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A big story with little coverage – Nick Xenophon and his NXT

December 8th, 2014 Comments off

The stultifying impact of the group think that dominates the federal press gallery was never more obvious than at the weekend when the announcement of a new political party went virtually unreported. In my opinion, Nick Xenophon’s announcement that he is taking his independent  ideas national is the most significant political event of 2014. The NXT – the Nick Xenophon Team – should rock the major parties to their very foundations as it boosts the already strong movement by voters away from Liberal, Labor and National. Yet the launch by Senator Xenophon of his new Team was ignored at the weekend and again this morning by the so-called movers and shakers of political journalism. Such reports as you will find are based on an orthodox straight report from AAP with this, stuck away at the bottom of the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, being typical:

nxt

Only the Senator’s home town Sunday Mail gave the Xenophon statement the prominence it deserved:

Party time for Mr X

Not that being so stupidly ignored by most of the media will blunt for long the South Australian Senator’s plan to take his attack on the two party system. He is the supreme parliamentary publicist of my 50 years reporting from Canberra. We will be reading and hearing much about NXT in 2015 and beyond.

Here is the full text of the statement that should have been on page one everywhere”

NXT Launch
Speech by Nick Xenophon, 7 December:

The last two weeks in federal parliament are glaring proof that politics in Australia has become so toxic, so negative that its destroying our trust in our democracy, and the ability to fix nation’s problems.

Every couple of years the major political parties have expected us to walk into a polling booth and put a number one in the box of the political party we dislike the least.

Voters are sick of parties that promise one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. And they’re sick of the sort of behaviour we’ve been seeing in Parliament.

Now, there are good people in the Coalition and Labor.

But the current two-party system is so suffocating that good politicians can’t do what they believe is the right thing.

Way back in 1988, when the current Parliament House was opened in Canberra, Australians were actively encouraged to walk on the huge lawns above our nation’s capital building.

The designers of Parliament House thought that symbolically, it was incredibly important that any Australian – woman, man, or child – could casually stroll above their elected leaders.

It was a reminder that at the top of our political system are the people – not the pollies, not the donors, not the spin doctors – but the people.

And that’s the way it must always be.

That’s why today I am announcing my intention to launch a new and better national political choice for Australia.

While I’m a little uneasy about using my name for this new choice, I’ve been convinced by others that it’ll make it easier to find NXT on a ballot paper.

NXT is about politics, done differently.

It’s about creating a common sense approach to politics.

NXT will be a centrist choice.

It’s not about left or right, it’s about right or wrong.

It’s about looking at every issue on its merits and working out the best outcome for everyone.

For too long the major parties have cynically got together to block sensible reforms, because of narrow powerful interests. Pokies are a classic and tragic example where the public interest has been crushed by the vested interests of the gambling lobby.

It’s time politicians were honest with the Australian people.

Voters shouldn’t be forced to choose between the left or the right of the political spectrum, when most of us just want to be somewhere in the middle.

For the past few months I have been working with a small team planning this launch.

And in the next year I will find like-minded people to run in every state and territory who share the same common sense approach to politics.

The NXT will be committed to open and honest communication with the Australian people.

We’re not going to spin. We’re not going to rely on fear campaigns.

We’re not going to spend all our efforts trying to make our opponents look bad.

NXT will simply tell you how we see things, get your advice and then tell you straight what we intend to do about it.

If you like what we plan to do, you can vote for us. It’s that simple.

If successful, we will continue the kind of collaborative approach I’ve always employed in my dealings with my fellow Senators.

I believe that a spirit of co-operation should be the norm, not the exception.

That said, real independence will be important to NXT.

We’re not going to be for sale to the highest bidder in the way the major parties sometimes seem to be.

Put simply, you can give NXT money if you like what we do, but you can’t give us money to change what we do.

The NXT wants donors, not owners.

Hopefully the NXT will be able to sustain itself with small donations from ordinary Australians who just want democracy to work for them.

Now, I’ve been in politics for a decade and a half.

And I can’t think of a time when Australian voters have seemed more disillusioned and disengaged.

