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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.

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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:

2014-03-11_palmerandcoatofarms

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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:

2014-03-11_stopthegreens

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.