and all the things one needs. This is like studying for an exam, in that you work hard for weeks beforehand to prepare, you do everything you can, but is totally unlike it in that nothing I can do today once polling starts will make any difference. It’s entirely in 25,000 people’s hands what actually happens, and a reflection of but not necessarily an accurate one of how much work I’ve invested into this in the last 5 weeks. It’s kind of weird looking over the side at the major party candidates and comparing, and considering that I’ve made so much progress almost entirely on my own, with a single-digit-percentage of the money they’ve spent and almost the nomination fee ($250) in donations. 🙂 Dad has been a great help in the last couple of weeks with both the letterboxing and some of the creative stuff with the signs and displays and he will be one of my main men today.

Fingers crossed!