I cannot tell you how many people have stopped me around the nation, from Broome to Ballarat, from the top end to Tasmania – especially in the last two years – and asked if they will ever be offered a different, better choice in Canberra.

The answer is yes, and that’s why I am sticking my neck out.

Politicians should listen to the people instead of walking all over them.

And they should respect the fact that they are here to serve, not to rule.

That’s what NXT will stand for.

And I hope the people of Australia will support NXT.

Categories: NXT, Political parties Tags:

No ethics in the political classes and are journalists any better?

July 28th, 2014 Comments off

Most voters probably will never know the story of the lost dictaphone machine so the impact on the Victorian political future will be near enough to zilch. Which is a pity really. For the lesson that should be learned is that operatives on both sides of politics are unethical grubs. Anyone interested in honesty in politics would avoid Labor and Liberal like the plague. And when it comes to journalists, they should be despised for their habit of secretly recording conversations in a manner condoned by their editors.

A pox on the lot of them.

And if you wondering what I’m going on about then read this report from the ABC: Victorian Labor admits staff destroyed journalist’s recording device after listening to its contents. It is a shameful story.

Categories: Political parties Tags:

A rare day – The Senate gets a Senator with clear principles

July 10th, 2014 Comments off

Sen David Leyonhjelm delivered one of the most interesting speeches I have heard in my 50 years covering politics in Canberra. He certainly left me in no doubt as to the philosophical position from which he will be approaching his duties. It’s worth reading in full because in a Senate where the government has no majority his will be an important voice.

Thank you, Mr President. Fellow senators and Australians, last September the people of Australia chose 40 men and women to represent them here, together with the 36 elected three years earlier—just 571 Australians have been granted this high honour. We come from diverse backgrounds and occupations. Beyond this place, each of us has been tempered by the challenges of life. We have all tasted the bitterness of failure and exhilaration of success. Whatever our political alignments, that experience will have imparted in us a collective accumulation of knowledge, judgement, wisdom and instinct that should serve our country well. Indeed, we are the most representative swill ever assembled.

I also believe we are about to begin one of the most exciting periods in the life of the Senate. In the service of this mission, at the outset I declare that I am proudly what some call a ‘libertarian’, although I prefer the term ‘classical liberal’. My undeviating political philosophy is grounded in the belief that, as expressed so clearly by John Stuart Mill:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully ever exercised over any member of a civilised society against his will is to prevent harm to others.

I pledge to work tirelessly to convince my fellow Australians and their political representatives that our governments should forego their overgoverning, overtaxing and overriding ways. Governments should instead seek to constrain themselves to what John Locke advised so wisely more than 300 years ago—the protection of life, liberty and private property.

When I was elected nine months ago, and my party’s policies became better known, there was a wave of rejoicing in certain circles. When I said I would never vote for an increase in taxes or a reduction in liberty, there were people who said there was finally going to be someone in parliament worth voting for. That was quite a compliment. What they, and I, believe in is limited government. We differ from left-wing people who want the government to control the economy but not our social lives, and from right-wing people who want the government to control our social lives but not the economy. Classical liberals support liberty across the board.

I have long thought that leaving people alone is the most reasonable position to take. I always suspected that I did not know enough to allow me to tell other people how to live their lives. But that did not arise in the background, so a bit of explanation is necessary. I never liked being told what to do, and I tend to assume others feel the same. The simple rule do not do unto others what you would rather them not do to you has always driven my thinking. At least since I reached adulthood I have also accepted responsibility for myself and expected others to do the same. Even when my choices have been poor, as they inevitably were at times, I do not recall being tempted to blame others or to consider myself a victim.

During my early years, the issues that raised my blood pressure were those of individual freedom. But for the election of the Whitlam government, I would have either served two years in jail or in the Army. I refused to register for national service. Being forced to serve in the Army, with the potential to be sent to Vietnam, was a powerful education in excessive government power.

The abortion issue was also controversial at the time. There were doctors and women being prosecuted over what were obviously difficult private choices. Backyard abortions were common. I knew some women affected and could never see how the jackboot of government improved things. I also noticed that those opposed to abortion or in favour of conscription were not interested in trying to debate their opponents; instead they sought to seize the levers of government and impose their views on everyone else.

As my family never had much money, I used to think spreading other people’s money around was a good way to make life fairer. As the saying goes, ‘If you’re not a socialist at 20 you have no heart, but if you’re still a socialist at 40 you have no brains.’ By that standard I hope I have preserved a bit of both. Not long after I started full-time work as a veterinarian, I recall looking at my annual tax return and being horrified at the amount of money I had handed over to the government. When I looked for signs of value for that money, I found little to reassure me. To this day I am still looking.

Our liberty is eroded when our money is taken as taxes and used on something we could have done for ourselves at lower cost. It is eroded when our taxes are used to pay for things that others will provide, whether on a charitable basis or for profit. That includes TV and radio stations, electricity services, railways, bus services, and of course, schools and hospitals. It is eroded when our money is taken and then returned to us as welfare, with the only real beneficiaries being the public servants who administer its collection and distribution. It is eroded when our money is used on things that are a complete waste like pink batts, unwanted school halls and accommodation subsidies for wealthy foreign students. It is eroded when the money we have earned is taken and given to those of working age who simply choose never to work. Reducing taxes, any kind of taxes, will always have my support. And I will always oppose measures that restrict free markets and hobble entrepreneurship.

But the cause of liberty is challenged in other ways as well. Liberty is eroded when our cherished right to vote is turned into an obligation and becomes a crime when we do not do it. It is eroded when we are unable to marry the person of our choice, whatever their gender. It is eroded when, if we choose to end our life, we must do it before we become feeble and need help, because otherwise anyone who helps us commits a crime. It is eroded when we cannot speak or write freely out of fear someone will choose to take offence. Free speech is fundamental to liberty, and it is not the government’s role to save people from their feelings. Liberty is eroded when we are prohibited from doing something that causes harm to nobody else, irrespective of whether we personally approve or would do it ourselves. I do not use marijuana and do not recommend it except for medical reasons, but it is a matter of choice. I do not smoke and I drink very little, but it is unreasonable for smokers and drinkers to be punished for their alleged excesses via so-called sin taxes. Liberty includes the right to make bad choices.

Quite a few people say they support liberal values but claim there are valid exemptions. The most common one is security or safety, something that has become pervasive during the so-called war on terror. As William Pitt the Younger observed:

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

Perhaps some are scratching their heads right now. How can someone support marriage equality, assisted suicide and want to legalise pot but also want to cut taxes a lot? If you are scratching your heads, it is because you have forgotten that classical liberal principles were at the core of the Enlightenment, the period that gifted us humanity’s greatest achievements in science, medicine and commerce and also brought about the abolition of slavery.

Classical liberals do not accept that there are any exemptions from the light of liberty, but we are not anarchists. We accept there is a proper role for government—just that it is considerably less than the role currently performed. Government can be a wonderful servant but a terrible master—something leading Enlightenment figures, like John Locke, realised. John Locke’s view of the role of the state was starkly different from that of another important philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes thought the natural state of man was perpetual war, with life nasty, brutish and short. In his view, the only way to achieve civilisation was to relinquish all liberties to the sovereign who then allowed us certain rights as he chose. Hobbes is also known for arguing the sovereign should rule with due regard for the desires of the people. There is no doubting though where he thought ultimate power resided or rights originated.

Locke was much more optimistic. Man is peaceful and industrious, he argued. But to establish a society in which private property can be protected it is necessary to relinquish certain liberties to the sovereign. However, this is a limited and conditional arrangement. Only sufficient powers as required for the preservation of life, liberty and property ought to be relinquished and ultimate power remain with the people. If the sovereign gets too controlling, those powers can be reclaimed. Locke was heavily influenced the American Declaration of Independence. As many here will recognise, it says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government …

When it says ‘all men are created equal’ it does not mean everyone is the same or that everyone should achieve the same outcome in life but that no individual or class enjoys moral or legal superiority over other individuals or classes. When it says ‘we are endowed with inalienable rights’ it means rights that cannot be taken from us. Good governments can help protect our rights by reflecting them in governance, but they do not get to dole them out piecemeal. Bad governments may seek to legislate away our rights, but only by usurping them.

The right to life is obviously the most fundamental right of all and no government should ever seek to deprive us of that. That includes not only arbitrary killing but also judicial killing. Likewise, it includes the right to protect your own life and that of others, for which there must be a practical means—not merely an emergency number to call. Self-defence, both in principle and in practice, is a right, not a privilege.

Liberty is not a cake with only so many slices to go around. It only makes sense when the freedom of one person does not encroach upon that of others, but instead reinforces it. Thus it is perfectly legitimate for governments to place limits on things done by a person that limit other people’s freedom. Those include such things as violence, threats, theft and fraud. It is not, however, legitimate for government to involve itself in things that an individual voluntarily does to himself or herself, or that people choose to do to each other by mutual consent, when nobody else is harmed. It is quite irrelevant whether we approve of those things or would choose to do them ourselves. Tolerance is central to the concept of liberty. It may matter to our parents, friends or loved ones, but it should not matter to the government. Those things belong in the private realm.

This distinction between the public and private realms can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks and is well known in Roman or civil law. Some things fall within the legitimate scope of government, some do not. The Declaration of Independence also says ‘governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers’. That means: when governments act to secure rights they are acting justly and when they move to violate those rights they are acting unjustly. They derive that legitimacy from the consent of the governed in places like this. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

Australia does not have the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence, a bill of rights or even a history of resistance against authoritarian government. The Eureka Stockade, which was prompted by excessive taxation and oppressive enforcement, is about all we have. That makes it especially important that those in places like this understand the only thing standing between an authoritarian state and the protection of life, liberty and private property is a vote in parliament. We must never forget that we are the people’s servants. This means we must be willing to take a light touch and to de-legislate, to repeal. As much as possible, people need to be able to choose for themselves and be free to choose, for good or for ill.

For that reason, some may think of these as being peculiarly American words, but the ideas have their origins in the Scottish Enlightenment. Although it sometimes seems Scotland has produced nothing but incomprehensible socialists, it also gave rise to the modern world’s most liberty-affirming thinkers. Among them was David Hume, who argued that the presence or absence of liberty was the standard by which one ought to assess the past. And on the subject of property, he said:

No one can doubt, that the convention for the distinction of property, and for the stability of possession, is of all circumstances the most necessary to the establishment of human society, and that after the agreement for the fixing and observing of this rule, there remains little or nothing to be done towards settling a perfect harmony and concord.

I do not think the Americans disagreed with the Scots on the importance of private property when they substituted the pursuit of happiness, but, if they did, I would side with the Scots!

Notwithstanding my earlier comments, I am not a student of philosophy. While Locke, Adam Smith and Mill have their place in my thinking, along with Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, I consider the Enlightenment to be part of Australia’s political and intellectual heritage: it does not belong to the Scots, the Americans, or the French.

While I sit in the federal parliament, I do not approve of the extent of its power. Liberty is more secure when power is shared with state governments, independently funded and competing with each other to be more attractive to Australians as places to live and do business, and, of course, each doing their bit to protect life, liberty, and property.

On the subject of private property, there is much today with which Locke would find fault. Rather than protecting private property, governments federal and state have been retreating from this core duty. The property rights of rural landowners have been undermined by bans on clearing native vegetation, imposed at the behest of the Commonwealth in order to meet the terms of a treaty Australia had yet to ratify. Over and over, the value of property is indirectly eroded through government decisions, and typically without compensation. In enacting plain-packaging laws on cigarettes, for example, the previous government destroyed valuable intellectual property. No matter what you think of smoking, it does not justify destruction of property.

We trade years of our lives to pay for the things that we own, and, when governments take them from us or try to tell us what to do with them, we lose part of ourselves. And yet, when it comes to property that we own in common, like national parks and fishing grounds, we are often locked out on the claim that nature is far too important to let scruffy humans enjoy it. Whilst in this place, I will do all I can to oppose this trend. Environmental fanatics are not omniscient geniuses: they do not know enough to tell other people how to live their lives any more than I do. Indeed, they are the same people who engage in anti-GMO pseudoscience—pseudoscience that is not just nonsense but murderous nonsense.

The Liberal Democrats are strong advocates of capitalism. But, before capitalism, we are advocates of freedom. When people are free and entrepreneurial, free-market capitalism and prosperity are what follow. However, I am pragmatic enough to recognise that two steps forwards require one step backwards. I am only one vote, and one voice.

I am also aware that some senators in this place share my views but are constrained from speaking openly. Whatever party you are in, if you believe in making the pie bigger rather than arguing about how it is cut up, we have plenty in common. To all of you, I would say this: when any specific issue arises—be it legislation or advocacy—that advances the cause of liberty, if I can say or do something to help, you only need to ask. In my party, the only discipline I am likely to suffer will be due to not pursuing liberty enough!

I have pursued liberty through membership of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the shooters party, so I can say with confidence the Liberal Democrats do not seek power to impose our views on the nation. All our policies are about freedom—the absence of control by others. We seek to have representatives elected in order to restrict the power of the state over individuals, to encourage the government to do less, not more.

I have one matter to address before I close. It is traditional in first speeches to thank those who contributed to one’s being here. I acknowledge that it would not have happened without the help of a number of people. First and foremost is my friend and colleague Peter Whelan. Peter and I have been a tag team ever since 2005, when I introduced him to the Liberal Democratic Party. If Peter had not decided to join, I might never have got involved myself. Peter is perpetually optimistic and willing to help, and has chipped in with even more money than me. One of my enduring regrets is, in failing to submit our preferences in Victoria on time, I destroyed any chance of him also being elected to the Senate.

There are others in the party who deserve thanks. I am reluctant to name them as I am sure to miss out on some, but long-term supporter David McAlary warrants a mention. I also want to thank those libertarians who established the party in 2001 and contributed so much to its principles and direction. I also thank my employee Michelle, who has helped in many ways. I thank my friends and colleagues in business, who never let me take myself too seriously. Finally, I would like to thank my wife of 30 years, Amanda. She has long humoured and tolerated my political activities, never sure if any of it mattered but now immensely proud that it does. I view my election as an opportunity to help Australia rediscover its reliance on individualism, to reignite the flame of entrepreneurship, and to return government to its essential functions. There is much to be done.

Categories: Liberal Democrat Tags:

Former adviser to Bob Brown now has the ear of Clive Palmer

July 8th, 2014 Comments off

From 8-07-2014 theconversation

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra


Clive Palmer is showing that when it comes to playing the political game, he will find the most unexpected allies.
AAP/Alan Porritt

Ben Oquist is one of the most savvy political advisers in the business. He used to be Bob Brown’s right hand man, and stayed on with Christine Milne when she became Greens leader, until they fell out.

Now – in one of the bizarre political twists of which there have been so many recently – Oquist, strategy director at the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, is helping Clive Palmer and his Senate PUPs on some of their agenda.

Oquist had a role in the crafting of Palmer’s climate policy, released at the spectacular appearance with Al Gore.

Attending strategy sessions at their office in the National Press Club building and joining the PUPs in the Parliamentary dining room (but not on their payroll), Oquist’s hand is to be seen in Palmer’s Monday announcement that PUP will block key savings the government is seeking with the repeal of the mining tax.

The measures were originally to have been paid for from the tax and their abolition is included in the repeal legislation, which is the government’s next priority after the scrapping of the carbon tax.

Soon after Palmer’s Press Club announcement that PUP would oppose the scrapping of the schoolkids bonus, the low income superannuation contribution and the income support bonus, the Australia Institute had a paper out detailing the dollars and regional impacts.

Keeping the low income superannuation contribution would cost the budget $2.7 billion over the forward estimates; retaining the income support bonus would be a $955 million cost, while preserving the schoolkids bonus would blast a hole of $3.9 billion in the budget.

In addition PUP will also oppose deferring the increase in the bottom tax threshold (from $18,201 to $19,401), at a cost to the budget of $1.5 billion over the forward estimates. This measure is in the carbon tax repeal package.

Just to stir some political trouble, the Australia Institute paper contains an analysis of the electorates most and least hit by repealing the low income superannuation contribution (a measure designed to help those with insufficient income to benefit from the superannuation tax break higher income earners enjoy).

Of the ten hardest hit seats, five of the top six are held by to the Nationals; the Liberals hold four of the ten. The electorates with the lowest proportion of low income employees tend to be inner city electorates and are held by the Liberal party and the ALP (Solomon in the NT being the exception), the paper says.

It concludes that “there is a popular perception that the Labor party represents the areas with low income earners and is therefore more likely to pursue policies that redistribute income and resources towards the poor”. But the numbers “suggest otherwise and in fact it is the National party that should be the champion of the low income earner”.

The paper doesn’t have to make the point that Nationals’ electorates could be particularly vulnerable to PUP in the future.

As the government moved a step closer to the repeal of the carbon tax – after the new Senate, after some fits and starts during its first sitting day, finally gave priority to the debate – its position on getting budget measures through the upper house was deteriorating further, thanks to Palmer’s latest position.

And Palmer was showing that when it comes to playing the political game, he will find the most unexpected allies and sources of advice. Or they will find them, when interests coincide across the political spectrum.

Oquist insists that he and the Australia Institute provide policy advice to any side of politics.

“For example, The Institute is more than happy to provide economic analysis to the Palmer United Party when it comes to issues like low income superannuation and the low income support bonus.

“But the Palmer senators know what they are doing – making some popular announcements and playing themselves into the centre of Australian politics,” he says.

Listen to the latest politics podcast with Michelle Grattan here.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

A new Canberra star is born

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

She has not arrived in the national capital yet but the media delight is already showing through. Tasmanian Senator elect Jacqui Lambie gave a headline grabbing performance on 7.30 last night. From 1 July she will provide the Palmer United Party with a wonderful second string to Clive.

Goodness knows what she will end up saying but what a spectacular debut:

SARAH FERGUSON: You said that the Federal Budget proves that Liberals are – and I’ll quote you – gutless sycophants led by uncaring psychopaths. On reflection, did you go too far calling them psychopaths?

JACQUI LAMBIE: No, I don’t think so, I don’t think so at all. I think when it comes to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott that – I mean, the truth be said, they’re nothing less than a pair of deceitful, lying, political politicians and that’s exactly what they’ve done: they’ve been deceitful and they’ve lied to the public and they’ve lied to the nation.

SARAH FERGUSON: Psychopath is a pretty strong term though.

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, I’m just saying that politically they’re like they’re psychopathic. It’s like they’re running round like chooks with their heads cut off. And I just do not think that brings in a good budget. They’re like they’re hitting the panic buttons, but we don’t need to hit the panic buttons. We have a triple A rating, for goodness sake. It’s like, “Calm down there, cowboy Joe, calm down. You’re coming out with all guns blazing and you are hitting welfare like there’s no tomorrow,” and that is not the answer.

And then a little touch up the bracket for the banks:

SARAH FERGUSON: The Treasurer made it clear today that if you and your other minor party colleagues resist all of these changes in the Budget, you’re going to be talking about billions of dollars that you will need to make up in revenue. Do you accept that that revenue – the revenue equation in the Australian budget must be changed?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, I accept that the four banks are making, you know, $30 billion worth of profit on a yearly basis, and if you spread that through the 23 million people give or take here in Australia, that ends up being a $1,300 every man, woman and child that is living in Australia, so why aren’t we hitting people like the big banks? You know, when $12 billion of this budget’s been handed down and it’s hilting welfare, once again, that’s not the answers and that’s not making for a smart economic future for our nation.

SARAH FERGUSON: Senator-elect, can you just explain what you mean by taking more money from the banks? Are you talking about higher taxes on the banks?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, you know, for somebody that makes $30 billion between those four banks annually, then maybe it’s about time we looked at over avenues and that would certainly be one I’d be prepared to look at.

SARAH FERGUSON: And would you just be precise about what you mean about those other avenues? How would you collect that extra revenue from the banks?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, you’d put extra taxes on the banks, but you would make sure that that’s not passed down to the consumer. You would put in legislation so it was that tight it wasn’t passed down to the consumer and the big banks that are making all these profits will be paying more into the country.

Politics surely is going to be fun.

2014-05-21_lambie

 

The clamour against Clive should worry Tony Abbott

May 8th, 2014 Comments off

The verbal onslaught against Clive Palmer by members of the Liberal National Party government in Queensland just keeps getting stronger. Today the state’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney used this report in The Australian to declare Mr Palmer “a crook”:

CLIVE Palmer’s private company Mineralogy has been accused of wrongfully siphoning more than $12 million from his Chinese business partners, with some of the funds allegedly used to cover political expenses for the costly federal election campaign by his Palmer United Party.

CLIVE Palmer’s private company Mineralogy has been accused of wrongfully siphoning more than $12 million from his Chinese business partners, with some of the funds allegedly used to cover political expenses for the costly federal election campaign by his Palmer United Party.

Under parliamentary privilege Mr Seeney described the Palmer United Party as “the best party that Chinese money can buy.”

“The best party that fraudulently obtained money can buy.

“The best party that a crook using other people’s money can buy.”

Strong words indeed and surely an indication of just how concerned the LNP is about its new competitor,

I wonder, though, about the political wisdom. The judgment voters eventually make of PUP will have more to do with what actually happens at law rather than statements made in the parliamentary coward’s castle.

And this is not just a state issue. Mr Palmer would not be human if he didn’t see the state LNP and the federal Liberal-National coalition as being two sides of the same thing. After every attack like today’s, Tony Abbott will be finding PUP a more and more difficult party to rely on.

From earlier this week: If Clive is defamed presumably the Queensland taxpayer will do the paying. Other PUP stories are in the Owl’s archives HERE.

Rich men and third party politics give a different twist to the Westminster system

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Gordon Barton gave us a taste in Australia of rich men flirting with third party politics back in the 1960s with his Liberal Reform Group and opposition to the support of conservative Liberal and National (then Country) parties for the Vietnam war. It transmuted into the Australian Reform Movement and then the Australia Party before he lost interest – or maybe it was his money – although his plaything was kind of resurrected in the the form of the Democrats. And they did use the Senate to have a considerable say in national politics before their disintegration as a party without money and thus influence.

Bob Brown. that deservedly revered founder of the national Greens, understood the importance of men with money too. It was the millions poured into campaigning by the founder of the Wotif online travel website, Graeme Wood, before the federal election of 2010 that saw the Greens emerge as such a dominant force that Labor was forced into a formal governing agreement with them. The absence of an equivalent to that largest donation in Australian political history perhaps explains much of the declining Green vote of 2013 when Queensland’s Clive Palmer was the third party man with the millions of dollars. It was the Palmer United Party that bought enough votes this time to upset the established two-party duopoly.

In Australia the success of rich men sponsoring a third force in politics has owed much to the multi-member nature of our Senate elections although now both the PUP and the Greens have a bum on the green House of Representative benches. Perhaps there are more such third forces to come. The current experience in Great Britain certainly points in that direction with UKIP – the UK Independence Party – coming from nowhere to challenge Conservatives and Labour in the opinion polls with the traditional third party Liberal Democrats languishing well behind in fourth place.

And money is surely playing a part in the UKIP ascendancy. The Financial Times reports this morning that a “reclusive multimillionaire behind the anti-Brussels UK Independence party has vowed there will be “no limit” to his spending in the run-up to next year’s general election.

Paul Sykes, a self-made businessman worth an estimated £400m, said he wanted to counter the tens of millions spent every year by Brussels on promoting the EU. “The British people need the facts,” he said. …

Having quit the Conservatives in the 1990s over Europe, Mr Sykes said he had so far spent about “£1.2m or £1.4m” on a media blitz that includes hundreds of controversial posters attacking the EU. “We haven’t stopped spending yet,” he told the Financial Times. “I’ll spend whatever it takes for the British people to make them aware that power has been transferred from Britain without permission.”

And here’s where the money is going:

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It seems like a very powerful message to me – powerful enough to give a different twist to the Westminster two-party system.

Money might not buy you love but it seems to do alright with votes.

A coalition for the Coalition to govern Australia

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

To listen to Liberals and Nationals bemoaning the horror of a Labor, independents and Greens voting coalition, because coalition is a dirty word, was one of those humorous elements of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. For most of the time since federation whenever Australia has had a conservative government it has involved a coalition of one kind or other. For the last sixty years Libs and Nats have even campaigned for office as THE Coalition. Together they have proved successfully enough that policy differences – sometimes even quite major ones – are no impediment to running the country.

When it comes to getting legislation through a Senate where The Coalition is outnumbered, conservative politicians have done well enough too. When a few hundred million for Tasmania here or a presidency of the chamber for a Queenslander there were insufficient there was a DLP hatred of Labor to rely on or a Democrat death wish to exploit in the name of good government. The Liberal-National coalition has always managed to stagger through.

With such a history of success perhaps too much should not be made of the new form of coalition that the Coalition will need to build via the Senate after 1 July. Clive Palmer and his PUPs might make for eccentric voting partners but they are not a collection of raving lefties. There will be some amusing horse trading at times but conservative positions should normally prevail. Generally Prime Minister Tony Abbott should be able to govern and where he cannot – the paid paternity leave scheme comes to mind – there will be many in his own proper Coalition who will be very grateful.

Clive and his coat of arms

March 11th, 2014 Comments off

Tony Abbott can fly Australian Air Force 1 but Clive Palmer is not going to be outdone by that as this photo of his arrival in Tasmania on his own private jet this morning shows:

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Liberals keep seeing the Palmer United Party danger signal

March 11th, 2014 Comments off

One thing you can say about Peter Reith is that he knows a danger when he sees one. And the danger currently in the sights of the former Liberal ministerial hard man is independent MP Clive Palmer.

Reith has used his Fairfax column this morning to attack Palmer and his party in a way that is becoming more common for Liberals. It appears to have dawned on supporter of the coalition government that the Palmer United Party has the potential to be as disruptive to them as the Greens have become to Labor.

2014-03-11_palmerPartially decide they will at state elections in Tasmania and South Australia this weekend with the bigger test to come with the West Australian Senate election next month.

The Liberal concern in Tasmania is well illustrated by the complaint lodged by the party’s state secretary Sam McQuestin over this advertisement published in The Mercury yesterday:

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The alleged crime is the presence in the ad of those “three amigos” photographs. Under Tasmanian electoral law it is illegal to print any advertisement with a photo of a candidate without their written consent. The leaders pictured say they have not consented.

Hardly a hanging matter I would have thought but enough to have the Liberals pointing to the potential 12 months jail sentence that would rule the Palmer United Party’s Senator-Elect Jacqui Lambie, who the advertisement says authorised it, ineligible to take her seat in the Senate from 1 July. And what a pyrrhic victory for Tony Abbott’s team that would be with Ms Lambie replaced by another Senator chosen by PUP and Clive Palmer given yet another reason to be as difficult to deal with as possible.

A silly and childish game that Labor is joining in with by referring to the electoral commissioner a letter Clive Palmer has distributed to Tasmanian households in which, Labor says, he appears to have named both the Premier Lara Giddings and Opposition Leader Will Hodgman. That, according to ALP state president John Dowling, could potentially be a breach of section 196 of the Tasmanian Electoral Act making the federal MP also liable for a 12 month term in jail. Hard not to be on the Palmer side in arguing, as he did this morning saying that “as a member of the House of Representatives from Queensland I don’t feel I am restrained in naming any person in Australia, referring to them in relation to a public debate that’s going on in the country. And I don’t think there is any law that seeks to stop that freedom of speech.”

If there is such a law there shouldn’t be and the most likely result of this petty point scoring is to give PUP the attention needed to do better on Saturday than the opinion polls are currently showing.